For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by people who firmly believe in the existence of ghosts. Members of my family are convinced that my aunt's house is haunted by a little girl who sits at the end of people's beds. My grandmother and all of her brothers and sisters swear a ghost, believed to be the protective spirit of my grandmother's father, threw one of the sisters across the room when she mocked my grandmother for believing in ghosts. Apparently she even had a red handprint on her face to prove it, and all of the sibling swear by it. This same grandmother apparently predicted the deaths of several members of the family, saying she had seen their ghosts appear in front of her before the phone rang announcing they had passed away. My grandmother also used to say that by the koppies (hills) where she lived she often saw khaki boere (old South African white farmers) walking, dressed the same way they were when they were killed at those same koppies in pre-Apartheid boere wars. A couple of years ago myself and some other women in my family were having a candlelit dinner and we started speaking about a woman in our family who's husband had "accidentally" shot her, and the candles went out. My mom mentioned it again yesterday saying she could feel Jeanette was in the room with us.

I can think of a thousand more stories like these.

I don't know what to make of all of this. I really want to do a stake-out at my aunt's house, for one thing. So many people have said that that house is haunted that there must be something up, right? There's a long history of belief in ghosts in my family, and it's really beginning to clash with my worldviews.

I consider myself a skeptic and therefore I am not inclined to believe in something because of hearsay or based purely on anecdotal evidence. However, what if there are ghosts? What would this mean for a belief in an afterlife? If ghosts are simply spirits who had passed away suddenly or still had unfinished business, as my mom believes, then why isn't the surface of the planet swarming with the billions and billions of spirits whose bodies died in car accidents, wars, genocides, murders etc.? If there are ghosts then that would mean that we have souls.

And so the belief in one intangible thing automatically entails a belief in a whole cohort of intangible things. I don't believe in a soul or in an afterlife, but what do I make of all of these ghost stories? My mom is convinced that I should be able to see ghosts because every second woman in our family is apparently met die hemel gebore (born with a sixth sense/touched), and since my ouma (grandmother) could see ghosts I should be able to too. But I don't. I've tried. I've played glassy-glassy when I was younger and I've tried speaking to ghosts. I just don't find this belief in the ethereal to be realistic.

Am I being rash in thinking that? How do I reconcile these family stories and beliefs with the way I see the world? Should I do that stake-out at my aunt's house and see what happens? What if there's a ghost there though? What if there really is something there? What then? Will I become some sort of weird New Age believer?

Gawd, I'm confused.

Tags: afterlife, ghosts, spirits, spiritual, supernatural

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I find it ironic that a bunch of atheists are arguing about the existence of ghosts.
Why? Atheism just pertains to deities. Not believing in a god does not automatically mean that the person is going to have a rational, skeptical outlook on other topics. It's very common, yes, but not mandatory. I've met several atheists who had beliefs on non-deity-related topics which were just as lacking in evidence as the existence of a god but they hadn't critically examined those beliefs.

For myself, I try to maintain a skeptical position on any topic, only coming to a conclusion after going over the evidence, pro and con. I no more believe in ghosts, crystal healing, Bigfoot, reincarnation, homeopathy, remote viewing or any of a number of other topics than I do in a deity.
It would be very cool, yes. And I'd be ecstatic if it turned out that Nessie actually *was* a plesiosaur family hiding out at the bottom of Loch Ness. :D Sadly, the evidence isn't there.
Certainly not. Clearly, it is Bigfoot taking a bath. :)
why does not believing in god have it's own label "atheist", but not believing in ghosts doesn't? Or does it?
Social influence, mostly. If people who believed in ghosts had significant social, political and economic influence, so much so that it was assumed that everyone believed in ghosts and not believing in ghosts was a shocking exception, there'd be a-ghostists, too.


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