So here's the thing, ever since I was little I've watched a lot of ghost movies and shows, even after I became an atheist. I would read books about ghosts as a kid, and I thought I could communicate with spirits through a magic 8 ball. I'm not by nature very skeptical, I make an honest effort to ask questions and keep my mind open, not jumping to conclusions. I was raised by my single mother, and as you may have guessed she loves reading about ghosts, and watching things about ghosts on TV and we would see scary movies. Honestly I was exposed more to things of that nature than I was to religion. I've gotten to a point that I can't watch scary movies with anything supernatural in them because I get scared that any minute things will start moving on their own, or something will appear in a mirror or in front of me, it really freaks me out. I know that it's stupid for me to feel/think that way, but I just can't help it, and I'm really ashamed. I'll be 18 in less than a month and I'm still sometimes afraid of the dark.
I was wondering what everyone's opinion here is on the topic of ghosts? Do you think they exist or not, is there any evidence for/against them, and is there anything that science has to say? Do you have any tips on being a good skeptic?
don't worry, ghosts do not exist. how can one be an atheist and believe in ghosts anyway?
how can one be an atheist and believe in ghosts anyway?
Ghosts are not deities, therefore atheism says nothing about them.
Yes, but ghosts and deities and angels, trolls and elves are made of the same stuff. Except gnomes, they're made of a different substance.
Ghosts are alleged to be spirit entities, just like God or gods. Typically, denying the existence of God or gods is largely based on an overall rejection of the whole spirit world sham.
I'd recommend Mary Roach's book 'Spook', which is about the search for ghosts/spirits/some kind of afterlife. It sounds like it would fit your interests, and it might help you get past some of your fears.
Online, I'd recommend randi.org (the James Randi Educational Foundation) if you'd like to learn to be more skeptical.
Ain't no ghosties, no goulies, no long legged beasties, but there are things that go bump in the night.
Skeptical is not something people are by nature. Humans evolved to make quick decisions on basis of little information and then stick by it. We did not evolve to weigh all the evidence carefully and make informed decisions, instead we seek patterns and when we focus on deviations from patterns (to seek new patterns within patterns) our brains block out all other information. We are not skeptical animals, it does not come natural, instead being skeptical involves the conscious application of the activity of critical thinking and it is something you have to learn and it costs time and effort. You'll find your way I'm sure.
What science has to say about ghosts depends on your model of what a ghost is. In Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder there is a story about an angel talking to a somewhat skeptical man about the reality of ghosts. The man said to the angel: "well I have to admit that there are angels now, but you do not really exist like we do." "What do you mean by that?" replied the angel. And the man explained: "When we we arrived at that boulder back there, I had to walk around it, but you slided right through it." The angel reacted with surprise "but you must have noticed that when we walked trough the swamp, we both glided through the mist." And explained "this is because we are both much more solid, much heavier, our consistency is much denser than the mist."
"So it is with us ghosts, we can slide through rocks and walk through doors of steel and no tank or bomber can hurt us."
The logic is inescapable, a ghost is heavy and superdense. In fact it might be so superdense that clocks conceivably slow down noticeably in it's vicinity. But all you have to do to escape from such a ghost is to let it walk through you, for to it you are like mist.
The point of the story in Jostein Gaarder's book was to illustrate starkly how two radically different explanations could simultaneously be applied to the same phenomenon with equal validity, logically speaking.
Both explanations rely on two radically different and irreconcilable ontological models of a ghost: on two nearly opposite answers to the question what is it really?
It was not a defense of the existence of ghosts as I reject all possibility of something of the kind existing.
First of all, I would come up with a list of reasons why you believe in ghosts and analyze those reasons. I think you've listed a couple reasons, one being your mother's interest in the supernatural has rubbed off on you. Have you had an experience that would lend itself to a belief in ghosts? Do you believe partially because the thrill is actually secretly invigorating?
After losing my faith several years ago, I've noticed the further I get away from the last moment I believed in the supernatural, the more absurd all those beliefs seem. Possibly you just need to give it time, and continue researching and repeating to yourself it's all made-up. I didn't stop praying instantly. The transition from devout believer to atheist is a difficult one. Whenever I would get upset or confused before, I would just say a prayer... or cry a prayer. I felt I had a friend listening. It wasn't easy to realize I was actually alone, and I had been talking to myself all those years. I think finally the urge to pray in times of trouble has passed. I think you're lingering belief in a ghosts is just a remnant.
What seems most obvious to me about religion and beliefs in the supernatural are how self-serving they are. An omnipotent god, who is responsible for all life in the universe, is ultra focused on our tiny, minuscule lives? We are the pinnacle of his creation? Call me unimpressed. If this is the best he can do, we're screwed.
But... my point is... how arrogant is it to believe an almighty deity would center his entire focus on us? Following that line of thinking, why would ghosts haunt us? When you become disembodied, don't you have better things to be doing than tormenting the living? Aren't your travel possibilities now limitless? If I were a ghost, I'd be exploring space and watching stars form; I'd go to all the cities and countries I'd never been to. I mean, I think people assume too much about what it would be like to be dead (if it were anything other than oblivion). Why would you resent the living? Why would you hang around the place you were murdered for eternity? If there is no god, what force would be anchoring a spirit to one spot?
People just cannot handle not being the center of everything important. The very premise of spirits lingering in this world highlights our obsession with being THE most important; so important and fascinating that even the dead can't stop lavishing attention on us. It's absurd. Humans are not that important.
Besides. If there is no god, and humans aren't the center of the universe after all... but there could still be ghosts... why don't other species have ghosts? Like... little mouse ghosts, or spider ghosts?
The dark freaks me out and I'm 27. It has nothing to do with ghosts though. I watch way too many horror movies to feel comfortable being in my basement with the lights out.