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Religious and Paranormal Belief

Larry Lowe sent me this article.


It describes a study on paranormal beliefs which found them to be widespread, to vary by gender, and that the people least likely to admit to holding such beliefs were those who had no interest in religion as well as the devoutly religious. No big surprise really, but my inference is that the sorts of folks who describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious" are the folks most likely to believe in UFOs, Big Foot, ghosts, and psychic activity.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 10th, 2011 07:59 pm (UTC)
Are there people who accept some "paranormal beliefs" as true but not others? The study appears to lump them all together, but of course, logically, they need not go together. There is no more reason why beliefs in UFOs, ESP, and Bigfoot should go together, than that "devoutly religious" people should give equal credence to the claims of Christianity, Hinduism, and Wicca.
Feb. 10th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, the type of belief that folks gravitate to varies by gender, income, and ethnicity.

And yes, I made the same mental observation. Why are beliefs in UFOs, ghosts, and telepathy paranormal, while faith in the "invisible hand" of the market counts as a respectable mainstream belief even for atheists and self-described "skeptics?"

Why are marijuana and methamphetamine "drugs" when marinol and ritalin are "medicines?"

Feb. 10th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Categories
Really now, are we going to lump together every conceivable sort of "belief" into one category and say they are equivalent? Holding to this or that economic theory is like believing in ghosts? Distinguishing psychoactive chemicals as licit and illicit is a religion? Really?
Feb. 10th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Categories
It seems I wasn't very effective in my communication. I think you took me to be making some point other than the one I was shooting for.

Feb. 10th, 2011 09:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Categories
You wrote that the study lumped disparate and not obviously related beliefs into a single category and added, "...of course, logically, they need not go together."

It is not logic or rationality that shapes most of our classifications.

A rational classification that looked at the chemical structure, physiological and psychoactive effects of substances and grouped them accordingly would put marijuana and marinol in one category and methamphetamine and ritalin in another category. The categorization scheme that classifies marijuana and meth in one group and marinol and ritalin in another is, to my way of thinking, grossly (and probably strategically) irrational. But it's also a done deal and now enjoys the privileged position of being the "received wisdom" of our day. It is the assumed view, the one that requires no validation while countervailing claims carry the burden of argumentation and evidence.

What do items in any common sense (folk psychological) category have in common with the other items in that category? People have grouped those items together in the past and were not effectively challenged for doing so.

What do beliefs in alien abductions, fairies, Atlantis, ancient astronauts, and crystal healing have in common? The label "paranormal" has been successfully applied to each of them. While widespread, they are not the "received wisdom" of our age. While diverse, they all reside in the set of beliefs that lie outside the mainstream view. That's what they have in common.

I'm saying that arbitrary conventions and prejudice are at work in most (if not all) categorization schemes. That does not mean that all forms of categorization are without utility, but if the two claims seem synonymous to you, I'm willing to let it be.
Feb. 10th, 2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Categories
OK, that is what, upon reflection, I figured you must have meant:
(a) the grouping together of such beliefs is a cultural/sociological phenomenon; and
(b) there are other beliefs that aren't "paranormal" but are likewise unexamined.
Is that an accurate representation?
Feb. 10th, 2011 09:28 pm (UTC)
Is that an accurate representation?
Yes. And very succinct.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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