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Friday, July 15, 2011

Atheism Friday: Ghosts, Holy and Unholy

Church Ghostphoto © 2010 Alex Roe | more info (via: Wylio)Last Friday I mentioned that I don't think "belief in God" is "the main issue" for most atheists. I think there is a much broader belief that has to be there before believing in God is even a possibility at all. But before I tell you what it is, I want to ask you a question: do you believe in spooks? You know, like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz said he didn't but he really did, and like Scooby Doo definitely does but (at least until more recent versions of the Scooby Doo shows and movies) he has no reason to. Spooks. Ghosts. Spirits. Do you believe they exist?

I don't believe in the ghosts that are usually portrayed on TV and in movies. Ever since I was a kid, as a matter of fact, I've wondered what people were so scared of anyway. I mean, they can go though walls. They're completely immaterial. What are they going to do to me? Stab me with a knife they can't hold? Hit me with a club that falls through their hands? Or will they use a ghost club that is solid to the ghost but goes right through me? Seems like the worst thing they could do is say "boo" and make me jump! The could startle me, but they couldn't really hurt me.

But Christians do believe in spirits. We believe in a realm outside of our physical experience, a "spirit realm" or a "spirit world" or whatever. We believe that this realm is inhabited by creatures called angels and creatures called demons. We also believe that human beings have a toe or two in that world, too... that part of us exists in that plane of reality as surely as part of us exists in the physical plane of reality. We believe this because we find it in the Bible. But the existence of a spirit world cannot be proven or disproven by hard science. Why? Because science is about the physical world. Tryign to prove the existence of a spirit world using a discipline designed to find out about the physical realm is like trying to dance a color or sing a flavor. It can't be done. We can't measure the spirit world with a yardstick.

Is there evidence of a spirit world out there? I think there is. I've heard stories of near-death experiences where people met God and were given choices to make. I've heard stories of people having visions of things they couldn't possibly know any other way. I've heard of other paranormal phenomena, and I'll bet you have too. There is easily enough evidence to convince someone with an open mind that there might be something going on behind the scenes which physical science can't quantify.

Most atheists will explain all of these phenomena away as trickery, hallucinations, or lies. And doubtless, at least some of it is... but there is only one reason to jump to that conclusion: not believing in the existence of a spirit realm at all. Believing that nothing exists except things we can see with our eyes (at least, if we augment them with strong enough microscopes and telescopes). If there is no spirit realm at all, then we have to assume that each of those paranormal occurrences is a trick, a hallucination, or a lie. And so are angels and demons.

And so is God.

Tell me, though. Given the vast number of occurrences of those paranormal experiences throughout the world and down through the centuries of time, what exactly makes it such a compelling case that they are all explainable as something other than paranormal? If one million people claim to have seen an angel, what makes one atheist so positive that he is correct in calling them all liars or idiots? Why would the human mind construct such a variety of fairy tales? What possible purpose could it serve? I think the evidence for there being something outside of the physical world is compelling. Whether each individual occurrence is true or not is not the issue; the issue is whether even one of them is true. If they are all false and there is in fact no spirit realm, then there is also no God. But if even one of them is an authentic brush with the supernatural, then it opens up the possibility of a being who exists outside of this plane of existence.

You don't have to believe in Casper the Friendly Ghost (or Malcolm the Angry Aggressive Ghost, or whatever) to believe in God. But if you don't believe in the supernatural at all, you cannot truly believe in God.

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