Fear, Spirits, Religion and Reason

April 20, 2008 / Culture, Opinion / 15 Comments

Disclaimer: This post is heavily religious and philosophical. If this is not your cup of tea, don’t drink it. If this is your cup of tea, please drink till the very end. If you are out to preach or contend, don’t bother. I’m a staunch agnostic theist. These are simply my beliefs . Note that I am NOT out to preach or to brainwash. This is MY blog, so I am merely writing out my thoughts. So try not to be offended because I am not out to offend. Please remember this while reading. Thank you.

I just started watching an anime called Ghost Hunt [ゴーストハント] earlier today – and I have to admit that I’m so freaked out by it. It’s pretty interesting because the exorcists and investigators are lead overly-narcisstic scientific teen, who exorcises or cleanse spirits with the help of a Catholic exorcist, a Miko [巫女] a.k.a. a Shinto shrine maiden, a Buddhist monk and a girl who possesses the ESP (extrasensory perception) to sense spirts.

I have to admit that under all that fear is some fascination with the supernatural. As a child and a pre-teen I’ve seen some things that I cannot tell whether they belong to a figment of my imagination or are truly something else. The last ‘paranormal’ activity I sensed was four years ago – when I slept in a church which was converted into a temple and I heard some…one calling out to me. I heard it very clearly. And I was very sure that it wasn’t my imagination. It called to me six times, and got louder each time. It was the very first time I cried out of fear…

It was the result of that fear that I was dragged into that cult-like organization. But I eventually left. I don’t feel the need to belong to a religious organization. Having grown up in a family where my paternal side were staunch Theravada Buddhists and my maternal side Presbyterian Christians, religion was nothing more than family politics to me. I went to Sunday school on and off for seven years. I was never baptized. I went there to spend time with my grandmother. I went to temples on and off throughout my life. I went because I was dragged by my extended family. Though, just for a while I was very fascinated with Mahayana Buddhism because it didn’t seem to rely on faith. It was a way of life.

One of the biggest reasons why I cannot align myself to any particular religion is my dependency on logic. I am an extremely logical person who will try to reason out everything. As such, I am unable to make any leap of faith. To me if anything requires faith, there is reason to doubt. I simply cannot follow something that is unsupported. Even if I were forced to, nothing in this world can erase that doubt (except evidence). I cannot believe in something I confirm see with my eyes, hear with my own ears, smell with my own nose, touch with my own fingers.

Just as I am skeptical about the political nuances propagated by the world’s media, I am skeptical about religion. It is a scientific fact that the world was ruled by insects in the pre-cambrian era, the Bigfoot Pest Control wasn’t around obviously, this is why there were so many of them. It is a scientific fact that the world was ruled by dinosaurs. If God required our worship, why didn’t the dinosaurs worship God? Why didn’t the predecessors of today’s insects worship God? The proof lies with the fact that there were no Churches or temples enacted to worship God.

So sometimes, I think that religion is created by man and in some sense, the idea of God is also created by man. I somehow cannot shake off the possibility that man created God; not God to man.

Yet, despite all that reasoning based on scientific evidence, I still believe in the existence of God.

After watching Ghost Hunt, I have come to the revelation that humans feel the need to align themselves with the idea of a greater force because of fear. There are many things we still don’t understand about our world and our after-life. Out of fear of the unknown we will seek something to cling on to so we feel in peace. Out of fear of retribution, we will seek something to forgive us so we can rest our conscience in peace. Out of fear of being alone, we will seek something to watch over us so we can sleep in peace.

Having nearly died at the of 13, I felt peace with myself the moment I realized that my life may end. But, at that moment, it felt as if my soul, my heart and my body were merged into one being and acted on its own accord to survive. (Some of you may wonder what I meant by merging into one being. For me, at least, I feel that my my mind, my heart and my soul don’t always agree. At that moment, however, all three worked together instead of competed with each other.)

Personally, I have less to fear because death no longer scares me. I have less to fear because I have not done anything that will result in retribution. I have less to fear because I have absolute confidence in myself, my mind and my soul. My only fear is the fear of the world of the paranormal. Science could not explain it. Religion could barely explain it. And I can’t deny I have not sensed it. Perhaps this is why I believe in God despite choosing not to align with any religion. I’d rather believe something that has not been proven so that I don’t have to confront my fear – a fear where I have no power to overcome alone.

It’s an extremely humanist and egocentric perspective. But look into your souls before you chastise me. Not the mind because the brain can reason excuses. Not the heart because your emotions will cloud the truth. Your soul; the very essence of your being. I’m sure you too (at least some of you) will find fear buried somewhere in there.

So what are your thoughts on religion? On the paranormal? On Ghost Hunt? Oh and please refrain from bashing other religions – especially if you don’t want your religion to be bashed by others.

  • k

    just my thoughts here…

    while i do believe that a god exists, i also believe that religion is created by man.

    the god that i believe in doesnt require anyone’s worship, loves us unconditionally whether or not we believe in him, because he doesn’t NEED our love (he is god, remember? heh heh)

    i can’t believe in the “type” of god that some religions preach, because he seems more petty than human beings sometimes. and if there are mothers who can forgive murderers for killing their child(ren), how can there be a god who cannot forgive us for (insert sin here)?

    basically i dont believe in an angry, spiteful, jealous god.

    i believe in a loving god, because that’s all i feel. love.

    and i don’t need a religion to feel that love. ^^

  • I’m an agnostic theist as well. I believe that the existence of God (or any other divine being in various religions) cannot be proven by science or any physical means, but somehow I believe on His existence. I grow up in a Buddhist family, with both parents being devout prayers (we even have a GuanYin altar at home). I’m more or less a free-thinker, I celebrate festivals of other religions when I feel like it 🙂

    I’m just puzzled by why many people think that the religion they choose to believe in is a burden to them. For example, why couldn’t devout Buddhist celebrate Thaiphusm with their Indian friends (I have some friends who said it’s forbidden or something, and I label them as religious extremists). And like many people, I turn a little more towards the help of a divine being at difficult times – I see religion or the belief in one as a safe heaven to seek solace from when we’re in trouble or in dire need of emotional help and spiritual enlightenment.

    Hmmm, divine being. Speaking of which, I remebered an awkward scenario back in college. Over a few weeks, we were being taught evolution (a very tricky topic, in terms of religious aspects) for biology and existentialism plus intelligent design for general paper. My biology teacher, who owns a blog, got flamed by students who stronly believe that being a Christian, she should not be preaching about a scientific theory (evolution is not a fact yet, but a highly credible theory as it has not yet been disproven) that they think Christianity disagrees wtih. I revolted at their flaming because I don’t see the need to make one’s life miserable just because the flamers believe that evolution is utter crap.

    I choose to believe in the existence of God (although I also believe that His existence could not be proven through physical and scientific means) because of a life-changing event – just like you, I diced with our dear Mr Grim Reaper when I childishly jumped into a 2m deep pool (and it’s deserted, my parents are still in the changing room and there’s no lifeguard on duty). I remembered choking on water and then slowly losing consciousness. Suddenly I saw a bright light (as if someone is floating above the pool with a xenon bulb), and an unknown and strong force started to push me up and towards the surface and the side of the pool. A close brush with death indeed, and it doesn’t only make me more appreciative of life, but also to make me believe that there’s really some extent of divine intervention at certain times. Maybe it’s not quite the time for me to leave, I guess.

    Same here, I would believe in something that is unproven. Knowing the cold hard truth behind it might just be too much for me to handle.

  • Whoa that’s a very good post. I’ve been hoping to voice out some of my opinions about religions and the paranormal in my blog, but still didn’t because I am not very confident in my writing skills yet. I might get a little sarcastic and offend some people too.

    Therefore, that post is still my ‘draft’. Haha.

    I am an atheist, and I do agree with many points that you have mentioned.

    I almost became a Christian years ago when I attended services in some churches, and believed that I was a Taoist or Buddhist when I was young. But somehow along the way, as the years go by, I just didn’t believe in the existence of god anymore. Heh.

    I don’t believe in praying. I don’t really believe in supernatural stuff yet, despite hearing many encounters and stories from people around me. Like you, I am an extremely logical person who will try to reason out everything.

    Sometimes I even try to challenge the presence of ‘spirits’ by opening my eyes wider to look around (in the dark), in case they might be lurking around the corner.

    Anyway I’m happy without believing in the existence of god, nor belonging to a religious organisation. And how do I explain shocking coincidences or miracles I encountered in my life? Well, I guess they happen all the time everywhere, and I’m just one of the few to experience them.

  • The term “God” has been subjective throughout the human history; i.e., cavemen must have had some type of gods they worshipped in. Like in Buddhism, Native Indians and many other races believed in elemental gods. So did men create gods? No one will ever know. How about religions? Probably. They’re all similar in teachings anyway.

    People need to believe in something to have peace and stabilities in their lives, so belonging to one of them is actually good for some.

    I’m Catholic, but my way of thinking is more of Buddhism I believe in karma and reincarnation rather than Heaven and Hell. Besides, if “my” God is indeed all-forgiving and merciful, Hell would not be needed.

  • Wow, that was actually one of the few posts I found interesting from the start to the end.

    Well, everything is subjective in this world. And like you, I can’t connect to one particular faith and yet I don’t call myself an athiest either, because I can’t say there is no god nor can I be sure there is a god. Science seems to be the opposite of faith. It reasons out every possibility, whereas faith is based on… well, faith! Not knowing.

    But like you said, there’s something inside of us, our deepest core, which innately knows there’s somethign greater out there. I think some people call this innate feeling god. whereas some people think god is a human-like figure which created man in an instant. I also think words confuse things and misinterpretation of religious text over thousands of years have produced even more confusion.

    But yeah, god is too subjective. I can’t say I follow a man-made faith, but I know in myself that there’s a purpose to our days.

  • Definitely a very strong post, strong objectives and different views. I am a Christian, and though there’s tons of good points on the comments, I’m just not one for debating. Not that I fear that it breaks me down or breaks down my beliefs, but I am more passive in that, and therefore is not good sometimes.

    I believe in Ghosts and Demons, and for all of that, I do think that most of the religion is man made, but a lot of things if you look at it “logically” it does work and make sense. I’m not going to sit here and defend why there is sin in this world. A testimony to that is the flaws of humanity, and though some argue that God is created by humans to be something perfect, why is it so hard to believe that maybe there was someone perfect that created humans?

    Compassion is the hardest thing to understand and grasp and people fail to realize that though there’s suffering, there’s still hope and life. We look at the other side of the world and see that there’s hardships, deaths, and pain everywhere. But we cannot see that these people who endured this also found God, hope, and a savior.

    This is a definite hard platform to stand on, but I respect your views.

  • I agree with you and I can’t shake off the thought that God is created by man. Religion is like pre-mature form of law to stop people committing crimes by working with their conscience and then used to manipulate people, gain power, authority and political purposes. I guess it is so believable because it sort of takes away people’s fear of the unknown.

    i don’t believe in any religion that sends unbelievers to hell. i don’t believe in any religion that says one can only communicate through … i.e. a priest … etc etc. but I do believe that there’s a divine power … rather than being.

  • well you already know what I think 😉

    Logically I don’t believe in a lot of stuff, but then there’s the part of me that goes, what if? I hate being alone in my apartment or house/basement, I always convince myself there’s ghosts even though I don’t believe in them, lol. fear’s weird. humans are interesting creatures

  • Just wanted to point out some items of interest:

    1) Logic is not the same as sense nor reason. It is simply a tool to see whether different parts and levels of argumentation stick together and is/not valid according to certain axiomatic principles. Even though it is very useful, it is very handy to point out inconsistency for example, it is not better than the facts you put in it. Think of it as an algorithm for checking your Expression Of Facts/Statements/Etc. Which leads us to my second point:

    2) Science is not static. Paranormal simply means inexplainable with the current base of knowledge (or ‘outside the norm’ which suits Einstein very well). So I beg to differ; ONLY science can explain the paranormal.
    I’m not thinking about big, dusty books here either (and you’re intelligent enough to already know this). I’m talking about you and me: creators, critics and inventors of science.

    I’m not trying to step down your experience. Heck, I had a near-death experience last year when I was almost beaten to death (it all went very well but it might just as well have gone the other way). But it still doesn’t principally exist in a realm outside science. If it does practically, science today is not wide or specific enough and will be mended so science tomorrow can.

  • I guess I’ll be one of the few that will talk about Ghost Hunt! I watched that at night… the doll house one was scary! I could never stand psychological thrillers as a child. With a wild imagination, the “what ifs” haunted me.

    Anyway, I don’t believe in organized religion either, although I’m not too sure whether or not I believe in god(s). But lately, it’s not a big deal for me. A more pressing question to me would probably be “do I exist” or “what do I mean by existing/being“? A very egoistical concern, to be certain.

    With regard to good and evil, though, as Nietzsche writes in Beyond Good and Evil, “one may doubt, first, whether there are any opposites at all, and secondly whether these popular valuations and opposite values on which the metaphysicians put their seal are not perhaps merely foreground estimates.” Basically, that the ideas of good and evil and the values that surround them are also (possibly) human definitions. He goes on to say perhaps it is “evil” that actually has the higher value, or maybe even that good and evil are one and the same.

    Of course, there are “good” and “bad” things in the world. But I don’t think they’re “good” intrinsically. They’re “good” because we categorize them as “good”.

  • Another Michael

    Ivy, you mention above that there is a saying among Christians that “God helps those who help themselves.” This is not a Christian saying. That phrase was actually coined by Benjamin Franklin. Also, that saying has no basis in primary sources such as the Bible. In fact, many Christians will say that people can’t help themselves at all because they are so flawed and sinful.