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Jun 05 2013

Ghostbuster

Ghostbusting has always been a big business.

Let’s define it for a second. In this context I refer to the notion that people believe in intelligent beings that are not human or were human that either possess other humans or interfere in the way we live in some way.

There has been a proliferation of “Ghost Hunter” stuff on our TV. It does make for compelling viewing.

After all? Who here hasn’t walked down an empty street and felt watched. Who here hasn’t felt the fear of the dark. Who here has watched a horror movie and been completely fearless of things that go bump in the night?

See. We all fall for it. Even the skeptics among us fear the dark because  the dark once held very real fears for us. We as a species were hunted by things that lived in the dark where our vision was reduced and our ranged weapons were less dangerous. And that fear has existed for centuries. So it makes us uneasy and fear of an unknown sound is a great survival mechanism. When the predators vanished we “Made” more of them to sit in the dark in order to justify  the fear of it.

The modern day ghostbuster is armed with a plethora of specialised devices such as magnetic meters, electronic meters that somehow convert “energy readings” into text.

Basically? With a plethora of machines that either don’t work, work by dubious means or are simply being used incorrectly in the same way that an E-Meter is nothing more than a fancy ohmeter (measures electrical resistance).

But what they do have going for them is drama. We all know that there is something out there in the dark and because  we cannot see it we fear it.

When Tiga was saying goodbye to me we were interrupted by a noise in the brushes. In our minds it sounded like something stalking us. I won’t lie when I say that the adrenaline began to flow as it was dark and something was thrashing through the brush.

It was a hedgehog…

But if you had given me a shaky night vision camera, a more panicky girlfriend and a few more panicky people… I would have have resurrected the goddamn Beast of Bodmin Moor and Manchester would have been agrip with monster fever. But in the end it was just a hedgehog.

That’s the entire premise of the Ghost Hunters. That either they believe in ghosts and so delude themselves into thinking that the sounds they here are a product of the dead souls yearning for justice OR they are creating the sort of horror movie footage which compels viewers to watch and encourages belief.

This isn’t a new thing. This sort of practice has taken place for centuries or even millenia.

For this we must go to the religious form of ghostbusting.

Exorcism.

And that’s raised it’s head in most religion as a treatment for obvious mental illness. And people have no qualms in assuming the mental illness of a person is caused by supernatural entities. The difference between our superior take on “what appears to be” a gibbering witch doctor or a half naked sadhu “healing” his follower from the daemons inside and the Catholic priest doing so is nothing but outfit. Many of us laugh at quaint beliefs while fully believing in ghosts and exorcisms.

Apart from being “sensationalist” the problem with exorcism is that it parades the mentally ill or indeed physically ill since many exorcism victims often turn out to have a medical cause for their behaviour such as a genetic disorder or diabetes or indeed epilepsy.

And it’s practitioners often say frankly insane things.

The Pope’s exorcism is a splendid sign because one of the main causes of today’s atheism is that people don’t believe in the Devil any more. But Jesus said: ‘Who is not with me is with Satan.’ If you don’t believe in Satan, Satan has got you in his pocket.

Really? I find that the main cause of my atheism is the selfish behaviour of religious people forcing me to reconsider what they really believe in. I never believed in the laughable cartoon villain that is Satan. My atheism is a product of violence and hate from Hindus towards Muslims.

Not due to any imaginary beings.

The exorcisms must stop. It is control over the delusion at best and an assault on the mentally ill at worst.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    That’s so interesting, that you find them compelling – I find them laughable, can’t take more than a minute or two at most before laughing out loud like I did when I saw the awesome video of the Mormon secret prayer-panties thing. They’re of a piece, to me: believing in things that aren’t there, for reasons I don’t really get.

    Atheism isn’t a thing I came to, to me; being raised this way, I just was never given the message that there was a god or gods by anyone I cared about, and never really considered the idea that growing up believing in these kinds of thing made any more sense than unicorns or leprechauns.

    I just find the different shapes, in meaning-space, of people’s unbelief to be really interesting, thanks for writing about it.

  2. 2
    Raging Bee

    …one of the main causes of today’s atheism is that people don’t believe in the Devil any more.

    Translation: the Church just admitted that their religion has nothing positive to offer believers, and therefore have to make do with outlandish threats of imaginary torment in an imaginary afterlife. Once we stop believing their threats, they got nothing.

  3. 3
    Marcus Ranum

    I did an article a couple years ago, regarding “ghosts” (here: http://mjranum.deviantart.com/journal/On-Ghosts-267274447 ) There are serious problems with our ability to know anything about supernatural things since epistemology is entirely natural. Any of the means we’d have of knowing a ghost was there would entail some physical interaction with reality that would leave a mark that would be measurable.

    After all, if your “ghost meter” starts jumping all over the dial it’s either because you’ve got the sampling up too high and it’s amplifiying background noise — or you’ve walked into a person-sized microwave oven.

    A sample from my article

    Let’s suppose there’s a thing called a “ghost” that is ‘supernatural’ – which, for the sake of argument, means that it’s some kind of super-special thing that “science doesn’t understand.” And it’s in the room with us. Eek! But wait, here’s the first problem:
    - How do we know it’s in the room with us?
    Perhaps, we see it? Well, if we see it that means that, somehow, for it to register in our eyes it’s interacting with (technically: absorbing and emitting photons) light. If it’s not interacting with light, we can’t see it; that’s how our eyes work. Light interacts with our atmosphere and scatters (which is why the sky looks like the part of the electromagnetic spectrum we call “blue”, or 450-500 nanometers) for a ghost to be visible, it’s got to – well – exist as we define “existence” i.e.: be made of stuff. There’s no such thing as something “immaterial” that interacts with light.

    But wait, you say, the ghost appears and disappears? That would mean that it’s doing some pretty cool tricks – material appearing and disappearing could be a violation of some of the conservation laws. You don’t just have matter (which is made of atoms) suddenly vanish. Not without a change in energy that we certainly wouldn’t miss. (A-bomb explosions are an example of what happens when matter is converted into energy; we’d certainly all believe in ghosts if they did that on a regular basis)

    Here’s my favorite idea about ghosts: if the ghost is “in the room” with us that means that it’s somehow interacting with gravity. Only things that have mass do that, so for a ghost to be “in the room” with us it’d have to have mass. Because otherwise it would have no inertia (right?) and Earth would go whipping along at its normal speed of 67,000 miles/hour and the ghost would be left behind.

  4. 4
    Alverant

    I don’t recall Jesus ever mentioning Satan in the NT. Can someone find that passage?

  5. 5
    leftwingfox

    Alverant.

    Matthew 16:23

  6. 6
    leftwingfox

    Actually, shoot, here’s the whole collection:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil_in_Christianity#New_Testament

  7. 7
    Ysanne

    Awww, a hedgehog ghost, luring people into dangerous wide-eyed cuteness overload stupor by its adorable chunkiness and sniffing noises.

    To this…

    one of the main causes of today’s atheism is that people don’t believe in the Devil any more.

    Well yes, it’s not the ONLY cause, but certainly it’s a leading one: People refuse to believe the obviously made-up stuff that used to scare them into submission in the olden days. This is actually one of the major points that makes my sensible-but-somehow-still-Catholic friends visibly uncomfortable to mention — it’s one of the points where the rationalisation “it’s all symbolic and relates to human psychology and the BS you’d get if you took it literally” breaks down in a spectacular display of superstition.

  8. 8
    mikmik

    My favorite was the host freaking out about two orbs of light floating and moving erratically in the dark. I think you could even see the outline of the cat, it was so obvious.

    one of the main causes of today’s atheism is that people don’t believe in the Devil any more” Is he talking about Christians, or Satanists? God and Satan, they go hand in hand – if you don’t believe in one you don’t believe in either. These people have a basic difficulty with the concept of supernatural beings, period. It’s spooky!

  9. 9
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Okay, it’s just a thought, and I’m stoned, but what if these entities — ghosts, spirits, faeries, alien visitors — are somehow completely 100% imperceptible, maybe extra-dimensional or something, but interacting directly with the human brain, making a person “see” (or hear, taste, feel, smell, whatevs) them without having an actual, physical presence?

    Just a thought.

  10. 10
    smrnda

    I wonder how much of this ‘ghost hunting’ business is people who don’t understand science, the scientific method, or who have little grasp of how technology works being taken in by people who bust out impressive looking gadgets with hi-tech sounding names with laughably shoddy evidence.

    All said, the ‘voices in recording’ phenomena are pretty easily explained by the brain being over-eager to label anything that sounds remotely like words as human speech.

    This sort of reminds me of all types of holistic healing, where an elaborate vocabulary hides the fact that almost everything being said is meaningless nonsense.

  11. 11
    Marcus Ranum

    omehow completely 100% imperceptible, maybe extra-dimensional or something, but interacting directly with the human brain, making a person “see”

    That would violate every conservation law in physics. I.e.: reality as we understand it would not work the way it appears to.

  12. 12
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Marcus Ranum

    Yeah… I was stoned. :)

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