A compassionate way to entertain claims of paranormal activity

I guess I need to think about this more. Because saying, “Ask someone why they believe something you think is bunk—even if you already know why they believe it—so you have a better shot at changing their minds” doesn’t sound like respect to me. It sounds like trying to set up a mark.

I understand that’s not how you mean it, but that’s what it sounds like when it’s filtered through my jerk brain.

I also think that “Why do you think your house is haunted?” is a very different kind of question from “Why do you believe Jesus Christ is your savior?”

Before you can convince someone, you need to respect them, but even if you don’t want to convince them, you still need to respect them.

Basically, if someone believes something you don’t, it’s probably in bad form to immediately want to convince them otherwise, to save them from themselves or whatever. It’s not your place to do that, usually. Sometimes you can’t change their mind and it’s not worth the effort, so it’s best to just respectfully disagree and not think you have to change their mind.

However, if your goal is to change minds, it’s best to think of the person as reasonable anyway, rather than as some fucking irrational idiot whom it’s your responsibility to save. Don’t be that guy. Besides, if they’re so irrational, why would you even want to reason with them?

“Why do you believe Jesus Christ is your savior” is interesting, because it can mean anything from “why do you believe in God” (and God is Jesus, of course it is) to “why are you a Christian and not a Hindu”


That makes sense. (I wasn’t being “that guy” in my scenario above. I was just saying, “I don’t believe that.”)

I disagree. I think in almost all cases the answer is something like, “That’s how I was raised. I believe it because I’ve always believed it.”

It’s the rare Hindu who was raised by Christians in Wisconsin.

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You will get a lot more different kinds of answers to “why do you believe in God” vs “why do you believe in the Christian God”. There are a lot of reasons people believe in God beyond never questioning the faith they grew up in, but people generally believe in Christianity because they grew up in the religion at least culturally, or because it was otherwise more accessible to them than any alternative.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a certain frame of mind for me to be able to pursue this line of discussion. If you solely think of it as a form of rhetoric, then a steady, polite and firm series of questions, burrowing into why someone actually thinks something is remarkably revealing - I like to think for both parties!

I suppose the point is to let them expose themselves through their own reasoning, not by being beaten down. If it turns out they have good reasons for their belief in the paranormal, so much more fascinating!


My stance is, and always has been, that anything “paranormal” should be treated as real phenomena that has no scientific explanation – yet.

Consider sprite lightning, which got its first reporters laughed at. Now it’s a serious avenue of study.

I find often it’s the explanation that’s incorrect, not the phenomenon itself – say if someone insisted sprite lightning were UFOs.

Without compassion and an open mind, there’s a lot about the natural world we still wouldn’t understand.


I find it fascinating that she wishes that one of these instances would turn out true after all.
Me too. Odd that a universe where there’s ghosts seems like a richer reality than one where there isn’t.

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Who wouldn’t prefer a universe where there was some evidence of life after death? I have tried to be open to such things, but have always been disappointed.
I used to spend time in a cave, late at night , at the bottom of a 100 meter vertical shaft deep inside the cave. I had been doing archeological work there, but liked to explore alone at night. There were no other people within miles. The cave had been used by paleolithic humans, who had left art and artifacts there. The Spanish had used the cave in the 17th century for a massacre of hundreds rebellious islanders. During WW2, the cave was used to hide civilians and Japanese military during the American invasion. Towards the end, it was used as a Japanese field hospital. The Americans ended up driving tanks up to the cave entrance to shell those inside, and using flame throwers. Many hundreds of people had died there, under horrible circumstances. Their bones and artifacts remain. I spent quite a bit of time there, open to supernatural experiences. The way I see it, there are not many places more likely to be haunted. I have spent a lot of time in such places, but I never got so much as a shiver. Either I am just not sensitive enough, or there just is not anything there. I keep hoping.


Well, that’s one explanation for ghosts. Another is that they’re a sort of “echo”, like a bad recording of something that happened there. That would account for the ghost stories where the ghost looked alive immediately after the person’s death, then became fainter and more transparent as time went on. There’s a British ghost from the 18th or 19th century like that that’s completely faded now.

Those kinds of ghosts don’t typically have stories about them interacting with living creatures or their surroundings, though.

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You are a brave soul (sic), Max_Blanche.
I think there’s more to it than just longing for post-mortem existence for me (though I’m not denying that!). I think a large measure of it has to do with what Tolkien talks about in “On Fairy Stories” – there’s a longing for contact with other realms which is expressed both through fantasy and occult: “Other creatures are like other realms with which Man has broken off relations,and sees now only from the outside at a distance.”

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I could tell you a much creepier one.


Well the first was pretty creepy so go ahead :slight_smile:

It’s great. Some of the episodes can feel a bit too long, but otherwise worth a listen.

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Definitely agreed, they do some really great investigative journalism into pseudo-scientific stuff, and what I think of as “Reviews of Religions”, where they do research, attend services, and talk to practioners (both parishioners and leaders, if possible) of various religions (including Scientology, Christian Scientists, Church of Faith, and tons of other small/weird sects you may or may not have heard of).

I wrote an essay about it. I will find and edit it down.

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Do ghosts try to poison unwanted living guests with carbon monoxide? That’s terrifying! Like two silent killers in one.

I sort of agree. If you go into a conversation thinking that you are trying to change someone else’s beliefs then you are being patronizing, and I don’t think there is any way around it. If you spend time planning in advance how best to work with their particular psyche then it’s hard to separate what you are doing from a con artist.

I like the idea of having some compassion for other people, and I don’t see the point in mocking people’s belief in ghosts or UFOs. I don’t know that I much see the point in trying to change a random person’s belief in these things either, though.

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Thank you. I couldn’t believe the chuckles in the audience as the speaker described someone coming to the realization they might have a mental illness. That was disgusting, and the point where I turned off the video.

I think that last statement is really well said. I feel like we spend way to much time these days reflecting on the psycho/social reasons why other people think (stupid!) things and not enough time considering how similar factors must impinge on us.

I agree! That’s a familiar occurrence in most horror films, isn’t it? The story is rich and tantalizing, until the explanation is revealed. The explanation rarely lives up to the excitement of the first half (largely because you’ve eliminated so many other interesting possibilities).

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