Uncommon Sense

May 27, 2018

A Spiritual Sunday Message About Ghostiality

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:44 am
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I keep reading writings of scholarly people that mention spirituality as if it were a real thing. The term, spirituality, isn’t well defined and the attempts I have seen to define it so that there is some actual evidence that it exists makes it sound like high school sports team spirit. Any time a clear definition can’t be made, I know we are dealing with something that is more subjective than objective.

I grew up going to church and two terms that were interchangeable, at least in my mind, were “ghost” and “spirit,” as in the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit. I remember praying to “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

What if we switched the root in the word spirituality from spirit to ghost in these discussions? People would end up saying things like “I am very ghostial.” and “I was moved by the Holy Ghost.” This might get people to examine what they are really saying.

And as far as the supernatural goes, we would be arguing about whether ghostiality were real or whether there was evidence for ghostiality. Still, to be supernatural is to be outside of nature, which is … what? My best guess at a definition is a being or event that does not conform to the pattern of behaviors we observe in ordinary natural phenomena, so we are not talking about a place that is outside of nature but a behavior. For example, while air can support a being’s weight, it is only when it has wings that enable flight, so a hovering ghost would not obey the laws of flight and therefore would be supernatural. There is a TV show called, I believe, Ghost Hunters. Have they found one yet, or have they had episode after episode of near misses? Hmmm. I suspect the latter.

Every attempt to pin down a supernatural event has met with failure. I have observed some very spooky things in my life, but before I would go so far as to rule something as supernatural, I would have to eliminate all of the other natural possibilities. I have a friend who claims to have seen fairies in a garden, but then she is often stoned and hummingbirds flying quickly nearby might be mistaken for a fairy when one is inebriated. To pin down any case claimed to be “supernatural,” one would likewise have to eliminate all of the natural possibilities. For example, religious relics are notorious for being a fount of miracles: wooden statues weeping, stone statues showing the stigmata, etc. Religious people are also known to be gullible and con men have been shown to perpetrate hoaxes by the hundreds. For example, more than a few statues have been built with piping inside to allow for the flow of fluids. As another example, in Israel there is a place where you can bathe in the Jordan River, right where Jesus was baptized. Actually there are at least three such places. One of them is very popular with tourists as it is close to highway access and has government signs directing the traffic. That one is the farthest from where scripture says it happened. This, of course, results in many Christians, home from vacation, claiming that when they bathed in that water, they experienced something of the order of a spiritual experience, being such a holy place, don’t you know. (Most of these fibs or mistaken interpretations stem from wanting to acquire “street cred” in a religious community, in my opinion.)

So, the supernatural could be a possibility when, as Sherlock Holmes said so often “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” It should be the last in line of possible explanations. Theists, however, insist that supernatural causes be first in line any time something unusual happens. This has been largely self-defeating of late because if science continues to offer perfectly natural explanations (which has happened over and over and over), the refuted supernatural cause invoked becomes more and more diminished (and the believers appear more and more deluded). But, hey, it worked like a charm when we were mostly uneducated peasants and serfs.

Myself, when I am feeling spiritual, er, ghostial, I lay down for a minute until the feeling passes.


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