English 1101

Supernatural Belief

A belief consists of accepting an experience, an idea, or a theory, considering them accurate without the need for argumentative or empirical demonstrations. People based on beliefs and relating them to spirituality and humanity have created religious systems from past times and worldwide. These religious systems are motivated by faith in higher powers and the search for reasons for human life’s existence and purpose. But what are the causes that lead man to bend in search of the supernatural and believe in its existence? Science claims that this is because the human mind is predisposed to these beliefs given the social environment. But this may go beyond that. For me, all human beings have an intuitive sense that makes them believe in the supernatural, which is strengthened in certain individuals’ situations.

All over the world, there are many believing people. Human beings generally tend to have supernatural thoughts even though they do not belong to any religious denomination. According to Soul Searching, in a survey done by Nicholas Humphrey, “69 percent of the respondents believed in ghosts, 71 percent thought that dreams could predict the future, and the same number were convinced that prayers could sometimes be answered.” Another study estimates that only 7 percent of the world’s population considers themselves non-believers. So, believing in ghosts, gods, and other supernatural beings is something common. People may not have the same conviction but have mystical thoughts that mostly come from their intuitive sense.

We know that intuition is something that all human beings possess and that it is supported by all unconscious information that we receive. The philosophy describes it as “the power of obtaining knowledge that cannot be acquired either inference or observation, by reason or experience.” This intuition is what leads us to believe that there are things beyond what is rational or demonstrable. It is like an inner force that confirms that we are not wrong in whatever our convictions may be. Through intuition, people can anticipate things, although this does not always end up being right.

A study carried out on pilgrims on the famous Camino de Santiago by the University of Oxford, and the University of Coventry maintains no relationship between intuitive or analytical thinking and supernatural belief. This study concluded that supernatural ideas come from sociocultural learning and not specifically from good intuition. However, although the social environment plays an important role in religious or mystical beliefs, society is not why human beings are inclined to this type of belief but because of something innate in the human being himself.

Many are those who profess or call themselves non-believers and deny the existence of any supernatural power. So based on the study of the pilgrims on the road to Santiago, we could deduce that this sociocultural learning does not apply to everyone and that someone based on logical and scientific rationing cannot succumb to these ideas. However, according to the article “Religious Intuitions and the Nature of Belief,” people who claimed not to believe in another life, after being subjected to psychological experiments, demonstrated physiological fear response when they were informed that there was a ghost in the bedroom. Similarly, many atheists responded to questions by acting as if they believed, refusing to sell souls they did not possess, or provoking in anger that the God they declared does not exist.

These contradictions confirm that there is an innate instinct that human beings have towards the supernatural that can emerge even when these are based on human logic.

Now, to what do we owe that ineffable sense that leads us to believe in the existence of gods and supernatural powers that escape from reason? A renowned psychologist from the University of Bristol, UK, tells us in his book Supersense that our brain is designed to make sense of the world even though these explanations are situated beyond the natural. He attributes that these supernatural beliefs stem from the normal functioning of the brain. Therefore, acting in a superstitious way and believing in gods and mythological beings is something totally inevitable and part of human nature. Thus, explaining why many atheists act as if they believe.

When we were children, we were totally guided by intuition. Children generate their knowledge through intuitive reasoning, a process that produces both natural and supernatural beliefs. But, as we grow older, we learn through scientific education that supernatural beliefs are irrational. Since they operate on an intuitive level, they are highly resistant to reason and can remain “asleep” even in the minds of the adults more rational.

Based on this characteristic of our brain and the intuitive force that guides it, it is very probable that we will not eliminate the supernatural beliefs or superstitious attitudes that we have.

Some factors can strengthen this intuitive sense, reinforcing the faith of many and their beliefs towards different supernatural phenomena. Many of these factors are associated with the fear of death or with responses found after the search for the purpose of life. In contrast, others relate to personal testimonies, miracles, dreams, or visions that have been transmitted from person to person.

According to Witte (1995), death fear and supernatural beliefs seem to be related. From the reviews, non-believers have minor concerns about death compared to the believers. Believers have more death anxiety. People with the greatest fear of death are those with the strongest supernatural beliefs. But, that fear of death can be decreasing as the belief among believers increases. In this way, thoughts in a life after death or Eternal Rest become a kind of Life Insurance for believers, assuaging their fears and worries. Thus, showing us that factors, in this case, psychological, can reinforce the beliefs of any individual.

Other factors transcend human logic, such as Miracles. These events cannot be explained by natural laws and are attributed to a supernatural intervention of divine origin. Few people have witnessed a miracle of their own hand; however, the testimonies of those who have witnessed one are enough to corroborate the veracity of their convictions.

Science and expert psychology, when explaining the supernatural, usually tend to leave personal experience out of the equation. What about those people with personal experience? How can they ignore those voices that have had close encounters with the supernatural in inexplicable ways? The film “Heaven is for real,” based on a book that goes by the same and a New York Times Best Selling Books, narrows the story of a 3-year-old boy’s trip to heaven and back. The film documents the report of a near-death experience. According to the story, the three-year-old son had appendicitis; when the little boy started feeling bad, his parents took him to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with influenza. As time passed by, the boy’s health kept deteriorating, which led the family to go to a different emergency room with Colton; they were told that Colton had to have an emergency appendectomy or he could die.

After surviving the surgery, the boy shared how he left his body during surgery and went to heaven. The interesting part is that the little boy started to describe events and people that were impossible for him to have known. He described an unborn sister miscarried by his mother back in 1998 and specific details of his great grandfather, who died 30 years before being born. The little boy also shared how he met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and many other things he saw.

Now let’s analyze this supernatural experience; how come a 3-year-old boy whose brain isn’t fully developed or fully influenced by a given cultural environment describe with accuracy a place called heaven which he had never seen. Moreover, how can we explain that he saw his unborn sister miscarried by his mother many years ago? Our process of thinking can be categorized as rational or irrational thinking. In rational thinking, we use our brains, and we listen to our emotions in irrational thinking. There is no rational way to digest it; either you believe or you do not. This brings back the initial point: intuition is an immediate understanding or knowing something without reasoning.

Adults who are lean-to rational thinking have also encountered supernatural experiences. Many of these experiences are archived in medical diaries in which many patients have described being healed by supernatural power from different diseases, many of them without a cure. These factors mentioned above are the ones that strengthen human’s intuitive senses, which reinforce their belief in the supernatural.

In conclusion, all human beings have an intuitive sense that makes them believe in the supernatural, which is strengthened in certain individuals’ situations. This intuitive sense with which one is born and is developed according to the social environment always remains, although sometimes asleep in people’s minds guided by scientific knowledge. In situations of fear or superhuman experiences, this sense is activated or strengthened, intensifying faith and confidence in its existence. Although scientifically there is a continuous debate on the origin of these beliefs and how they arise, the truth is that the vast majority of the population, if not all, have experienced some thought directed to divine powers, gods, and paranormal events. Thus, confirming that no one is exempt from these beliefs and that, in some way, it is part of the very essence of the human being.

References

  Armstrong, Karen. “Soul Searching: Human Nature and Supernatural Belief.” New Statesman & Society, vol. 8, no. 380, New Statesman, Ltd, 1995, p. 40–.

Farias, M., van Mulukom, V., Kahane, G. et al. Supernatural Belief Is Not Modulated by Intuitive Thinking Style or Cognitive Inhibition. Sci Rep 7, 15100 (2017).

  Alogna, Victoria K., et al. “Religious Intuitions and the Nature of ‘Belief.’” Studia Humana (Rzeszów), vol. 8, no. 3, Sciendo, 2019, pp. 58–68, doi:10.2478/sh-2019-0025.

Hood, Bruce M. Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable. New York: HarperOne, 2009. Print.

Witte Jr, J. (1995). Essential rights and liberties of religion in the American constitutional experiment. Notre Dame L. Rev.71, 371.

Burpo, Todd. Heaven Is for Real. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. 1940.

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