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October 31, 2007

I Do Believe in Spooks? I Do? I Do?

Ghost According to the Associated Press, 34 percent of those they polled "believe in ghosts." The same percentage believe in UFOs; 48 percent believe in ESP; and 19 percent "accept the existence of spells or witchcraft."

Me? I'm allergic to superstition and I value reason and rationality very highly. At the same time, I'm not sure that I'm ready to completely reject what one of David's favorite childhood videos called "ghosties and spookables" and other stuff that goes bump in the night.

I'm sometimes amused at the way that some Christians mimic the folks over at Skeptical Inquirer when it comes to other people's beliefs. Don't get me wrong: I can roll my eyes with the best of them but, as Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. says, we should strive for the golden mean between being an obscurantist and being a dope. Sometimes, "I don't know" is the best answer.

And if anyone knows where that golden mean lies, it's Father Groeschel. In his book The Miracle Detective, former Rolling Stone writer Randall Sullivan writes that Father Groeschel has investigated "inexplicable phenomena" as much as any priest in the Catholic Church, which means that he probably knows more about the subject than any man alive. He's witnessed the kind of stuff that many of us won't watch at the movies: he's had shampoo throw itself at him; seen walls were the dents point out, not in; been in houses where the faucets and lights turn themselves on and off, cassette players spew out tapes and etageres slide across the room on their own. When the Catholic Church asks, "Who you gonna call?" the answer is often "Father Groeschel."

So I find it worth noting that Fr. Groeschel distinguishes between the "paranormal" and the "supernatural." The former are "physical and psychological phenomena that are not comprehensible by our present understanding." What I find really worth noting is that he includes the stuff I just described as possible examples of the paranormal. (He called Westchester County, New York the "poltergeist capital of the country.") If that's the paranormal, I don't want to read about, much less witness, the supernatural. (At least the bad kind. Come to think of it: the good kind would probably scare me to death, as well.) 

If a man who has been described as both a "saint in the making" and "Groucho Marx in a monk's habit" can dodge a self-propelled bottle of Prell and think "interesting but not diabolical," my understanding of what's possible should take this into account.

Sleep tight and don't forget to turn out the lights, everybody.

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