Why Do We Believe What We Do


In October 2017, Chapman University conducted a survey of “American fears” that included a battery of items on paranormal beliefs. These ranged from a belief in Bigfoot to psychic powers and haunted houses, ancient civilizations like Atlantis, to visits by aliens. The results show just how dramatically beliefs about the paranormal have changed: 55 percent believe that advanced civilizations like Atlantis existed; 52 percent believe places can be haunted by spirits; more than a third believe aliens visited Earth in the ancient past; more than a quarter believe aliens have visited the planet in modern times; and a quarter believe objects can be moved with the mind. The study concluded that 75 percent of Americans believe in some facet of the paranormal.

What’s astonishing about this statistic is how it compares to a study conducted by Baylor University twelve years earlier, which concluded that just 15 percent of Americans believed in the paranormal. This begs the question: what accounts for the increase? How were the studies conducted? Did the phrasing of the questions account for some of the differences in the statistics? Even when taking such qualifiers into account, the Chapman study shows a dramatic increase in interest in the paranormal.

Ironically, this boost in curiosity about such mysterious matters might be related to technology—specifically, social media. Numerous websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram interest groups that focus on psychic phenomena have had a tremendous impact. It also could be the result of a proliferation of movies and TV shows about different facets of the paranormal. Then there are books, workshops, and seminars, an entire cottage industry that has grown up in the last 20 years and revolves around the human curiosity about and need for expanded awareness.

Scientists on the cutting edge believe the old paradigm—that our perception is limited to the five senses—is starting to change. But ordinary people have experienced paranormal phenomena for decades and their stories tell us that a paradigm shift has been underway for years. Only now is it reaching a tipping point.

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6 Responses to Why Do We Believe What We Do

  1. CJ says:

    The comments of bh interest me. My family was Southern Baptist, and my Dad, Mom, older sister and I were involved n the activities of our church. However, my parents were very balanced with our spiritual and secular lives; Mom and Dad were members of the country club and participated in bridge tournaments and dances, etc, there. Sis and I were involved in our school extra-curricular activities: Sis was president of FHA and Queen of the Valentine Dance; I was a cheerleader and in drama classes and plays, etc. I had been born clairvoyant, clairaudient, and clairsentient, and after the extremely traumatic illness and death of my Dad when he was 42 and I was 18, I departed the Christian faith and embarked on a spiritual path that continues to this day. Similar to bh, through the endless decades I’ve intensely studied most of the world’s religions. Currently, due to my health situation which will ultimately end at my transition from this planet, I have hours and hours and days, weeks, and months during which I am unable to do ANYTHING except sit quietly and THINK. Being virtually blind. I live in my mind and in memories and in much that I’ve learned.
    If nothing else, I recognize that the more I know, the less I know, and sense that there is a Universe of Truths that are inaccessible to us until we are no longer shrouded in
    coats of corporal skin. Just to clarify, I am not taking ANY type of medication that interferes with my ability to think clearly. So, essentially I’m meandering down a journey ‘backwards’, still seeking to understand many of my myriad ‘paranormal’ experiences. Guess I’ll find at least a few answers once the Veil is gone and my umbilical to this third dimension is permanently severed. At least I do hope that will occur.Be that as it may, my quest continues. (I must add that there have been occasions when I’ve questioned my own sanity.)

  2. Lissa Townsend says:

    I am Robert Lockhart Sister
    And I wanted to follow you

  3. bh says:

    One thing I’d like to see studied is the connection (or lack thereof) between religion and belief in the paranormal. Does a belief in God (or other supernatural being) positively correlate with a belief in other paranormal phenomena?

    Anecdotally, most of the religious people I know would laugh at the notion of ESP or extraterrestrial life. To me this is paradoxical, because I would think that belief in an all-powerful supernatural being, life-after-death, miracles, etc would predispose one to accept that there could be life on other planets, or other planes of existence besides this one and that mystical place called Heaven. But that does not seem to be the case, at least not in the people I’ve interacted with.* I wonder how much the religious dogma interferes with a person’s ability to accept things that fall outside of the doctrine they’ve been taught?

    Do you know of any studies that have tried to make that correlation?

    *That said, I know there are some minor religions that are founded on the notion of extraterrestrial life, but I’m talking here about the major religions of the world. I was raised with Hindu beliefs, explored Christianity and Islam as a young adult, and finally settled on an agnosticism that simply says “I don’t know”. Along the way, I’ve interacted with a large number of people, with widely differing belief systems, but they all seem to have in a common the belief that “anything extraordinary must come from God”. Which I think is weird.

  4. blah says:

    haven’t quit read the post yet… Validated by Observation?!?!?!…….. but question is Did people really believe the world was FLAT???? or were they just TOLD IT WAS…… or maybe like they say more important the answers R the Questions…. the questions with Veriable answers….

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