Friday, May 18, 2012

Religion And The Paranormal

I had the very good fortune of being raised by two incredibly open-minded parents.  Nothing was really off limits when it came to questions and nothing was really set in stone when it came to rules.  It was a house of fluidity, and I think because of that, me and my sister were supernerds who rebelled against nothing well into our late teens and then ended up getting married, moving to the suburbs and having children in our late '20's.  Free wheelin' parenting gets you boring and dorky kids, apparently.  But, I am glad that I have the parents that I have because most kids don't.  One topic that most parents are the strictest on is religion.  Rarely, I have found, do parents allow their kids to kind of pick their own path and question things when it comes to religion.

My Mom was raised Catholic, somewhat strictly.  They attended church every Sunday, she went to Catholic school for a while, and even when my grandpa retired we went and worked as a caretaker of the church's grounds.  He was very well-loved within the church community and when my grandpa passed away the church was packed for his funeral.  I see where my mom's disillusion with religion comes in, however.  My grandpa was very spiritual and a very good man, my grandma, however, well her goal with being as "Catholic" as she is,  is to just barely avoid hell.  She's not a bad person, per se, she just does what she thinks she is suppose to do for the Get-Out-of-Hell free card.  Still goes to church every week, tithes what she can to the church, prays the rosary every night, but it's all kinda on the insincere side.  I won't really get into why that is, she is a special breed of woman, but I see why when raising us Mom didn't really emphasize going to church and praying the rosary and visiting dead relatives in the cemetery, because it was all really a bunch of bullshit.  If you want to pray, then pray, there isn't a special set of words you need to say or props you need to have near you to do it, God isn't in a building once a week, He's everywhere all the time, and why would you want to go and visit a loved one's gravesite? That's not them, it's just their decaying body.  This is what I was raised to believe, and she's right, as far as I'm concerned.  My dad didn't really have much to say about religion when we were growing up because he was raised in your typical, casual Minnesotan Lutheran household.  We did sometimes go to church on Christmas and Easter, whenever we spent the weekend with our grandparents you better believe it we had to go to church with them, but Grandma kept us quiet with sticks of Doublemint gum.  Whenever I chew a piece of mint gum, it still reminds me of St. Tim's.

As I mentioned in blog posts before, growing up we were exposed to the idea of the paranormal quite a bit, since it was something that interested our mother.  She shared her books with us, we all watched TV shows about that kind of thing together (maybe this is what made me and my sis such nerds...) and yes, everything is true.  Aliens, ghosts, Bigfoot, and if you are told otherwise it's probably just a government cover-up.  It's almost like The X-Files was made especially for her.  But, out of all the paranormal things that existed, demons where the realist of them all.  This didn't terrifying me at all as a child, oh no.  I certainly didn't lay in bed a night waiting to be infiltrated by a demon (actually, when I was a child, my biggest fear at night was an alien breaking into my bedroom and stealing my heart, as odd as that may sound.)  Even though Mom doesn't put much stock into organized religion, she is a big believer in holy things.  Blessed things.  God's protection.  She may not pray the rosary, but she has a bunch of them in a drawer.  Anything that could be perceived as demonic or inviting to the devil was outright banned in our house.  I even was the '90's Board Game Ask Zandar for Christmas one year, and Mother thought it was a little too close to a Ouiji Board and was mad at whoever got it for me. (I'm pretty sure it was my Aunt Carla, my mom's sister, just to annoy her.)  We even watched The Exorcist on Easter one year (now if that isn't a story ripe for therapy, I don't know what is.)  I just want to say, the year we did that I was well into my teens, it's not like Mom was forcing me to watch these movies as a little kid.

Now, in my pursuit of the paranormal as an adult I am starting to wonder where a lot of these paranormal people fall when it comes to religion.  I know there is quite of few Christian beliefs that state there is no such thing as ghosts.  I actually had a really nice, very Christian girl explain to me this viewpoint.  She said she didn't believe in ghosts because God would never do that to a soul.  He would never not release them after death, either to heaven or hell.  However, she believed anything that was thought to be a ghost was actually a demon trying to trick the willing to be tricked.  I understand how someone who believes that God is Love has a hard time coming to terms with why their benevolent creator would allow a soul, no matter how tortured, to remain on this plane of existence.  She certainly gave me something to think about, but then again, I was brought back to something my mother taught me.  God doesn't make good things happen and God doesn't make bad things happen.  God is an overseer.  I understand where she is coming from with this theory, but I'm not 100 percent on it.  I like to believe that God makes good things happen and the bad things that happen are just bad luck.  I'm a big believer in thanking God when something super awesome happens, or even when that moron who wasn't watching where they were going on the road looks up at the last minute and sees my car.

I also don't know if I believe my friend's logic on God being such a benevolent being that He would never trap someone on this plane of existence. To believe in God calling all the shots all the time, then you give up the idea of free will, and if God wouldn't want someone to suffer after death why would He allow them to suffer in life?  Why would anyone suffer in life?  I believe in free will, and the choices we make make us the people we are.  I also believe in the notion of unfinished business, and the idea of something happening so violently and sudden that you are truly stuck.  That would explain such mental health issues as PTSD and that sort of thing.  You get stuck in the moment, and sometimes you don't know which direction to go.  It happens to the living all the time, and if you die in a rash of unexpected, violent circumstances your soul gets stuck and you don't know what to do.

I think most paranormal people have a certain level of respect for religion.  After all, you can't really believe in ghosts if you don't believe in some kind of afterlife.  And when those boys of Ghost Adventures suddenly get a hot sensation on their skin and bam! three fingered scratch on their backs or legs the first thing they yell out is "Mocking of the Trinity!!" one has to have some sort of belief.

I think if I were to ever gather the courage (and equipment) to actually attempt a ghost hunt of any kind I just see myself being loaded up with all the blessed crosses and rosaries and holy water I could get my hands on.  Mostly because my mother would insist I bring all these things with me, but because it also wouldn't hurt to have a little of God's protection on your side.

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