Spirituality – When Does Harmless Belief, Become Not So Harmless?


Last year, I wrote a post called Psychics , which was intended to warn people not to fall for the ruse of fake psychics. Though I will say that it is hard to definitively prove that anyone is NOT gifted, its very easy to fake the “gift”, if you know how. If I did a little bit of Internet research, I am sure that I could become “gifted” in no time (ever see that episode of South Park? šŸ™‚ ).

The situation that provoked me to write the post last year, was a family situation, which started (of all places), on Facebook. One of my aunts posted a status update claiming that she had been visited by her deceased father (my grandpa), and that he had said mostly positive things about what he seen, and about (apparently) the future.

Later inquiry brought out the fact that this “visit” happened my aunt as she was in to get a free card reading from a friend of hers, an apparently prominent psychic out Ontario. Apparently the “visit”,Ā  was completely out of the blue. My grandfather I guess, just happened to be in the vicinity.

Either way, after that, I seen them post further details about other assortedĀ  “spiritual”Ā  journeys they had taken with this person, and various items purchased to do various things in the home. Something that really made me raise an eyebrow, but I kept quiet. After awhile, it quieted down, so I figured that the phase had probably moved on and past.

Being in to visit my family for the holidays, I came to realize that I was wrong. It begun innocently enough, with overhearing a discussion between my cousins about what they were in past lives, and how they were apparently somehow connected (imagine the chances! But I digress . . .). Then in the middle of a conversation with another cousin, a weird hush suddenly came into the room. Me being engrossed in my conversation, didn’t have a clue what was happening. But I later learned that my uncle and grandfather had apparently “dropped by” our family celebration.
Because now apparently, one of my cousins has the ability of seeing ghosts to (later that night, she apparently seen another women in the house we were in to).

Though on the surface this is seemingly harmless, I was later told that this happens at pretty muchĀ  every family gathering there is.

It was an interesting thing, being their in the middle of this. It was a like a microcosm of the bigger picture that is the debate for and against the paranormal. On one side, you have the believers, who are convinced of the accuracy in their scenes. And on the other, you have the skeptics, convinced that its all a load of crap, and that its just a figment of imagination.
And as with most times, both sides are trying to convince me how the other is clearly wrong. And both missing the point that neither can possibly be right OR wrong, because neither can show me any definitive proof to back it up (to the credit of the skepticsĀ  side however, they may have just been overly willing to take that stance, having grown fed up with the paranormal showing its head in EVERY family event to date).

I was trying to keep myself on the fence (in the name of both keeping rational, AND not stepping on to many toes. It is family, after all), so I didn’t really give much of an opinion. But I know that the skeptics were probably the closest to being right. And not just because that is where my bias lies,Ā  but because I have some evidence, my senses. Not my non-existent “sixth” sense either, but more, my sense of feeling and touch.

One of the things that “convinced” some of my grandfathers presence, was a “cold spot” over an empty chair (where apparently my grandfather was sitting). Which would be something to think about in a room that has a uniformĀ  temperature.
But, being a cold winters day in Manitoba, and being that both front and back doors (not to mention windows, the house is at least 100) let in a bit of draft, your feet are always slightly cool. And as one skeptic pointed out, one vent by him was continuously blowing cool air into the room.
Which is a good, solid argument against.

One could say, though this behavior may be irrational (believing the seemingly unbelievable), what is the harm?

And on one hand, I tend to agree.

But one problem that I seeĀ  with this, is eluded to in my past Psychics post, as well as earlier in this piece. Though seeing ghosts and such is relatively harmless, there is a danger in shutting off all resistance and reason, in that it leaves one vulnerable to manipulation.
Many a medium and psychic has turned a good profit by way of being master manipulators.

Not to mention the harm and friction that this “harmless” belief may stir up in some situations.

Lets go back to the family gathering. Present there was my 80 something year old grandmother, who lost my grandfather suddenly years back in 1998, has grieved, and has not (for the most part), moved on.
Now, in the end of 2013 (15 years later),Ā  we have relativesĀ  announcing that he has come back to visit our family! Oh the joy!

Though they see no harm in mentioning that, what about my grandmother? What is she supposed to be thinking? Sure, she might find it comforting. But what if its just opening an old wound?
Why should she go though that alone, even if she does not feel right mentioning it to family members?

I knew that religion had the ability to really corrupt minds, and make for some nasty situations. But the paranormal, I have never really considered in the same category, until now. Sure, I have always known that people have a tendency of forgetting that there are other options and stances then the extremes. But I never seen it as “harmful”.

Then there is the argument against, which is very difficult.

Its relatively easy to argue against the concept of god, because there is nothing to see. Though people may claim to see god’s hand in the world (figuratively of course), they do not actually see the person, or thing, that IS god.

But how do you convince someone that claims to be seeing the ghost of a past relative (or of anyone for that matter), that this might not be anything more then a figment of imagination?
But more importantly, just as I leave my atheist cue cards put away during holiday events and most day to day conversations (and most people leave there religious cue cards put away), how do you tell someone of a more “spiritual” belief, that the same is expected of them?

The reaction to the resistance of my other family members towards the vocalized spiritual sightings, was contempt forĀ  just not “accepting”. Is it possible that maybe, just maybe,Ā  they did not want to have someone elses spiritual beliefs thrown in their faces?

If I decided to start an ongoing (perpetuated by me) conversation about how there is likely no god, people would respond with proof as they see it, which might be oppisition. Am I right to get angry that some people happen to be vocally opposing to my views, if I was the one who started the conversation in the first place?

Though having overly spiritual beliefs is not inherently bad, please remember not to completely surrender your common sense in the name of being “open to the other side”.

Do not spend money on anything that anyone is claiming hasĀ  any “spiritual” value, because there is a 99.9% chance that you are being duped. This includes not just objects and such, but also spiritual “sessions”.
And when it comes to these “sessions”, even avoid ones that are free of charge. Advertisers and marketers everywhere know that “try before you buy”, the reality coupon,Ā  is a great way to snag steady consumers of whatever snake oil they are pedaling.
And specialists in spirituality are no different (my aunts “free card reading” proved to be quite rewarding to the psychic, though I am guessing my aunt would never see or admit it).

And lastly, just as one’sĀ  religiousĀ  (and non-religious) beliefsĀ  should be treated in the same way as one’s penis or boobs (don’t whip em out in public!), the same rule applies to ones spirituality.
And if you do insist on sharing with the rest of the world, do not be angry if your opposition decides to chime in their piece.

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