I am based in Uganda where there is too much belief in witchcraft and magics. One scenario in some remote primitive communities in Uganda do disturb my thinking that people can send spirits to other people,spirits robbing money from banks, spirits of some one buried coming back to disturb the living,. Could any one out there help in explaining whether the spiritual world do exist or it is a myth.

Tags: atheism, humanism, philosophy, religions, spirits

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Thats why it's not enough to say religion is personal, It tends to influence a the majority of people's actions/behavior. 'it invades everything in the country' is spot on, there is no evidence to believe in such things. their merely products of mans imagination run amok.

It never helps that people are always unable to agree on a definition of "spiritual" ... for me it's one of those fluffy, empty words that doesn't really mean anything.

In the UK it tends to be a word employed by those into new age beliefs, the Glastonbury-lurking, dreamcatcher-owning, crystal-rubbing, hippie types who like to say, "I'm not religious, but I am spiritual" (which effectively translates as, "my beliefs are just as mental as your average monotheist, maybe more so, but I want you to think otherwise because I'm desperate for validation").

There has never been any evidence of anything existing beyond the material world in which we live; no ghosts, gods, spirits, demons, no afterlife, no miracles (in the physics-defying sense), no magic, nothing ... just the universe we currently inhabit, and that's pretty damned awesome enough without having to invent nonsense to cheapen it.

  When someone tells me they are "spiritual" my first question is, "spiritual about what?"  That will usually illicit some vague answer about love, sun rises and fuzzy kittens or “being at one with the universe”. In short – bullshit.
I think there's a second question in there too - "and what do you mean by spiritual?"  I think that'll get you a far more vague and fuzzy answer ... and definitely, a more bullshitty one :)

I think Daniel Dennet explains it very well in his Breaking The Spell.  He describles how prehistoric homo sapiens may have heard something in the wind and thought it was a voice.  Maybe someone had a dream or memory and they mistakenly thought the person's "spirit" was talking to them.  Not to mention that they must have gone hungry quite frequently which would probably cause hallucinations, as would certain substances unwittingly ingested.  All it takes is one person to tell the story and it spreads like gossip.  People believe that person because they've probably been confused by their dreams too.  That's one hypothesis on how the concept of spirits got started.  And since we humans are hard wired to make connections between events in succession, we may think "oh this bad thing happened! well right before I did XYZ, therefore XYZ must have caused the bad thing."  that can lead people to worry about "bad luck."  That's the basis of it, and from there it just develops and becomes more elaborate and then you have concepts of "magic" and such.

 

But it all came from the human mind, our own imaginations. 

 

Very interesting discussion.  Thanks to everyone that participated.
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Agent_detection

Hidden Agent Detection:  A primate/human is resting in the shade.  The bushes begin to shake.  It could be the wind, but it could also be a lion.  Although it doesn't actually see a threat, the primate/human jumps away.  The ability to detect a Hidden Agent will become even stronger as the "jumpier" individuals live longer than those who aren't one step ahead of a Hidden Agent threat. 

 

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Evolutionary_psychol...

one of the fundamental mental modules in the brain is the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD), another potential system for identifying danger. This HADD may confer a survival benefit even if it is over-sensitive: it is better to avoid an imaginary predator than be killed by a real one. This would tend to encourage belief in ghosts and spirits.

 

This would also include conspiracies.  Also relevant:

Other researchers have proposed specific psychological processes which may have been co-opted for religion. Pierre Lienard and Pascal Boyer suggest that humans have evolved a "hazard-precaution system" which allows us to detect potential threats in the environment and attempt to respond appropriately.   Several features of ritual behaviors, often a major feature of religion, are held to trigger this system. These include the occasion for the ritual, often the prevention or elimination of danger or evil, the harm believed to result from nonperformance of the ritual, and the detailed proscriptions for proper performance of the ritual. Lienard and Boyer discuss the possibility that a sensitive hazard-precaution system itself may have provided fitness benefits, and that religion then "associates individual, unmanageable anxieties with coordinated action with others and thereby makes them more tolerable or meaningful".

The authors, including Justin Barrett, are worth looking up for more information.  I recently heard a scientist on the radio talking about how brain scans are giving insight into the activation of this Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD).

In short, superstition is partially an evolutionary side effect of humans becoming really good at detecting threats.  Superstition is like the anatomical appendix of human society:  currently has no benefit but can become infected and kill people. 

Hi Winfred, this is my first post so I hope I say something useful. I have a theory that cultural heritage is very sticky. Meaning what we learn from our parents, relatives, and community defines how we see and understand our world. It takes a long time and hard work to change that perception.

We also have superstitions in the United States. The biggest one is Christianity. Christians believe in dead people coming alive again, they have a Holy Spirit, and they believe that if you say the right words magic to god you can get stuff (I've tried; it didn't work).

It's truly amazing that so many people believe these things when none of it works. But of course every now and then, by pure chance, it does seem to work and I guess that's enough to keep the superstitions alive.
Yup, there's one, simple term that covers almost all of the perpetuation of religious nonsense:  confirmation bias.

Hey Joseph,

 

although I'm well aware of the term and its meaning, how do we respond when the same critique is leveled at us - perhaps in retort?

We run scientific studies to get the real percentages and a real feel for what is going on.  They rely on single stories selected from thousands or tens of thousands of instances, then represent it as if it was the example of what usually happens.

Or, to put it another way:

 

Science ... it works, bitches.

 

Statistical study is just one form of science.

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