Of Devils and Fallen Angels

Many Christians believe that the “devils” and “fallen angels” are the same beings. They all follow Satan and seem to have a desire to harass humans in a number of ways. However, is there any evidence that suggest that these creatures are the same? I have not found any. So, I thought it might be fun to explore this topic a little more.

What do we know about angels?

The Bible tells us that angels have many roles, including messengers (Luke 1:11-13, Matthew 1:20-21), soldiers (2 Kings 6:17, 19:35), and worshiping God (Revelation 7:11). However, about one-third of the angels “kept not their first estate” (Jude 1:6) and were cast to the earth with Satan (Rev. 12:9).

We know that angels are “greater in power and might” than human beings (2 Peter 2:11). We know that fallen angels “sinned” and brought about the judgment of the entire earth by the flood save for Noah and his family (2 Peter 2:4). How did they sin? By corrupting humanity through sexual congress and producing offspring that tainted the human race detailed in Genesis 6.

Angels are often sent by God for a variety of missions, and the fallen angels are capable of sinning. Angels, both Godly and fallen, are capable of looking and acting like humans (Genesis 6:1-4, 18:1-8; Hebrews 13:2). I cannot explain how angels come about the ability to obtain flesh, but how else could we “entertain angels unaware”? (Heb 13:2).

What do we know about devils?

According to Scripture, people offered sacrifices to them as if they were gods (Leviticus 17:7, Deuteronomy 32:17, Psalms 106:37, 1 Corinthians 10:20). In the New Testament, devils are able to possess humans (Matt. 4:24, Matt. 8:26, Mark 1:22), sometimes in very large numbers (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:30). They seem to be attracted to dead things (Luke 8:27) and water (Luke 8:33). Devils also have incredible power (Luke 8:29) and can perform miracles (Rev. 16:14). Furthermore, Judas Iscariot aka. The “son of perdition” (John 17:12) whom I believe to be the Antichrist (also called “son of perdition” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3) was called “a devil” in John 6:70.

Devils are also called “unclean spirits” (Luke 9:42, Matt. 10:1, Acts 8:7) and seem to be related to “familiar spirits” that are connected to “wizards” in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:31, 2 Kings 21:6, Isaiah 8:19). These beings have supernatural abilities to perform miracles/”magic” and dozens, if not hundreds, can pack themselves into one human body.

They also seem to do the bidding of THE Devil – Satan.

Are they the same?

I do not believe so, because their characteristics are vastly different. Sure, they are both more powerful than the average human being, but where angels can look like humans, devils seem to be able to possess people. Fallen angels seem to be able to produce offspring (Genesis 6), while there is no reference to devils doing the same.

If anything, one could make the argument that devils might be the offspring of fallen angels. If Judas Iscariot is the Antichrist, then “a devil” would be the “seed of Satan” mentioned in Genesis 3:15. It would also make sense why these beings were worshiped as gods and used as “familiar spirits” to give power to wizards. The sorcerers and magicians of Pharaoh were able to duplicate the power of God, though on a much lesser scale, in Exodus 7:10-12. These “magicians” had actual power to perform miracles, much like the devils in Rev. 16:14. They could have very well either been devils or been given power by devils.

Regardless, it seems as though fallen angels and devils have different sets of abilities, though both work in unison to disrupt God’s desire for all humanity to love and worship him.

Citing Strong’s Concordance, the original languages provide further clarification. “Devils” in Hebrew” translate as “saiyer” (a goat-like creature we probably know as a satyr) and “shed” (demon – the word used in conjunction with devil worship). The Greek uses daimonion (demons who are “cast out” or “worshiped”) and daimon (demons who possess).

Contrast that with “angels” in the Hebrew mal’ak (angels) and ‘elohyim (like gods). The Greek is aggelos (angels). In Genesis 6, the phrase “sons of God” transliterates to ben’elohyim in Hebrew.

Notice the vast difference is phrasing for these beings in the original languages. It seems pretty clear that devils and angels are not the same beings according to the Hebrew and Greek, as well as English. The fact that devils seem to be related to beast-like creatures like the satyr also puts a wrench in the idea that these beings are the same, and even seems to indicate some sort of inbreeding of devils and animals!

I allow that fallen angels and devils MIGHT BE the same beings. I remain unconvinced based on their traits described in the Bible. I am unconvinced based on the descriptions of their abilities in the Book. I am unconvinced based on the differences in the original languages.

I do not believe that they are the same, and I hope you at least begin to question an idea taught in many good churches by good pastors. It is a matter worth investigating, but I would warn the reader not to obsess over the subject. Demonology can allow even the staunchest believer to open themselves up to demonic attack if they forget that Jesus Christ is our savior and should be the primary focus of our spiritual investigation.

Remember that whatever these beings are, they fear Christ. They know they are destined to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, though they still try to resist. Like the unsaved, they are full of rebellion and rejection of the Savior. In the end, they lose. Fallen angels, devils, Satan, Antichrist – all will bow the knee to the God of all creation.

In the end, we win.

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The Mathematical Case for the Flood

If evolutionists are correct and modern man evolved 500,000 years ago (some would go back as far as 2,000,000 BC), at a population growth rate of 0.01%, there would have been approximately 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that is 2 with 43 zeroes) people on the Earth by the time Christ was born.

Keep in mind that evolutionists would have us believe that there were only 5,000,000,000 on the Earth at 8,000 BC, and with a growth rate of 0.05% (five times HIGHER than the figure I just posted), the population grew to 200,000,000 by 1 AD. In order to reach 200 MILLION over the course of 500,000 years, the growth rate would have had to be 3.8%.

We finally hit 1,000,000,000 around 1800 AD, and are sitting pretty at over 6,000,000,000 right now. The population growth rate over the last 100 years is just over 1.5%. The high was 2% in the 1960s, and has settled down at 1.11% in 2017.

The math does not add up. With a population growth rate half as high as we have now, it only took 8,000 years to increase by 195 MILLION people. Being generous and pretending that people were reproducing FIVE TIMES less often over the previous 492,000 years, there is no WAY that you can account for the lack of population without a major global catastrophe.

Evolutionists would again have you believe that 10,000 years ago (8,000 BC) was the beginning of the current pause of the Quaternary Ice Age. In other words, most of humanity was wiped out around 8,000 BC.

This coincides, interestingly enough, with The Bible. Christians believe that Adam was created in 4,000 BC, and we know that most dating measures are inaccurate enough to account for the difference.

Gap theorists (which I am) believe that the Earth is older than 6,000 years, but was destroyed by a flood and restored in 6,000 BC. This just happens to coincide with Ice Age theory as well.

Regardless, we can ALL agree that there was a global catastrophic event that would have brought human population to a relatively small number between 6000-8000 year ago.

I would posit that a 0.05% growth rate is still too low. Yes, mortality rates were much higher than they are now, but so were birth rates. We live in an industrialized world where children are no longer a necessity, and we still have a 1.11% population growth rate. In non-industrial Africa, the rate is 2.5% in 2017. Is it logical to assume that the growth rate was actually higher than 0.05% prior to 1 AD?

That would again throw the math off. UNLESS, there was ANOTHER global catastrophe that happened, let’s say, around 2300 BC.

If the Biblical account of Noah’s flood is true, then 8 people survived. With a mere population growth of 0.7%, we could make it to the estimated 200 MILLION by the time of Christ’s birth. I believe this is much more plausible than the ridiculously low rate of 0.05%.

I believe in the Flood. I believe that the data backs up the Flood. The Bible, once again, proves reliable.

Why I Believe The Gap (Theory)

Many churches these days are working diligently to argue against the “gap theory” by declaring it “anti-Scriptural” or a “heresy.” Some are even putting anti-gap declarations into church constitutions and by-laws. As someone who believes the gap is true, I am put into an awkward place by many church leaders. I am told that my view is against the Bible. I have been called, by proxy, a heretic by my pastors. This is my public declaration and defense of what I will call The Gap, because I do not believe it is a theory.

There are multiple debates over phenomena in the Bible. Is it a literal or figurative book? Are the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 fallen angels or sons of Seth? Were the Earth and universe created in six literal days or is there a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2?

These debates rage on, and I do admit my enjoyment in studying and trying to understand the mysteries of the Scriptures. I would never go so far as to call others “heretics” for arguing over topics that are not entirely clear. After all Luke 8:10 says, “And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.”

In other words, not all of us have knowledge or understanding of God’s mysteries. It is okay that we disagree on some subjects. It does not make us heretics to debate the sons of Gods or The Gap. It helps us have a greater understanding of God and his creation to study these topics. That being said, here are my arguments on The Gap. You will notice that I will use logic, reason, and Scripture. My view is not a heresy, but is entirely consistent with God’s word.

What is The Gap? The Gap posits that God created the heavens and Earth “in the beginning” as stated in Genesis 1:1. However, the Earth that was created at that time was judged and destroyed by a flood. The creation of the Earth as we now know it began with Genesis 1:2 some unknown time later.

EVIDENCE

1. The Bible says in Genesis 1:2, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Jeremiah 4:23 states, “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.” This passage in Jeremiah discusses that there was “no man” (v. 25), and “all the cities thereof were broken down” (v. 26). This is a passage about the Tribulation, but it is a “type” of Genesis 1:2. It uses the same phrasing, “without form and void,” to describe a great judgment where God destroyed an entire civilization out of his “fierce anger” (v. 26). When applied to The Gap, there could have been another civilization who angered God and ended up being “desolate” like the one in Jeremiah 4 (v. 27). If you read Jeremiah 4 from the perspective of an exact telling of what happened during The Gap, I think you will appreciate the awesome spectacle that would have taken place.

Perhaps this civilization was Atlantis? Just consider it for fun.

2. 2 Peter 3:5-7 tells us, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

Verse 5 says the heavens and earth OF OLD. Verse 7 says the heavens and earth WHICH ARE NOW. This is a destruction of both heavens – notice the plural, meaning more than just the atmosphere (the “first” heaven), but also the universe (the second heaven) – and the Earth. Noah’s flood only destroyed the Earth, not the heavens, and that is the flood depicted in verse 6.

So, verse 5 backs up The Gap as the destruction of the universe and earth OF OLD, which were remade in the rest of Genesis 1:2. This includes the heavens “which are now” and earth which was destroyed a second time in verse 6. This helps explain why “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” in verse 2. The waters surrounding the earth were a result of this great flood that occurred during The Gap. The creation story as we know it is a SECOND creation, as God destroyed his first creation some time after Genesis 1:1 before it was restored.

3. When God said “let there be light” in Genesis 1:3, what was its source? He had yet to create the sun and stars. The answer is that HE was the light source. God’s glory filled the heavens. Therefore, there had to be a change made to the earth at some point. He removed the ice/water that was covering the earth, which would explain how his light became unblocked. Dry land “appeared” in verse 9. The plants were “brought forth” by the Earth (like they were already there, not placed there at this time) in verse 12. It was not until verse 14 that the sun and stars were finally created.

So, God’s eternal light was not shining until verse 3. Darkness was upon “the face of the deep” (v. 2). What deep? The deep waters covering the Earth. God removed the waters allowing light, the appearance of land, and plants springing up from the ground all before the sun and stars were put in the second heaven. The Gap explains the mystery of “without form and void” quite well. And speaking of the second heaven, notice that light was “good” (v. 4), dividing the Earth and seas was “good” (v. 10), grass and plants were “good” (v. 12), stars and sun were “good” (v. 18), etc. At the end of each day during the creation, God thought his works were “good” – with one exception; the day he divided the firmament.

4. The firmament is the atmosphere, the sky, or in this case, the second heaven. On day two of creation, God remade the firmament (remember, it was destroyed according to 2 Peter), but did not declare it “good” like the rest of creation. Why?

There is no mention of when the fall of Satan occurred. We know it happened. We know that Satan was on Earth when Adam and Eve were there. However, when during the creation story did this occur? If God created the heaven and earth and every creature in 6 literal days, when was the fall? I posit that this occurred during the gap between Gen 1:1 and 1:2. This would explain 1) why God did not find the creation of the heavens and dividing of the firmament “good” in vs. 6-8, because Satan and his angels were not in heaven nor earth. He and his angels were in the “second heaven” aka the firmament; and 2) why God may have destroyed the first heaven and earth.

Have you ever considered where devils and familiar spirits come from? They are not angels. They are not THE devil or antichrist. There is zero evidence of angels possessing anyone, especially in numbers expressed by Legion in Mark 5. They are something else. Perhaps they are remnants of what was on that first iteration of Earth. As a bonus, there is no evidence of dinosaurs existing during Biblical times. When did they live? We know they did because we have discovered their bones. The often misunderstood passages of Leviathan and Behemoth in Job are references to Satan, not dinosaurs – and I will likely tackle that topic on another day.

5. In Genesis 1:28, God tells Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” Notice that it says RE-plenish, not plenish. This means that the Earth was likely populated at one point, and needed to be replenished. The same command was given to Noah in Genesis 9:1 after humanity was destroyed by the flood. Arguers against The Gap usually attempt to go back to the Hebrew and convince us that “replenish” means “refill,” but anyone who studies language knows that there are often multiple possible definitions can be applied when translating a word. This is where the “law of first mention” becomes important. This law states that a word used throughout the Bible has the same meaning as when it is first mentioned, unless context changes. This can be used in reverse as well. So, if we use Gen. 9:1 and understand that the world was just destroyed and civilization needs “replenished”, then by proxy we can go back to Gen. 1:28 and apply this same meaning.

6. There is additional Biblical precedent for The Gap. This occurs first in Genesis 5. We know that Cain and Abel lived, and that Cain was still alive after murdering his brother, but neither are mentioned in the Adamic genealogy in Genesis 5. In other words, God destroyed the legacy of Cain just like the earth of Gen 1:1. He then “remade” Adam’s lineage through the line of Seth. There is a gap.

An even more prominent gap exists in Scripture that is rarely discussed when debating The Gap. It is conveniently forgotten when detractors attack The Gap for being a heresy. They seem to hold a strange “if it is not directly mentioned, it did not happen” mentality. The largest gap in Scripture is the one between two testaments. We can all agree that there is a 400 year period between the Old and New Testaments, but many Christians refuse to acknowledge that there can be a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

7. The Gap is consistent with science, which, for some reason, has been an attack against it. One of the primary attacks is that The Gap can be used in tandem with carbon dating as a Christian explanation for science that “contradicts” the Biblical account of creation that occurred 6,000 years ago. While I agree that carbon dating is sketchy and it is difficult to date something to 6,000,000,000 years ago, The Gap was originated almost twenty years before Darwin’s Origin of the Species and long before carbon dating was a tool.

While I understand that carbon dating might be off, it makes sense that the rocks and fossils can be absolutely ancient. We know that dinosaurs existed, but there is no Biblical evidence that they lived on THIS earth after Adam. If Noah was to take at least two of every living creature, were there dinosaurs on the ark? Probably not.

The Gap and science are entirely consistent with the idea of an ice age that destroyed the earth about 10,000 years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs (more fun on math based on human population here). The age of the planet prior to that event is unknown, but it was likely a pretty long period of time. Just because The Gap and science align, does not disprove the Bible or The Gap by using science. Both things can be true, and often are.

DISCUSSION

There you have it. My Biblically based arguments to support The Gap. I am sure that some who read this will absolutely disagree. My goal is not to convert to you a supporter, but to show that belief in The Gap is not entirely without merit and has a Biblical basis. It is not a heresy. It is not a “false doctrine.” It is a reasonable means of answering some of the questions and mysteries presented in the Bible.

I can believe in The Gap. You can believe in a “young Earth” and universe that are only 6,000 years old, where God created “adult” trees and rocks that are able to be dated tens of thousands or millions of years old, but were created that way, rather than aged for that period of time. I do not believe it a heresy to disagree with me. There are some merits to other arguments. I just ask that you understand and respect why we disagree.

If you have more questions, feel free to contact me. You can find me on Facebook, and I thank you for reading (if you’ve made it this far).

 

 

Religious Difference in Supernatural Beliefs (My Master’s Thesis)

ABSTRACT

            The supernatural has been a topic of sociological study for over a century, and belief in the existence of paranormal phenomena is permeating into various aspects of the media. Although publicly labeled as a deviant group, paranormal believers comprise a majority in the United States. When different supernatural belief systems are combined under an umbrella of paranormal beliefs, most Americans surveyed share a common belief in the unexplained.  Research shows that there is a relationship between the paranormal, religious denomination, and religiosity. The types of supernatural phenomena believed by different religions varies. By using data from the Baylor Religion Survey Wave II (2007), I predict that religious denomination plays a significant role in determining supernatural beliefs.

 

 Religious Differences in Supernatural Beliefs

We use prayers for protection, you don’t want bad or evil entities and you can actually build protection for yourself and a lot of it is done through quasi-religious prayer. Whether you believe in one God, multi-gods or whatever, you’re basically praying to whatever higher being you believe in and asking him to help you out, to protect you.

–“Matthew”

INTRODUCTION

Long held traditions in America are being challenged. Mainstream religious beliefs are on the decline, but people are turning to the supernatural rather than to science. Research clearly shows that paranormal beliefs are increasing as adherence to organized religion is decreasing. Robertson (1970) posited that there will be some form of religion so long as there are societies. It seems that so long as there are societies, there will also be supernatural beliefs. If religion is the worship of the collective (Durkheim 1915) and the collective ties that bind society become frayed and weak, many will turn to whatever familiar belief can be easily grasped. Therefore, we need to better understand the link between belief in the supernatural and its relationship with religion, and the best way to do that is through sociological study.

In the 1970s, the Central Intelligence Agency further legitimized belief in the supernatural by employing self-described psychics in an effort to test the limits of paranormal psychic powers. This program became declassified in 1995, and the government admitted to using “remote viewing” as a means of tapping into paranormal human consciousness for the purpose of spying on American enemies (Puthoff 1996).

 Paranormal or Supernatural?

Some researchers use the terms of paranormal and supernatural as two distinct terms. Beck and Miller (2001) used “paranormal” to describe psychic (psi) phenomena like telekinesis and ESP. However, Rice (2003) used “supernatural” to refer to the same phenomena. Therefore, I believe that the two terms, both referring to something otherworldly and unexplained, can be used interchangeably when discussing mysterious phenomena.

Socio-Historical Context

Spirits, ghosts, angels, demons, and UFOs have been a represented part of human history going back to the Paleolithic Era (Michel 1969). Tales of gods and the afterlife were passed from generation to generation through oral traditions, religious texts, classical literature, and through modern media. Thus, the concepts of unknowable phenomena being attributed to beings or entities outside of the measure of natural occurrences can be traced back through centuries and across many cultures (Baker and Bader 2014).

The Enlightenment Era marked the shift from religion to science as a basis for understanding mysterious events previously attributed to phenomena outside of nature (Durkheim 1915). Smith, Emerson, Gallagher, Kennedy, and Sikkink (1998) discussed the damage done to religion through the various twentieth century legal trials like the “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925. The political and moral power of Protestantism throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century in America was challenged by other up-and-coming denominations as well. The house of cards that the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants had constructed came tumbling down as religious separatism became the predominant mantra of American fundamentalist Christians (Smith et al. 1998). Though there were other attempts to resurrect the great evangelical movements that followed, the general trend in America was to move away from Christianity (Emilsen 2012).

Regardless of the increase in scientific understanding and a decrease of participation in organized religions (Baker and Bader 2014), paranormal belief is increasing in America (Kwilecki 2009). Advances in technology have provided a means for everyday people to acquire tools—such as electro-magnetic field detectors, high definition cameras, and digital audio recorders—for paranormal investigation.

The economic recession of 2008, high employment uncertainty, and the postmodern economic shift from industry to technology (Jorgenson 2001) places the contemporary era in a decline of confidence in institutions or leadership resulting in a “legitimation crisis” (Habermas 1975). There is a rise in anti-Capitalist sentiment (Zizek 2012), an increase in atheism (Emilsen 2012), and a general sense that the American traditions of the past are fading away. The sense of anomic normlessness that Durkheim (1897) wrote about is shaking the foundation of society to its core. Social bonds are fragmenting, so a return to beliefs that seem to have been in decline provide a handle to be grasped by the hands of those seeking to find respite in tradition; including a return to supernatural beliefs.

Sociological Relevance

The teaser that was created was one to show people what we’re doing, and to shop it. One to shop it, to see if we can get out there in a sense so we can do our thing the way we do it. Cuz Ghost Adventures does their way. Ghost Hunters does their way. We’re trying to do things our way.

–“Johnny”

The supernatural is “mysterious” and “unknowable” (Durkheim 1915). As scientific authority, a social construct in itself (Brewer 2012), allows us to better comprehend mysterious phenomena, we are able to categorize previously unexplained supernatural events into the explained realm of the natural. The increase in available technology allows for paranormal investigators to use the combination of scientific claims and “democratization” to claim authority while being accessible to the public (Molle and Bader 2014). Yet, paranormal beliefs are becoming so prevalent in America that an emerging theory states that these beliefs have become a kind of alternative to mainstream religion (Orenstein 2002).

In an effort to capitalize on the increasing interests of the majority of Americans who share beliefs in unexplained phenomena (Aarnio and Lindeman 2005; Braswell, Rosengren, and Berenbaum 2012; Hillstrom and Strachan 2000; Mencken, Bader, and Kim 2009; Orenstein 2002; Rice 2003), the American media is increasing the production of paranormal commodities (Brewer 2012; Molle and Bader 2014) For instance, late 20th century authors R.L. Stine, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Dean Koontz have sold a combined 1.5 billion books and have placed these four supernatural writers in the top twenty bestselling fiction authors of all time.

Durkheim began a sociological study into the supernatural about a century ago as the industrial economy overtook agriculture as the dominant economic force in America. Similarly, the post-industrial, technological economy is currently poised to overtake the industrial. Many studies on paranormal beliefs have emerged over the past twenty years. The topic of the supernatural has maintained relevance to sociologists for a century, and the increase in popularity and mainstreaming of paranormal/ghost/UFO investigation in the media during a time of social distress in the early 21st century shows that study of the supernatural is possibly even more relevant today.

THEORY

Cognitive Psychology and Durkheim

Cognition can be as social as it is psychological (Zerubavel 1996). As science begins to allow us to better comprehend previously mysterious concepts, we can categorically move the supernatural into the realm of the natural. Durkheim (1915) posited that supernatural belief is not only “rational” but “logically related.” As DiMaggio (1997) wrote, sociology and psychology do share “points of convergence” that most certainly apply to a Durkheimian study of the supernatural. Thus, in order to better understand the reasons for paranormal belief that extend beyond demographic factors, we must bring elements of cognition studies into our sociological “toolkit” (Swidler 1986).

This relationship between religion, the supernatural, and cognition is rooted in processes that “violate the boundaries between ontological domains” (Wuthnow 2007). This ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own is known as Theory of Mind (ToM).

Biological variables could influence religious paranormal beliefs through genetic differences in personality, diet, drug abuse, and sex. Women, for example, are more capable of exhibiting ToM capabilities than men are and are more likely to be affected by the paranormal phenomenon of possession. Spirit possession is an example of a challenge to ToM capacities because at least two mental identities coexist within one person at the same time. Possession usually occurs in group settings, thus the observers must follow their own mental capacities as well as the multiple entities of the host, stretching ToM capacities to immeasurable limits (Whitehouse 2008).

Many theorists have argued that human beings, as we are now coming to understand, are “multiphrenic”. This means that we are able to hold beliefs that seem to contradict one another simultaneously, such as believing in both God and science. Furthermore, suprahuman agents act in a way that can cross schematic boundaries. Gods or angels can resemble human beings in some ways, but be completely different in others.

Durkheim (1915) wrote of a similar concept:

There, we are continually coming upon beings which have the most contradictory attributes simultaneously, who are at the same time one and many, material and spiritual, who can divide themselves up indefinitely without losing anything of their constitution. (emphasis added)

Therefore, we can begin to understand the ways in which religious individuals view the relationships between these supernatural entities and human beings (Wuthnow 2007) as a rational, although not particularly scientific, line of reasoning (Durkheim 1915).

Religion and the Afterlife

Although many religions share the same sacred texts, not all of them share the same beliefs in different paranormal types. Christianity, Islam, and Jewish religions cross paths in their adherence to the Old Testament portion of The Bible. However, only Christians claim the New Testament. This affects the religious supernatural views of the rapture, prophecies of the battle of Armageddon, and views of the afterlife.

Rather than a concept of Purgatory put forth by the Catholics (Bader et al. 2010), Jewish people believe that we all visit Sheol when we die (Emerton 1987). Furthermore, a physical, yet to be identified, valley in Jerusalem is thought to be the actual location of what Christians refer to as Hell, but Muslims and Jews call it “Jahannam” and “Gehenna” respectively (Montgomery 1908). Jewish practitioners often put little focus on the afterlife (Cohen, Pierce Jr., Chambers, Meade, Gorvine, & Koenig 2005; Klenow & Bolin 1990), but those who do believe that they will reach Paradise, rather than Heaven, if they fulfill the duties that their religion requires (Montgomery 1908).

Even among Christian denominations, religious supernatural beliefs vary. Different denominations find varying strength in their acknowledgement of paranormal claims (Mencken, Bader and Kim 2009; Orenstein 2002), and there is significant correlation between whether a person can be identified as a religious believer or “nominal” believer and their belief in paranormal activity (Hillstrom and Strachan 2000).

Theoretical Framework

Rice (2003) splits paranormal beliefs into two categories. Religious paranormal beliefs include those typical to Christian doctrine, such as God, Satan, angels, demons, Heaven, Hell, and other beliefs associated with the teachings of The Bible. Classical beliefs, however, include telekinesis, telepathy, ESP, ghosts, UFOs, the occult, and general supernatural phenomena.

For the purposes of this study, I have re-categorized Rice’s paranormal framework in conjunction with Durkheim’s work on the supernatural. I have reclassified the various types of unexplained phenomena into three categories of paranormal belief systems. The first is cryptozoological beliefs that would include Bigfoot, ghosts, and UFOs/Aliens as well as other monsters. These beings are rarely ever seen, yet tales of their appearances can be traced around the globe and are shared by many cultures.

The second category would include religious phenomena such as demonic entities and angelic beings. These concepts also include ideas of the afterlife such as heaven, hell, or purgatory. Religious paranormal beliefs remain the most prominent among current believers in the unexplainable.

The third category refers to classical or Durkheimian supernatural beliefs. Rather than dealing with an entity of some kind, the supernatural includes ways in which energy is manipulated. This can be through moving objects with the mind, as in telekinesis, or using unexplainable means of mental communication like telepathy or extra-sensory perception. Others believe in the manipulation of existential energy that is shared by all people that can result in seeing auras, healing by way of stones or meditation, and the use of positive and negative energy as karma.

Hypotheses

Are religious beliefs correlated with paranormal beliefs? Based on the previous discussion of theory, I have developed the following hypotheses: (H1) is that types of paranormal beliefs differ between religious and non-religious denominations. (H1a) Because of higher levels of believing that The Bible is true (Table 1), I expect that Baptists will have the strongest religious paranormal belief. (H1b) I expect that Non-Religious respondents will have the strongest classic paranormal belief. (H1c) I predict that Non-Religious respondents will have the strongest belief in cryptozoological paranormal belief. My second hypothesis (H2) is that religiosity is correlated with paranormal belief, so that (H2a) higher religiosity will correlate with higher religious paranormal belief, (H2b) higher religiosity will correlate with lower classic paranormal belief, and (H2c) higher religiosity will lead to lower cryptozoological paranormal belief. The null hypothesis () states that B (Catholic) = B (Baptist) = B (Protestant) = B (Pentecostal) = B (Non-Denominational) = B (Jewish) = B (Other Affiliation) = B (No Religion)

METHODS

I used data from the Baylor Religion Survey (BRS), Wave II. In 2007, Baylor University, by way of the Gallup Organization, surveyed 1,648 respondents on 318 variables in order to measure religious and paranormal beliefs among Americans. This was a mixed-mode sampling design utilizing a 16-page self-administered survey and telephone survey from a sample of the general population of America adults aged 18 years or older.

The telephone sample was drawn using random digit dialing including listed and unlisted numbers. At each randomly sampled household, an interviewer from Gallup attempted to speak to an adult living in the home using a three-call design. Respondents were given selected questions from the self-administered survey and offered a $5 incentive if they would be willing to give their address to Gallup and fill out the self-administered survey. 456 respondents completed and returned the questionnaire (ARDA 2015).

In addition to the telephone recruitment, Gallup mailed 1836 self-administered surveys to households randomly sampled from Gallup’s RDD database (selected using random digit dialing sample design). 1,192 respondents completed and returned the questionnaire.  In total, the combined sample was 1,648 respondents (ARDA 2015). The unit of analysis in this study is an individual who completed the BRS.

Using SPSS statistical software, I ran OLS regression models in order to measure the strength, direction, and significance of any relevant relationships, and eliminate as many potential errors as possible. I performed steps to clean the data including an “if, then” statement to ensure that respondents answered questions pertaining to every variable in my final data set. I imputed missing data when appropriate by calculating the series mean in SPSS as proposed by S.F. Buck (1960). I did this only for questions that shared common responses and there were fewer than 200 missing responses per question. If more than 200 data were missing, I removed the variable from the model.

Outcome Variables

There are several parts of the question “in your opinion, does each of the following exist (see Table 1)?” on the BRS that measure belief in the paranormal. Each question is coded Absolutely Not (1), Probably Not (2), Probably (3), and Absolutely (4). There are eight questions that pertain to religious paranormal phenomena; angels, Armageddon, demons, the Devil/Satan, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and the Rapture. These eight phenomena can be coded as Religious Paranormal Belief. Additional parts of the aforementioned question include belief in the existence of ghosts, extraterrestrials, and Bigfoot; can be coded as Cryptozoological Paranormal Belief. The final part of the question pertains to “Psychic phenomena, such as ESP” and can be coded as Classic Paranormal Belief. I computed these variables into respective indexes in SPSS so that the higher the score, the more paranormal phenomena the respondent believes in.

Predictor Variables

The predictor variables are religious denomination and religiosity. Religious denominations are numerous (See Table 2). For this study, I coded denominations as dichotomous categories and divided them into eight groups based on the denominational framework of Steensland, Park, Regnerus, Robinson, Wilcox, and Woodberry (2000) so that Catholic/Roman Catholic (1), Baptist (2), Protestant (3), Pentecostal (4) Non-Denominational Christian (5), Jewish (6), Other Affiliations (7), and No Religion/Don’t Know (8).

Religiosity is a curious term with many definitions. Like Cohen et al. (2005), I measured the following categories using the operational definition of frequency of religious service attendance and prayer behavior. I coded religious service attendance Never (0), A few times a year (1), Several times a year (2), Once a month (3), About weekly (4), and Several times a week (5). I coded prayer or meditation as Never (0), Only on certain occasions (1), Once a week or less (2), Once a day (3), and Several times a day (4). I also included personal beliefs in God, which I coded I am an atheist/No opinion (0), I don’t know, and there is no way to know (1), I sometimes believe in God/God is a higher power or cosmic force (2), No doubt that God exists/Believe but with doubts (3).

Finally, I included a variable on personal views about The Bible. The responses were coded so that the higher the literal belief in The Bible, the higher the number. I don’t know (1), The Bible is an ancient book of history and legends (2), The Bible contains some human error (3), The Bible is perfectly true, but it should not be taken literally, word-for-word. We must interpret its meaning (4), and The Bible means exactly what it says. It should be taken literally, word-for-word, on all subjects (5).

Control Variables

Given that the variables being measured are non-demographic, I must control for race, gender, highest education level completed, age, income, and political affiliation. Each racial category on the BRS had its own question associated with it, and respondents could answer multiple questions. If the respondent only chose white, they were coded White (1), if a respondent chose only black, they were coded Black (2), and if a respondent chose multiple or other races, they were coded Other (3).

Gender is a nominal variable and is a binary category so that male was coded as (1), while female was coded as (2). Highest education level completed is an ordinal variable with categories of (1) Less than High School/G.E.D., (2) High School Diploma/G.E.D., (3) Some college, (4) Trade school/Undergraduate degree, and (5) Graduate/Professional degree. Income is also ordinal and is coded $20,000 or less (1), $20,001-$50,000 (2), $50,001-$100,000 (3), $100,001-$150,000 (4), and $150,001 or more (4). Political affiliation was coded conservative (1), moderate (2), and liberal (3). Age is an interval/ratio variable.

I included a measure of political affiliation because a conservative respondent may have more traditional religious and supernatural beliefs than someone who identifies as liberal. I coded this so that conservative (1), moderate (2), and liberal (3). For a complete list of descriptives, see Table 3.

RESULTS

I included my denomination variables (Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, Non-Denominational, Jewish, Other Affiliations, and No Religion) in my OLS regression. I used Protestant as my reference category in each model because it is the largest religious group in the survey.

My models included religious, classical, and cryptozoological beliefs as my DV, the eight religious denominations (with Protestant as the reference group) and religiosity measures as my IVs, and age, race, gender, income, political affiliation, and education as covariates. The Religious Supernatural Belief index ranged from 8-32. The mean was 23.1 with a standard deviation of 6.79. The Classical Supernatural Belief index ranges from 1 to 4 with a mean of 2.65 and a standard deviation of .92. The Cryptozoological Supernatural Belief index ranges from 3-12. The mean is 6.56 with a standard deviation of 2.13.

Religious Paranormal

(Insert table 4 here)

For model 1, I regress religious supernatural beliefs on religious denomination with Protestants serving as the reference category. The results show that most religious groups are significantly different from Protestants in their religious supernatural beliefs.  Those identifying as Jewish are 10.19 less religiously supernatural than Protestants.  Those identifying as “No Religion” are 7.93 less religiously supernatural than Protestants.  On the contrary, Pentecostals are 5.68 more religiously supernatural than Protestants, followed by Baptists (4.38 more), Non-Denominational (2.66 more), and Catholics (0.85 more).

Model 2 examines the relationships between religiosity and religious supernatural beliefs, regressing paranormal beliefs on religious service attendance, belief in the Bible, personal beliefs about God, and frequency of prayer or meditation.  The results show that for each additional increase in the belief that God is a higher power, respondents increase their religious supernatural beliefs by 3.56. Those with greater personal beliefs in God share higher religious beliefs in the supernatural, a result not surprising given the relationship between God and the eight measures used in the religious supernatural index.

For each additional increase that The Bible is the literal word of God, respondents increase their religious supernatural beliefs by 1.598. Increases in religious service attendance and frequency of prayer or meditation also lead to increased religious supernatural beliefs (0.18 and 0.81 respectively).

Model 3 combines both religious denomination and religiosity variables in the same analytic model.  Once controlling for religiosity measures, there is some change in the relationship between religious denomination and beliefs in the religious supernatural.  For the most part, most of the power of religious denomination in explaining religious supernatural beliefs is reduced.

Those identifying as Jewish are 2.21 less religiously supernatural than Protestants. On the contrary, Baptists are 2.27 more religiously supernatural than Protestants, followed by Pentecostals (2.21 more), Non-Denominational (1.47 more), and Catholics (1.07).

The results show that for each additional increase in the belief that God is a higher power, respondents increase their religious supernatural beliefs by 3.38. For each additional increase that The Bible is the literal word of God, respondents increase their religious supernatural beliefs by 1.45. Increases in frequency of prayer or meditation also leads to increased religious supernatural beliefs by 0.72. Religious service attendance lost all statistical significance.

Once religiosity is included in the model, the significant difference between Protestants and those identifying with “No Religion” disappears. Similarly, the addition of religiosity reduces the significant differences between Protestants and Baptists, Pentecostals, Non-Denominational, and Jewish respondents.

Model 4 includes the demographic control variables to show how the relationship between religious denomination and religious paranormal beliefs responds when controlling for race, age, education, gender, political affiliation, and income.  When the additional variables are accounted for, all but Baptist denominational differences with Protestants saw decreased statistical significance. For the most part, most of the power of religious denomination in explaining religious paranormal beliefs is reduced.

Those identifying as Jewish are 1.90 less religiously supernatural than Protestants. On the contrary, Baptists are 1.63 more religiously supernatural than Protestants, followed by Non-Denominational (0.92 more), and Catholics (0.90). Once the control measures were introduced, the difference between Pentecostal and Protestant became statistically insignificant.

The results show that for each additional increase in the belief that God is a higher power, respondents increase their religious paranormal beliefs by 3.20. For each additional increase that The Bible is the literal word of God, respondents increase their religious supernatural beliefs by 1.21. Increases in frequency of prayer or meditation also leads to increased religious supernatural beliefs by 0.71. Religious service attendance regains statistical significance, and each increase in attendance leads to a 0.17 increase in religious supernatural beliefs.

Many of the control variables are also significant. For each unit increase in race, religious supernatural beliefs increase by 0.54. Consistent with previous research, for each increase in age, education, income, and political affiliation, religious supernatural belief decreases by 0.04, 0.36, 0.43, and 1.08 respectively. Gender, however, is not statistically significant.

In the models predicting religious supernatural beliefs, the R-squared shows that the variables explain a large amount of variance in paranormal beliefs.  In Model 4, the R-squared explains 67% of the variance.

Classical Paranormal

(Insert Table 5 here)

For model 1, I regress classical supernatural beliefs on religious denomination with Protestants serving as the reference category.  The results show that most religious groups are not significantly different from Protestants in their classical supernatural beliefs.  Those identifying as Jewish (-0.32), Baptist (-0.27), and Non-Denominational (-0.22) are less classically supernatural than Protestants. On the contrary, Catholics are 0.15 more likely to believe in classical supernatural phenomena than Protestants. Pentecostals, Others, and No Religion have no statistically significant difference with Protestants.

Model 2 examines the relationships between religiosity and classical supernatural beliefs, regressing supernatural beliefs on religious service attendance, belief in The Bible, personal beliefs about God, and frequency of prayer or meditation.  The results show that for each additional increase in the belief that God is a higher power (0.28) and increase in frequency of prayer or meditation (0.05), respondents increase their classical supernatural beliefs.

Conversely, for each additional increase that The Bible is the literal word of God, respondents decrease their religious supernatural beliefs by 0.15. Increases in religious service attendance also leads to decreased religious supernatural beliefs by 0.11.

Model 3 combines both religious denomination and religiosity variables in the same analytic model.  Once controlling for religiosity measures, there is some change in the relationship between religious denomination and beliefs in the classical supernatural.  For the most part, most of the power of religious denomination in explaining classical supernatural beliefs is reduced.

Those identifying as Baptists are 0.18 less classically supernatural than Protestants, followed by Non-Denominational (0.22 less). Catholic, Pentecostal, Jewish, Other Affiliation, and No Religion are not statistically significant in this model.

The results show that for each additional increase in the belief that God is a higher power, respondents increase their classical supernatural beliefs by 0.24. For each increase in frequency of prayer or meditation, classical supernatural beliefs increase by 0.05.

Conversely, for each additional increase that The Bible is the literal word of God, respondents decrease their classical supernatural beliefs by 0.12. Increases in religious service attendance also leads to decreased classical supernatural beliefs by 0.11.

Once religiosity is included in the model, the significant difference between Protestants and all denominations save for Baptist and Non-Denominational respondents disappears.

Model 4 includes the demographic control variables to show how the relationship between religious denomination and classical supernatural beliefs responds when controlling for race, age, education, gender, political affiliation, and income.  For the most part, most of the power of religious denomination in explaining classical supernatural beliefs is reduced.

Those identifying as Baptists are 0.15 less classically supernatural than Protestants, followed by Non-Denominational (0.21 less). Catholic, Pentecostal, Jewish, Other Affiliation, and No Religion are not statistically significant in this model.

The results show that for each additional increase in the belief that God is a higher power, respondents increase their classical supernatural beliefs by 0.25.

However, for each additional increase that The Bible is the literal word of God, respondents decrease their classical supernatural beliefs by 0.11. Increases in religious service attendance also leads to decreased classical supernatural beliefs by 0.10. Frequency of prayer or meditation becomes not statistically significant.

Only two of the control variables are statistically significant. For each unit increase in gender, classical supernatural beliefs increase by 0.15. As respondents identify with being more politically liberal, their classical supernatural beliefs increase by 0.12. No other variables are statistically significant.

In the models predicting classical supernatural beliefs, the R-squared (from 2% to 10%) shows that the variables explain a small amount of variance in beliefs.  In Model 4, the explains about 10% of the variance.

Cryptozoological Paranormal

(Insert Table 6 here)

For model 1, I regress cryptozoological supernatural beliefs on religious denomination with Protestants serving as the reference category.  The results show that most religious groups are significantly different from Protestants in their cryptozoological supernatural beliefs.  Those identifying as Jewish are 0.78 less cryptozoologically supernatural than Protestants.  Those identifying as Pentecostal are 0.58 less cryptozoologically supernatural than Protestants, followed by Baptist (0.38 less). On the contrary, Other Affiliation and Catholic are 0.81 and 0.34 more likely to believe in cryptozoological supernatural phenomena than Protestants. Non-Denominational and No Religion have no statistically significant difference with Protestants.

Model 2 examines the relationships between religiosity and cryptozoological supernatural beliefs, regressing supernatural beliefs on religious service attendance, belief in The Bible, personal beliefs about God, and frequency of prayer or meditation.  The results show that for each additional increase in the belief that God is a higher power, respondents increase their cryptozoological supernatural beliefs by 0.58. For each increase in frequency of prayer or meditation, cryptozoological supernatural beliefs increase by 0.12.

Conversely, for each additional increase that The Bible is the literal word of God, respondents decrease their religious supernatural beliefs by 0.20. Increases in religious service attendance also leads to decreased religious supernatural beliefs by 0.32.

Model 3 combines both religious denomination and religiosity variables in the same analytic model.  Once controlling for religiosity measures, there is some change in the relationship between religious denomination and beliefs in the cryptozoological supernatural.  For the most part, most of the power of religious denomination in explaining cryptozoological supernatural beliefs as well as statistical significance is reduced. Those identifying as Other Affiliation are 0.78 more cryptozoologically supernatural than Protestants, however, no other denominations are statistically significant in this model.

The results show that for each additional increase in the belief that God is a higher power, respondents increase their cryptozoological supernatural beliefs by 0.53. For each increase in frequency of prayer or meditation, cryptozoological supernatural beliefs increase by 0.10. Conversely, for each additional increase that The Bible is the literal word of God, respondents decrease their cryptozoological supernatural beliefs by 0.15 and the statistical significance decreases. Increases in religious service attendance also leads to decreased cryptozoological supernatural beliefs by 0.32.

Once religiosity is included in the model, the significant difference between Protestants and all denominations save for Other Affiliation disappears.

Model 4 includes the demographic control variables to show how the relationship between religious denomination and cryptozoological supernatural beliefs responds when controlling for race, age, education, gender, political affiliation, and income.  For the most part, most of the power of religious denomination in explaining cryptozoological supernatural beliefs actually increases from the previous model, but only one denomination has statistical significance. Those identifying as Other Affiliation are 0.66 less cryptozoologically supernatural than Protestants, but no other denominations are statistically significant in this model.

The results show that for each additional increase in the belief that God is a higher power, respondents increase their cryptozoological supernatural beliefs by 0.52. Conversely, for each additional increase that The Bible is the literal word of God, respondents decrease their cryptozoological supernatural beliefs by 0.15. Increases in religious service attendance also leads to decreased cryptozoological supernatural beliefs by 0.29. Frequency of prayer or meditation becomes not statistically significant.

Most of the control variables are statistically significant. For each unit increase in age, cryptozoological supernatural beliefs decrease by 0.02, followed by education (0.10) and income (0.18). As respondents identify with being more politically liberal, their cryptozoological supernatural beliefs increase by 0.18. Race and gender are statistically significant.

In the models predicting cryptozoological supernatural beliefs, the R-squared (2% to 11%) shows that the variables explain a small amount of variance in beliefs.  In Model 4, the explains only about 11% of the variance.

DISCUSSION

With a majority of respondents believing in multiple supernatural phenomena, the paranormal appears to continue its relevance to sociological study. Consistent with previous research, a majority of respondents believe in at least one type of supernatural phenomena (Aarnio and Lindeman 2005; Bader et al. 2010; Braswell et al. 2012; Hillstrom and Strachan 2000; Mencken et al. 2009; Orenstein 2002; Rice 2003) even though the types of religion in America have changed (Baker and Bader 2014; Emilsen 2012; Kwilecki 2009; Orenstein 2002; Smith et al. 1998). Over 80% believe that heaven and angels probably exist, and more than 63% believe in psi abilities. Almost half of respondents agree that ghosts and extraterrestrials probably or absolutely exist.

As predicted (H1), there are differences between religious denominations and supernatural belief types. When additional variables were added to religiosity, the effects on religiosity categories were only marginally affected. However, when controls for religiosity were entered with denomination categories, the effect on denominational differences in religious supernatural beliefs was significantly affected. Therefore, I can say that H2 is supported in that there is a relationship between religiosity and supernatural belief.

In the strongest models, the R-squared for religious supernatural beliefs (.631) was much higher than for classical (.102) and cryptozoological (.107). I believe the reason for such a discrepancy is due to the fewer number of questions in non-religious supernatural categories and the religious nature of the predictor variables. It makes sense that non-religious supernatural models would have significantly less correlation between religious variables.

Religious Supernatural

As predicted (H1a), Baptists have the highest level of religious paranormal beliefs when compared to Protestants. When considering only religiosity, Pentecostals have the highest levels of religious supernatural beliefs. However, the addition of control variables lowers the statistical significance between Pentecostal and Protestant to non-significance. Increases in religiosity measures correlate with higher religious supernatural beliefs. Thus, H2a is also supported.

The disappearance of Pentecostal differences with Protestants is worth noting. Pentecostal denominations typically engage in practices that would appear extra-supernatural, even within a Christian religion that clearly believes in many supernatural phenomena. One would think that a group that participates in faith healing, speaking in tongues, and “laying in the spirit”—a practice where individuals will fall into the arms of church leaders after being prayed over—would be more supernatural than other denominations. It is this adherence to “spiritual gifts” that I believe made it worth teasing out as a denominational category all its own, although Cohen et al. (2005) included them with Protestants.

Previous research using the BRS found that religious service attendance was the strongest predictor of paranormal beliefs (Bader et al. 2010). However, the strongest predictor variable in this study when determining religious supernatural beliefs is personal belief in God. One reason for this difference is that Bader et al. did not use personal belief in God as one of their primary religiosity measures. Furthermore, contrary to their study, when belief in The Bible, personal beliefs in God, and frequency of prayer are included, my results show that religious service attendance is not only the weakest predictor, but has the lowest statistical significance with regard to religious supernatural belief.

Furthermore, the variable “personal belief in God” should be the most significant predictor in a religious supernatural model. Religious services, Biblical literalness, and prayer frequency are all important to religious individuals, but the belief that God is a higher power directly reflects the strength of the religious practices that the respondent would engage in.

My study also shows that political affiliation is the strongest predictor of religious supernatural beliefs, and that the more liberal the respondent, the less likely they are to believe in religious supernatural phenomena. Bader et al. (2010) found that liberals (Democrats) were more likely to believe in at least one paranormal topic than Republicans, my study goes into further detail about this relationship. Liberals may, in fact, believe in more paranormal subjects overall, but they believe in significantly less religious supernatural phenomena. This is consistent with the knowledge that liberals are typically more educated and have a higher income, both of which are significant factors in inversely predicting the respondents’ views of the paranormal.

Future research should use more inclusive terms for religious phenomena. Rather than “heaven”, future studies should ask about heaven/paradise which is more inclusive for Jewish respondents. Future research should also include Gehenna, Sheol, Paradise, Nirvana, and other religiously diverse terms regarding the afterlife. Furthermore, the concept of jinn in Islam is similar to demons in Judeo-Christian religions and should be included.

Classical Supernatural

My prediction (H1b) that Non-Religious respondents would have the highest classical beliefs failed to be supported as there was no statistical significance for No Religion in my models. Instead, Baptist and Non-Denominational were the only two significant denominations for classical beliefs. H2b is partially supported, as increases in belief in the Bible and religious service attendance do correlate with lower classical supernatural belief. However, higher belief in God actually led to higher classical supernatural belief.

I predicted that No Religion would have the highest classical supernatural beliefs because they tend to adopt a more humanistic approach to the paranormal. I believed that religious respondents would have lower belief in psychic abilities, but I underestimated the significant differences between No Religion and Protestants with regard to classical paranormal beliefs. Bader et al. (2010) found no significance between Protestant and No Religion as well, but I thought the inclusion of personal belief in God and political party affiliation would account for increased significance. Even without religiosity or control variables, No Religion had no statistical significant difference with Protestants.

Again, I believed that the “spiritual gifts”, which include prophecy, would have made Pentecostals significantly different from Protestants with regard to classical psi phenomena. Once again, I was incorrect in this assumption. Even without any religiosity or control variables, Pentecostals exhibit no statistically significant difference with Protestants.

Rice (2003) and Bader et al. (2010) found education to be a statistically significant predictor of classical paranormal belief. However, when I controlled for political party affiliation, the statistical significance of education disappeared completely. I believe this to be that liberals are often more educated, so the two variables conflicted. Party affiliation was statistically significant regardless of supernatural type, denoting that it may be a more valid predictor than education.

The classical category should have been based on more than just one question of “psychic” phenomena, especially when religious paranormal beliefs had eight questions. Future research should have included individual questions about healing stones, telekinesis, telepathy/ESP, karma, the power of meditation, remote viewing, and other psi abilities.

Cryptozoogical Supernatural

Non-Religious respondents also showed no statistical significance for cryptozoological beliefs, therefore H1c is not supported. Other Affiliation was the only significant denomination for cryptozoological supernatural beliefs. Religiosity measures, however, partially support H2c as higher belief in The Bible and religious service attendance have lower cryptozoological beliefs. On the contrary, higher belief in God has higher cryptozoological supernatural belief.

Similar to classical beliefs, I believed that my models would show significant differences between No Religion and Protestant that was lacking in the Bader et al. (2010) models. I thought that the addition of ghosts—which were found to be statistically significant for No Religion in Bader et al.’s study—in my model of cryptozoological beliefs may have made a difference in significance, but ultimately did not.

Ghosts are actually mentioned in The Bible when King Saul went to the “witch of Endor” and spoke with the ghost of Samuel the prophet in the book of 1 Samuel. Rice (2003) presents an interesting argument as to why it is possible that the differences between Christian denominations are statistically insignificant. He writes that people may simply put some of this phenomena into a Christian context. Extraterrestrials, for instance, may be thought of as demonic or angelic beings, rather than visitors from another planet.

The relationship between UFOs and religion has a sordid history, for sure. The Urantia Book (1955) attempted to blend religion, history, and Ufology. Various UFO cults have come to prominence over the past 40 years, including the infamous Heaven’s Gate cult led by Marshall Applewhite—who, with Bonnie Nettles, were also known as “Bo and Peep” in Balch and Taylor’s (1977) study of UFO cults—that led to the mass suicide of 39 followers.

Thus, while I am surprised that No Religion did not possess the most significant cryptozoological belief, I am not surprised to see the lack of significant difference between Christian denominations. I believe that Other Affiliation may have been the only statistically significant group because of the wide range of religions included in the category. There is also no clear definition within “other”, so it would be hard to narrow any potential belief in UFOs, bigfoot, or ghosts as “other” may even include those interested in Scientology or UFO cults, who would have greater belief in extraterrestrials.

Furthermore, the cryptozoological category was also underrepresented, with only three questions. Ghosts, bigfoot, and extraterrestrials are very far-reaching, so I understand why the BRS included them. However, future research should also include other pop-culture creatures like The Mothman, Loch Ness Monster, Chupacabra, The New Jersey Devil, vampires, and werewolves.

Future Research

A significant limitation of this project is the limited number of questions and measures on paranormal beliefs in the BRS.  Scholars should work to improve the depth and range of paranormal activity questions to existing data.  Likewise, future research might benefit from a more extensive religious and paranormal data file that can include qualitative data from interviews and focus groups.

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An Ode to Suffering

One year ago from today, I was living in Las Vegas pursuing a Ph.D. while my wife was working her way up through the casino industry. She was beloved at work and was in line for a better position. We lived in a reasonable home with reliable transportation – we just took out a loan for our first “new” car (more likely gently used). Things were looking up, and the future was bright.

One year ago from next week, everything changed. I failed out of my Ph.D. program and began struggling to find work. We prayed about the situation, and felt very strongly that God wanted us to move back to Ohio. There is a casino here that Mandy could work at, and my retired parents were here to help with the kids. From there, everything fell into place for us. We were able to put together the funds to move, Mandy essentially had the job before interviewing. We miraculously found a place to live with the perfect combination of locations for cheap utilities, great schools, and proximity to family. I was able to find a job in the most amazing “circumstantial” way possible. My wife just happened to be at a party for my cousin who just happened to be marrying a man whose mother just happened to be the director of an agency who just happened to be looking for a male to do a job I was actually qualified for. Things were looking up, and the future was bright.

Seven months ago, everything was working out – now, I am not so sure.

Mandy did not feel comfortable at the casino and quit – which was financially devastating, but not everything is about money. Besides, she found another job that supplemented my income within a couple of weeks. However, that job also turned out to be a waste and they cut her hours until the point where she had to quit. It’s okay, we will survive. We made it this far. At least I have a job and we are around family.

My agency decided two months ago to completely restructure. They changed the name, logo, mission statement, personnel, and many of the policies and procedures that we have been operating on. The decline in employee morale across the board has been amazing. Very few people in my position are even mildly satisfied with these changes – in fact, the vast majority have become openly hostile and several have quit or are threatening to quit. It has been an unmitigated disaster.

Throughout the last year, we have also been struggling to find a church home and make interpersonal connections there. In Vegas, we had a great social network in a thriving church – but that church also changed many of their policies and we left even before moving across the country. In Ohio, we have visited several places and spent several months at one church where we failed to connect. It has been almost three months at our current church, and again we seem to be struggling.

Somewhere, there has been a disconnect. We went from thriving in church, in school, and at work to struggling everywhere. We are spiritually, socially, and financially in the worst place we have been in probably six or seven years. Bankruptcy is around the corner and we are just trying to meet our basic necessities at this point. We are going to have to give our second car back, all while Mandy needs monthly doctors appointments. I dread going to work every day to the point where I have begun to have panic attacks about once a month. Things do not seem to be looking up, and the future does not appear very bright.

The frustrating part of everything is that we are trying to stay motivated. I still read my Bible and pray to God every day. We go to church every week. We tithe even though it is difficult to do so. I keep asking for God to show me the path He wants me to walk, but I still feel like I am off of it. I feel like I was led to this job in this place, but now neither of them seem to be working out.

During a conversation with my wonderful wife, she pointed to the life of Job and the struggles that he went through. He was faithful without equal, and still suffered. Our losses cannot match his. He watched his children die. He lost his property and wealth. His wife’s advice was “curse God and die.” Job expressed frustration among his friends and vented his feelings. However, God revealed Himself to Job and restored everything Job had lost tenfold. Job’s patience in the midst of suffering brought glory to God, and he was rewarded in this life and the next for his faithfulness.

This is my hope now. I do not expect rewards here on earth, but I want to lay up treasures in heaven. I want to show the world that even when I am in poverty, I will remain faithful to my creator. Jesus Christ did not die on the cross so that I could be wealthy, but so that I could accept his free gift of salvation and spread the gospel. If I need to lose my home, my money, and my family to do so, then I suppose that is what will have to happen.

I understand that not all suffering is equal, and I am probably feeling stronger effects because I am presently in the storm. I acknowledge that there is always someone who has it worse than I do. In hindsight, what I am dealing with right now may be a blip on the radar in the full context of my life. I understand that I am blessed. I am blessed to have an amazing wife, children, and parents. I am blessed to have good friends. I am blessed to have food to eat, a roof over my head, and clothes on my back. I am blessed to be a child of the King. Like Job, I still need to vent.

All praise be to my Almighty God. Things are looking up, and the future is bright.

The True Freedom of Religion

A common meme from anti-Christians is that Christianity is a restrictive religion. Many modern churches have also begun to sing this refrain as they attempt to abandon “legalism,” which they mostly define as rigid rules put in place by churches on music and attire (this is not true legalism, but difference in preference as I wrote about here). The Bible is a book of negative liberties – it tells us what NOT to do, therefore, true freedom can only be found by abandoning organized religion.

This line of thinking is dangerously ignorant.

Most people fail to realize that the “fun” they have at social gatherings is not due to drinking or taking other substances, but from the social gathering itself. Sociologist Emile Durkheim called the euphoric feeling at a social event “collective effervescence.” He theorized that it was this very effervescence that formed the basis of religion as a social system. He believed that religion is the worship of the group, therefore, specific doctrine, rites, and rituals are irrelevant. What matters is that people do it together.

This effervescence transcends substances. The only necessary ingredient is having a group of people in the physical presence of others, and essentially performing the same ritual – whether that be prayer and worship at church or doing the wave at a football game.

Religious groups are incredibly fun, in that they enjoy the same effervescence that secular groups feel. It is euphoric to gather and get to know people with similar interests. The only “restrictions” at most Christian events are no drugs or alcohol, no nudity or sex, and not engaging in other taboos. Again, if fun is based on being social, those additional “freedoms” are unnecessary.

Notice I put “freedoms” in quotation marks. This is because I do not believe true freedom comes from the sins of secularism.

Go to any recovery group and ask the members there if drinking or doing drugs brings freedom. At Reformer’s Unanimous, the Faith-based recovery group I attend, we speak of addiction as bondage. You might be fortunate enough to not suffer from a substance addiction, but a huge number of people do. They will tell you that the urge to use supersedes basic life functioning. Addicts often struggle with depression and other mental health issues.

This is not freedom.

If you have fallen for the lies of the “free love” movement of the 1960s in which we should all have the “freedom” to engage in uninhibited sexual conquest and public nudity – would draw your attention to the recent allegations throughout the #metoo movement. This social movement was born the minute that we told men and women that sex outside of the confines of marriage comes without repercussions. We now have exceptionally high single-parent poverty, abuse of power through sexual assault, increases in sexually transmitted diseases, and contentious debates over “toxic masculinity” and our universities being bastions of “rape culture” manifested on campuses.

This is not freedom.

Furthermore, Cultural Marxists infesting the media, universities, and Leftist political parties constantly remind us that we are all oppressed in some way. Racial and ethnic minorities, women, Muslims, LGBT, the poor, the uneducated, children, adults, the mentally ill, etc. living in a Western, capitalist society are oppressed by our economic system. Those not living in a capitalist society are oppressed by economic colonialist nations. Unless you are a member of the white, patriarchal, bourgeoisie, you are oppressed.

Statistics show that many of those elitist bourgeoisie also face greater risk of suicide and stress related deadly diseases. Being a wealthy, white, male business owner is oppressed by health risks.

This is not freedom.

Far too many in society try to convince us that wealth, sexual promiscuity, drugs, alcohol, and constant partying are expressions of freedom. This is simply not true.

Is religion, particularly Christianity, also oppressive?

There are certain periods we can point to in which major atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. The Crusades and Inquisition are blights on “Christian” history, but these events are not based in true Christianity, rather, they are based on the evil acts of wicked people who happened to call themselves Christians.

True Christianity demands that we avoid dangerous behavior. We have plenty of evidence that “the wages of sin are death”, not just spiritually, but they often lead to an early and painful demise in this life. Diseases linked to drinking, drugs, and smoking cigarettes number in the hundreds of thousands (the majority come from smoking). Contracting an STD can be range from perpetually irritating to deadly.

What comes from behaving in a Christ-like fashion? Being ostracized from society from not being like them. Have any diseases been linked to any specifically Christian behavior? Are there any unhealthy Christian addictions? Do true Christians start wars? Starve citizens? Murder children? Rape women? Enslave minorities? Murder the innocent?

The answer is clearly no. Christianity does not oppress Christians or anyone else. True Christianity is freedom; not freedom to be enslaved by behavior, but from being enslaved by it.

If you want true freedom, turn to Jesus Christ.

Take a Stand on Your Knees

Modern American Christians are emotionally and spiritually soft. We believe that society is persecuting us when stores greet us with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. We feel as though society is after us when a baker is fined and put out of business for not baking a cake for a same-sex wedding. Sure, this is a departure from past traditions, but is this religious persecution?

Is the government burning our churches down during a worship service? Are sales of Bibles illegal? Are any of us afraid to tell our co-workers about our Christianity because they might tell the authorities? Are we being stoned to death in the streets because we prayed in a public space?

There are Christians around the world who literally put their lives on the line to share their faith; and they still do it. We are afraid to ask our colleagues to church because they might stop inviting us over to watch the football game next week.

What happens when someone uses a racial slur among our friends and family? The person using the epithet is chastised, punished, probably even fired. Their reputation is devastated as they are labeled a racist for life. They need not even speak the offensive term to a person of color. The effects are the same.

A similar fate awaits those who use an anti-LGBT slur.

But what happens when someone takes the Lord’s name in vain in front of a Christian? Nothing. Society finds no offense. This is to be expected. However, should Christians not do something or say something about being offended? Are we so afraid to be sanctioned by peers BECAUSE of our faith that we, like Peter, deny Christ in public?

Race and sexual orientation, at least as a means of discrimination, has only been a thing for about 170 years. Christianity, as a means of discrimination, has been around for 2,000 years. Our savior was crucified. His closest disciples were tortured, killed, and exiled. Our religion was born from suffering in the name of love and salvation. Our history is filled with being enslaved and slaughtered. Our forefathers were fed to lions in the Colosseum. Our martyrs have been beheaded, burned at the stake, placed into iron maidens, flogged, drawn and quartered, and faced the worst punishments that human beings have ever devised.

We have as much right to be offended when Christ’s name is used as a joke or a swear as any race has when someone uses a slur.

We have as much right to be offended when society bashes our God and our beliefs as any sexual orientation has when someone refuses to bake them a cake.

No. Not as much. More.

We know that Christianity is losing its influence. We know that society respects us less and less. I think a big part of the reason is how we respond. We take offense and whine. We take to Facebook to complain or we might file an anti-discrimination lawsuit. What would happen if we actually took a stand, or a knee, in the moment?

Philippians 2:10 says, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

Imagine the testimony we might have if when someone uses the Lord’s name in vain, we take this verse literally and take a knee and profess our faith. How the LORD would smile upon us at such a powerful display of faith.

Colin Kaepernick lost his job for taking a knee over police brutality. Would you be willing risk your career for God?

How much strength would we show if we were able to muster some fortitude in the face of adversity, rather than slinking away into the shadows? Maybe someone watching us take a stand (or knee) is a Christian who shares our apprehension, but is inspired by our displays of courage. Maybe our colleagues would begin to treat us with as much respect as they do minorities. Maybe someone would see us living our faith and come to salvation.

Christianity is not a joke. Our Savior is not a punchline. Our LORD is not to be mocked. Our God is the creator of the universe. He will punish the unjust and unsaved. He is coming to judge and destroy the world as we know it.

And we allow people we associate with to insult us and our God without mustering one ounce of character. Until we do, we will continue to lose our society. Even if we do not go as far as to literally get on our knees when someone utters the name of our Savior, the least we can do is say “I’m sorry, but I do not appreciate your using the name of my Lord in that way.”

It’s not much, but it’s more than we do now.