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Does the Supernatural Give Life Meaning? [VIDEOS] PDF Print E-mail
Written by D.J. Grothe   

Chris Johnson, who is spearheading the multimedia project The Atheist Book has involved both Randi and me in the effort, as well as Michael Shermer, Sean Carroll, Patricia Churchland, and many others.

While the JREF is not an atheist organization per se, many of the organization’s staff, volunteers and supporters do tend to lack belief in a god or gods, in addition to their thoroughgoing skepticism of ghosts, psychic powers and other paranormal beliefs. Possibly this is because many of the same methods of inquiry that lead one to be skeptical of ghosts or psychics or other paranormal claims may be applied to religious claims, resulting in a sort of no-nonsense religious skepticism.

As part of his book project, Chris Johnson is producing video interviews of its contributors. He interviewed me last week in Los Angeles regarding some of the existential issues related to religious skepticism. The same sort of realizations that I think make life meaningful in a universe without God also have implications for those who turn to the paranormal for meaning and purpose in life, rather than accepting the world for the way it is: devoid of any good evidence for magical entities and realms.

When people turn to the supernatural or the paranormal and reject the real world, their lives are diminished. This goes for those who live in an imaginary world populated by the ghosts of deceased loved ones, or psychic forces that variously act on their behalf or against them, those who turn to occult explanations of coincidence and of painful life-events, and those who believe that there is a supernatural “secret” to attaining one’s most ambitious desires.

Here is a short clip from my interview with Chris Johnson.

Randi also did an extended interview for the book at his home outside of Ft. Lauderdale. A great clip from that interview can be found here:

D.J. Grothe is president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and host of the interview show For Good Reason.

Comments (4)Add Comment
written by Willy K, November 22, 2012
When people turn to the supernatural or the paranormal and reject the real world, their lives are diminished.
Oh it's much worse than that for the rest of the Human Race. smilies/cry.gif

People who believe that a supernatural being is watching their actions and is somehow going to reward or punish them in some fairy tale "afterlife" are telling the world that they can not be trusted! Anything they say or any action they take can be said to be their attempt to "please" their supernatural deity.

The devil made me do it.
Flip Wilson AKA Geraldine Jones 1970 smilies/wink.gif

Just stay quiet and you will be OK.
Mohamed Atta - September 11, 2001 smilies/angry.gif
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written by popsaw, November 24, 2012
From personal experience, when I was an atheist, I was committed to the pursuit of happiness, which involved for the most part, making as much money as posible before I die.
No branch of atheism taught me different and I embraced the 'me first' approach. There are many altruistic atheists, I was not one of them!
It took belief in a creator that cares to change my purpose in life and also to attain hope beyond 3 score years and 10. I am now content with sustenance and covering.
Some more subtle behaviours have also changed. I would drop litter or let my dog foul the pavement if nobody was around because I could get away with it whereas I now believe these things are morally wrong whereas I did no before.
My beliefs have made me a better person and merely changed my purpose in life. I believe that everyone has a purpose in life whatever branch of atheism / religin they hold to.
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written by Gaius Cornelius, November 26, 2012
Popsaw: I guess that you turned to belief because you were unhappy with your hedonistic lifestyle. It is not at all easy to change your life and it seems to me that some people search out a fulcrum of some sort to do this. I know of two friends who, when young, joined the Army for pretty much that reason. I also have had two friends who turned to religion. For one, a convert to Islam, this worked; for another who turned to Christianity things did not work out so well.

I am an atheist and I pretty much always have been despite considerable pressure to conform.

I think it is this ability of religion to allow people to change that is the one seeming-good that makes me stop short of condemning religion utterly. A substantial part of me hates the idea of this mother-of-all-placebos, but my humanitarian side knows that in a state of despair the world may have little else to offer to people for whom personal change is literally a matter of life and death.

The side effects of religion may be severe and long lasting. It is very unfortunate that rational philosophy cannot always compete with religion’s more immediate appeals. An ethical vacuum does not have much to offer the individual or society, but atheism does not have to be like that; we can seek meaning in a world without gods, but it is not the easy path.
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written by popsaw, November 26, 2012
@ Gaius Cornelius.
Just to clarify, I am not a member of any religion since I accept that religion is a sham. I do have a peronal belief in a creator and it is this belief that has changed my outlook.
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