- There's a related question: Does belief in the paranormal have anything to do with religious belief? The answer to that question is decidedly nuanced, but studies point to an interesting conclusion: People who practice religion are typically encouraged not to believe in the paranormal, but rather to put their faith in one deity, whereas those who aren't particularly active in religion are more free to believe in Bigfoot or consult a psychic.
A tale last week by three men who said they have remains of Bigfoot in a freezer was reported by many Web sites as anywhere from final proof of the creature to at least a very compelling case to keep the fantasy ball rolling and cash registers ringing for Bigfoot trinkets and tourism. (All three men involved make money off the belief in this creature). Even mainstream media treated a Friday press conference about the "finding" as news.
Hunter Tom Biscardi, center, is swamped by members of the media as he distributes photos of what are said to both a deceased and a living Bigfoot or Sasquatch creature during a media conference on 8/15/08 (AP Photo/Ben Margot).
Since people have been people, "experts" figure, they have believed in the supernatural, from gods to ghosts and every sort of monster in between.
Sometimes the belief in curses crosses paths with religion, as was the case in 2005 when Televangelist John Hagee (whose endorsement was solicited and received by presidential hopeful John McCain) blamed Hurricane Katrina on God's wrath for a gay parade that had been scheduled for the Monday of the storm's arrival:
That might lead one to assume religion and paranormal beliefs are intertwined. But in a 2004 survey, at the researchers at Baylor found just the opposite.
Religion vs. paranormal: more religion, less belief
Mencken, the Baylor sociologist, says sacrifice and stigma (for holding ideas outside the group norm) keep the paranormal at bay among the highly religious. He has two papers forthcoming that are based on a national survey of 1,700 people.
Profiling the typical Bigfoot believer turns out to be as challenging as determining the scientific methodology of a psychic, however. "Perhaps amazingly, [paranormal beliefs] are not related at all to education," Stark said. "Ph.D.s are as likely as high school dropouts to believe in Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, ghosts, etc."
- The 2006 study of college students, done by Bryan Farha at Oklahoma City University and Gary Steward Jr. of the University of Central Oklahoma, reached a different conclusion: Belief in the paranormal -- from astrology to communicating with the dead -- increases during college, rising from 23% among freshmen to 31% in seniors and 34% among graduate students.
- 30% think it is possible to influence the physical world through the mind alone.
- (Another 30% were undecided on that point).
- More than 20% figure it's possible to communicate with the dead.
- Nearly 40% believe in haunted houses.
- Asked if "creatures such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster will one day be discovered by science," 18.8% agreed.
- (Another 25.9% were undecided).
Today's ubiquitous and often one-sided, promotional coverage of the paranormal, both on the Internet and TV, perpetuate myths and folklore as well or better than any ancient storyteller.
- Original Story: Monsters, Ghosts and Gods: Why We Believe