Evolution and Spirituality?

In Kelley et al. 2010, Kelley wrote a review on how paranormal and traditional religious beliefs play a role in the fear of death, anxiety, and terror.  Kelley found that traditional religious beliefs and paranormal beliefs have parallels with a belief in heaven and hell and that the soul outlives the body. In addition, it has been suggested that paranormal beliefs may replace traditional religious beliefs and serve as religious beliefs in themselves. Most studies, however, have had difficulty finding positive correlations between religious belief and paranormal belief due to the level of religiosity in those with more traditional religious beliefs, such as with Catholics and Protestants. Both Catholicism and Protestantism share the belief that phenomena cannot be easily debunked by science. In regard to the fear of death and terror, the researchers found a decrease in anxiety, whether the subject held traditional religious or paranormal belief, depending on their level of religiosity.

Although there is no solid evidence that religious and paranormal belief can alleviate a person’s fear of death and terror, a person’s level of commitment toward their belief system may have an impact. People who scored higher on an intrinsic belief system demonstrated a difference in their level of fear of death and terror. Some studies have suggested that people with lower belief in the paranormal are more likely to have strong traditional religious beliefs.  However, these individuals may be restricted by their disbelief in some aspects of paranormal phenomena, as seen often in Catholicism and Protestantism. The researchers found that people who did not attend church regularly were more likely to believe in paranormal phenomena such as telepathy, reincarnation, etc. than in traditional religious beliefs. On the other hand, those who did attend church regularly were more likely to believe in traditional religious beliefs than in paranormal phenomena but were more accepting of supernatural phenomena.

Submitted by Bridget Cotton


Kelley, M. P., (2010). The Evolution of Beliefs in God, Spirit, and the Paranormal. I: Terror     Management and Ritual Healing Theories. The Journal of Parapsychology. 74, 2, 335-357.



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