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Ask the Patriarch 186
Any thoughts on ghosts & demons?

from: Shelly

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I had heard of the word Agnostic before but didn't really know what it meant until last night when I was speaking with my significant other about God and he told me that's what I was.  I was raised Catholic but wholeheartedly believe that I am a true Agnostic.  I am an evolutionist by nature and don't believe anything the bible says.  I think it's just a metaphor for life.  I don't believe that one all powerful deity created man/earth/the universe but that's not to say an entity like that doesn't exist.  Human's minds were very primitive 3000 years ago and were not privvy to science as we know it that can explain many things that happened that may have seemed miraculous back then.  I am still trying to find my faith and what to believe in.

I believe religious extremists who believe every single word the bible says are weak minded people that don't have the ability to use their common sense that "God" supposedly gave them. 

My question for you is regarding angels, demons, and ghosts.  I believe that ghosts exists (although I've never had a experience to speak of) and have read many books on demon possession, but can't figure out how that ties into existence.  But for me to believe in ghosts & demons, I feel that I should believe in an afterlife of some sort, and thus existence beyond our death.  So, if I believe in one thing, it would mean that I have to believe in another. This is where I get confused.

Any thoughts?

The Patriarch replies:

Agnosticism is basically a statement about our knowledge of God. So it is possible to be an agnostic and still believe in other supernatural concepts, such as the soul, ghosts, demons, demonic possession, an afterlife, angels, cosmic consciousness and various psychic powers.

Personally, I don't believe in any of it. For me, it starts internally. The concept of the soul as something separable from mind and body just does not make any sense to me. And without that belief, the need for ideas such as an afterlife and ghosts drop away. I'm not just agnostic; I'm aspiritual.

In my view an afterlife arises out of an inability we humans have to come to terms with the possibility of non-existence, or with the idea that death really means the end; ghosts are illusions; and demonic possession is a metaphor for mental illness.

Given the culture we grew up in, and the culture we exist in, it can be extremely difficult to put aside ideas of the supernatural. They are pervasive in books, comics, television and movies. And the line between fact and fiction is never clear.

I can understand why you might accept the idea you have an undying soul and the afterlife that an undying soul can imply. And that opens the possibility of ghosts as a form of lost souls. I think that with a little effort you can rid yourself of the idea of demons - just look on them as a metaphor for mental disturbances or as exuses for why we might do wrong. But you can still believe in all that and consider yourself agnostic.

I do suggest that the podcast discussed in Miscellany 191 - The Naked Soul may be of interest to you. Unlike me, the agnostic behind it considers herself spiritual.