Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. I want to believe aliens have visited us and perhaps still live among us. I want to believe tortured vampires who barely remember the kiss of sunlight haunt the night. I want to believe astral projection is a perfectly reasonable and viable mode of travel. I want so much to believe. Unfortunately, I’m a social scientist, and I find belief in the supernatural a little hard to come by.
I grew up Pentecostal, a devout and, ahem, pretty fundamentalist sect of Protestant Christianity. Every Sunday, I heard about the dangers of demon possession, about sublime and miraculous angels, about a supreme being who knew my every thought. While it scared the pants off me, it also filled me with wonder. How rich a world we live in, with only half of it tangible!
Of course, this faith also taught me women shouldn’t wear pants or cut their hair, dancing is forbidden, and “the homosexual agenda” is a weapon aimed at your (doubtlessly straight) marriage bed. I have much respect for all practitioners of this faith, and I would never take away folks’ rights to believe as they may, but this Protestant sect and its belief systems are no longer where I care to hang my spiritual hat.
All of this is part of the reason why, in my early twenties, I abandoned organized religion. I’m much happier since I left all that behind, but I admit it leaves a gap in my mind where thoughts of the fantastic used to crowd. I think this is in part why I’m so fascinated with the supernatural: vampires, aliens, time travel, psychic phenomena, and various mythological creatures. It’s not only fun but deeply satisfying to imagine, and temporarily believe in, a fantastic creature or situation that supposedly explains or complicates our common definition of reality.
Most of all, the supernatural makes us rethink our relationship to the tangible world, and that’s something a social scientist can get behind.
I don’t believe, but I often wish I did.