Why do so many Americans believe in ghosts?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith, so that through the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
As Halloween approached this Sunday, I found these facts about Americans be relevant:
- 70 percent of us will celebrate the next vacation; the figure rises to 91 percent for parents with children at home.
- 88% of parents say they eat their children’s candy.
- 32% say there is no age limit for trick-or-treating.
- 46% think ghosts are real.
As to why so many Americans believe in ghosts, the New York Times cited the rise of Americans claiming no religious preferences and quotes sociologist Thomas Mowen in response: âPeople look to other things or non-traditional things to answer the big questions in life that don’t necessarily include religion. Interestingly, Mowen says he finds that “atheists tend to report a higher belief in the paranormal than religious people.”
In other words, many do not believe in the supernatural when it refers to God, but they do when it does not.
For example, the Washington post wears a feature film portrait of a “teenage witch” who lives in Austin, Texas. The article reports that the #witchtok hashtag on TikTok has 19.4 billion views. The teenager profiled by the To post said, âI have never felt more peace than when I am with my gods. Read a prayer or perform a ritual. It’s like the earth is alive, a way to come into my power as a person.
An illusion that illustrates a cultural fact
The “Delboeuf illusionâIs an optical illusion of the relative perception of height. The most well-known version of the illusion is below. The two discs circled in black are the same size, although the one on the left appears smaller than the one on the right.
This illusion illustrates a cultural fact: the more chaos we see in the world around us, the smaller our individual challenges may seem.
There was a day, for example, when concerns about witchcraft and the occult in the Harry potter series were front page stories. Now the huge escalating interest in witchcraft raises few eyebrows. So many people are fascinated by astrology and occult practices that the phenomenon is called a “occult awakening. âIn a day dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, political divisions and natural disasters, this ‘revival’ may seem trivial. But it is far from true.
My goal is not to denigrate all Halloween activities. We took our boys around the neighborhood for some treats, and they will be doing the same with their kids this Sunday. Halloween can be a fun party and even a way to building relational bridges for the gospel with our neighbors and our community.
It is estimated that Americans will spend $ 10.1 billion for Halloween this year, including $ 3.3 billion in costumes and $ 3 billion in candy. Such a popular event can be a great opportunity to reach those around us with Christian truth and love (Ephesians 4:15).
“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers”
I’d rather use what the teenage witch said in the Washington post article to contrast Halloween and the day it precedes. She claimed that communing with her occult “gods” is “a way to come into my power as a person.” On the other hand, the word of God systematically prohibits engagement with the occult:
- âDon’t look to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them, and thus make yourselves unclean through them â(Leviticus 19:31).
- The Scriptures say of King Manasseh that he “used fortune-telling, omens and witchcraft, and dealt with mediums and necromancers.” As a result, “He did great evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger” (2 Chronicles 33: 6).
- âThe gods of the house speak nonsense, and diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd â(Zechariah 10: 2).
Satan’s first strategy is always to claim that we will âtake our power as a personâ by being our own god (Genesis 3: 5). This is because the âwill to power,â as Nietzsche described it, is the basis of our fallen human nature.
As a result, we do not have to engage in witchcraft and other occult practices to be tempted by the self-sufficiency that our secular culture applauds and strengthens. I can refuse occultism but still write this article in my own capacity for my own glory. You can read it the same way.
If we do, none of us will know the omnipotent power available to all who refuse self-sufficiency for the dependence of the Spirit by surrendering their mind and life to the Holy Spirit.
Why should we “stay in tune with the Spirit”
Unlike Halloween, the next day is All Saints’ Day. (Halloween is a contraction of “All Hallows’ Eve”, referring to the day it precedes.) The day celebrates all the saints in Christian history.
But know this: all Christians are eligible. We are all âsaintsâ of God (cf. Acts 9:13; 9:32; Romans 1: 7; 8:27; 1 Corinthians 1: 2; Ephesians 4:12; Philippians 4:21). However, to live our identity, we need a power beyond ourselves.
By his Spirit who dwells in every Christian (1 Corinthians 3:16), God will enable us to overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), guide us into âall truthâ (John 16:13), and strengthen our testimony and ministry (Acts 1: 8). But if we turn to another source, whether occult, secular, or autonomous, we lose what our omnipotent Father wants to do with and through us.
I will end with an illustration: I walked early yesterday morning in our neighborhood in the middle of a windstorm blowing at twenty miles an hour, with gusts twice as strong. When I walked against the wind, I had no help from its strength. On the contrary, I had to work much harder than if there was no wind.
But when I went with the wind, its strength in my back allowed me to walk with a power that was beyond me. (For more information, see my blog on my personal website, where you’ll find other blogs, videos, and a way to ask me questions about Faith and Life.)
Jesus compared the Holy Spirit to the “wind [that] breath where he wills â(John 3: 8). The scriptures call us to submit to this âwindâ every day (Ephesians 5:18), refusing to extinguish (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or to grieve (Ephesians 4:30) its power through sin.
If we âkeep in tune with the Spiritâ (Galatians 5:25), we will have his omniscient wisdom to guide us and his omnipotent power to strengthen us.
Would the Spirit say that you are âin tuneâ with him today?
If not, why not?
REMARK: I wanted to remind you one last time this month of our new resource that gives you the ârules of the gameâ for a life well lived. This is the tenth and last volume of my A Biblical Insight into the Difficult Questions books – and you can request your copy for a giveaway of any amount until October 31. Please respond * before the time expires.
*You can also ask for the full 10-volume set of Bible Insight Tough Questions. There you will find dozens of the most difficult questions in our culture – all answered, without excuses, with the scriptures.