Okay, so I admit I’m curious. As my “six month” subscription to TAPS Paramagazine continues into its second year, itself somewhat paranormal, I get the feeling that I’m witnessing the birth of a new religion. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that new religions are hardly rare, but this one seems an accidental entry into the field. Now ghosts and religion are natural enough as corollaries. Both involve afterlife concerns and the unknown. Having watched TAPS Paramagazine feature fairies, tarot cards, and zombies, however, I wonder if the distinctions are becoming blurred. In this latest issue (January/February) many of the articles make explicit mention of God. God and ghost in the same breath, with the exception of a particularly holy spirit, is an odd combination, given the biblical injunction against mediums.
Spiritualism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was descried by famous debunkers such as Harry Houdini and accepted by famous intellectuals like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is that liminal area that stays out of the reach of traditional Christianity and Judaism, but strays into the afterlife-prepared psyche. If the dead are out there, they should be able to communicate. Right? And with God’s full approval, so it seems. This latest issue alone suggests that UFOs may be demonic, that clergy may be legitimately interested in ghosts, God may speak through dead children, and that one may become addicted to paranormal investigation. Sounds like a recipe for a New Age mythology. Throwing in light-hearted contributions about the Walking Dead, and suddenly zombies become real as well. Oh, and skunks have a special wisdom.
Traditional Christianity cautions against all of these things (except skunks). When it comes to the supernatural, it claims, there is only one super, supernatural being. The rest are charlatans and wannabes. The Bible certainly does not encourage consorting with ghosts, and yet, in this New Age milieu it is possible to find any remotely spiritual entity touted as proof of reality beyond reality. As Bader, Mencken, and Bader observe in Paranormal America, citizens of this country are inclined to believe. Where does belief lead when there is no pole-star to guide the ship? I sense that we may be steering into uncharted waters. Anyone want to volunteer to be captain? Religions always get to make up their own rules, so feel free to devise your own compass.
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