Monday, July 14, 2008
A few evenings ago I was drifting in and out of sleep on the couch, trying to forget I had a headache when I overheard part of the conversation between Matt and his sister on the telephone. Here's a little of how the conversation went.
Matt: You aren't telling me that you believe in zombies?
Sister-in-law: Well, I wasn't sure before but now there's the idea of government conspiracies and viruses that can make people go crazy.
Matt: Crazy living people are different than zombies. Maybe there could be a virus that spreads that makes people go crazy, but that's not being a zombie. Zombies are physical beings somehow animated by magic. You understand that it's impossible for zombies to move around, especially fast zombies. If their muscles and tendons have atrophied how do they get around? It's physically impossible. Even if they could animate a dead body, how does it become superhuman? You're not thinking this through.
SIL: I know that, but I can't help it. I'm still afraid one will jump out and eat my dogs.
Matt: That's ridiculous. How can you be afraid of some fictional thing made up for movies? I can understand being creeped out by the movie, but you're actually afraid you're going to be attacked by a zombie?
SIL: Well, I feel a little better after *insert a friend's name here* told me that zombies don't attack dogs. You know, like in that scene from Dawn of the Dead?
Matt: That's a movie. You're afraid of a made-up thing in a movie and you're basing your logic on something that's made up from a movie. You know you're talking crazy, right?
SIL: I know they're just movies, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen.
At this point, I decide to chime in. I wonder if I'm dreaming, but I'm pretty sure I'm awake.
Me: Tell her about it being physically impossible again.
But the fact is, I can't be too critical of my sister-in-law. It wasn't too long ago that I believed in demon possession, spiritual warfare, ghosts and angels, and other crazier things that I can't even begin to explain without you thinking that I should be locked up.
But growing up in a non-traditional, Pentecostal household these were things that my family bought into willingly. Not only was it a perfect form of control - don't think about X, where X could be evolution or secularism or something else antithetical to the religious dogma, because those concepts have been created by Satan to draw you away from God - but it was also a gateway into magical thinking. If we accepted these concepts, it was much easier to accept other strange or outright crazy ideas as being real.
In my own experience even after I no longer believed in a supreme being, I still found it difficult to escape the spiritual mindset and embraced belief in fate and energy manipulation. It took years of further thought into why these beliefs aren't rational before I gave them up. It was only then that I was willing to call myself an atheist.
My husband tried to let me off the hook when I explained my own evolution of belief by telling me that supernatural entities, while they may be as improbable aren't testable in the natural world. But I can't let myself off that easily. For a supernatural entity to be perceived it must enter the natural world. That is why my belief in the supernatural eventually crumbled. Most "evidence" of the supernatural is anecdotal, poorly researched, or fraudulent. A half-serious look into the evidence presented cannot lead to supernatural belief for any rational person.
It's only the people who don't learn to think rationally or apply critical thinking that fall into the trap of believing in the supernatural, magic, zombies, and religion. For a person without a rational mindset arguments for rationality will fall on deaf ears.