Hayley is a Ghost

doubt, it’s complicated!

Posted on: July 17, 2011

Perhaps I have this perspective of mine because of the two years I’ve been part of the Righteous Indignation Podcast, or perhaps it is because I come to skepticism as someone who used to hold illogical beliefs? Either way, I cannot help but think that sometimes the people who call themselves skeptics often assume too much about the people they are criticising.

I’ve thought this for a while, but it’s something that was reinforced in my mind when I happened to share on twitter & facebook that I was going to read the book that a psychic had given to me as a gift a few weeks ago. The book is called ‘I dared to call him father’ by Bilquis Sheikh, and is about the dialogue between Muslims & Christians, and faith and courage.

I went into the book with an open mind and, not necessarily to learn about God or Allah, but to read the story of another human being who has had a spiritual experience that they wanted to share. Perhaps my curiosity was roused because I have had spiritual experiences in the past that shaped the way I viewed the world. Not only that, but it was a gift and a book, and I never pass on the opportunity to read a book because who knows what you might learn?

A few of the people who commented on my posts about reading the book seemed shocked that I would read a) a book about god, given that I am atheist, and b) that I would read a book given to me by a psychic.

I was a little confused by their confusion and questioned why I wouldn’t. I said to one person on twitter that they shouldn’t judge a “book” by its cover – meaning both the book and the fact that it was given to me by a psychic, their reply was:

 I’d judge them by their willingness to lie to the grief-stricken to line their own pockets in that case!

The psychic, they mean. However I don’t think it is that simple. In fact, I KNOW it isn’t that simple. Some people who think they’re psychic, or who think they can talk to god, or can heal the sick with their hands actually believe they can do what they say they can.

They’re not lying or intentionally misleading people – even when they ARE misleading people. To simply dismiss everyone who makes such claims as a con artist is lazy and disingenuous.

As I said before, perhaps it is because I’ve spoken in-depth to people who hold beliefs that I don’t agree with, or perhaps it is because I used to hold similar beliefs due to experiences I’d had that makes me understand how belief isn’t a simple case of right or wrong, lying or telling the truth… it’s about people.

If we don’t take time to learn about the people who hold the beliefs, then we cannot pretend to know anything about the beliefs we are claiming to disagree with. Doubt, it’s complicated to get right!

‎”By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection which is noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is the easiest;
and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius

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10 Responses to "doubt, it’s complicated!"

I’ve been asked a few times at talks how many psychics I think are lying. Personally I think many, maybe even most, genuinely believe what they can do is real. I’m of the opinion that the more commercial, television psychics and mediums are more likely to be con artists than little old aunt Mable and her tea leaves. This is based on the amount of times TV Psychics have been caught out and in at least one case admitted that they occasionally do Cold – reading (Would rather not name names simply because the original source that stated it is now defunct)

The assumption that they are ALL lying and intentionally deceitful has never sat well with me. That said it is very difficult to know the exact number of those who genuinely believe versus those making it up. How would we even survey that? Even anonymously you’re unlikely to get honest answers.

Though to instantly assume all are liars isn’t fair. Doesn’t mean what they are doing isn’t any less harmful, but we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion they are cheating gits like Peter Poppoff.

My father was a spiritualist medium and was quite genuine in believing that he had the talent, and by all accounts that I’d heard he was good at it.

However, there are some psychics, as there are other alternative practitioners, who do know precisely what they are doing.

It’s very difficult to tell them apart.

I’d guess there are also some “psychics” who genuinely believe they have a supernatural gift, and can help people, but that their gift is intermittent or unreliable. They may knowingly use cold reading and other tricks but rationalise this as a means of bolstering their weak powers, so that they can continue to “help” people.

The ones who make tons of money by exploiting the desperate, however, are undoubtedly frauds.

“Know your Enemy” is fine advice too, when it comes to this sort of thing. I’ve just finished reading Descartes and his “proofs” of how he’s absolutely certain that God exists. I’m glad I am now familiar with his thinking, yet it hasn’t changed my mind and I feel a little more qualified to criticise such views now.

Nice post.

I personally think all who atheists should read “god” books. Personally I do read and listen to a lot of Christian appolgetics as I believe that I should challenge my atheism to see if it holds water

If I just spent all my time reading stuff that reinforced my world view then I’d view that as a sort of interlectual cowardice.

Also I can emphasise with the psychic bit, I have family who are convinced reike is real and they can practice it!

Hi Hayley. The reason that I cant understand why any skeptic would believe that any of these so called psychics really believe that they have a special gift is that they all claim that someone that is dead is telling them things. They all know that they make everything up in their own mind and try to claim that someone “from the other sider” is communicationg with them. Unless they are hallucinating this can not be true. They all know that they make the whole thing up as they go along, hopefully picking up clues from their victim along the way. How does someone that believes that they are genuine receive the information that they claim to receive. Answer-they make it up the same way all the rest of them do.

Prove that is true… it simply isn’t. Some people really are that deluded. It’s called mental illness, and not only that, it’s possible to cold read by accident and attribute it to a power you don’t have, unintentionally.

People delude themselves all the time, if you ask someone how good they are at driving, more than 50% will say they are above average, obviously impossible. I have met two Reiki masters, both are sincere good but deluded people, whose main aim was to help the people around them.
Ignoring the paranormal, how many people do we know who are deluding themselves about their relationships, or how effective they are in their jobs? Many People! (But not me)

Well said John M.

People delude themselves in so many spheres of belief and perception, particularly when it comes to erroneous experiences in unfamiliar locations. People make irrational statements, claims and even proffer ‘evidence’ to support those claims every day on hundreds if not thousands of forums worldwide. Science professionals will not be impressed by the “many cups of weak coffee poured together to create one strong cup” as Ben Radford said.

On books: why *wouldn’t* an atheist read a book about religion? As you note, you might learn something from reading it. I read books about various gods and religions all the time, even if I disagree with the thesis I can learn a lot about how people think or view things from it. Well worth the investment of time. There is no intellectual pretension more despicable than prideful ignorance.

To expand upon that, on books from psychics, or any other sort of believer: If I want to understand what they believe, reading the books that inform their world view is useful and informative. And if I wish to refute the claims, I can hardly do that without knowing what the claims are.

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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