Religion and the Paranormal

A detailed look at the spooky facts in Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture edited by Christopher D. Bader, F. Carson Mencken, and Joseph Baker appeared yesterday on the Huffington Post:

In the 1980s, the actress Shirley MacLaine was ridiculed for discussing her interest in channeling, reincarnation and UFOs in her book Out on a Limb. But research indicates she may have been less a wacky outcast and more representative of the population than the image ingrained by late-night comics suggested. The average American holds slightly more than two paranormal beliefs, report Bader, Mencken and Baker.

“Statistically, those who report a paranormal belief are not the oddballs,” the researchers said.

But there are major differences in the types of people who gravitate toward different paranormal phenomena. Bigfoot conventions are almost all-male outings, while psychic affairs attract a largely female audience. The 2005 Baylor Religion Survey found that women are twice as likely as men to believe in astrology, that people can communicate with the dead (a big reason Medium lasted for seven TV seasons) and that at least some psychics can foresee the future. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to believe in UFOs.

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