Atheists and Ghosts

Atheist activist  David Mcafee writes:

This weekend, I spoke at “Gateway to Reason,” an atheist convention in St. Louis. It was a large gathering of non-believers, including big names like Seth Andrews and David Smalley, but there was still something missing: scientific skepticism.

Many atheists are also skeptics, but that’s not always the case. This is something I already knew, but it became even more apparent after my talk on Saturday. The topic was “You Don’t Have to be a Scientist to Think Like One,” and I talked about all that is pseudoscience – from acupuncture to UFOs, and everything in between.

I expected most people to be on board, but as my talk progressed it became clear that I had offended a number of audience members by categorizing their particular beliefs as “false.” After I left the stage, the first person to approach (confront) me was a 9/11 “Truther” asking me about the “missing engine” from the plane that hit the Pentagon that tragic day (anyone who asks this question seriously is more of a denialist than a scientific skeptic).

The second person to come up to me, believe it or not, was also a Truther who wanted to know why I believed the “official government story” about what happened. But they weren’t the only ones. People who believed in ghosts, psychics, and other assorted woos all came to tell me why they’re right despite a complete lack of supporting evidence.

None of this surprises me at all.  In fact, I have noted it for some time now.   For example, while the atheist activists like to point to various European countries and the decline in religion, they rarely mentioned that this decline is religion seems to be correlated with a rise in paranormal beliefs.

All of this is significant.  As I explained over a year ago:

Thus, while we are told that atheists, as a group, reject belief in God because of critical thinking and a lack of evidence, there are many who believe in ghosts, spirits, along with other supernatural and paranormal phenomenon, ……because of the same critical thinking and consideration of evidence?  Look, if the atheist is going to posture as a member of a group devoted to critical thinking and evidence, that message is contradicted when you also admit the existence of ghost-believing fellow atheists.

I think very few people become atheists because of reason and evidence.  They become atheists for personal and emotive reasons and then, after the decision is made, logic and evidence are used after the fact to make it appear like it was all a rational choice.  The very fact that many atheists believe in conspiracy theories, ghosts, witchcraft, etc. simply supports my point.

Atheist:  There is no God.

Theist: How do you know?

Atheist:  My aunt Elma told me. 

Theist:  But isn’t she dead?

Atheist:  Yes.  That’s how she knows.

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9 Responses to Atheists and Ghosts

  1. pennywit says:

    It goes to show, I think, that despite what the “Brights” like to say, atheism is not an indicator of intelligence.

  2. TFBW says:

    I think they had to acknowledge loss of the intellectual high ground after the embarrassment of the 2016 Reason Rally, which was hard to distinguish from a New Age festival in parts.

  3. Dhay says:

    At least it didn’t get cancelled for lack of numbers this year:

    Like another cancelled convention that same summer:


    What McAfee seems to be saying is that there’s a big and growing problem of lack of skepticism among atheists — among those who attend conventions, at any rate — and there’s signs, some indication, that skepticism is starting (“being injected”) to increase in the atheist movement.

    As I mentioned in my talk at Gateway to Reason, belief in non-religious supernatural ideas is rising even as church attendance falls at record numbers across the globe. More people believe in ghosts and Bigfoot, despite the fact that the “nones” (those of us who don’t associate with any particular faith) are growing at an unprecedented rate. It is more important now than ever to look at these issues critically and skeptically.

    The good news is I’ve seen signs that this is already happening. There is at least some indication that skepticism is being injected into the atheist movement – and that’s encouraging.

    I’d call that a mixture of condemnation and faint praise of existing levels of skepticism in the atheist movement, and faint praise — “at least some indication … and that’s encouraging” — of current rates of increase of skepticism.

    I’d call that damned by faint praise.

  4. pennywit says:

    More people believe in ghosts and Bigfoot

    Bigfoot? That’s called “teenager when his feet grow before his growth spurt.”

  5. Dhay says:

    While “Gateway to Reason” is readily interpreted as referring to St Louis’ famous Gateway arch, it’s hard not to assume that the name isn’t punning, and that “gateway” as in “entrance portal” or (less likely) “exit” isn’t meant to be implied.

    Are we supposed to assume that attendance at the convention introduces attendees to reason. I’d have said, No, but McAfee’s blog post says otherwise.

  6. Dhay says:

    The recent solar eclipse affecting the area meant that travelling to the Convention, and finding accommodation when there, was difficult — evidently science and reason didn’t see that coming, or perhaps it did, but the organisers thought the eclipse would be a draw rather than a deterrent — so that’s at least a partial explanation why “The average age of this conference was about 50.”

    Another partial explanation seems to be that many of the “lot of silver haired seniors” were atheist organisation heads and secular organisation heads there to network with each other and with the speakers:

    We were there primarily to make connections with leaders in the atheist community for our upcoming conference in New York City to have them support or speak there. …

    Every conference needs good speakers — speakers that motivate you to buy tickets and come out to the event. It also has to be fun. We need to bring the young atheists out. The average age of this conference was about 50. There were a lot of silver haired seniors. Many of them were heads of the secular and atheist organizations that partner with American Atheists, and those roles usually require skill sets that take many years to acquire. There really needed to be a lot more 20 and 30 somethings in the crowd.

    Looks like 20 and 30 somethings were largely absent in the crowd.

  7. Dhay says:

    > This weekend, I spoke at “Gateway to Reason,” an atheist convention in St. Louis. It was a large gathering of non-believers, including big names like Seth Andrews and David Smalley …

    Smalley has his own blog, on which I found:

    I often wonder why I take the time to write an entire article, when many of you just read the headline and start a pissing match in the comments. You beg for short reads, and then criticize the lack of nuance.


    That first ‘headlines and pissing match’ sentence could well have been said by Hemant Mehta of his own followers, I think.

    I guess internet atheists are much of a muchness.

    (Richard Carrier escapes drivel by having his fans pay for the privilege of commenting, sensible man.)

  8. Dhay says:

    > … while the atheist activists like to point to various European countries and the decline in religion, they rarely mentioned that this decline is religion seems to be correlated with a rise in paranormal beliefs.

    I note a recent study showing a marked rise in the number New Age Gullibles, the type who believe in the Lost City of Atlantis, hauntings, aliens past and present, telekinesis, psychics and fortune tellers and, last and least, Bigfoot.

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