Before you read the following article, please bear in mind that the belief in UFOs as physical alien spacecraft (piloted or maneuvered by physical extraterrestrial aliens) is just as religious a belief as belief in God. Science has yet to prove that UFOs represent any conclusive evidence whatsoever of physical ET visitations to our Earth.
by Clay Routledge, NEW YORK TIMES Sunday Review – Gray Matter – – July 21, 2017
Evidence suggests that the religious mind persists even when we lose faith in traditional religious beliefs and institutions.
Consider that roughly 30 percent of Americans report they have felt in contact with someone who has died.
Nearly 20 percent believe they have been in the presence of a ghost.
About one-third of Americans believe that ghosts exist and can interact with and harm humans; around two-thirds hold supernatural or paranormal beliefs of some kind, including beliefs in reincarnation, spiritual energy and psychic powers.
These numbers are much higher than they were in previous decades, when more people reported being highly religious.
People who do not frequently attend church are twice as likely to believe in ghosts as those who are regular churchgoers.
The less religious people are, the more likely they are to endorse empirically unsupported ideas about UFOs (as physical alien spacecraft), intelligent aliens monitoring the lives of humans and related conspiracies about a government cover-up of these phenomena.
An emerging body of research supports the thesis that these interests in nontraditional supernatural and paranormal phenomena are driven by the same cognitive processes and motives that inspire religion.
For instance, my colleagues and I recently published a series of studies in the journal Motivation and Emotion demonstrating that the link between low religiosity and belief in advanced alien visitors is at least partly explained by the pursuit of meaning.
The less religious participants were, we found, the less they perceived their lives as meaningful.
This lack of meaning was associated with a desire to find meaning, which in turn was associated with belief in UFOs (as physical alien spacecraft) and alien visitors.
When people are searching for meaning, their minds seem to gravitate toward thoughts of things like aliens that do not fall within our current scientific inventory of the world.
I suspect part of the answer is that such ideas imply that humans are not alone in the universe, that we might be part of a larger cosmic drama.
As with traditional religious beliefs, many of these paranormal beliefs involve powerful beings watching over humans and the hope that they will rescue us from death and extinction.
A great many atheists and agnostics, of course, do not think UFOs (as physical alien spacraft) exist.
I’m not suggesting that if you reject traditional religious belief, you will necessarily find yourself believing in alien visitors.
But because beliefs about UFOs (as physical alien spacecraft) and aliens do not explicitly invoke the supernatural and are couched in scientific and technological jargon, they may be more palatable to those who reject the metaphysics of more traditional religious systems.
It is important to note that thus far, research indicates only that the need for meaning inspires these types of paranormal beliefs, not that such beliefs actually do a good job of providing meaning.
There are reasons to suspect they are poor substitutes for religion: They are not part of a well-established social and institutional support system and they lack a deeper and historically rich philosophy of meaning.
Seeking meaning does not always equal finding meaning.
The Western world is, in theory, becoming increasingly secular – – but the religious mind remains active.
The question now is, how can society satisfactorily meet people’s religious and spiritual needs?
(Clay Routledge is a professor of psychology at North Dakota State University.)
Norio Hayakawa’s CIVILIAN INTELLIGENCE NEWS SERVICE
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