Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ghosts have us on the run again!

Well, just as I said it was quiet in the Caribbean, things have stirred up again. This time it's not a hurricane, it's something a lot more sinister. Yes, from Jamaica in the north to Trinidad in the south, the duppies are back. You can watch the Jamaica episode in the video above and read here about the Trinidad encounter which appears to have involved the devil himself.

These accounts always have two impacts on me. On the one hand the absurdity of these stories always provide welcome comic relief at the end of a long day. However, after watching I am always very scared. Not of the sceptres or malevolent beings described in the accounts but of the fact that people can treat stories like these as serious news items. People always ask what's the harm of religious beliefs, but just think of the media resources that are used to bring these stories into our homes. Makes you wonder how many real stories that could actually edify and educate are left on the cutting room floors.

Then again, shouldn't we keep an open mind? Many Christians will admit that the Jamaican boy, his family and his pastor, are either crazy or acting but then go on to say that there are still real spirits out there. It's almost like the fake ones make the belief in the "real" spirits more valid; much like how the many replicas of the Mona Lisa make the one that hangs in the Louvre even more invaluable. I have heard debate after debate where it is logically made clear that the burden of proof is always on the believer; the one making the supernatural claim whether it be for God, leprechauns, Santa Claus or the flying spaghetti monster. But that is not the world we live in, the unwritten rule of "social logic" suggests the burden of proof is on the person that is considered by society to hold the more outrageous position. This means the burden of proof is on us atheists, we can complain all we want but that is simply how it works. So by default we have to accept that some ghost, at least the holy one, is real.

What surprises me, is that if the bishop in Jamaica was so sure the ghost he encountered was real; is the haste with which he chased it away. It is unimaginable what the impact on the island would have been if he had managed to convince the ghost to stick around a bit longer. There didn't seem to be immediate danger to life, even the boy claimed that he had reached the point where he was able to laugh at his tormentor. In the worst case scenario, the perils of flying stones or knives seems a small price to pay for the opportunity of gaining potentially world altering knowledge. We had a really great chance to get an understanding of ghost behaviour and the supernatural realm. The ghost might be a coward as the bishop suggested, but I am sure we could have elicited an interview if we had been more patient.We could have asked the demon so many questions. Where the hell did you come from? Do you work for the devil? Do you know the holy spirit? How powerful is God? Have you ever been haunting around Rose Hall in Montego Bay? Are you involved in the demon possessions now going on at the Trinidad school?

Apart from the million dollars from the James Randi foundation for verified supernatural entities, there was certainly a Nobel Prize waiting for some fortunate doctoral student at the University of the West Indies. The tourism that would have been generated by marketing the place where the first ghost was positively identified could have potentially transformed Jamaica and even the wider Caribbean in the midst of harsh economic times .We could have led the world in the field of Ghost R&D the way we once did in the sport of cricket. Tragically, with the pouring of a bottle of "sanctified" olive oil bought from a Spanish Town grocery store that chance has been lost forever.

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