In a recent post on Supernaturalism and the Paranormal, I hypothesized a connection between supernatural-religious beliefs on the one hand and paranormal beliefs on the other. My thinking was that if someone is inclined to believe in anything that is non-measurable, non-empirical, and non-material (i.e., “supernatural”), then s/he may be more inclined to be religious and believe in paranormal phenomena or psi.
One of my favorite scholars of religion, Craig Martin, commented to the contrary: “I’m unconvinced that paranormal phenomena (if they exist) have anything to do with what we call religion. It’s quite possible that psi phenomena are real, but I think those cultural traditions we call religious can be explained without any reference to psi phenomena whatsoever.”
In the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion‘s September 2010 issue, Joseph Baker and Scott Draper studied the relationship between religiosity and paranormal beliefs. What they found was that there is no simple correlation between religious and paranormal beliefs; rather, there is a correlation between particular types of religious beliefs and paranormal beliefs.
As a baseline, it should surprise no one that strict materialists are less religious and tend not to believe in paranormal phenomena. Among those who believe in the supernatural/spiritual — but are open, tolerant, and nonexclusive about such matters — belief in the paranormal is quite high. But among believers who adhere strictly to an organized and exclusive form of faith, belief in the paranormal is low. Such matters are considered outside the ken of “normal” religion.
The authors’ findings are timely (in terms of my own questions) and make considerable sense. It is nice to see them quantitatively confirmed.