I'd like to find a link to the survey results broken down by question, but the Baylor site is kind of crappy (I think they want you to buy the new book that talks about the results). I can find the actual survey, but the results are either not there or buried among the links. If anyone else finds them, let me know.
This summary from the Wall Street Journal makes me curious for more information:
The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?
The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.
This is interesting, if true. What it might be indicating is that people who reject organized religion might be doing so for reasons that are not entirely rational (e.g. rebellion against parents, bad experiences in church or with clergy, etc.). And it might indicate that people have a strong affinity for hoo-doo, so that if they're not getting it from a mainstream source, they seek it in alternative sources.
But I'd like to see the individual survey results, because something smells fishy. The numbers are actually the opposite of a Gallup poll from the same time frame:
Participants were presented with a list of ten potential paranormal beliefs:
- extrasensory perception (41 percent of the respondents acknowledge belief in this item)
- haunted houses (37 percent)
- ghosts (32 percent)
- telepathy (31 percent)
- clairvoyance (26 percent)
- astrology (25 percent)
- communication with the dead (21 percent)
- witches (21 percent)
- reincarnation (20 percent)
- channeling spiritual entities (9 percent)
These results are statistically relevant across lines of "age, gender, education, race, and region of the country," according to Gallup. There is, however, some difference between Christians and non-Christians: the former group scores a 75 percent likelihood of belief, while the latter scores 66 percent. But both groups, as these statistics demonstrate, have a paranormal-positive majority.
These latter results accord more with my own personal experience. The majority of people I talk to about such things tend to believe in ghosts, precognition, ouiji boards, and so on. Not so much Atlantis, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness monster, but definitely categories dealing with "the spirit world". I simply don't buy the Baylor results that only 8% of regular church-going Christians believe in paranormal things. I think there's some conflation of the results going on here, and there might be some real issues with their methodology.
Anyway, G.K. Chesterton's character Father Brown apparently said: "It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can't see things as they are."
And Chesterton speaking as himself said: "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing - they believe in anything."
Um...right. I'd agree with the premise that if people reject religious thinking on any grounds other than rational ones, they're likely to latch onto pseudoscience and supernaturalism of another flavor. The nice thing about hoo-doo is that it's usually relatively simple to understand the basic concepts, and otherwise shrouded in mystery. People are typically lazy, and prefer a simple, bad hypothesis about the way the world works to one they have to work a bit harder at that may be closer to the truth.
Anyway, Chesterton was full of crap (again). Some people who reject religion open their heads to floodgates of nonsense, but not the ones who reject religion on grounds of reason and common sense in the first place. And if the Gallup poll results above are the more reliable, then Christians tend to be the more gullible in general.