By Fred C. Melton
“We stay away from church, we seldom read the Bible, but we all need something to believe in . . . .”
You know, I can remember telling those great ghost stories around a bonfire out in the backyard when I was a child but I never did think that anyone took them seriously-that is until I came to Britain. I dare say there is hardly a hamlet, castle or parish church in all the United Kingdom that does not claim to have at least one ghost lurking about. Mind you, there are plenty of “spooky” places for ghosts to hide in these misty islands. Incidentally, that is something that has always puzzled me about ghosts-why are they always hiding in “spooky” old places? And why are they persistently seen only by those who believe in ghosts already? Frankly, I have been looking for a ghost ever since I have been in England but, alas, I have not seen one yet, and I have been in some pretty scary places including old castles and country manors which were declared to be haunted by the local inhabitants. I have even felt a chill go up the ole’ spine or had the urge to look over my shoulder for some unknown and as yet unseen, movement deep within the shadowy recesses of the occasional lonely country church but no spook has yet seen fit to actually reveal itself to this solemn scribe.
The theory seems to be that if someone in the past had met a violent or macabre death, their hapless soul could possibly be suspended in sort of a limbo between life and death and hang around the scene of their “departure” for some reason no one has yet been able to explain. The Catholic and Anglican churches in particular take these “happenings” quite seriously and provide a number of priests as “exorcists” to expel or sometimes satisfy “the spiritual needs” of these forlorn spirits. If you ever hanker to go ghost hunting yourself, it may be reassuring to note it is claimed by all those who profess to be “in the know” that such ghosts would not, even could not, molest you physically in any way. This brings up another small question as to why these spirits always manifest, yea, are even able to manifest themselves in some physical way such as a creaking door, thumpings on the floor and wall, or the sudden rush of a cool breeze (sudden drop of temperature is supposed to be a sure-fire sign of a ghost). As was noted before, I myself have experienced this “tingling of the spine” which could have been mistaken for a drop in temperature, but I never calculated it to be due to the presence of a ghost.
Superstitions Replace Religion
Does it surprise you to learn that twice as many adults in Britain read their horoscopes every week (even if one-half of them do not claim to believe in it) as read or hear anything about the Bible? For example, in a new countrywide national opinion poll, nearly 9 out of 10 people claim to believe in God. But when you get down to testing this, it becomes clear that most British religion has no practical relevance to the way the people live.
When given a list of superstitions, only 7 percent absolutely denied holding any of them. Far the most common superstitions were not walking under ladders and throwing salt over your shoulder-then came wishbones, the number 13, touching wood, black cats and broken mirrors. One person in 7 has a lucky charm. More than 25 percent believe in ghosts and nearly as many believe it is possible to communicate with the dead (of those who have tried, one-half claim to have succeeded). Four out of 10 people said they have had premonitions and 5 out of 10 have had the “I have been here before” feeling.
Well over one-half of all those questioned said: They do not attend church at all. Nine out of 10 Britains said one could lead a moral live without believing in God but the same number were not willing to write off the idea of God completely. They did not think the role of the church important in the world today; however, 75 percent thought it ought to be important. The vast majority of people in this country read the. Bible seldom or never. They think death is absolutely the end of personal existence or would not say there is anything to follow it. They do not believe in hell or in the devil and even more do not expect there to be a heaven, yet superstition is dramatically on the increase. The same people simply could not explain their readiness to accept the supernatural while at the same time rejecting religious values. In fact, belief in the supernatural is in some ways more enthusiastic than religious beliefs.
There is more than a hint here that large numbers of people would like to have a church they could enthusiastically belong to or at least they would like their churches to offer a religious view of life which they could accept and at the same time satisfy their spiritual hunger.
Sorcery, and in my opinion the belief in sorcery in its various forms, is condemned throughout the scriptures, the witch of Endor notwithstanding. Yet, this spiritual confusion, which sometimes borders on desperation, reflects the fact that where there are no substantial religious moorings, superstitions tend to prevail whether in darkest Africa or modern Britain. Man, it seems, must worship something. He must believe in some form of spiritual values, however depraved those values may become. There is simply something in man that craves-indeed knows-a spiritual world does exist although he may seek to formally reject the idea.
Truth Magazine XIX: 30, p. 466
June 5, 1975