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Religion, Supernaturalism and the Paranormal

Religion, Supernaturalism and the Paranormal

An Anthropological Critique

By Homayun Sidky

“Religion, Supernaturalism and the Paranormal” provides a comprehensive rejoinder to the challenges posed to science, scientific anthropology, evolutionary theory and rationality by the advocates of supernatural, paranormal, and pseudoscientific perspectives and modes of thought.

EPUB, 250 Pages


November 2019

£150.00, $250.00

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PDF, 250 Pages


November 2019

£150.00, $250.00

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About This Book

At the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century people in the United States live in a scary and confusing post-truth era of disinformation, fake news, counter-knowledge, weaponized lies, conspiracy theories, magical thinking and sheer irrationalism. In this intellectual climate where many people lack the rudimentary skills to distinguish between contending claims to knowledge or differentiate between fact and opinion, there is a proliferation of purveyors of supernaturalism, pseudoscience and alternative forms of knowledge whose ideas are an affront to the intelligence and sensibilities of rational people. At the same time, here and around the world oppressive religious fundamentalism and violence are on the rise. The merchants of superstition and paranormalism almost in unison are broadcasting with bluster and hubris that science is now defunct and are offering their own truths and ways of knowing as better substitutes. Even our highest government officials are flagrantly declaring that it is impossible to distinguish between fact and opinion, that for every fact there is an alternative fact, and that truth is whatever people want it to be.

By posing a direct challenge to science and rationality, the advocates of supernatural and paranormal modes of thought have made their own central epistemological and ontological premises legitimate subjects for critical scrutiny in accordance with the tradition of systematic skepticism. “Religion, Supernaturalism and the Paranormal” provides a comprehensive rejoinder to the challenges posed to science, scientific anthropology, evolutionary theory and rationality. Moreover, scientific anthropological answers are offered for several important questions: Why do humans have the proclivity for the supernatural and the paranormal thinking? Why has humanity remained shackled to sets of ideas inherited from a violent past that have no basis in reality, bestow an illusionary solace, inspire endless cruelties and fervent hatreds, and have come at a high cost? Why have ancient superstitions been maintained as sacred, inviolate truths while other aspects of the archaic belief systems of which they were a part have long been discarded? Why have not humans outgrown religion and paranormal beliefs?

This study draws upon the author’s scientific anthropological background and ethnographic field research of supernatural and paranormal beliefs and practices in several cultures over the course of the last 30 years. It also relies upon the works of numerous skeptics; critical historians; scientific anthropologists; cognitive, evolutionary, experimental and anomalistic psychologists; philosophers of science; scientists in various fields; and many theologians.


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Author Information

Homayun Sidky is professor of anthropology at Miami University (Ohio), USA, specializing in the anthropology of religion, entheogens, ecological anthropology, anthropological theory/history of anthropological thought, and the paranormal and pseudoscience.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. The Problem with Religion: Preliminary Issues; 2. The Unreal Real: The Supernatural, Religion and the Paranormal; 3. Can Science Say Anything about Religion and the Supernatural?; 4. Ghostly Rappings, the Science of the Soul and the Religious Nature of the Paranormal; 5. Ghostly Encounters in the Field: Anthropology of the Paranormal or Paranormal Anthropology?; 6. Why People Think the World Is Haunted; 7. Cognitive Biases and Why People Think Eerie Thoughts; 8. Miracles as Evidence of God’s Actions in the World; 9. When God Talks to People: Religious Experiences as Evidence of the Supernatural; 10. Books Authored by God? Sacred Texts as Evidence of the Supernatural; 11. God’s Fingerprints in the Natural World: Intelligent Design, Irreducible Complexity and Cosmic Fine-Tuning; 12.The Miracles of the Bible: Quintessential Sources for Paranormal Phenomena in Western Culture; 13. Jesus the Miracle Worker, Magician and Sorcerer; 14. Jesus’s Empty Tomb, the Missing Body, and His Return from the Dead: Sources for the Tale; 15. The Post-Resurrection Appearances in the New Testament; 16. Coping with Failed Prophesy: A Socio-Psychological Explanation for the Rise of Christianity; 17. Conclusions: Why Religious and Paranormal Beliefs Persist and Their Dangers; References; Index.

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