While there are many ways people arrive at the conclusions that form their worldview — many people determine what they believe to be true about the world based on how their life experience has led them to answer the question: “Do you believe in the supernatural?” That is what I want to discuss today.
For many, the word supernatural conjures up all sorts of uncomfortable, at times even embarrassing and confusing feelings. It evokes fear and mystery in others. Some dismiss its existence as irrational and superstitious. Either way, most people associate the term with something mysterious — something they do not fully understand, and for those who do not believe in it at all, something silly.
But first, I want to bring the conversation down to its basic level. Dictionary.com defines supernatural with eight definitions. For the sake of time, we will go with the first one: of, pertaining to or being above or beyond what is natural. This of course leads us to define what we mean by natural and nature. Again, let’s go with the first definition listed for both. By natural, I mean anything that exists inside nature, and by nature, I mean the material world.
Pinning down these definitions of supernatural, natural, nature, and material world, is necessary for the sake of this discussion due to their multiple meanings. If, when we use the word supernatural, simply as “anything that is above or beyond what is natural (material)” then I believe the only logical explanation is that at least on some basic, very fundamental level, the supernatural must exist.
The primary evidence rests in the fact that we have a consciousness — a non-corporeal element of our being that is not material, not tangible to our five senses, and is the source for our ability to exercise rationality — namely to think and to do so with reason.
Defining what comprises one’s consciousness in totality is for another blog entry. The main point here is that this invisible element of our being that puts our thoughts and desires into material action, displays our character and personality, is not a natural (in this context more precisely defined as material) thing. It, therefore, lies outside and beyond nature or what is natural, and therefore must be supernatural according to the definition mentioned above.
Strict materialists will disagree with me. Materialism, referring to the second definition listed, is a philosophical theory that posits natural matter is the only “thing” which comprises the universe and its inhabitants and that it alone is responsible for actions and events. A strict materialist would make no distinction between a person’s brain and his mind; in fact, he would deny the existence of the mind. But I see this as illogical because to deny the existence of the mind, is to express a thought — something that is invisible, intangible, and lies outside the bounds of natural reality; it therefore must itself be supernatural.
I will conclude by taking a rather strong stand and saying it is illogical and irrational to deny the existence of the supernatural, at least on some level. To argue otherwise is to implicitly give credibility to your opposing belief, or thought, and that thought itself is not material, lies outside the scope of the natural, and is therefore, supernatural.* It would be like concluding: “Natural matter is all that exists , oh, except for the conclusion that ‘natural matter is all that exists, and the instruments I used to draw that conclusion (namely, my mind and reason).”’
Either way, I would say that although there are various different worldviews, most fall into two main camps — those who are strict materialists, who deny the existence of the supernatural, and those who believe in some type of supernatural element to our existence. I will call these people supernaturalists from here on.
**This issue of the necessity of acknowledging the credibility of something not a part of nature, i.e. a person’s reasonable thoughts, as a requirement to make a reasonable claim about the universe, is explored in greater detail in chapters 3 and 4 the book Miracles by C.S. Lewis.
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