4 in 10 Evangelicals Say They’ve Been Visited by the Dead

From Christianity Today: Despite Scripture’s warning against communication from beyond the grave, most consider hearing from loved ones to be a comfort in their grief.

Researchers say most people who report “after-death communications” find the interactions to be comforting, not haunting or scary.

“They’re often very valuable for people. They give them hope that their loved one is still there and still connected to them,” said Julie Exline, a professor at Case Western Reserve University who studies the psychology of religion and spirituality. “These experiences help people, even if they don’t know what to make of them.”

There are several factors that come into play for a person to turn to supernatural explanations for what they’ve experienced.

A recent Religions article by doctoral student Kathleen Pait and Exline cites “prior belief in God, angels, spirits, or ghosts, combined with a belief that these beings actually do communicate with people in the world” as one condition. The relationship between a person and their loved one—“the need for relational closure” amid prolonged grief—can also be a factor. And women are more likely to report the phenomena.

Psychologists can come off as skeptical of such experiences, and clients may be afraid to disclose them, assuming it means they’re “crazy.” Religious settings may not be much better: Evangelicals and people with high religious commitment were less likely to report interactions with dead relatives in the Pew survey.

“I think a lot of Christians are maybe afraid to talk about this or do not know what to do with it. [They] could at least take some comfort in knowing a lot of people have these experiences,” said Exline. Coming out of a fundamentalist evangelical background, she knows that some religious traditions view these experiences as “demonic” or “kind of freaky.”

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