How do you explain jinn possessions, strange occurrences, and exorcisms?
The paranormal and the jinns are something that seem to confuse and baffle people, even people who have left religion behind still wonder about this.
In summary, I don’t think there is any such thing as jinns, any such thing as ghosts or spirits. I think if we study our brain and look at certain experiences we have, we can understand this better.
Here is how I would explain these experiences:
James Randi the famous magician and skeptic once challenged the public to show the paranormal in return for one million dollars ($1,000,000). All they had to do was show any psychic power, speaking to jinns, ghosts, talking to the dead, etc.
Every single person failed. Nobody could get the money. Their jinns abandoned them, their spirits went away, their psychic powers failed them when tested in a controlled environment. This is one blow to the idea of existence of such creatures.
You can review a list of some of the attempts that were made
When we sleep, we see things that aren’t real. Magical places, demons, many crazy things. Have you ever noticed in a dream you had this feeling of not being able to move quickly enough? It’s because when you sleep, your brain paralyzes your body so you don’t move around in the bed. Sometimes though, you wake up, but you aren’t fully awake. Your mind is still making up images, and you also can’t move! It’s a terrifying experience, and about 7% of people will experience this at least once in their life.
Mental health issues
Why is it that when people have psychological issues such as hearing things they go to a doctor and get better with medications? It’s probably just what it sounds like, the brain not operating properly.
I had a friend who told me he heard people shouting at him, but it was only when it happened in a closed car with nobody there that he realized that it was a hallucination. He took medications and is better now. Imagine he lived in an age or country of jinns? He would probably think it was a jinn issue. Jinns don’t respect meds. If it was jinns, he would still see them.
This lady sees a scary red clown everywhere she goes. She has schizophrenia.
Her mind creates this illusion. When it doesn’t work properly, it does things like this. It manufactures things. These hallucinations cannot hurt you. They aren’t real.
What about “normal” people?
Our mind has evolved to fear the dark, to fear the unknown. Because this works well in surviving in the plains of Africa when lions are chasing you. It has a survival benefit. This is why we fear the dark, even as adults. Because historically it paid off to be conservative and assume the worst. The survivors passed on this instinct.
Pattern recognition and belief in God and spirits
People have different levels of pattern recognition. Some of us, our pattern recognition is too high and we see things that aren’t really there. We perceive meaning and messages in meaningless things.
Michael Shermer speaks about this here:
People who have high pattern recognition sometimes are more likely to believe in conspiracies and God. People who have low pattern recognition are more skeptical about the world.
When given a test with some clear images and some ambiguous ones, religious people were more likely to see things that weren’t there, while disbelievers are more likely to miss things that were there. Both believers and disbelievers showed a bias, and this is a difference that can come from biology.
Dopamine and religiosity
There’s a connection between dopamine and religiosity. See this beautiful and detailed write up on “The God Effect” by a professor of of neurology and psychiatry.
We have to recognize our biases and try to overcome them. Our brains aren’t perfect. They evolved to help us survive and reproduce. And that’s what it does really well.
We are flawed humans who evolved brains that have many biases. Part of this bias is seeing things in the dark. Thinking that the door you forgot to lock was opened by a jinn. Con-artists take advantage of naeve individuals by playing on their fears. This con-man makes big money by “healing” people by dipping his heel in oil and then rubbing it on their backs
Placebo effect can’t solve everything
The placebo effect is powerful. Thinking you are better can make you better sometimes. But it cannot cure cancer and fatal diseases. Madame Curie did not believe radiation was harmful. Back then they didn’t know the dangers of radiation! And she died from radiation poisoning. So just believing something does not make it true.
Human beings to different levels are suspectible to hypnosis and brainwashing. This is why some people can get into ecstatic states just by being touched by their Sufi masters or their pastor.
They apply the same effect on those who are “possessed” (usually women). They speak in voices and behave strangely until someone read the Quran on them. The internet is full of such videos. Let us be more skeptical and record some of what they are saying. I’m sure we would find its nothing special once we do that.
There’s no reliable means to “protect yourself” from possession. The sheikh will tell you “It’s because you don’t pray” or “It’s because you don’t wear hijab”, but really there’s no reliable method for “not being possessed.”
This is all part of our flawed human experience.
The scientific method
The most reliable means for finding the truth is the scientific method. This is because the process gives a high level of certainty through the testing procedure. This is why the James Randi challenge is so valuable. It shows that when all the variables are controlled for, jinns stop existing.
In conclusion, our brains are flawed and we are susceptible to seeing things that aren’t there. Some of us more than others. We may suffer from mental issues, or we may be susceptible to hypnosis, whether individual or in a group. There is no good evidence to believe in the existence of jinns. Until we find it, we should remain skeptical that such beings exist.