When I was a teenager, one of my favorite TV shows was The X-Files. It’s about two FBI agents who investigate reports of mysterious phenomena such as ghosts and extra terrestrials. Fox Mulder tends to believe these phenomena are real, but his partner Dana Scully is a skeptic who looks for rational explanations.
Although I appreciated Scully’s use of logic and reason, I sympathized with Mulder. After all, wouldn’t it be cool if there really were ghosts contacting us from beyond the grave? Or aliens visiting us from a distant planet? Whenever Scully debunked one of these reports, I always felt a little disappointed. In Mulder’s office there is a poster with a picture of a UFO and the words, “I want to believe.” I wanted to believe, too.
Every year thousands of people visit Roswell, New Mexico where an alien spacecraft supposedly crashed back in 1947. The town is so famous for this story, it even has an annual UFO Festival. Although this story has been thoroughly debunked, millions of people continue to believe it. Do you think any of these believers could honestly say, “I didn’t want to believe aliens are visiting us, but I examined the evidence and concluded that it must be true”? Not likely. The vast majority of them want to believe, so they eagerly accept almost any story that supports their belief.
In this case it’s relatively harmless. The people visiting Roswell are having fun and not hurting anybody, so who cares? The problem is that this sort of thinking causes people to fall for all sorts of scams. Here are a few common examples:
- Molly weighs 200 pounds and she’s been trying to lose weight for years. No matter what she tries, nothing seems to work. One day she sees a commercial for a brand new fat-burning herb that promises to help her lose 5 pounds a week. She spends $50 on a one-month supply.
- Adam is 20 years old and he still hasn’t kissed a girl. He’s single and incredibly lonely, but he’s too shy to do anything about it. One day he sees an ad for a system that will tell him exactly what to say to get any girl to fall in love with him. He pays $100 for the complete program.
- Jane is a middle-aged woman who had a falling out with her son shortly before he died in a car accident. She asks a medium to contact the ghost of her son. The medium obliges and claims to hear messages such as “I forgive you” and “I love you.” The medium charges $20 an hour.
In each of these cases the individual already had a strong desire to believe something, making them easy targets for scamsters. This is why it’s so important to constantly reexamine your beliefs and ask yourself why you believe them. Is it because you want to, or is it because of evidence?
I have believed many strange things in my time: that ghosts are real, that aliens are visiting us, and that I could lose weight fast while still eating junk food if I purchased this amazing new diet plan I read about online. I even believed I could survive my own death if I gave my life to Jesus (which of course entails giving 10% of your income to the church). But I’m tired of being conned.
I still want to believe, but as Matt Dillahunty once said, “I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible.” What do you want to believe?