Bear with us for a second, but do you know the Belinda Carlisle song “Heaven is a Place on Earth”? It’s actually scientifically accurate. American public intellectual Michael Shermer says that any idea of the afterlife makes zero sense: your mind and therefore your memories are beholden to your body and that any version of you that made it into heaven, should there actually be one, would just be a copy of you and unable to register that they were actually in heaven. Likewise, should you be able to scan your brain and “live forever” by being uploaded to a body in the future, it still wouldn’t be you, just a copy. Confused? The explanation makes more sense from the mouth of Shermer himself… writing the theory behind multiple you’s living in various timelines gets a little too Back to the Future… another sweet ’80s reference if we do say so ourselves.
The ancient rite of casting evil spirits from the possessed is on the rise in the United States. Historically, demonic possessions have been used to describe mental or physical illnesses and even strings of bad luck, but the scientific community has debunked many of the outdated convictions.
With the U.S. being home to 20 percent of the world’s exorcists, VICE investigates why the phenomenon of exorcism is on the rise. We speak to Father Lampert, a member of the International Association of Exorcists and Michael Shermer, former devotee of the Catholic Church and founder of Skeptic magazine, to see why the modern exorcism is thriving in the West.
An overwhelming 83 percent of Americans say that God answers prayers–which begs the question, does prayer work? Is it something that we can even begin to approach scientifically? Unsettling as these questions may be, I [Cara Santa Maria] think it’s important to attempt to get to the bottom of them.
For help, I reached out to two researchers,Tanya Marie Luhrmann, an anthropologist at Stanford and author of the book “When God Talks Back” and Michael Shermer, executive director of the Skeptics Society and author of “The Believing Brain.”