Why do so many people believe in so many things for which there is so little proof or even no proof at all? The history of human civilisation is crowded with beings that don’t exist, cures which don’t work and magical powers no one can use. And today, despite the Enlightenment; despite the fact we live in an age of science and reason; despite Galileo, Darwin, Tesla and Einstein and many other scientist who stand on their shoulders, millions of people still truly believe in the supernatural, the unproven, the can’t-be-proven, the plain impossible and the myths that just won’t die. Why?
One explanation was offered by J.F. Kennedy  who wrote, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie-deliberate and dishonest, but the myth, persistent persuasive and unrealistic.” He added that “belief ” in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
We live in a complicated world where scientist are constantly discovering something new, something never-seen before. The more they discover, the harder is for the rest of us to understand what is going on. So clearly there is a temptation to try to make sense of it all by searching for simple answers. If you can’t understand the physics or the chemistry behind the complex reality around you, there’s always a comfortable myth which can explain it all away.
The world can also be tough, cruel and unforgiving, and myths can bring us great consolation. So it’s not surprise that someone with an incurable disease or an illness requiring long and painful treatment believe in something we find crazy. Some people swear by crystals and metals and magnets that claim to channel the “good” energy and keep off the “bad”. And others go to see faith-healers.
In fact, there is no scientific evidence that backs up miracle cures. However, there have been many cases where people have reported feeling better after touching crystals or seeing faith-healers. One possible explanation is the power of suggestion. It seems that if you really believe you are going to get well, whether it be thanks to a magic stone, an amulet, a wizard or a placebo, you increase your chances of recovery. It’s human nature.
Another typical human habit is our need to explain the mysteries around us by making attractive stories, even if the evidence is insufficient. One example is telepathy. While it’s true there are some intriguing anecdotes of mind-to-mind communication, no verifiable evidence of telepathy has ever been found, despite all the experiments that have been carried out.
If your life is grey and dull and you feel jaded and bored, then believing there are fairies at the bottom of your garden can make it more colorful and interesting. What’s so bad about that? Is it any worse than taking an interest in “Star Wars”, the love-life of the latest pop star or the progress of your team in the Champions’ League?
Some myths are just the way of making some money and the greatest money-spinning myth of them all is the Loch Ness monster. Unlike other mystical creatures, it has actually been photographed, but the photos are unclear, and the person who took the best one admitted it was a hoax.
Not all myths are money-making exercises. The curious myth that Elvis Prisley is still alive offers no financial benefit to anyone, but since his death in 1977, the king of rock’n’roll has been sighted everywhere from Krakow to Caracas. Although many of the people who report the sightings are sincere, they appear to be victims of self-deception brought about by their unwillingness to admit their hero is dead.
But if myths are delusions, they’re also good fun. They bring back the child in us. We love fantasy, we desire impossibility, we fall for simple tricks. Even respectable intelligent adults can be taken in. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherloc k Holmes, truly believed that some photographs of fairies taken by two young sisters in 1917. were true and he even published a book entitled “The Coming of the Fairies”.
However, people don’t like to let the facts get in the way of a good story, no matter how far-fetched it may be. We love telling tales and passing them down from generation to generation. For example, the myth of the “Yeti”, the giant creature that has been spotted all around the world or the “Bigfoot” in California,  or “Yowie”, how they’re calling it in Australia, this creature has never been photographed and never been caught dead or alive. But people still believe in it.
Myths offer us simple answers and exciting explanations. They bring us consolation. They give us tales to tell and make us feel like children again. They also provide an unhealthy profit for people who are using them. For all those reasons it seems clear that millions of believers will never allow their myths to die. However, remember this: the fact that many people share a delusion doesn’t make delusion a fact. Every Christmas lots of children swear they have seen Santa Claus, but you don’t believe in Santa anymore…do you?
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