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How do we explain the unexplainable?

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Anthropology 102T Essay Assignment #4 Susan Kerr Tommy Phillips 12/2/03 How do we explain the unexplainable? A question that seems simple enough yet brings about a different answer from most everyone it's asked. One thing that most answers will have in common though is that they will suggest the supernatural. In this essay we'll be exploring the many supernatural beliefs present in American culture, from Christianity to voodoo. First we'll take a look at some of the different belief systems and practices present in the U.S., and later on the function they serve as a part of our culture. One of the biggest belief systems in our culture today would have to be that of Christianity. Christianity stretches back to around 30 A.D. when the death of Jesus Christ, believed to be the son of God, occurred. Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the incarnation of God in the flesh; consequently they worship him as their god. According to Christianity, God and Jesus Christ are one and the same. Christians believe that Jesus was crucified for sins committed by humanity, thereby saving the people who had committed the sins. To them this was the ultimate act of righteousness and they hold Jesus as their savior for it. ...read more.


Jews practice circumcision as a sign of the covenant, or promise, made between God and Abraham that Abraham's children (the Jewish people) would inherit the holy land of Canaan (Rossel 2003). Islam is the last belief system we will be looking at dealing in the God that is believed to have given life to Jesus and spoken to Abraham. The Muslim religion is centered on the belief that Mohammed was the last great prophet in a chain that included Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Mohammed is said to have lived from 570-632 A.D. and was said to have received revelations from God for 23 of those years. The Muslim book of revelations is the Koran. Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgment everyone will rise from the dead and be sent to either heaven or hell eternally. Muslims practice living life by a divine law called Sharia which casts ideals on many aspects of their everyday life. Sharia holds religious and secular law to be one and the same. Muslims hold five key practices, they are as follows; Shahada is the profession of faith in God and belief in his prophet Mohammed, Salah is the formal worship of God, Zakat is a system of giving in which 2.5% of ones total yearly income is given to the poor and less fortunate, Hajj is a journey to Mecca that ...read more.


Holy laws such as the Ten Commandments or the Sharia of Islam are examples of such guidelines. Belief systems are also invaluable in explaining things that were previously unexplainable. How was the earth created? What happens to us when we die? These questions and more are what our supernatural beliefs answer for us. Some belief systems such as Paganism can serve to explain why events happen in our everyday life. A Pagan might attribute their good fortune in finding money in the street to the fact that they gave a homeless person money earlier in the week. Most belief systems call upon their practitioners to congregate in practices and activities centered on their beliefs. Voodoo practitioners hold a ceremony to ensure good luck to one of their own who will be going on a long trip. Catholics attend mass on Sunday to receive communion and learn the teachings of the Bible. The many belief systems and functions they serve in our culture will always be a source or great conflict and debate for those that they serve. For those of us taking an etic view, the supernatural will always spark fascination and curiosity among us. There are many different ways that we explain the unexplainable, each encompassing its own unique elements in doing so. However one common factor seems to abound when dealing in supernatural beliefs, each is unparalleled in the spiritual value they hold among their followers. ...read more.

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