Calling Charlie – A Case of HADD With Theological Implications

Sometimes I live in an ivory tower. That’s why I completely missed the social media-hype around .
Apparently it’s a new kind of game, resembling our old-fashioned Ouija board, played with pencils and papers. 


There are some interesting aspects about this. First of all, all those kids running away or screaming out their lungs when the pencils start to move, are perfect examples of the cognitive science of religion concept ‘Hyper Active Agency Device (HADD)’. In short, when humans see movement, they intuitively assume agency causing that movement. More about that can be found here, with an introduction into the philosophical and theological issues here.
Second, it’s remarkable that the game has been taken seriously from a religious perspective, with a Spanish exorcist warning against the dangers of playing it. What startles me, is that the implicit message of this warning seems to be that ghosts and spirits, and even demons, exist, which is not without tension with Catholic teaching.
The problem with this is, I believe, that, before belief in ghosts, spirits, and demons can have any claim on religious validity, it should be considered critically. For example, how can ghosts act in the material world? And how do they relate to the Trinity? Answering such questions could well bring us to the conclusion that moving pencils around is not really what ghosts are about. Our HADD might suggest to us that a supernatural agent is in the room. But gravity, or the wind (two suspects in the Charlie Charlie challenge) do not always act as God’s hands…

2 thoughts on “Calling Charlie – A Case of HADD With Theological Implications

  1. You wrote ‘What startles me, is that the implicit message of this warning seems to be that ghosts and spirits, and even demons, exist, which is not without tension with Catholic teaching.’ I would think that their existence IS without tension with Catholic teaching, as far as I am knowledgeable of that. The article from Daily Theology you linked says as much too. The thing is, I think, that Catholics are advised not to meddle with spirits on their own, but that they should bring any contact they might have beyond this earthly realm under the ‘rule’ of God – or to say it in normal language: they should strive to see everything they encounter, and answer to it, in the light of the power of love. I obviously try to word this in general human terminology to try to avoid the hassling about institutional rules and authority positions to which too many defenders as well as criticizers of Catholicism (in my humble opinion) haste themselves in public discussions.

  2. It should come as no surprise that the religious are much more prone to these effects. Ghosts, spirits, angels, demons, devils and gods… there is no difference.

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