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Thread: Natural Explanations for Religious Experiences

  1. #1 Natural Explanations for Religious Experiences 
    Forum Cosmic Wizard SkinWalker's Avatar
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    A commenter made a valid observation in the nativity thread that a sub-topic developed on religious experience(s) whereas the main theme to date was free speech as it relates to the Nativity Display thread. So I thought I'd copy the relevant portion of that thread that began the discussion and allow it to foster or die here.

    Quote Originally Posted by DaytonTurner
    I think that is what disturbs me most. You atheist folks call believers irrational and nut cases because they claim to have had and respond to an experience that you have not had. You have no basis, whatsoever, to deny the validity of another's experience only because you have not had the same experience. That, to me, is irrational.
    I think that many of us have had the so-called experiences you claim to have had. But one or two things happens during these "experiences:"

    1) they happened to an atheist when they were still in the believer camp and now, as rational thought has replaced irrational regarding their religious views, the experiences are viewed in new light and haven't the significance they once had. Doubtless you are thinking something like, "then they didn't have an experience on par with a real experience." But this is a cop-out since the counter argument would be, perhaps you didn't have a rational epiphany on par with the believer turned atheist.

    2) the neurochemical events of the "experiences" occurred to atheists with no need to pigeon-hole them in a pre-existing cultural framework.

    If # 2 is valid, then we should expect to see that the overwhelming majority of the world's population subscribes to the religious superstitions of their pre-existing culture.

    It is not like Christians are claiming to have been abducted to a space ship which they cannot produce. Or to have been operated on by aliens without the scars to show for the experience. There, you can question their claimed physical experience for lack of physical evidence. Christians do not claim to have had a physical experience.
    It's exactly the same. Indeed, I would argue that there is good evidence that "spiritual experiences" have the same naturalistic explanations as other paranormal "experiences" in which the subject deems other-than-natural. "Experiences" like out-of-body, near-death experiences, psi-related (parapsychological) experiences, alien abduction, past-life awareness, unusual healing, and other "mystical" experiences. Many of these have been duplicated neuro-chemically under laboratory conditions (OBE, for instance).

    We claim to have had a spirtual experience which cannot be fully or adequately described in terms physical, intellectual and emotional experience.
    This is a "god of the gaps" argument. Basically an argument from ignorance. A neurochemical or other natural phenomenon occurs to an individual and it gets ascribed to that individual's cultural expectations.

    But since those are the only kinds of experiences you have had, you conclude that no other level of experience exists.
    On the contrary, I've had many neuro-chemical and mental experiences that, were I superstitious, would easily have been attributed to one or more cultural ascriptions. I would contend that your "experiences" are naturally explained and the spiritual meaning to them is post hoc and related to your cultural expectations. Thus, irrational thought, but an irrationality that can be forgiven considering the cultural frame of reference.

    It is as though you feel you have experienced everything possible in life and are, therefore, the supreme authorities on all the possibilities of human experience.
    Strawman. No comment required.

    You call responding on a spirtual level being irrational. To me, it would be irrational to deny that experience.
    Not being able to speak for all atheists, I can only speak for myself in this matter. I don't deny the experience. I do, however, deny that the subsequent, post-hoc ascription of the experience's meaning and cause being "spiritual." There are many, far more parsimonious, explanations which are readily available ranging from irrational response to a neuro-chemical event to flat out delusion and / or hallucination, the latter of which are equally as likely to happen to atheists as non-atheists.

    Would it not be irrational to deny physical pain or some body system malfuction just because not everyone has experienced those symptoms? Would it not be irrational to deny the feeling of some emotion? Would it not be irrational to refuse to employ your intellectual abilities to resolve some problem?
    Based on my explanations above, these are fallacious arguments based on poor analogy. No comment required.

    So why would you find it irrational for someone to recognize and respond to some human awareness on yet another level?
    If there were evidence that this other "level" existed, we would be having a different conversation. However, the only evidence for this level are the "experiences" that define this level but are not measurable in terms that demonstrate the level itself. The other "level" (whatever that might be) begs the question and is thus fallacious thinking (i.e. irrational thought).


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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard SkinWalker's Avatar
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    When speaking of "religious experience," there are two models of thought. One is that religious experiences can be sui generis, that is to say, they're in a class of their own and inherently religious or "spiritual" (to which there are various definitions). This sort of approach is favored by "spiritualists" and religionists who prefer that their experiences and those of their fellows remain personal, private and without study.

    Another way to look at the religious experience is through an ascription model. In this way, you can easily start with the word experience and call them "experiences deemed religious" by the experiencer or those around him/her. This model doesn't assume that religious experiences are a discreet category or in a class by themselves, rather they are experiences, events, or feelings that have a religious explanation applied to them by people.

    The sui generis model has had its heyday. For too long, scholars have bought into the "hands off" approach to studying religion by deeming religious experiences to be discussed only on religious terms. There is a taboo against looking for naturalistic causes for these experiences that is gradually but steadily being eroded. This taboo is probably part of the method by which religious memes propagate and survive: don't ask questions, just take it on faith.

    But I assert that "religious experiences," however personal and private they are claimed to be, are naturalistic in causation. And I don't buy the "private" and "personal" experience copout. If it were truly "private" and "personal," it wouldn't be mentioned at all. But once the religious believer states that his/her reason for belief in a given religious doctrine or dogma is justified by evidence that is "personal" and "private," it no longer is either.


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  4. #3  
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    Interesting and worthwhile.

    I guess I'd proceed from ascription, but I would watch out here. There could be a false dichotomy. Religion may prove unthinkably ordinary. It could be emergent, and we end up foolishly arguing mere bits of printed paper do not constitute a currency. Personally I guess the answer is no more superficially palatable than the proposition man evolved from brutes - it only proves wonderful and indispensable after much insight and development. Well let's find out.

    I noticed in your post a suggestion that religion is in the meat. That's not saying "real" thoughts come from elsewhere is it?

    Either way, I wonder how you judge brains ought to be otherwise? Yeah I know the temptation is to say brains should operate for maximum objective utility, need I explain why that won't fly? I assume you have no aim to change brains for a better tomorrow, rather you'd tailor a better tomorrow to the brains we've got.

    So if we discover the knot of religion, that's an insight not a treatable condition. Right?
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  5. #4  
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    The advantage of the ascription or attributional approach is that by referring to religious experiences as "experiences deemed religious" it forces us to consider who is doing the deeming. It's far more lucrative for research purposes to look at the processes by which people attribute things to be religious, spiritual, etc. (even "magical"). We can look at taboos and origins of taboos with an understanding that there is some likely but underlying cause or purpose for taboos, which work to set things apart as special or "sacred."

    We can also look at the concept of religion and religious thought as a part of all other forms of knowledge rather than separate from them, something that the sui generis model necessarily cannot do.

    To answer your concern of a false dichotomy, I think this is eliminated or at least sufficiently reduced since an attributional or ascriptive approach could end with the answer that a religious experience is truly, inherently religious -the deemer could, for instance, be the supernatural agent(s) of the religion. I personally don't find this to be likely, but it should always remain a possibility.

    I noticed in your post a suggestion that religion is in the meat. That's not saying "real" thoughts come from elsewhere is it?
    I'm not sure I follow what you're asking.

    Either way, I wonder how you judge brains ought to be otherwise? Yeah I know the temptation is to say brains should operate for maximum objective utility, need I explain why that won't fly?
    I think that there are many forms of "experience" and "sacredness" that we, as humans, experience routinely that are just as significant as a religious experience (perhaps more so for some). I think we can agree that there exists some special assignment to the United States flag -there are those who would like to see a federal law prohibiting the desecration of the Flag, Old Glory. Yet this "sacred" object isn't religious in nature. People who have religious experiences (those experiences they deem religious) put special value on the experience to such a degree that it becomes priceless. The same can be said for sacred religious objects: bibles, crucifixes, alleged relics, churches, etc. These all become sacred and taboos prevent any mistreatment of the objects themselves. We don't arbitrarily put bibles in the trash (well, I might), dangle crucifixes in toilets, sell holy relics at the church yard sale, or save farts for church.

    Secular taboos also exist which put significance and a sense of specialness on objects and concepts. The flag was an object, but patriotism to one's country is a concept. If this concept holds little meaning for some, the undeniable bond between a parent and a child is apparent even to those who haven't any children. Go on, ask a mother to put a monetary value on her child's life. She'll call you mad!

    I think the human brain is well-suited for these types of cognitive taboos and specialness assignments. These sorts of ascriptions are often culturally universal and can be either simple or complex, where simple ascriptions are rolled into more complex formations (an entire religious doctrine like the Eucharist for example).

    Personally, I also think that these constructs of the mind (which is, clearly, the "meat" as you say) are evolutionary advantages. Social behaviors within the genus Homo in the last 2 million years or so are the obvious advantages. Religion and religious thought are, perhaps, by-products that haven't enough net negative effect to select against this "specialness theory." Even though some might argue that the crusades, Inquisition, etc. are negative effects of religion (as well as suppression of scientific progress, etc.), the same processes may be just the thing that make kinship bonds, senses of duty, and other altruistic or pseudo-altruistic concepts available which have real-time, positive effects on society.

    [incidentally, I use the term "pseudo-altruistic" not derogatorily but to point out the possibility that people act in ways they deem altruistic, but for underlying reasons that may have a neuro-chemical impetus]
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    I noticed in your post a suggestion that religion is in the meat. That's not saying "real" thoughts come from elsewhere is it?
    I'm not sure I follow what you're asking.
    I want to confirm a thought is genuine whatever its cause...
    [incidentally, I use the term "pseudo-altruistic" not derogatorily but to point out the possibility that people act in ways they deem altruistic, but for underlying reasons that may have a neuro-chemical impetus]
    There you seem to rate some altruism less true because it's just chemistry, or, "in the meat".



    Take breastfeeding mothers for example. Lactation is regulated by oxytocin. There're pretty strong feedbacks between breasts and suckling that, through oxytocin, ensures mothers produce and provide just as much milk as baby wants. However some mothers starting out can't fall into the loop, and they grow increasingly tense. A medical solution is oxytocin supplement. This causes breasts to relax and leak milk, and the normal feedback may proceed.

    Oxytocin is also a neurotransmitter. If any hormone could be called mind-melting, this is it. It's directly responsible for social bonding, and is also closely associated with empathy, sexual arousal (in females), trust, altruism, and love in general. Mothers who are "jump started" with artificial oxytocin immediately feel great waves of maternal love towards their babies, as they begin to nurse. Later they feel so naturally just the same when producing this neurotransmitter as part of breastfeeding. The love is the oxytocin. The oxytocin is the love. The love is in the mind, in the brain, in the breasts, and it's in a bottle of pills.



    I won't rate something "just" chemistry, because we are the chemistry. It would be like saying "just real". I want to establish that before anybody judges religion bad just because it's part of what we are. We might still judge it bad on other grounds, perhaps.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    I certainly wouldn't diminish the magnificence and utter awe of the human body and its evolutionary achievements by prefacing the word "just" before neuro-chemical or bio-chemical. I think this is a wonderful achievement of nature (at the risk of anthropomorphizing nature) and the sort of thing I find far more significant or interesting than the doctrines of religion that have very likely emerged from these chemical processes.

    And I wouldn't characterize them as less than true because their chemical processes. I rather like the parent-child bond and emotions like love or the mildly euphoric sensations one can obtain from immersing oneself in the right musical arrangement, etc.
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  8. #7  
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    Thanks. I'll quit stalling.

    Do you suspect the religious mechanisms in people could differ greatly? For example Escher knot vs. oyster's pearl. Or is religion simply another equal & competing domain of mind? Is it systemic or local? I'm grasping for metaphors.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    Personally, from a evolutionary viewpoint, I see religion as a social bonding mechanism. Human survival depends on, and has depended on for a long time, the formation of social groups that are mutually supportive. Basically, the human tribe.

    There is a well known social mechanism in operation in human social groups, in which discussing a topic of mutual interest increases the power of certain opinions. For example ; if a person is disturbed by the thought of genetic modification of crops, and that person gets together with a bunch of like-minded others, the end result is often a strengthening of that concern to the point of obsessive and fanatical opposition.

    In the same way, people of religious bent who interract socially end up with religious belief of such strength that it can often be called fanaticism. This creates a bonding in their social group, that strengthens the tribe. It is that bonding that enhances survival and drives the evolution of religious tendencies.

    After all, every religious person obtains his/her specific religious beliefs from the people around. Parents, priests, peers, teachers etc all make a contribution. Most people lack the independence of mind to question it. Most of the time, there is an emotional and social force opposing the questioning of religious belief, since such questioning will put the individual outside the social group - a most uncomfortable position.

    As far as religious experiences are concerned, if they occurred to a person who was not religious, they would be interpreted in other ways. When they occur to a religious person, that person interprets the experience as 'coming from God'. As a non believer, I would interpret them as subjective perception from drugs, fatigue, sickness, hunger, psychosis etc.
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    Good point. So religion may be emergent, and feed back through culture and language, embodied in the church. This does not explain meditating monks, hermits, or crackpots.

    Could there be religious archetypes more or less exclusive? Why does monotheism keep fragmenting?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    Meditating monks, hermits and crackpots.

    Another result of evolution is genetic and social mechanisms for ensuring variability. Evolution needs variation to work on. The end result is that all adaptations including and especially (in this debate) human behaviour show enormous variation.

    This variability means that the religious behaviour will also vary enormously, including some maladaptive variations. eg. Being a religious hermit. Being a celibate priest.

    After all, as I have said before, 10% of all humans are sociopaths (without conscience), regardless of which social grouping they come from. This is also a result of built in mechanisms for variability.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    ...ensuring variability. Evolution needs variation to work on.
    Evolution's a deus ex machina, the way you've invoked it. Aren't there more insightful answers?

    First you defined religion as "social bonding mechanism"; then you said that it tends to "enormous variation".

    I wondered why monotheists (Abrahamics, really) are so fragmentary and exclusive. Compare the Japanese Buddhist who visits Tibetan temples, and senses no inherent heresy. Or the goody-bag of Hinduism. I suspect different mechanisms, in believers' own minds, that may be more or less compatible with other ways of thinking. Note also there are tolerant atheists and intolerant ones. How's that?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    Pong

    Re 'enormous variation.'

    Variation follows a normal distribution curve. That means that most individuals are near the mean. The ones whose variants are substantially different from the mean are in very small numbers. In terms of religion, most people, due to the way evolution works, have genes that make them behave in a way not too different from the average. Those who are wildly different from the average are present in small numbers, as the normal distribution curve predicts.

    If evolution makes most people religious, in order to enjoy the social bonding with other religious people, then those who are non religious, like us, are a minority. Those who are religious extremists, like hermits and celibate priests, are also a small minority. In fact, they are a much smaller minority. Their variant behaviour works against them being reproductively successful, removing their genes from the gene pool, while simple non believers like us can contribute genetically.

    To take this one step further, I suspect that thinking rationally, and therefore taking religion with a very big pinch of salt, will not carry the social stigma that it has in the past. If so, evolution will increase the numbers of such people.
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    Skeptic - Just to add another layer to your well articulated points, there is a solid argument regarding religion and belief in deities being emergent properties from other characteristics which were selected by evolution.

    For example, we are hard wired to listen to adults and elders when we are young. They taught us how to avoid danger, how to obtain food, and other things like that, so listening to them... and doing things like they do things... was a strong advantage... Except now, we also do things like they do things even when there is no evidence or rational reason to. Things like believing in a sky pixie, or going to church on Sundays, or not working on Saturdays, or not eating meat on Fridays, or not eating pork or shellfish ever... Children pick up on that stuff exactly the same way as they picked up on instructions to avoid lions or going too close to cliffs.

    Likewise, we've evolved a desire to look for cause, and to understand the workings of our surroundings. We tend to attribute causality even when there is none, and we anthropomorphize nearly everything. Additionally, inline with the argument you've been so successfully putting forth, there was strength which came from shared understandings in packs... strengths obtained from the ability to pass on stories with deeper meanings to future generations and neighboring tribes... and strengths from the ability to teach skills and convey social lessons... and the ability to understand those lessons...

    All of these things were selected for, and for obvious reasons. It's when you view them all together as a whole that you begin to see more clearly how religion and belief in higher powers could so easily emerge.

    In my estimation though, religion and belief are secondary... emergent properties... to the characteristics (such as those I referenced above) which actually were selected in our evolutionary past.
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    interesting beliefs Inow, but what does your thoughts say about the urge for transcendence and often the religious rejection of those very things that keep men alive?
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Meditating monks, hermits and crackpots.

    Another result of evolution is genetic and social mechanisms for ensuring variability. Evolution needs variation to work on. The end result is that all adaptations including and especially (in this debate) human behaviour show enormous variation.

    This variability means that the religious behaviour will also vary enormously, including some maladaptive variations. eg. Being a religious hermit. Being a celibate priest.

    After all, as I have said before, 10% of all humans are sociopaths (without conscience), regardless of which social grouping they come from. This is also a result of built in mechanisms for variability.
    How can we know that belief in a creator and the resulting behaviors are a false product of evolution while belief in a material only world through logic and rational thought is a true product of evolution? If evolutionary processes can fool one group, why can't it just as easily fool the other? Is there any reason to believe that evolution did produce the capacity to discern truth?
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    and how does religion being a product of evolution disprove god
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    Quote Originally Posted by ishmaelblues
    interesting beliefs Inow, but what does your thoughts say about the urge for transcendence and often the religious rejection of those very things that keep men alive?
    I'm not following your point. Can you please elaborate and articulate your question in another way so I might hope to offer a response to it? Thanks.



    Quote Originally Posted by ishmaelblues
    and how does religion being a product of evolution disprove god
    WTF? Who here even suggested it did?

    (I'll give you a hint: The answer is... Nobody. It would seem that you're experiencing a critical comprehension failure).
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    Quote Originally Posted by ishmaelblues
    interesting beliefs Inow, but what does your thoughts say about the urge for transcendence and often the religious rejection of those very things that keep men alive?
    Personally, I'm not sure I follow the question. What is an example of an "urge for transcendence" and what sorts of things are you suggesting the religious reject?

    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    How can we know that belief in a creator and the resulting behaviors are a false product of evolution while belief in a material only world through logic and rational thought is a true product of evolution?
    In keeping with the OP, I'm not sure that's what's being suggested. There are many creators suggested by many cultures. Obviously we cannot accept all. None, to date, have had the luxury of being supported by evidence, but lack of evidence doesn't necessarily rule out a creator, either a known one or an as yet unknown one. Still, this thread isn't about creators but, rather, experiences deemed religious and the psychological, sociological and anthropological explanations for these experiences. Moreover, you're presenting a logical fallacy by equivocating two different meanings of "belief," one of which is in regard to ideas cognitively held without empirical or observed data in reality, which has no potential for falsification; the other ideas cognitively held after empirical observation that has the potential to be falsified. However, a philosophical discussion on the definitions of belief might make for a separate thread in philosophy.

    If evolutionary processes can fool one group, why can't it just as easily fool the other?
    One group relies on superstition, the supernatural, and non-testable data. The other relies on empirical evidence and testable data. While there is a potential for human cognitive functions to be fooled by either, the latter is inherently less likely to produce fools.

    Is there any reason to believe that evolution did produce the capacity to discern truth?
    Clearly. Otherwise we, as a species, would be unsuccessful at endeavors that range from heating frozen diners in a microwave to successfully placing aircraft in flight with hundreds of passengers destined to travel around the globe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    How can we know that belief in a creator and the resulting behaviors are a false product of evolution while belief in a material only world through logic and rational thought is a true product of evolution?
    In keeping with the OP, I'm not sure that's what's being suggested.
    I suppose I should have been more clear. I suppose I should have asked: How can we know that a mental experience leading to a religious conclusion is a false product of evolution while a mental experience leading to a materialistic conclusion is true?

    If evolutionary processes can fool one group, why can't it just as easily fool the other?
    One group relies on superstition, the supernatural, and non-testable data. The other relies on empirical evidence and testable data.
    In speaking to my religious friends, I often hear them describing observations from the world and universe, their understanding of how this world functions, and uniform experience as evidence for their conclusions. It is not exclusively true that those in religious groups rely on superstition. Many of my friends deny this charge.

    While there is a potential for human cognitive functions to be fooled by either, the latter is inherently less likely to produce fools.
    I see no way to demonstrate any advantage particularly in light of the reality that many religious people use an evidence based approach. We can debate the validity of one group's evidence verses another, but each of those people certainly believe it is evidence.

    Is there any reason to believe that evolution did produce the capacity to discern truth?
    Clearly. Otherwise we, as a species, would be unsuccessful at endeavors that range from heating frozen diners in a microwave to successfully placing aircraft in flight with hundreds of passengers destined to travel around the globe.
    It seems fairly clear that humans have the ability to discern truth, but it is far from clear that evolutionary processes did or even can produce this capacity. Relative advantage does not seem to require truth. It seems sufficient that it works well enough even if the principle is incorrect. The underlying principle of evolution is that to be selectable it must be advantageous and that is a far more modest requirement.
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    What is a "false product of evolution," and can you show where ANYBODY here suggested religious conclusions fall into that description?
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    How can we know that a mental experience leading to a religious conclusion is a false product of evolution while a mental experience leading to a materialistic conclusion is true?
    You're falling victim to another logical fallacy, which is either a false premise or a strawman. I say "victim" because you might have, perhaps, not intended to use a fallacy, but I don't think anyone has actually referred to experiences deemed religious are "false products of evolution." Indeed, I've actually said quite the opposite in suggesting an evolutionary advantage to such experiences.

    Clearly, a "religious conclusion" based on neurochemical events in the brain are likely to be premature conclusions at the least, but its also clear that the human brain is predisposed to arrive at these and other superstitious conclusions when religious conclusions are compared in a lineup adjacent to other suspects such as sports superstitions, financial superstitions, superstitions regarding love and family, etc. Probably every human social endeavor has its share of superstition associated with it, including, though hopefully less so, the pursuit of science. I know an archaeologist that always uses the same worn out trowel and has refused offers for a new, and superiorly fashioned one.

    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    One group relies on superstition, the supernatural, and non-testable data. The other relies on empirical evidence and testable data.
    In speaking to my religious friends, I often hear them describing observations from the world and universe, their understanding of how this world functions, and uniform experience as evidence for their conclusions. It is not exclusively true that those in religious groups rely on superstition. Many of my friends deny this charge.
    I've no doubt that they deny it, however, if they assert the core claims of religious cults like those of Christianity, then they are definitely relying on superstition and not reality. It is reality from which evidence of any utility can be found. The "evidence" relied upon by the superstitious is that of testimony and anecdote. Hardly the sort that lends it self to empiricism and certainly the sort that lends itself to delusion and superstition.

    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    While there is a potential for human cognitive functions to be fooled by either, the latter is inherently less likely to produce fools.
    I see no way to demonstrate any advantage particularly in light of the reality that many religious people use an evidence based approach. We can debate the validity of one group's evidence verses another, but each of those people certainly believe it is evidence.
    Again, I think you're equivocating the word belief and its usage. The assertion that "religious people use and evidence based approach" is only true for those interactions they have with reality. I have little doubt that religious people are capable of using appropriate evidence to function in reality. I see it happen on the highway to and from work every day as religious people (as indicated by the little fish emblems on their bumpers) successfully navigate traffic and anticipate the actions of their fellow drivers.

    However, when those same people are faced with experiences deemed religious, all interaction with reality becomes suspect if not stopped. The "evidence" for their conclusions is not based on reality but a mental illusion, delusion, or state which they've poorly interpreted. Other's may simply be conforming to social and cultural norms, but for the purposes of this thread, I'm interested in those experiences deemed religious that are in addition to the normative or prescriptive expectations.

    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    Is there any reason to believe that evolution did produce the capacity to discern truth?
    Clearly. Otherwise we, as a species, would be unsuccessful at endeavors that range from heating frozen diners in a microwave to successfully placing aircraft in flight with hundreds of passengers destined to travel around the globe.
    It seems fairly clear that humans have the ability to discern truth, but it is far from clear that evolutionary processes did or even can produce this capacity. Relative advantage does not seem to require truth. It seems sufficient that it works well enough even if the principle is incorrect. The underlying principle of evolution is that to be selectable it must be advantageous and that is a far more modest requirement.
    "Far from clear?" You're kidding, right? You don't consider the clear advancement of stone tools in the archaeological record to be an evolution of thought? The fact that the first stone tools and evidence of butchery as a subsistence strategy is somewhere around 2 million years ago, but the first conclusive evidence for control of fire is around 700,000 years ago (0.7 Ma) doesn't indicate an evolution of thought synonymous with an evolving ability to discern the truth?

    The search for explanations may even be one of the forcing mechanisms for the dispersal of hominids at around 2 Ma and again at around 750 Ka. The search for explanations may very well be the impetus for the domestication of plants and animals with a recognition of fertility and birth with plant seeds and female bovids and ovicaprids.

    I grant you that there are still many questions surrounding this and it is certainly not a given fact that "discerning truth" is the reasons for these human achievements (and many more!), but to say it is "far from clear" is a statement made with another agenda altogether since this is very much indicated in modern archaeological and anthropological research. I would also grant you that there are flaws with the evolution of the "discernment of truth," one of which is the resulting propensity to believe in all sorts of wacky stuff, religion included.

    But I also grant that religion isn't always deleterious and has proven to be an evolutionary advantage in many societies, particularly up to the last 1 - 2 thousand years.
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  23. #22  
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    How can we know that a mental experience leading to a religious conclusion is a false product of evolution while a mental experience leading to a materialistic conclusion is true?
    You're falling victim to another logical fallacy, which is either a false premise or a strawman. I say "victim" because you might have, perhaps, not intended to use a fallacy, but I don't think anyone has actually referred to experiences deemed religious are "false products of evolution." Indeed, I've actually said quite the opposite in suggesting an evolutionary advantage to such experiences.
    Perhaps so, In that case I introduced the idea. I don't see it as a straw man though you might and I apologize for shifting the direction. I do think it is a far more interesting aspect of this discussion and I think it is relevant too.


    I've no doubt that they deny it, however, if they assert the core claims of religious cults like those of Christianity, then they are definitely relying on superstition and not reality. It is reality from which evidence of any utility can be found. The "evidence" relied upon by the superstitious is that of testimony and anecdote. Hardly the sort that lends it self to empiricism and certainly the sort that lends itself to delusion and superstition.
    Indeed there are many aspects belief system that fits the category you describe. I generally do not discuss those aspects because they have little or nothing in the way of support and I find them unconvincing.

    However, when those same people are faced with experiences deemed religious, all interaction with reality becomes suspect if not stopped. The "evidence" for their conclusions is not based on reality but a mental illusion, delusion, or state which they've poorly interpreted. Other's may simply be conforming to social and cultural norms, but for the purposes of this thread, I'm interested in those experiences deemed religious that are in addition to the normative or prescriptive expectations.
    Again, those examples are a limited case cited by the religious followers. I am less interested in them.

    "Far from clear?" You're kidding, right? You don't consider the clear advancement of stone tools in the archaeological record to be an evolution of thought? The fact that the first stone tools and evidence of butchery as a subsistence strategy is somewhere around 2 million years ago, but the first conclusive evidence for control of fire is around 700,000 years ago (0.7 Ma) doesn't indicate an evolution of thought synonymous with an evolving ability to discern the truth?
    No I consider the advancement of processes and tools as learning, knowledge capture and transmittal. I don't see it as evolution in the sense you mean. Again though I did not intend to steer this thread away, I have only a passing interest. Please carry on.
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  24. #23 A natural/scientific explanation please. 
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    Three and a half decades past I was an Atheist. A change of heart or lifestyle put me on the course to a belief in God. I began to go from church building to church building looking for the God of the Bible. I did not find Him there. While laying in bed one evening, my wife 8 months along with our second child, I put my hands over my face and began to pray. I found myself standing up in total darkness and looking around to see where I was at. I did not want to leave this place of indescribable peace and serenity separated from my physical body. (I call it now a OBE). During this experience, a voice said to me, "Keep My Word". I then began to entertain thoughts that I as needed back there. As I dwelled on those thoughts I found myself lying back in our bed with my hands still on my face. I rolled over to wake my wife to tell her what had just happened. She was sitting upright in bed, rubbing her arms and asking me if I felt the strong presence in the room. We did not sleep that night but stayed up talking about the experience.

    After some time, we finally found a group of believers who shared the same ideas we found in the Bible about God. A revival was scheduled and a man from out of state was to officiate the evening worship and preaching services. My wife and I had never met this man before or even heard anything about him. The last day of the service and that evening, he asked if he could lay hands on me and pray for me. I agreed and went up in front of the congregation to be prayed for. As he prayed and laid his hands on my shoulder and head, I felt a very strong presence about me and shook all over. He began to speak in another language and finally in English. "I have seen in your heart a desire to know the truth and you shall know the truth and be set free by the truth". In my mind I thought, well that is just scripture. (The skeptic within me still). Then he said, "And I as I told you before, Keep My Word".

    My wife and I had not told anyone of my OBE. Because, frankly in those moments of our life we were afraid to do so. We have seen in the last thirty or so years many of this type of phenomena, either personally or expressed by others. For us now these experiences are just part of the ongoing growth of individuals on their spiritual journey in this realm.

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    The God of the Bible cannot exist, because if I, nothing special myself, am able to be morally superior to the God of the Bible then I think that says something. The personal revolution I have gone through to emerge from religious belief into atheism/humanism/existentialism is irreversible. Explanations for religious experiences? Confirmation bias, delusion, unstable emotional states, mass hysteria, peer pressure, wishful thinking, emotional distress, fear, prejudice, loneliness, powerlessness, dissatisfaction with one's life and the longing for a purpose to ones suffering, etc.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
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  26. #25  
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    Well, TBH rdlb... I'm not sure how your little anecdotal story there is even vaguely thread relevant, but here is something which most certainly is:


    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2...or_by-prod.php
    For years, whenever someone asks me about the evolution of religion, I explain that there are two broad categories of explanation: that religion has conferred a selective advantage to people who possessed it, or that it was a byproduct of other cognitive processes that were advantageous. I'm a proponent of the byproduct explanation, myself; I tend to go a little further, too, and suggest that religion is a deleterious virus that is piggy-backing on some very useful elements of our minds.

    That post references the following work:

    http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive...ge_figure=true
    Considerable debate has surrounded the question of the origins and evolution of religion. One proposal views religion as an adaptation for cooperation, whereas an alternative proposal views religion as a by-product of evolved, non-religious, cognitive functions. We critically evaluate each approach, explore the link between religion and morality in particular, and argue that recent empirical work in moral psychology provides stronger support for the by-product approach. Specifically, despite differences in religious background, individuals show no difference in the pattern of their moral judgments for unfamiliar moral scenarios. These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions, but that it may then have been subject to selection, creating an adaptively designed system for solving the problem of cooperation.

    <...>

    According to this view, religious beliefs are a by-product of evolved cognitive mechanisms. These cognitive mechanisms enable us to reason about the intentional states of others and to recursively embed intentional states within other intentional states, and make it possible for us to think what others think, including absent or even dead persons, fictional characters, and also supernatural agents. There is no need to invoke a set of dedicated, input-restricted mechanisms for religion, or for representing God.

    As to cooperation, there are numerous non-religious prosocial cognitive mechanisms in humans (Box 1). All of these evolved independently of supernatural or religious beliefs and operate in similar ways in people with or without such beliefs, including young children who have yet to be inculcated into a religion. Such general, evolved cognitive mechanisms make it possible for us to represent supernatural agent concepts without invoking a separate evolutionary trajectory for religion. Here again, religion stands on the shoulders of cognitive giants, psychological mechanisms that evolved for solving more general problems of social interactions in large, genetically unrelated groups.
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  27. #26 relevancy to this thread 
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Well, TBH rdlb... I'm not sure how your little anecdotal story there is even vaguely thread relevant, but here is something which most certainly is:


    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2...or_by-prod.php
    For years, whenever someone asks me about the evolution of religion, I explain that there are two broad categories of explanation: that religion has conferred a selective advantage to people who possessed it, or that it was a byproduct of other cognitive processes that were advantageous. I'm a proponent of the byproduct explanation, myself; I tend to go a little further, too, and suggest that religion is a deleterious virus that is piggy-backing on some very useful elements of our minds.

    That post references the following work:

    http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive...ge_figure=true
    Considerable debate has surrounded the question of the origins and evolution of religion. One proposal views religion as an adaptation for cooperation, whereas an alternative proposal views religion as a by-product of evolved, non-religious, cognitive functions. We critically evaluate each approach, explore the link between religion and morality in particular, and argue that recent empirical work in moral psychology provides stronger support for the by-product approach. Specifically, despite differences in religious background, individuals show no difference in the pattern of their moral judgments for unfamiliar moral scenarios. These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions, but that it may then have been subject to selection, creating an adaptively designed system for solving the problem of cooperation.

    <...>

    According to this view, religious beliefs are a by-product of evolved cognitive mechanisms. These cognitive mechanisms enable us to reason about the intentional states of others and to recursively embed intentional states within other intentional states, and make it possible for us to think what others think, including absent or even dead persons, fictional characters, and also supernatural agents. There is no need to invoke a set of dedicated, input-restricted mechanisms for religion, or for representing God.

    As to cooperation, there are numerous non-religious prosocial cognitive mechanisms in humans (Box 1). All of these evolved independently of supernatural or religious beliefs and operate in similar ways in people with or without such beliefs, including young children who have yet to be inculcated into a religion. Such general, evolved cognitive mechanisms make it possible for us to represent supernatural agent concepts without invoking a separate evolutionary trajectory for religion. Here again, religion stands on the shoulders of cognitive giants, psychological mechanisms that evolved for solving more general problems of social interactions in large, genetically unrelated groups.
    Sun Jan 03, 2010 1:06 pm Post subject: Natural Explanations for Religious Experiences reposted by SkinWalker caused me to think my anedote relevant to this thread. Thank you for your links and quotes.
    I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
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  28. #27  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Confirmation bias, delusion, unstable emotional states, mass hysteria, peer pressure, wishful thinking, emotional distress, fear, prejudice, loneliness, powerlessness, dissatisfaction with one's life and the longing for a purpose to ones suffering, etc.
    Yes. And as a humanist you must recognize these imperfections are part of our identity. They comprise the irrational hard-wired human condition, like our taste for salty snacks and our weakness for litters of orphaned kittens. Does a humanist fight these foolish things or embrace them?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    Actually, I think rdlb's post is quite on-topic.

    His is a very good example of the very sort of experience perceived and deemed as religious that I think is worth investigating. From his perspective (if we accept his words prima facie), there is an underlying (or perhaps overarching) meaning or causality to his mental state. There is an undeniable urge present in human nature to assign causality and meaning to even the most natural experiences and events: in ancient times, gathering clouds were evidence of angry gods; lightning strikes of people or their structures unmistakable signs of their displeasure. Now, we're satisfied (most of us) with understanding that convergences of warm and cold air such that moisture laden air is compressed can create condensation; built up electrons are discharged suddenly into concentrations of protons which manifest into lightning.

    When we look at rdlb's “testimony,” we see the same interesting phenomenon where an event (assuming one actually occurred) is interpreted though the lens of his culture. We're given the qualifier by rdlb that he was once an “Atheist” (which he curiously capitalizes -this is psychologically interesting in itself) and, expected to accept this as fact. But atheist isn't necessarily synonymous with skeptic, rational, or “one-who-always-applies-critical-thought.” Indeed, we haven't even established what he considers an “atheist” (or even an Atheist) to be. From the point of view of many who profess belief in a god, an atheist is anyone who doesn't believe in their particular notion of their particular god. It doesn't imply that they were raised godless or without an understanding of what their culture perceives as a generally correct notion of god (though it may be the case with rdlb -we just don't know).

    So, when he says, “[a] change of heart or lifestyle put me on the course to a belief in God,” and “I began to go from church building to church building looking for the God of the Bible,” we're safe to assume that he was raised in a Christian culture with a Christian understanding of god. Perhaps it was a specific cult like Mormonism, Presbyterianism, Episcopalian, or even Jehovah's Witnesses. At any rate, he considered himself an “Atheist” prior to an experience that he sought out (“I put my hands over my face and began to pray”) then had the experience he deems as religious.

    It's interesting that rdlb automatically “knows” which god it is that is speaking to him. And, as he states, he's “looking for the God of the Bible,” not the god of Islam, the gods of Hinduism, the gods of ancient Mesoamerica, Egypt, or Greece; not one of the various Andean or Polynesian gods. He wants the “God of the Bible. Rdlb clearly has an a priori expectation of find a god and it being the god of his culture. Clearly he wasn't an atheist, or if he was, he was very bad one! But the inclusion of once being “atheist” now converted to believer is one that does several things for him, not the least of which provide “street cred” to his story among those he's attempting to appeal to the most, which is his fellow believers. This is a public display of piety that one finds common among the devoutly religious as well as even the moderately religious, though more extreme in the former than the latter. Acceptance among the group and demonstration of group loyalty and devotion are essential in proving that you are not a free-rider.

    This need for public displays of piety leads to many experiences which are essentially mundane or simply delusional as being deemed religious. In many of these cases, the person having the experience may actually perceive it as religious; in other cases they're designating the experiences as religious. It would not be hard to imagine that there are simply those cases where there was no experience at all -simply an invented experience, made of whole cloth but a need to fit within the desired in-group.

    We know that experiences often referred to as “OBE” or “out of body” can be generated naturally or artificially as a result of neurochemical processes. The brain sends these signals, which get interpreted by the first-hand observer -the person having the “experience” in the manner humans have been using for all of written and prehistory: supernatural agency. The anthropomorphism of non-human creatures and inanimate objects is a fact of life that cannot be denied (we see faces in clouds, talk of the “Man in the Moon,” use talking margarine containers in adverts, and put eyes on anything we want to personalize. To anthropomorphize an OBE is assign agency to it -such agency must be supernatural by definition and rdlb's culture has a ready-made agent” his god.

    The brain is a delicate organ. To much of one chemical; not enough of another -just the right synaptic stimulation; closed ion gates at another.... What a wonderful and amazing thing!
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  30. #29  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Confirmation bias, delusion, unstable emotional states, mass hysteria, peer pressure, wishful thinking, emotional distress, fear, prejudice, loneliness, powerlessness, dissatisfaction with one's life and the longing for a purpose to ones suffering, etc.
    Yes. And as a humanist you must recognize these imperfections are part of our identity. They comprise the irrational hard-wired human condition, like our taste for salty snacks and our weakness for litters of orphaned kittens. Does a humanist fight these foolish things or embrace them?
    I am also a pragmatist and a realist though. What do you mean by embracing? I realise that there are certain behaviours and modes of thought that are not beneficial to us, or even downright detrimental. Others have short term benefits, but impede the crucial development of others. Some are beneficial to only ourselves and/or those close to us, but are of no value or are detrimental to others we come in contact with. I believe that while, say, the Native Americans (is that the politically correct term now?) had very full, meaningful and happy lives within their own cocoon of ignorance, we should strive to be more. The goal of our lives should not simply be to be happy, but make others happy and to develop as a species. This involves knowing ourselves and by extension knowing others and the universe we live in. I would rather think of these imperfections as part of how we are developing as a species.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
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    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  31. #30  
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Actually, I think rdlb's post is quite on-topic.

    His is a very good example of the very sort of experience perceived and deemed as religious that I think is worth investigating.
    My mention of relevance was due to the fact that this thread (as best I can tell) is seeking natural explanations of religious experience, not natural examples of them... which to me his post clearly seemed to be... An example, not an explanation. In fairness, though, I was being somewhat harsh because I found the story to be a bunch of rubbish based on little more than a lack of realistic understanding of what was actually going on... But I can see that it's relevance was not as in question as I first assumed.

    Either way, beautiful post. You make me feel a bit of regret for not taking a class or two in anthropology while I was still in school. I also couldn't agree more with you that experiences such as his are very worthy of investigation and understanding.
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  32. #31  
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Actually, I think rdlb's post is quite on-topic.

    His is a very good example of the very sort of experience perceived and deemed as religious that I think is worth investigating.
    My mention of relevance was due to the fact that this thread (as best I can tell) is seeking natural explanations of religious experience, not natural examples of them... which to me his post clearly seemed to be... An example, not an explanation. In fairness, though, I was being somewhat harsh because I found the story to be a bunch of rubbish based on little more than a lack of realistic understanding of what was actually going on... But I can see that it's relevance was not as in question as I first assumed.

    Either way, beautiful post. You make me feel a bit of regret for not taking a class or two in anthropology while I was still in school. I also couldn't agree more with you that experiences such as his are very worthy of investigation and understanding.
    I think that rdlb's "experience" is either perceived thus deemed or invented thus deemed. While there remains always the possibility that the experience was truly one of a divine nature, this isn't either remotely probable or necessary as an explanation. There are plenty of examples of people assigning the wrong interpretation of events they perceive and inventing events they wish other to think they experienced and not a single example of a real divine experience.

    Whenever I see an "experience" prefaced with a claim that the experiencer was previously an "atheist," I think it's right to be suspicious of the intent and veracity of the claim.
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    I had not realized this thread was a take off from a comment I made on another thread and am relating back to Skinwalker's OP here and some susequent comments without directly referring to any specific quotes.

    First of all, not all Christians claim to have had a salvation experience by which they can pinpoint the time, day, month and year of their conversions. And I would not say that such an experience, or the lack thereof, proves or disproves anyone's relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

    Second, I would not say that non-Christians cannot have a spiritual experience. There are more spirits in the spirit world than just God. Do not Wiccans claim contact with the spirit world?

    I do find it difficult that anyone could say to the effect, "I thought had a spiritual experience once, but it wasn't really a spiritual experience," which seem to be a position a few have taken here. It is an oxymoron. It is like saying, "I have never made is mistake. I thought I made one once, but I was wrong."

    All I can say is that people who have a spiritual relationship with the eternal living God know it. People who do not have that relationship know they don't. There must be some significance in the fact that we who have that relationship do not insist that those who claim not to have had one really have, but just don't know it. Meanwhile those who do not have that relationship seem to insist that those of us who have such a relationship really don't have one but just think we do.

    We lose nothing by having this relationship and you gain nothing by not having it.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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  34. #33  
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    First of all, not all Christians claim to have had a salvation experience by which they can pinpoint the time, day, month and year of their conversions.
    I would agree with that and hope that such wasn't an assumption to begin with.

    And I would not say that such an experience, or the lack thereof, proves or disproves anyone's relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
    Of course not. Again, one hopes this wasn't an assumption from the outset.

    Second, I would not say that non-Christians cannot have a spiritual experience. There are more spirits in the spirit world than just God. Do not Wiccans claim contact with the spirit world?
    Again, this is obvious as well but a point that deserves to be made. Thank you.

    Certainly the very fact that non-Christians are having experiences deemed "religious" and/or "spiritual" is telling. Indeed, many of those who claim (or claimed) to have "spiritual" and "religious" experiences (or, more accurately, those experiences deemed religious or spiritual) don't even subscribe to gods or supernatural agents that even casually resemble the supernatural agents of Christianity (the three gods or any of the demigods). Buddhists and other Eastern "spiritualists" make many claims of supernatural and even religious experience, yet the strict teachings of these cults do not include gods.

    Therefore, it's clear that experiences otherwise deemed "religious" or "spiritual" are independent of cultural adherence to any one cult or dogma. If such experiences are genuinely of divine nature, how are religious adherents able to "know" they're a result of their own dogma? The answer is, of course, they cannot. These experiences are simply explained by existing superstitions much in the same manner as lightning was once explained by ancient Greeks to be the wrath of a particular god rather than a phenomenon of weather.

    I do find it difficult that anyone could say to the effect, "I thought had a spiritual experience once, but it wasn't really a spiritual experience," which seem to be a position a few have taken here. It is an oxymoron. It is like saying, "I have never made is mistake. I thought I made one once, but I was wrong."
    This is actually a poor analogy. A more apt analogy would be, "I used to think I never make mistakes. Now I know I was wrong."

    The reason is human nature is to be deluded; to apply agency where agency doesn't exist. We can see examples of it in all human endeavors from hunting and gathering to social interactions between each other. We see it in politics and sports; economics and probably all literary genres. Foragers even today survive because they're willing to imagine that the rustling of grass nearby is a leopard (or in South America, a panther), even when it is not; wives imagine their husbands are getting it on the side based on unexplained credit card purchases; 9/11 is imagined to be an inside job and Oswald had an accomplice on the grassy knoll; baseball pitchers wear the same underwear for fear of breaking streaks; and Ahab was obsessed by a whale smarter than he.

    To utilize hindsight and new-found knowledge to see past the veil of delusion that can surround experiences deemed "religious" or "spiritual" is to admit mistake. Or to admit a lie. Surely there are those who blatantly lie about their piety and "experiences."

    All I can say is that people who have a spiritual relationship with the eternal living God know it.
    This might be. They refuse to demonstrate their "knowledge" but it is possible to know something that cannot be demonstrated. However, its far more likely, based on human psychology and human nature, that they're merely deluded or lying. We see examples of it in every single human endeavor and we're not afraid to admit them (see the paragraph above), yet when it comes to experiences deemed religious or spiritual, we're somehow expected to accept them prima facie.

    It doesn't work that way. Either we accept every single wacky conspiracy theory, accusation of infidelity, every superstition, and every single case of alien abduction or we place religious experience and spiritual beliefs under the same eye of suspicion.

    People who do not have that relationship know they don't. There must be some significance in the fact that we who have that relationship do not insist that those who claim not to have had one really have, but just don't know it. Meanwhile those who do not have that relationship seem to insist that those of us who have such a relationship really don't have one but just think we do.
    Perhaps that which you might find "spiritual" others, like myself, would see as the natural awe and wonder of the universe. I often let my mind wander with imaginary speculations. For instance, I once spent an hour or more imagining that I was a particle of sand, variously caught in a ocean current, riptide, wave, and the under-sole of a flip flop. Mingling with the billions and billions of my fellow sand-grains, in a vast metropolis of a sandy beach is enough to humble anyone who dares to take on such a thought experiment. I find such a thing "spiritual" in that sense. Though, unlike many who claim to have "spiritual experiences," I find nothing supernatural or divine in it. Indeed, such a copout would greatly diminish the awe and wonder of it all. And, at this moment, I pity the religious believer who diminishes the natural wonder of the universe by simply coming to the ultimate conclusion that "goddidit." What a shame they can't open themselves to the true wonder of the universe and feel truly humbled at being barely a speck of existence in it all.

    We lose nothing by having this relationship and you gain nothing by not having it.
    To see why I disagree, read the preceding paragraph. You lose everything, including your own self-worth, and don't even know it.
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  35. #34  
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    Skinwalker said:

    Perhaps that which you might find "spiritual" others, like myself, would see as the natural awe and wonder of the universe.
    What makes you think we are not held in awe and wonder at the Universe. Psalm 19:1 says: "The Heavens declare the glory of God..." So from our standpoint we would not understand how you can be naturally awed and held in wonder at the universe and not see the glory of the God who created it.

    Personally, I am completely awestruck by what we are learning about our Universe and was super relieved that we decided to repair the Hubble. The photos from the Hubble are the most awe inspiring, fascinating photos I have ever seen. The Hubble has shown us things that have compelled us to review and revise cosmology and showed us many things we hardly even suspected before.

    But I do not see why believing that the Universe and life just happened is more satisfying than believing that they were created with meaning and purpose because it pleased God to do so.

    And then:


    And, at this moment, I pity the religious believer who diminishes the natural wonder of the universe by simply coming to the ultimate conclusion that "goddidit." What a shame they can't open themselves to the true wonder of the universe and feel truly humbled at being barely a speck of existence in it all.
    Again, I have no idea why you think we do not feel that way, too. Or how belief in God's creativity renders us incapable of awe and wonder and relieves us of the feeling of humility. But I think we also feel privileged that God was pleased to create us and place us on this seemingly obscure but wonderfully life supportive little planet in an obscure corner of the Universe. In addition to our awe and wonder and humility, we are thankful.

    I have no idea why you feel that believing we are the product of a purposeful and thoughtful creative act diminishes our awe and wonder of the Universe. We are in awe and wonder at not only the creation but also the One who created it. If you admire a work of art, do you not equally admire the artist? If you admire a song or a piece of music, do you not perhaps admire the composer even more for his entire body of work? You are truly the ones to be pitied for honoring the work but not the One who did the work.

    Granted, there are some believers who are no more interested in the fullness of what and how God created than atheists seem to be in why he created.

    Skinwalker said:

    This is actually a poor analogy. A more apt analogy would be, "I used to think I never make mistakes. Now I know I was wrong."
    Well, yah, if someone had not already coined the oxymoron, "I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken," which I sort of chopped up a little to fit the point I was trying to make.

    Skinwalker:
    To utilize hindsight and new-found knowledge to see past the veil of delusion that can surround experiences deemed "religious" or "spiritual" is to admit mistake.
    Is this not a two way street? Would not those of my position suggest that those who become believers are now seeing beyond the veil of the delusion of a Godless world and now admitting their mistake of disbelief? I do not see this other than an argument that can be used either way by either side. But it would be true that at least one of us is mistaken.

    Skinwalker concludes:


    You lose everything, including your own self-worth, and don't even know it.
    Well, that would not be our perspective. We would look to Jesus' words, "What profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?"

    You are partially correct in the second half of the thought. There is an aspect of our belief that, apart from God, we have no worth. Yet we also recognize that if we had no worth, God would not offer us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. To us, it is atheists who have lost everything by boastfully asserting their own self worth which the Bible says is as filthy rags before God.

    But I do understand your perspective -- it use to be mine until the delusion of my error of a virtually godless world was supplanted by a personal relationship with the living, eternal God.

    I do appreciate your thoughts, they remind me from whence I came and where ne'er could I return.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Actually, I think rdlb's post is quite on-topic.

    His is a very good example of the very sort of experience perceived and deemed as religious that I think is worth investigating.
    My mention of relevance was due to the fact that this thread (as best I can tell) is seeking natural explanations of religious experience, not natural examples of them... which to me his post clearly seemed to be... An example, not an explanation. In fairness, though, I was being somewhat harsh because I found the story to be a bunch of rubbish based on little more than a lack of realistic understanding of what was actually going on... But I can see that it's relevance was not as in question as I first assumed.

    Either way, beautiful post. You make me feel a bit of regret for not taking a class or two in anthropology while I was still in school. I also couldn't agree more with you that experiences such as his are very worthy of investigation and understanding.
    I think that rdlb's "experience" is either perceived thus deemed or invented thus deemed. While there remains always the possibility that the experience was truly one of a divine nature, this isn't either remotely probable or necessary as an explanation. There are plenty of examples of people assigning the wrong interpretation of events they perceive and inventing events they wish other to think they experienced and not a single example of a real divine experience.

    Whenever I see an "experience" prefaced with a claim that the experiencer was previously an "atheist," I think it's right to be suspicious of the intent and veracity of the claim.
    It was my intent to show a contrast of once an Atheist to that of becoming a believer. The anecdote was very real and true, I consider it a divine experience. One that I have followed for well over thirty years now as a positive, life changing spiritual experience. Why I have expressed this here was, for me a factual story, no scientific explanation given to me accounts for someone repeating to me the exact same words. One that I understood as being direct to me and the other as coming through another individual, directed by the one from the former experience. The distance, the time interval and having not told any other person ever about the experience.

    I do appreciate the comments. It is apparent that I am on a board with those far more educated than myself in the social sciences, psychology and maybe religious studies.
    I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdlb
    The anecdote was very real and true, I consider it a divine experience. One that I have followed for well over thirty years now as a positive, life changing spiritual experience. Why I have expressed this here was, for me a factual story, no scientific explanation given to me accounts for someone repeating to me the exact same words.
    Can you understand though, rdlb, that the above simply isn't good enough? Let's say I came to you and I told you I was previously a rational guy who disregarded fairy tales, but then one day I had a "divine experience" that has improved my life for over 30 years... That I rode on a purple unicorn for 3 hours on a cloudless night one April. It was for me a factual story, no scientific explanation given, and I believe with 100% of my being that it is true.

    Nobody is questioning your authenticity. The question is about the lack of relevance of your personal interpretation and experience. This is why the term delusion is used... You're not a liar, you're not intentionally deceiving anyone (well, I don't know that for sure, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt)... you truly believe this, but fail to realize that your story simply cannot hold up to any scrutiny and fails immediately after even modest inspection.

    For much the same reason that you would dismiss my unicorn riding story above as silly and lacking in evidence, myself and others feel rather comfortable dismissing your story of finding god. It's simply a matter of being consistent in our logic, letting go of double standards, and avoiding hypocrisy and the fallacy of special pleading.


    If I told you there was an invisible dragon in my garage, you wouldn't believe me. Why should I believe you that there is an invisible sky pixie orchestrating every event in the entire universe?
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    rdlb

    Your experience sounds like you already had the idea of God in your mind. If you were never told the idea of God, you would have never associated what you experienced with him. In a way, your brain wanted to see the experience as a work of the Christian God. If the thought of God was from a different religion, you would have associated the experience to that God. I'm not saying you're crazy, i'm just saying that it sounds as though your mind wanted to see it. Kind of like the man that goes to Loch Ness Lake and wants to see the Loch Ness Monster, but instead has an illusion of one which is a stick in the distance. He comes back home and says, "I saw the Loch Ness Monster" which he indeed did, but it was an illusion." Who's to say sounds aren't a form of imagery? I believe them to be and I believe the mind has the ability to play tricks with sounds just as with sight. The human mind looks for shortcuts in everything from sounds to pictures, it allows us to do more work in less time.

    Here is an example of your mind filling in the missing letters to form words in a sentence when you are not actually seeing the words: Cn you read ths sentnce?

    Here is an example of sounds creating illusions, if you listen very closely, the dog is not saying "I love you." It's just howling, but your mind takes shortcuts and fills in the gaps. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXo3NFqkaRM
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdlb
    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Actually, I think rdlb's post is quite on-topic.

    His is a very good example of the very sort of experience perceived and deemed as religious that I think is worth investigating.
    My mention of relevance was due to the fact that this thread (as best I can tell) is seeking natural explanations of religious experience, not natural examples of them... which to me his post clearly seemed to be... An example, not an explanation. In fairness, though, I was being somewhat harsh because I found the story to be a bunch of rubbish based on little more than a lack of realistic understanding of what was actually going on... But I can see that it's relevance was not as in question as I first assumed.

    Either way, beautiful post. You make me feel a bit of regret for not taking a class or two in anthropology while I was still in school. I also couldn't agree more with you that experiences such as his are very worthy of investigation and understanding.
    I think that rdlb's "experience" is either perceived thus deemed or invented thus deemed. While there remains always the possibility that the experience was truly one of a divine nature, this isn't either remotely probable or necessary as an explanation. There are plenty of examples of people assigning the wrong interpretation of events they perceive and inventing events they wish other to think they experienced and not a single example of a real divine experience.

    Whenever I see an "experience" prefaced with a claim that the experiencer was previously an "atheist," I think it's right to be suspicious of the intent and veracity of the claim.
    It was my intent to show a contrast of once an Atheist to that of becoming a believer. The anecdote was very real and true, I consider it a divine experience. One that I have followed for well over thirty years now as a positive, life changing spiritual experience. Why I have expressed this here was, for me a factual story, no scientific explanation given to me accounts for someone repeating to me the exact same words. One that I understood as being direct to me and the other as coming through another individual, directed by the one from the former experience. The distance, the time interval and having not told any other person ever about the experience.

    I do appreciate the comments. It is apparent that I am on a board with those far more educated than myself in the social sciences, psychology and maybe religious studies.
    rdlb:

    I believe your experience is most consistent with contact with God.

    I say this because:

    1. You were not under the influence of any drug.
    2. You were not under the influence of any group.
    3. The experience was shared with your wife.
    4. Your attitude before this experience: eg. seeking God with humility, is most consistent with what Scripture tells us is the best way to have such an experience.

    Millions of believers have had experiences like this. I have never had an experience quite like yours. Most of mine involve direction for a better way to live, or being aware of Divine help/presence in a situation involving some risk.

    Good post.

    (Also, I have seen nothing in your post to indicate any sort of "mental issue". I would ignore any such suggestions. And I have had some undergraduate, graduate, and direct full time (8 hours/day) experience in the treatment of people with mental disorders including people in institutions, as well as the criminally insane. You do NOT have any sort of a mental problem. People who suggest this have an "ax to grind" problem.)
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    Nobody is questioning your authenticity. The question is about the lack of relevance of your personal interpretation and experience. This is why the term delusion is used... You're not a liar, you're not intentionally deceiving anyone (well, I don't know that for sure, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt)... you truly believe this, but fail to realize that your story simply cannot hold up to any scrutiny and fails immediately after even modest inspection.
    Thank you for the benefit of the doubt. From your perspective, the examples I did not include with this quote of yours, I understand that there is no solid basis for any scrutiny to hold up. For me personally however, I have those around me who did not know of the first experience, other than my wife, who witnessed the prayer by the man from out of state. The members of my congregation were then told of my first experience and my wife's reaction to it.

    One other thing about the anecdote, it is still very vivid in my mind some thirty plus years later.
    I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
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    Quote Originally Posted by korben
    rdlb

    Your experience sounds like you already had the idea of God in your mind. If you were never told the idea of God, you would have never associated what you experienced with him. In a way, your brain wanted to see the experience as a work of the Christian God. If the thought of God was from a different religion, you would have associated the experience to that God. I'm not saying you're crazy, i'm just saying that it sounds as though your mind wanted to see it. Kind of like the man that goes to Loch Ness Lake and wants to see the Loch Ness Monster, but instead has an illusion of one which is a stick in the distance. He comes back home and says, "I saw the Loch Ness Monster" which he indeed did, but it was an illusion." Who's to say sounds aren't a form of imagery? I believe them to be and I believe the mind has the ability to play tricks with sounds just as with sight. The human mind looks for shortcuts in everything from sounds to pictures, it allows us to do more work in less time.

    Here is an example of your mind filling in the missing letters to form words in a sentence when you are not actually seeing the words: Cn you read ths sentnce?

    Here is an example of sounds creating illusions, if you listen very closely, the dog is not saying "I love you." It's just howling, but your mind takes shortcuts and fills in the gaps. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXo3NFqkaRM
    While it is true at the moment of my experience I had a idea of God. Yet, I had no idea of this type of connection or that someone else far removed from myself would repeat verbatim what was said to me.
    I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdlb
    While it is true at the moment of my experience I had a idea of God. Yet, I had no idea of this type of connection or that someone else far removed from myself would repeat verbatim what was said to me.

    Your post reminded me of this recent study:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/...y-believe.html
    The researchers started by asking volunteers who said they believe in God to give their own views on controversial topics, such as abortion and the death penalty. They also asked what the volunteers thought were the views of God, average Americans and public figures such as Bill Gates. Volunteers' own beliefs corresponded most strongly with those they attributed to God.

    Next, the team asked another group of volunteers to undertake tasks designed to soften their existing views, such as preparing speeches on the death penalty in which they had to take the opposite view to their own. They found that this led to shifts in the beliefs attributed to God, but not in those attributed to other people.

    "People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want," the team write. "The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God's beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing."

    "The experiments in which we manipulate people's own beliefs are the most compelling evidence we have to show that people's own beliefs influence what they think God believes more substantially than it influences what they think other people believe," says Epley.

    Finally, the team used fMRI to scan the brains of volunteers while they contemplated the beliefs of themselves, God or "average Americans". In all the experiments the volunteers professed beliefs in an Abrahamic God. The majority were Christian.

    In the first two cases, similar parts of the brain were active. When asked to contemplate other Americans' beliefs, however, an area of the brain used for inferring other people's mental states was active. This implies that people map God's beliefs onto their own.

    http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketsci..._own_image.php
    For many religious people, the popular question "What would Jesus do?" is essentially the same as "What would I do?" That's the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.

    Psychological studies have found that people are always a tad egocentric when considering other people's mindsets. They use their own beliefs as a starting point, which colours their final conclusions. Epley found that the same process happens, and then some, when people try and divine the mind of God. Their opinions on God's attitudes on important social issues closely mirror their own beliefs. If their own attitudes change, so do their perceptions of what God thinks. They even use the same parts of their brain when considering God's will and their own opinions.

    <...>

    Epley's results are sure to spark controversy, but their most important lesson is that relying on a deity to guide one's decisions and judgments is little more than spiritual sockpuppetry. <more at the link>
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    rdlb:

    I believe your experience is most consistent with contact with God.

    I say this because:

    1. You were not under the influence of any drug.
    2. You were not under the influence of any group.
    3. The experience was shared with your wife.
    4. Your attitude before this experience: eg. seeking God with humility, is most consistent with what Scripture tells us is the best way to have such an experience.

    Millions of believers have had experiences like this. I have never had an experience quite like yours. Most of mine involve direction for a better way to live, or being aware of Divine help/presence in a situation involving some risk.

    Good post.

    (Also, I have seen nothing in your post to indicate any sort of "mental issue". I would ignore any such suggestions. And I have had some undergraduate, graduate, and direct full time (8 hours/day) experience in the treatment of people with mental disorders including people in institutions, as well as the criminally insane. You do NOT have any sort of a mental problem. People who suggest this have an "ax to grind" problem.)
    I have meditated many times over the phrase, "Keep My Word". It is consistent with the path to truth. One must act on or "keep" to understand the simplicity behind that singular phrase. It was also intended for me to act upon it, my character at the time needed to realize the importance of those words and not to forget them.

    It was not and is not my intent to have submitted this anecdote for any preaching purposes. I have respect for the sciences. I suspect that the sciences can have a validity in the proof that a spiritual (non-physical) dimension exists.

    Thank you for your comments too.
    I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo
    rdlb:

    I believe your experience is most consistent with contact with God.

    I say this because:

    1. You were not under the influence of any drug.
    How do you know for sure. Moreover, what of the biochemical reactions of the brain which are naturally occurring?

    2. You were not under the influence of any group.
    Again, how do you know. I assert the precise opposite was the case: rdlb was very likely under the influence of his own culture and the expectations of that culture.

    3. The experience was shared with your wife.
    Perhaps one of the most influential members of that social group. Perhaps his desires, subconscious or otherwise, was to appease her by appeasing the god she believed in.

    4. Your attitude before this experience: eg. seeking God with humility, is most consistent with what Scripture tells us is the best way to have such an experience.
    Scripture appears to be one of his most influential factors as well as the expectations of the culture he belongs to. Being an accepted member of an in-group is a powerful influencer. As evident by clothing and entertainment fads that sweep entire cultures, eventually bridging separate cultures and even, to a degree, uniting them.

    Millions of believers have had experiences like this.
    I would say "billions" of various believers have had and are having such experiences. Not all of the billions deem their experiences "religious" or "spiritual" but they have such experiences nonetheless. And it drives them to seek membership to groups; re-establish memberships to groups; and to confirm or "prove" membership to groups. They might result in public displays of piety like hanging artist renditions of mythical characters like Jesus or Mary in their office cubes or they might result in public displays of group membership like flashy gold dental arrangements (commonly referred to as "grills") or they might result in painting faces at a major league ball game.

    (Also, I have seen nothing in your post to indicate any sort of "mental issue". I would ignore any such suggestions.
    Nor have I. Not, at least, that which doesn't affect all of us as Homo sapiens. Suggestions of any abnormal mental issues would be out of line.

    I do, however, find it fascinating that you automatically use the unconfirmed and poor evidence of an anecdote to confirm you specific and particular notion of a god. Not the god of Muhammad or the gods of the Hindu. Not the gods of Polynesians or ancient Egyptians and Greeks. But your god.

    Telling, it is.
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    inow wrote:

    "The experiments in which we manipulate people's own beliefs are the most compelling evidence we have to show that people's own beliefs influence what they think God believes more substantially than it influences what they think other people believe," says Epley.
    inow wrote:
    In the first two cases, similar parts of the brain were active. When asked to contemplate other Americans' beliefs, however, an area of the brain used for inferring other people's mental states was active. This implies that people map God's beliefs onto their own.

    For many religious people, the popular question "What would Jesus do?" is essentially the same as "What would I do?" That's the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.

    They use their own beliefs as a starting point, which colours their final conclusions. Epley found that the same process happens, and then some, when people try and divine the mind of God. Their opinions on God's attitudes on important social issues closely mirror their own beliefs. If their own attitudes change, so do their perceptions of what God thinks. They even use the same parts of their brain when considering God's will and their own opinions.
    I have seen this occur within many denominations. Either quoting one's personal beliefs and attributing them to God. Or quoting the conventional denomination's dogma as their own and God's. There is also the additional "follow the herd" syndrome irregardless of one's inner compass. IMHO, how can a individual clear away the chaff of any particular individual social belief system and or religiosity covering the reality. In my particular experience there are too many others outside of my mind who participated. And quite honestly, some have a difference of opinion concerning core doctrinal beliefs, yet participated.

    I used this particular anecdote because of the number of diverse individuals involved, the distances and the timing of the events. I am stuck with the truth of that, one I cannot deny. Yet, I have a curiosity of the events.
    I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
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    SkinWalker wrote
    I do, however, find it fascinating that you automatically use the unconfirmed and poor evidence of an anecdote to confirm you specific and particular notion of a god. Not the god of Muhammad or the gods of the Hindu. Not the gods of Polynesians or ancient Egyptians and Greeks. But your god.

    Telling, it is.

    I wonder how many within those belief systems would express something similar?


    I would say "billions" of various believers have had and are having such experiences. Not all of the billions deem their experiences "religious" or "spiritual" but they have such experiences nonetheless.

    But, I think you have already indicated so.
    I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdlb

    While it is true at the moment of my experience I had a idea of God. Yet, I had no idea of this type of connection or that someone else far removed from myself would repeat verbatim what was said to me.
    The problem with claims such as this nature is that they are subjective facts, not objective. There is no direct evidence that it actually happened. An example of a subjective fact would be a headache. If you have a headache, there is no way to prove it to me, I would have to take your word for it. I believe it is the way that you presented indirect evidence as proof of God that is frowned upon. Looking at your experience from a logical perspective, it would be reasonable of me to deny the claim.
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    inow said:

    "[You] fail to realize that your story simply cannot hold up to any scrutiny and fails immediately after even modest inspection. . .

    . . . unicorns . . .

    . . .Why should I believe you that there is an invisible sky pixie orchestrating every event in the entire universe?"
    We have different ways of knowing different things. If I want to know whether I have a box of Cheerios in my food cabinet, I merely go look. If there is a box that says Cheerios, I pick it up, feel the heft, rattle it and I can determine that I do, indeed, have Cheerios in the cabinet.

    But if I want to know if my neighbor is my friend, I have a totally different set of criteria that I must use to make that evaluation. I will not be able to make this determination by looking in my food cabinet.

    I do not know why you are unable to understand that no one has ever claimed that the God of the Bible is a physical being who can be proven or disproven by means of materalism -- which is what you want. In contrast, a unicorn would be a materialistic, observable object. As such, it would be (or at least its fossil remains) would be easily discoverable because it is materialistic.

    So when you ask us to show you a spirit being by means of materialism, it is sort of like me asking you to show me my neighbor's friendship toward me by looking in my food pantry.

    The Bible says in several places that God has revealed himself to us in His word and in nature -- in the heavens (space) and on earth and goes on to say that those who do not see Him there are without excuse in denying Him.

    Your materialistic view of the world makes it impossible for you to accept the spiritual which is not materialistic. It always amuses me that you folks limit yourselves to the materialist and intellectual and fool yourselves into believing that your life is fuller and more complete than our lives which also include the spiritual. Sort of a less-is-more kind of thing.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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    korben said: (of rdlb's experience)

    The problem with claims such as this nature is that they are subjective facts, not objective. There is no direct evidence that it actually happened. An example of a subjective fact would be a headache. If you have a headache, there is no way to prove it to me, I would have to take your word for it. I believe it is the way that you presented indirect evidence as proof of God that is frowned upon. Looking at your experience from a logical perspective, it would be reasonable of me to deny the claim.
    I don't know that the idea of experience exactly falls into a subjective-objective differentiation. Having an experience is not nearly so subjective as the meaning of that experience. We can both experience the same thing such as eating a Big Mac. There is nothing subjective about that. But whether we liked the Big Mac or enjoyed eating the Big Mac are both subjective evaluations.

    If I am walking in the woods alone and observe a bear taking a dump, I can say that is proof that a bear does deposit scat in the woods. (I think there is another way we sometimes say that!!!) There is no direct evidence that I actually had that experience nor is it proof that bears do deposit scat in the woods.

    You can doubt that I had such an experience, but I am not sure what the basis of your skepticism would be. It could be that you do not believe bears deposit scat in the woods and, therefore, I could not have seen it happen. It could be that despite many similar reports of similar observations, you just don't believe anyone has had that experience. It could be that because you, yourself, have never had that experience, you do not think anyone else could have it. I suppose there are a number of other reasons you could be skeptical, but your skepticism would never be proof that I did not observe a bear depositing scat in the woods.

    As such, I don't think it would be reasonable for you to "deny the claim" that I had the experience. I don't think it would be unreasonable for you to be skeptical or to doubt the experience and what I attempted to show through it. But I don't think you can reasonably and categorically deny that rdlb had his experience.

    While you might disagree with his understanding of the experience, your disagreement is made without having had the experience. So who would you believe an explanation of weightlessness from -- me or an anstronaut who has been to the ISS?
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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    Your materialistic view of the world makes it impossible for you to accept the spiritual which is not materialistic. It always amuses me that you folks limit yourselves to the materialist and intellectual and fool yourselves into believing that your life is fuller and more complete than our lives which also include the spiritual. Sort of a less-is-more kind of thing.
    Good post dayton. I'll go one step further in saying that the spiritual as you call it may in fact be just another form of a materialistic view that we are unable to grasp in it's entirety due to an entirely different set of physical laws. One could say the two don't speak the same language or even use sound waves to communicate. We can't understand or even believe in what doesn't translate to what we know. Even for those who feel they know they can't explain it to others as they themselves can't truly know the true nature. It would be like trying to express the mood of a fish that lives at the bottom of the ocean without light or sound.

    I don't deny the concept of the spiritual world, on the contrary I rather embrace it, on the other hand I'm also aware of the limitations of mans ability to understand something that falls outside his know laws of reality. I also am willing to realize that it might not be what man thought it was. It's hard to come up with an analogy as everything I could use for an example falls somehow into the laws we know.

    I look at the fact that we could never explain how or why we are here or what makes up the smallest thing we can discover. We run in to constant paradoxical limits to our knowledge. I can only conclude that it's caused by the laws we have been imprisoned by. The movie the matrix is my favorite on this subject. If you've always lived in the matrix you would have a hard time thinking outside of the matrix. Now take that one step further and make the world inside the matrix not conform to a single physical law outside the matrix. It would be impossible to live outside the matrix and still maintain one self. The spiritual world while it may exist may have rules much like my example, where nothing we can fathom right now applies. It can't really be understood using a thought process based on our current set of rules. Yet we might still understand that it exists.

    Hope any of that made sense.
    Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    korben said: (of rdlb's experience)

    The problem with claims such as this nature is that they are subjective facts, not objective. There is no direct evidence that it actually happened. An example of a subjective fact would be a headache. If you have a headache, there is no way to prove it to me, I would have to take your word for it. I believe it is the way that you presented indirect evidence as proof of God that is frowned upon. Looking at your experience from a logical perspective, it would be reasonable of me to deny the claim.
    I don't know that the idea of experience exactly falls into a subjective-objective differentiation. Having an experience is not nearly so subjective as the meaning of that experience. We can both experience the same thing such as eating a Big Mac. There is nothing subjective about that. But whether we liked the Big Mac or enjoyed eating the Big Mac are both subjective evaluations.

    If I am walking in the woods alone and observe a bear taking a dump, I can say that is proof that a bear does deposit scat in the woods. (I think there is another way we sometimes say that!!!) There is no direct evidence that I actually had that experience nor is it proof that bears do deposit scat in the woods.

    You can doubt that I had such an experience, but I am not sure what the basis of your skepticism would be. It could be that you do not believe bears deposit scat in the woods and, therefore, I could not have seen it happen. It could be that despite many similar reports of similar observations, you just don't believe anyone has had that experience. It could be that because you, yourself, have never had that experience, you do not think anyone else could have it. I suppose there are a number of other reasons you could be skeptical, but your skepticism would never be proof that I did not observe a bear depositing scat in the woods.

    As such, I don't think it would be reasonable for you to "deny the claim" that I had the experience. I don't think it would be unreasonable for you to be skeptical or to doubt the experience and what I attempted to show through it. But I don't think you can reasonably and categorically deny that rdlb had his experience.

    While you might disagree with his understanding of the experience, your disagreement is made without having had the experience. So who would you believe an explanation of weightlessness from -- me or an anstronaut who has been to the ISS?
    No, what you're saying is wrong. What I stated is one of the basic principles of logic. I could find direct evidence that bears take a dump in the woods by traveling into the woods myself and observe it which shows it's factualness. If you tell me about an event that happened such as: you saw a bear today take a dump in the woods, it would be from indirect evidence. The Lincoln assassination is an event that is over and done with, and there are no living witnesses to the event whom we might consult. Obviously, we did not ourselves witness the event, so direct evidence is out of the question. In this case our approach will be to acquaint ourselves with a variety of things that serve as indirect evidence of the event. For example, we would consult official documents (police reports, the death certificate, ect.), newspaper accounts, photographs, memoirs, diaries, and items in the Congressional Record, all of which are facts in their own rights and whose only reasonable explanation is the factualness of the Lincoln's assassination. Therefore, it is reasonable to deny the claim of this individuals experience. Establishing the reality of subjective facts depends entirely on the trustworthiness of those who claim to be experiencing them. I have trustworthy sources to establish that the Lincoln assassination did indeed happen.
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  52. #51  
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    If I am walking in the woods alone and observe a bear taking a dump, I can say that is proof that a bear does deposit scat in the woods. (I think there is another way we sometimes say that!!!) There is no direct evidence that I actually had that experience nor is it proof that bears do deposit scat in the woods.

    You can doubt that I had such an experience, but I am not sure what the basis of your skepticism would be. It could be that you do not believe bears deposit scat in the woods and, therefore, I could not have seen it happen. It could be that despite many similar reports of similar observations, you just don't believe anyone has had that experience. It could be that because you, yourself, have never had that experience, you do not think anyone else could have it.
    Besides being a rather blatant strawman of the actual atheist position, what you've put forth above is little more than another false analogy. Not only can your claim of finding bear scat in the woods be falsified, but the scat itself is very clearly defined, subject to very precise parameters, and will not vary depending on who you ask.

    None of those apply to your god concept. Your god concept is ill defined, lacking in clear parameters, and (by definition) not falsifiable. It's not about never having the personal experience, nor about believing that nobody has ever had that experience. Where do you come up with this stuff?


    Do you perhaps have a different analogy which actually applies here?
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    Skinwalker:

    I have not quite figured out how to isolate quotes and responses. Thus, I cannot answer your questions individually.

    I have not studied the belief systems of cultures who believe in other Gods. However, the little I do know about the Greek Gods for example, is that these Gods often behaved like I would expect humans with power to behave eg. seducing human women etc. This indicates to me that these Gods came from human imagination.

    As far as Rdlb's experience, it is consistent with what Scripture tells us about what is important in the search for God. Rdlb's experience is another example of a "Prodigal son" type of experience where the believer seeks God with humility, and God's response was swift and clear. However, speaking for myself, this level of humility is both important, and takes some work to achieve (I am still working on it).

    Many people want evidence for God's existence to be reproducible in the scientific sense.
    For example if God were to set up some physical manifestation like "Mount Olympus" that everyone could see, then everyone could believe that God exists without ever developing a relationship with God. In my opinion, that is exactly why this sort of thing is not done. God wants that relationship. When we come to Him, he gives us the evidence.
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  54. #53  
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    Dedo,

    Please make an effort to remain strictly on the topic. Your posts are extremely subjective in opinion and present many a priori assumptions that your particular god exists and, therefore, come across as preaching.

    Should you find that your posts are missing, please refer to this post as a possible reason. Preaching, witnessing, and proselytizing are not only not permitted here, but considered to be the weakest form of human generated spam.

    This is a science forum and we approach all subjects and topics in from a scientific point of view. If it is your opinion that science cannot be applied to Christian mythology or beliefs, then you are welcome to not post in this subforum.
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    inow said:

    Besides being a rather blatant strawman of the actual atheist position, what you've put forth above is little more than another false analogy. Not only can your claim of finding bear scat in the woods be falsified, but the scat itself is very clearly defined, subject to very precise parameters, and will not vary depending on who you ask.

    None of those apply to your god concept. Your god concept is ill defined, lacking in clear parameters, and (by definition) not falsifiable. It's not about never having the personal experience, nor about believing that nobody has ever had that experience. Where do you come up with this stuff?
    I suppose those who are as deeply invested in materialism as some posters here seem to be, these kinds of discussions will be very esoteric in nature.

    Do you understand anything beyond the literal? The discussion had nothing to do with a bear dropping scat in the woods. The discussion was about whether one could categorically deny my report of my experience based on their lack of the same experience or their preconceived belief that bears do not drop scat in the woods.

    Why is it when you disagree with someone, their comments are strawman, irrational, illogical, irrelevant or off topic? Maybe you're the one who is having trouble understanding???
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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    Dayton - You have done little more than evade the question and skirt the criticisms of your argument. How about you work instead on addressing those, rather than yet again trying to deflect the conversation on to personal comments about me and my character?
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  57. #56  
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I suppose those who are as deeply invested in materialism as some posters here seem to be, these kinds of discussions will be very esoteric in nature.
    Ultimately, the material universe is all that matters. Even concepts and ideas that are seemingly immaterial (daydreams about being a grain of sand among billions of sibling sand grains; musical scores that are appreciated by millions; artistic renderings that create abstract representations of reality; love between two or more people; etc.) are the result of material processes, which are the neurochemical activities of the human brain. If you remove the human brain (a material object) from any of these "immaterial" concepts, all "non-material" human endeavors disappear. No gods, no superstitions, no love, no art, no music, no daydreams.

    The material universe is what counts above all else. Without it, all else is non-existent.

    Why is it when you disagree with someone, their comments are strawman, irrational, illogical, irrelevant or off topic? Maybe you're the one who is having trouble understanding???
    I think its that the only way to argue an irrational and superstitious assertion is to ultimately invoke logical fallacy. If logical fallacies like strawman arguments, circularity, and appeals to authority and popularity weren't used, your conclusions should be closer to that of atheism. I will grant you this, you do a better job of avoiding fallacious argumentation than the average theist. You seem to like bad analogies, but conversations with your are still far more intellectually challenging than those with other believers.
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  58. #57  
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Why is it when you disagree with someone, their comments are strawman
    It has nothing to do with the fact I disagree with you. Your comments about the reasons why atheists have chosen their position of non-belief truly was a strawman. Let me elaborate...

    You claimed that atheists maintain their position of disbelief because they feel that others on this planet cannot have the experience of god... That was your (poor) analogy when discussing bear scat in the woods.


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    It could be that you do not believe bears deposit scat in the woods and, therefore, I could not have seen it happen. It could be that despite many similar reports of similar observations, you just don't believe anyone has had that experience. It could be that because you, yourself, have never had that experience, you do not think anyone else could have it.
    That is a BLATANT and OBVIOUS strawman of the actual atheist position held by the vast majority of non-believers, and I truly believe you already know that.

    An atheist takes the position they do due to the lack of evidence in favor of the god concept. An atheist takes the position they do due to the fact that there are so many different gods out there in human society, they all are different, and none of them have a drop of evidence in their favor.

    In short, an atheist takes the position they do due to the same reasons that you don't believe in Thor, Zeus, Apollo, or even unicorns, leprechauns, or the tooth fairy. It's just that atheists go one god further and include YOUR god in that set of stuff worthy of rejection.

    You may notice... this is NOT the same thing as "not believing that anyone has had this experience," and it is NOT the same thing as "not thinking anyone else could have it."


    So yeah, Dayton... Your post WAS a strawman of the atheist position. I'm sorry if you don't like it, but your personal indignation does not change that fact.
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    If I am walking in the woods alone and observe a bear taking a dump, I can say that is proof that a bear does deposit scat in the woods. (I think there is another way we sometimes say that!!!) There is no direct evidence that I actually had that experience nor is it proof that bears do deposit scat in the woods.

    You can doubt that I had such an experience, but I am not sure what the basis of your skepticism would be. It could be that you do not believe bears deposit scat in the woods and, therefore, I could not have seen it happen. It could be that despite many similar reports of similar observations, you just don't believe anyone has had that experience. It could be that because you, yourself, have never had that experience, you do not think anyone else could have it.
    The MAIN problem with your analogy Dayton, is that anyone can go out into the woods, locate a bear, and study it from a distance. No one can do the same to your God to find the validity of your claim.
    "Democracy is a problem because it treats everyone as equals." - Betty Fischer

    "back in the 50's or 60's Nicky Criuz was a gang leader who met David Wilkerson in New York City. After much discussion over months or years, i forget how long, Wilkerson's wife became pregnant. one day Cruz decides to test God, he basically prayed--God if you are real let the baby be born a boy-- it was a boy. "
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  60. #59  
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    The real subject of interest here are experiences deemed religious.

    It's apparent that people claim to have them. This much is indisputable.

    The thing that is interesting is why people claim certain experiences to be religious. I think we can all admit, even those who are believers and consider themselves religious, that there are many people who claim to have experiences that are made of whole cloth. That is to say, the experiences are completely fabricated. One can further surmise the reasons for these fabrications: they feel the need to appeal to their fellow believers; they want status among fellow believers and pious consideration that is endowed upon those who describe "religious experiences" to their peers; they want to justify their beliefs to those that dare question or criticize them; etc.

    Then there are those who genuinely have some sort of "experience" that requires explanation. If I show you a webcam image of my brother from my laptop, anyone with the ability to read this post would likely conclude that my brother has a laptop or PC with a webcam pointed at him. And if we were conversing in real-time, it would be fair to conclude that we're using software like Skype. If, however, I were using this laptop among the Fulani of West Africa, and one of them looked over my shoulder, I shouldn't be surprised that a rumor has spread among the village that I keep my brother in a small box slung over my shoulder.

    The Fulani tribesman had an "experience" to which he applied explanation to the best of his ability. If we apply this same principle to someone who has a culturally indoctrinated belief of the Christian (or Islamic, or Hindu...) god, then can we not expect them to apply their "explanations" in a similar manner?

    And education is no guarantee that indoctrination will be overcome. Generations of West Africans in countries like Mali have been indoctrinated to expect that the contents of food containers are depicted on the exterior of the container. Even after being "educated" that the baby on the outside of the baby food container was not an indication of the contents, many people of Mali refused to accept even free jars of peanut butter or baby foods that had pictures of babies on them.

    If an Aztec priest were to cut the heart out of his still living and conscious enemy and claim that, as he consumed the liquid freshly squeezed from the muscle that pumped a final time in its new master's hand, he could "feel the presence of Quetzacoatl fill him" and could "here Quetzacoatl speak to him," should we accept this as a religious experience? Why or why not?
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  61. #60  
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    Skinwalker said:

    The material universe is what counts above all else. Without it, all else is non-existent.
    I find this interesting from the "all else is non-existent" aspect. It is difficult to express my wonder at this statement. What, beyond, the materialistic, would the materialist feel could be rendered non-existent if the material universe was not present? That is, what other than the materialistic does a materialist consider exists?

    But, of course, you must realize that from the perspective of the spirtualist, the feeling would be that without the creative effort of the spirit being we call God, there would be no materialistic Universe.

    Thanks, by the way, for the compliment. I do appreciate it. I know my analogies are often hokie, but the responses to them usually make it obvious that I made my point and it was understood the way I intended which is, ultimately, the object of communication. And no mean feat among the post-modernists who populate these threads.

    I agree with a lot of what you have to say about phony experiences and the basis by which we can evaluate the experiences of others. I think sometimes it is easy to doubt the validity of a reported experience. However, the manner of reporting of an experience or the seeming embellishment of an experience or the significance attached to an experience are all things we would weigh in trying to judge the validity of the experience.

    But I think the most important thing in evaluating the experiences of others is to avoid judging the validity of their experience on the basis of our own experience or lack thereof.

    I think it highly possible that your Aztec may well have had some exhilarating spiritual feeling from his experience. I suspect a jihadist suicide bomber has some sort of spirtual experience as he detonates his bomb and probably so did the 9-11 terrorists.

    I will say this, however, nobody has to die today for someone to have a salvation experience. The only death required for that took place some 2,000 years ago.

    I have found that reaching the summit of a mountain is an exhilerating, spiritual experience. I have never found it particularly religious other than something like, "Thank God, I made it." That was always followed by, "Oh, crap, now I gotta go down," which I always found less exhilerating but more painful than going up.

    Usually our purpose in sharing an experience is to help others decide whether the experience is something they might wish to accomplish. If you were to ask me if scaling a mountain is a worthwhile endeavor, even with my limited experience, I would say it most certainly is. If you were to ask me if having a personal relationship with the eternal, living God is a worthwhile endeavor, I would have to say it most certainly is. I do not expect you to run out and start climbing mountains even though, if you are physically capable of doing so, I am sure you would it to be a wonderful experience. Nor do I expect you sit down right now and ask Jesus into your life even though I am sure that, if you were sincere, you would find that to be a wonderful experience.

    Now then, as to inow's post. It is obvious that inow is judging others by his own experience. Not all atheists are atheists for the reason he claims to be an atheist. Quite often people are atheists because of some bad experience they had among the religious giving rise to the thought, "Well, if that is what religion is like and what God is like, I don't want to have anything to do with it." And some atheists categorically deny the reported religious experiences of others because they do not believe there is any such thing.

    And as to verzen: Somehow it seems like we are doing just that, reporting what we have experienced and you are saying because you have not had that experience, you do not believe we have had it. Just because you cannot locate God does not mean that others have not. Actually, I have never experienced being in the woods and seeing a bear dropping scat, but I am experiencing a personal relationship with God whether you think it valid or not.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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  62. #61  
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Now then, as to inow's post. It is obvious that inow is judging others by his own experience. Not all atheists are atheists for the reason he claims to be an atheist. Quite often people are atheists because of some bad experience they had among the religious giving rise to the thought, "Well, if that is what religion is like and what God is like, I don't want to have anything to do with it." And some atheists categorically deny the reported religious experiences of others because they do not believe there is any such thing.
    Fair enough. I should have prefaced my comments with a qualifier like "most" atheists... My point remains. Your view of why people are atheists is skewed, rather biased, and not representative, ergo is a strawman of the actual reasons for "most" atheists choosing the position they have.

    I would like to see examples of your final sentence, too, because that just looks like made-up crap, but that would take us even further off-topic so I won't push it.
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  63. #62 Re: Natural Explanations for Religious Experiences 
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    [quote="SkinWalker"]
    A commenter made a valid observation in the nativity thread that a sub-topic developed on religious experience(s) whereas the main theme to date was free speech as it relates to the Nativity Display thread. So I thought I'd copy the relevant portion of that thread that began the discussion and allow it to foster or die here.

    Quote Originally Posted by DaytonTurner
    I think that is what disturbs me most. You atheist folks call believers irrational and nut cases because they claim to have had and respond to an experience that you have not had. You have no basis, whatsoever, to deny the validity of another's experience only because you have not had the same experience. That, to me, is irrational.
    I think that many of us have had the so-called experiences you claim to have had. But one or two things happens during these "experiences:"

    1) they happened to an atheist when they were still in the believer camp and now, as rational thought has replaced irrational regarding their religious views, the experiences are viewed in new light and haven't the significance they once had. Doubtless you are thinking something like, "then they didn't have an experience on par with a real experience." But this is a cop-out since the counter argument would be, perhaps you didn't have a rational epiphany on par with the believer turned atheist.

    2) the neurochemical events of the "experiences" occurred to atheists with no need to pigeon-hole them in a pre-existing cultural framework.

    If # 2 is valid, then we should expect to see that the overwhelming majority of the world's population subscribes to the religious superstitions of their pre-existing culture.
    As an ex non believer turned Deist without the traditional miracle working God, thanks to my apotheosis or rapprochement to the Godhead, I claim a spiritual experience.

    I call it going from fame to fool because I know that most will not believe me because like all of these cases, it cannot be proven to others.

    I should also state that I am still, and more, anti literalist and fundamental than I was before.

    My paradigm is fully natural and at no time do I invoke any supernatural phenomena.
    Nothing that I know of can exceed the bounds of nature and physics.

    The Godhead that I found is a cosmic consciousness and just our next evolutionary step.
    I do not adore or pray to this entity. I do not respect it any more than a tadpole should for the frog he will become. Both are just there without choice just like the Godhead has no choice but to be what it is.

    I do not tend to ridicule any that have had a spiritual experience unless they point to a miracle working absentee God.
    These I consider to be adults who have not quite grown up yet and show belief in talking animals and water turning into a fine wine. With them I try to stick to issues of morals only but they always seem to just spout their dogma that is often times immoral but they do not recognize it because of this same dogma.

    I E, I consider Noah’s flood to be God acting immorally by killing children and babies who cannot possibly be evil and deserving of death. Christians who believe in the supernatural just say that this is God’s justice. That is when the fur starts to fly.

    I appreciate and understand the atheist view as I was once there but would advise none to rule out anything. We still have much to learn. Possibly from others who have gone into the spirit, as the ancients used to say. In modern terms, I call it telepathy.

    Regards
    DL
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  64. #63  
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    Religious Experiences: Out of Body, Light at the End of the tunnel, Feeling God's presence, Feeling Loved by God etc.

    Natural Explanations: Drug-induced, Affected by external environment such as high G, Direct stimulation at certain brain-cells. These can be reproducible.
    : Self-induced based on certain beliefs. This is validated by a number of experiments.

    So, virtually all religious experiences have natural explanations.

    Of course, they also have the un-natural explanation, i.e. God did it (which can be used to explain anything). But is it the topic of the this thread?
    If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism
    -Albert Einstein
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  65. #64  
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    prasit said:
    This is validated by a number of experiments. So, virtually all religious experiences have natural explanations.
    Uhhh, is it possible that you could cite to reports on some some of these experiments to show the methodolgy which proves that there are natural explanations for spiritual experiences?

    It is not that I doubt such studies have been conducted, just that I know when someone sets out to prove something, they usually do -- even if it is not right.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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  66. #65  
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    Found by Google:

    OBE? Your brain is to blame http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/03/he...gy/03shad.html

    OBE Recreated
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6960612.stm

    What other spiritual experiences are you interested in? I do not have all references ready to show you, but I am willing to search them for you, if you can describe specific experiences you are interested in.
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  67. #66  
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    Quote Originally Posted by prasit
    Found by Google:

    OBE? Your brain is to blame http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/03/he...gy/03shad.html

    OBE Recreated
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6960612.stm

    What other spiritual experiences are you interested in? I do not have all references ready to show you, but I am willing to search them for you, if you can describe specific experiences you are interested in.
    So the "discovery" is it can be induced? Even the proponents of OoBE and "astral travel" say that! So I don't think they will find it in any way surprising.
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  68. #67  
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    I do not know that these tests have shown anything other than that we can artificially induce natural phenomena. I am not fully convinced that inducing these phenomena actually explains why and how it happens when they have not been artificially induced. I am not aware of anyone who has ever been placed on an operating table wearing 3-D glasses and watching the operation in a mirror while anesthetized, but I am aware of people who claim to have had OBEs while undergoing surgery.

    Just because we can deconstruct something, it does not necessarily mean we have discovered how it was constructed. And even if we can duplicate some natural process, it does not necessary mean that nature did it the same way we did.

    prasit said earlier:

    So, virtually all religious experiences have natural explanations.
    Well, even if we can come up with natural explanations (whatever those are), that does not rule out other explanations such as a supernatural explanation. The only way you can get to that conclusion is to be predisposed to rule out supernatural explanations.

    You do forge yourself an out with the phrase "virtually all," but this seems to connote the idea that the reason they do not have a natural explanation is because it has not been found -- yet.

    I do not rule out the likelyhood that many reported supernatural events and experiences may have had some natural cause, but that does not mean all such occurences or experiences had a natural cause, nor does it rule out the possibility that they had a supernatural cause.

    I don't know, maybe we are pretty much saying the same thing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I do not know that...
    <...>
    I am not fully convinced that...
    <...>
    I am not aware of...
    <...>
    Well, even if we can come up with natural explanations (whatever those are), that does not rule out other explanations such as a supernatural explanation. The only way you can get to that conclusion is to be predisposed to rule out supernatural explanations.
    <...>
    I don't know...
    Don't all the best arguments begin this way?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance
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    Didn't realize I was arguing. I was commenting and opining.

    If you want to argue, go right ahead. You don't often offer anything other than unsupported opinions yourself. Do you consider that your exclusive domain?
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    You do realize that "commenting and opining" are methods in argumentation?

    And, inow is correct, you are arguing from ignorance in your "comments" and "opinions."

    The point of the many methods of inducing so-called "spiritual experiences" and experiences that are perceived of as religious, is that this demonstrates that there can be naturalistic causes. The methods of induction share many characters and traits of naturally occurring causes of these same "experiences," namely the bio-chemical / neuro-chemical events in the brain itself.

    If these events can be brought on intentionally, there's no reason to rule out naturally occurring mechanisms that do the same. Since there is no good reason to accept the existence of supernatural causes, or causes that are based in the superstitions of the experiencer's cult, the most parsimonious explanations remaining are natural.

    Are you needing more clinical examples of experiences deemed religious or spiritual that have been induced in the lab? I have some citations I can provide if you find them helpful.
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    skinwalker said:

    You do realize that "commenting and opining" are methods in argumentation?
    Would you mind completing this sentence fragment so that it says something?

    skinwalker uses the phrases:

    ". . . there can be" . . . "can be brought on. . ."
    These are definitive claims?

    inow objected to my phraseology:

    I do not know that these tests have shown anything other than that we can artificially induce natural phenomena. I am not fully convinced that inducing these phenomena actually explains why and how it happens when they have not been artificially induced. I am not aware of anyone who has ever been placed on an operating table wearing 3-D glasses and watching the operation in a mirror while anesthetized, but I am aware of people who claim to have had OBEs while undergoing surgery.
    I will rephrase it:

    These tests have shown nothing other than that we can artificially induce phenomena which have also occured naturally. This does not show what causes them when they occur naturally. It does not prove that the artificial method is an exact duplicate of the natural methed. Do you know of any instance in which a person was placed on an operating table wearing 3-D glasses and watching their surgery in a mirror while anesthetized? So how could that cited "test" come close to duplicating a natural incident. There are several testimonials of people having OBEs while undergoing surgery which was not in close proximity to the brain. A search on out of body experiences will turn up innumerable testimonials.

    It seems to be typical of scientistics that if they can find a way to artificially duplicate something in nature, they automatically believe that is the way nature has done it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Are you needing more clinical examples of experiences deemed religious or spiritual that have been induced in the lab? I have some citations I can provide if you find them helpful.
    Seriously, no matter what you think or believe, this is not a good argument. They do not say it can't be induced. If you google "astral travel" you will find that all these involve letting body go asleep and the mind stay awake or "disconnecting" the body from the brain. Which is exactly what they did in the lab, except it does not involve open skulls.
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    And, except, astral "travelers" don't travel anywhere. They have a perception of traveling induced by neurochemical events (or simply delusion).
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    You have a perception of reading this forum induced by neurochemical events (or simply delusion).
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    Daytonturner wrote
    These tests have shown nothing other than that we can artificially induce phenomena which have also occured naturally
    The tests show that we can induce the phenomena. By nature, every test is artificial (you should expect it when you ask me to cite the experiment).
    This does not show what causes them when they occur naturally.
    It shows that the brain can be tricked to perceive something that is not actually happening.

    . It does not prove that the artificial method is an exact duplicate of the natural method
    When we do the nuclear fusion experiment, it does not prove that the experiment is an exact duplicate of the natural phenomena in the center of the sun. Still, we think it a better explanation than there is a sun god radiating intense heat from his body.

    There are several testimonials of people having OBEs while undergoing surgery which was not in close proximity to the brain
    OBE can be induced without surgery. If you can find the people who have OBEs without their brains, then this will invalidate the claim.

    A search on out of body experiences will turn up innumerable testimonials.
    The testimonials may indicate that they have experienced OBE, but not validate the claim that their souls (or spirit, essence, core or whatever) exist and can float away from their bodies.
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    prasit said:
    It shows that the brain can be tricked to perceive something that is not actually happening.
    It does not show that the brain was tricked to perceive something that was not actually happening except in that instance or those instances. It does not show that the brain was tricked other than the times we know we induced the trickery.

    prasit said:


    The testimonials may indicate that they have experienced OBE, but not validate the claim that their souls (or spirit, essence, core or whatever) exist and can float away from their bodies.
    Was that claim made here? On this thread? Even if valid, I have no idea what OBEs show.

    prasit said:

    When we do the nuclear fusion experiment, it does not prove that the experiment is an exact duplicate of the natural phenomena in the center of the sun. Still, we think it a better explanation than there is a sun god radiating intense heat from his body.
    If you think nuclear fusion is a valid comparison to brain function, I have some beach front property on the sun I would be happy to sell you.
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    daytonturner wrote
    It does not show that the brain was tricked to perceive something that was not actually happening except in that instance or those instances. It does not show that the brain was tricked other than the times we know we induced the trickery.
    Taking the double negative out, the statements are:
    It shows that the brain was tricked to perceive something that was not actually happening in those instances. It does not show that the brain was tricked in any other times (or instances).

    Using this reasoning further to apply generally to any experiments, it means that any experiments are useless because they validate certain hypothesis only on those instances of experiments. They cannot be used to explain the real word phenomenon.

    Do you think so?

    Was that claim made here? On this thread? Even if valid, I have no idea what OBEs show.
    No, the claim (that there is a soul separating from a body) was not originally made on this thread.
    OK. I accept that you do not have any idea what OBEs show.

    if you think nuclear fusion is a valid comparison to brain function, I have some beach front property on the sun I would be happy to sell you.
    If you think it is not a valid comparison, then explain your reasoning. This is a science forum, not a bulletin for sales advertisement.
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    Quote Originally Posted by prasit
    It shows that the brain can be tricked to perceive something that is not actually happening.
    It is almost exactly same as methods used to induce OBE. All methods you find use some way of "disconnecting" body from the brain. Please explain what that experiment discovered that wasn't already known.
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    I don't think these methods disconnect the body from the brain. There are other things that can do that, guillotine, for example. But that is not the religious experience we are talking about.
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    What we can show is that, chemically, the same causation most often produces the same effect. We cannot show that an effect is always the result of the same causation.

    Your premise is that because we can artificially "trick" the brain into a form of OBE, all OBEs are the result of "tricking" the brain. What you are doing is the logical error of drawing a generality from a specific. (All scientistics walk in single file because the only one I ever saw did.)

    If we can trick the body's foot into movement by touching a spot in the brain with an electrode, it does not mean that every movement of the foot is the result of some trick being played on the brain.

    Defining the natural process by which fusion takes place on the sun is not the same as "tricking" the sun into doing it. "Tricking" the brain into some response is not the same as defining the natural process.
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    Daytonturner wrote:
    Your premise is that because we can artificially "trick" the brain into a form of OBE, all OBEs are the result of "tricking" the brain
    My premise is that OBE experience can be explained by normal science, backed by experiments.
    What you are doing is the logical error of drawing a generality from a specific.
    Let's say the scientists start with a hypothesis (generality) and validate it with experiments (specific).
    If we can trick the body's foot into movement by touching a spot in the brain with an electrode, it does not mean that every movement of the foot is the result of some trick being played on the brain.
    It probably means that the foot muscle is controlled by activating that spot of the brain. That will be the assumption unless it is invalidated by future experiments.
    Defining the natural process by which fusion takes place on the sun is not the same as "tricking" the sun into doing it.
    So we cannot prove that fusion take place on the sun, because all experiments to prove it are artificial. Right?

    By the way, you stressed the word "trick" several times like it is a bad word. In this discussion it means setting up a certain condition to see if it can cause a certain outcome. When we set up that conditional then it is artificial. But if that same condition occurs without human intervention then it is natural.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Your premise is that because we can artificially "trick" the brain into a form of OBE, all OBEs are the result of "tricking" the brain. What you are doing is the logical error of drawing a generality from a specific.
    The idea is that god can be experienced without god existing, ergo arguments for god based on personal belief are deemed moot. Since you have zero evidence for god beside your own personal belief, we can safely dismiss it as a bunch of horseshit. Simple enough for your religious mindset?
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    OK, prasit, so you believe that artificial process is the exact replica of what actually happens by natural processes. By that token you should believe that because a magician can make a person disappear through trickery, they can be made to disappear by natural processes.

    inow said:
    The idea is that god can be experienced without god existing, ergo arguments for god based on personal belief are deemed moot. Since you have zero evidence for god beside your own personal belief, we can safely dismiss it as a bunch of horseshit. Simple enough for your religious mindset?
    Only those predisposed to dismissing God could come up with such a horseshit explanation. Because we can experience orgasm without having intercourse, I guess we can dismiss that you were a legitimate child of two human parents.
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    daytonturner wrote:
    OK, prasit, so you believe that artificial process is the exact replica of what actually happens by natural processes.
    Please do not misquote me.
    By that token you should believe that because a magician can make a person disappear through trickery, they can be made to disappear by natural processes.
    That's why there are still a lot of missing persons.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    inow said:
    The idea is that god can be experienced without god existing, ergo arguments for god based on personal belief are deemed moot. Since you have zero evidence for god beside your own personal belief, we can safely dismiss it as a bunch of horseshit. Simple enough for your religious mindset?
    Only those predisposed to dismissing God could come up with such a horseshit explanation. Because we can experience orgasm without having intercourse, I guess we can dismiss that you were a legitimate child of two human parents.
    But we also know that intercourse between two people can lead into an orgasm and pregnancy through the scientific method, so your position is moot, again.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iNow
    The idea is that god can be experienced without god existing, ergo arguments for god based on personal belief are deemed moot. Since you have zero evidence for god beside your own personal belief, we can safely dismiss it as a bunch of horseshit. Simple enough for your religious mindset?
    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Because we can experience orgasm without having intercourse, I guess we can dismiss that you were a legitimate child of two human parents.
    My point: There is no objective evidence for god. All you have to substantiate your beliefs is in your head. Since those same beliefs can be artificially created via magnetic and/or electric cranial stimulation, your substantiation is shown falsifiable, and essentially rendered moot.

    You have nothing but your own belief, and those beliefs can be falsely generated.


    There is evidence of me, my parents, and me sharing their DNA. The idea that we can orgasm without intercourse is non-sequitur, there is objective evidence of me and my parents coitus, and your comparison is completely flawed and ridiculous.
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    inow said:

    The idea is that god can be experienced without god existing
    If this is true, the reciprocal is also true. One could fail to experience God even though He exists.

    You have zero evidence outside your own experience that God does not exist. Since such a belief can be formed only on the lack of relevant experience and total rejection of any and all evidence presented by believers, the disbelief in God can be labeled the conclusions of a blind fool.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    One could fail to experience God even though He exists.
    Yes, I agree, but that is completely unrelated to the point being made here.


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    You have zero evidence outside your own experience that God does not exist.
    Can you please describe for me how one can obtain objective evidence that something does not exist?
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    inow said:

    Yes, I agree, but that is completely unrelated to the point being made here.

    Well, I guess that means your reciprocal comment was equally unrealted and also irrelevant.

    inow adds:


    Can you please describe for me how one can obtain objective evidence that something does not exist?

    earlier he said:


    The idea is that god can be experienced without god existing, ergo arguments for god based on personal belief are deemed moot.
    Your argument here is equally subjective. Just because you claim I lack objective evidcence does not provide objective evidence for your position. You have no objective evidence to support your position. as though your lack of any, one iota of, objective evidence trumps my claim that the existence of the Universe and life are evidence that God exists. I hesitate to point out that I recently cited a copy of notes to a speach in which the speaker cited 27 proofs for God, all of which non-believers say are irrelevant. It shows just how far you fools are willing to go to ignore the obvious. God exits if only because He is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    inow said:

    Yes, I agree, but that is completely unrelated to the point being made here.
    Well, I guess that means your reciprocal comment was equally unrealted <sic> and also irrelevant.

    inow adds:


    Can you please describe for me how one can obtain objective evidence that something does not exist?

    earlier he said:


    The idea is that god can be experienced without god existing, ergo arguments for god based on personal belief are deemed moot.
    Your argument here is equally subjective. Just because you claim I lack objective evidcence <sic> does not provide objective evidence for your position. You have no objective evidence to support your position. as though your lack of any, one iota of, objective evidence trumps my claim that the existence of the Universe and life are evidence that God exists. I hesitate to point out that I recently cited a copy of notes to a speach <sic> in which the speaker cited 27 proofs for God, all of which non-believers say are irrelevant. It shows just how far you fools are willing to go to ignore the obvious. God exits if only because He is.
    That's nice. Will you kindly please address the question now?
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    I believe the question you are referring to is:

    Can you please describe for me how one can obtain objective evidence that something does not exist?
    My reply was:

    I hesitate to point out that I recently cited a copy of notes to a speach <sic> in which the speaker cited 27 proofs for God.
    But, I realize that 1,000 proofs would not be enough; 10,000 proofs would not be enough. Not even a million.

    Because that is not the issue; the issue is your moral rebellion against the righteous and holy God.

    You accept many things that are not real things. Have you ever signed a contract? A contract is not a physical thing. The piece of paper on which it is recorded is merely circumstantial evidence of an agreement which exists only in the minds of those who have made the agreement. The Bible is God's contract with humanity.

    I think in criminal law, the prosecution has to prove motive and intent. These are not things which are physical but can be supported only by circumstantial evidence, inferrences and conclusions drawn therefrom. There is no physical thing such as motive, no such physical thing as intent. Yet they show those in a court. When a jury is involved, possibly the different people and their different life experience lead them to different conclusions. But it is not because there are no such things as motive or intent.

    So just because you see no physical evidence of a something, does not mean that something does not exist. A contract exists, but it is not a physical thing. People have motives, but they are not physical things. People have intents, but they are not physical things.

    You actually believe in many things for which there is no physical evidence so the lack of physical evidence is not really an issue. As I said above, the main issue here is your moral rebellion against a living God, not the lack of physical evidence of His existence.
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    Super. Can you please answer the actual question now?
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Can you please describe for me how one can obtain objective evidence that something does not exist?
    There is objective evidence that no other massive objects exist in our solar system.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner

    You accept many things that are not real things. Have you ever signed a contract? A contract is not a physical thing. The piece of paper on which it is recorded is merely circumstantial evidence of an agreement which exists only in the minds of those who have made the agreement. The Bible is God's contract with humanity.
    It is not circumstantial evidence, the paper is physical evidence of the agreement.

    The whole awkward response just bypasses the obvious point of if there is a living god, particularly a personal onew hich effects our individual lives, , there would certainly be physical evidence, there should be a plethora of measureable objective evidence of gods action. So far there simply isn't any--even in cases under careful measurement such as a popular person in a hospital with an extended family and church tossing lots of prayer around etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Can you please describe for me how one can obtain objective evidence that something does not exist?
    There is objective evidence that no other massive objects exist in our solar system.
    Except, that's a question of parameters. Location is not an existential characteristic, which is what we're discussing here... Existence itself.

    Dayton felt it appropriate to berate me for not being able to offer evidence showing the nonexistence of god. I asked how one can obtain objective evidence of nonexistence. After 3 or 4 responses, I'm still awaiting an answer to that question.
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    Lynn_Fox said:

    It is not circumstantial evidence, the paper is physical evidence of the agreement.
    Well, maybe it is and maybe is isn't. I have a piece of paper here in front of me that says Lynn_Fox has contracted to pay me $1,000,000 in equal monthly installments of the next 20 years. Does that prove that you have actually made such an agreement? It is only circumstantial evidence.

    It is a physical form of circumstantial evidence, just like the Bible is physical circumstantial evidence of the contract God has made with humanity. It offers salvation which, apparently, you have rejected and are, therefore, no more a party to than the contract to pay me $1,000,000. There is no quantum of physical evidence which will convince you if you do not want to believe. You would reject a million pieces of physical evidence, even to the point that if a person arose from the dead, you would not believe that.

    Lynn_Fox also said:

    The whole awkward response just bypasses the obvious point of if there is a living god, there would certainly be physical evidence, particularly a personal one, which effects our individual lives, there should be a plethonra of measureable objective evidence of gods action. So far there simply isn't any--even in cases under careful measurement.
    Why would there be a plethoria of physical evidence? What makes you think that God is required to fulfill your demand for a huge quantum of physical evidence?

    This is a more subtle version of the idea that God does not exist because He does not heal people with amputated limbs. The argument is that since amputees are not miraculously healed by God, it is proof that He does not exist. God does not make any promises to us other than that if we repent and believe in and trust in Christ we will escape God's wrath.

    The thing is that atheists have this uncanny knack for formulating all sorts of physical circumstantial "proofs" that ostensibly show God does not exist while completly ignoring and discounting similar circumstancial "proofs" of His existence.

    Meanwhile, as I said previously, there is really no issue of "proof of God." There is ample evidence for believers. The issue remains the atheist's rebellion against God. The issue is sin and rejection of the truth.

    I remember the Rolling Stones song, "You Don't Always Get What You Want," but sometimes you get what you need. What you want is unnecessary evidence, what you need is salvation.

    As inow's continued insistence that I answer his question shows, there is no answer to satisfy those who choose to reject any and all answers. I have answered his question, as well as Lynn_Fpx's, in several different ways, but while believers would find these answers more than sufficient, non-believers refuse to recognize or consider them. Perhaps if inow asked a legitimate question, he would get an adequate answer. He does not want "proof of God," he merely wants justification for his rejection of God.
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    another response to inow's non question:

    Can you please describe for me how one can obtain objective evidence that something does not exist?
    Uhmmmmm. Assumption: the "something" you refer to is God. Maybe if you can find no objective support for your premise, it is because it is invalid. I have no idea how you would find objective evidence for that which is not true or even why you would want it. I have provided considerable objective arguments intimating God's exists; it is up to you to provide your own objective counter arguments which I will ignore and reject as lacking objectivity just as you do mine.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Lynn_Fox said:

    It is not circumstantial evidence, the paper is physical evidence of the agreement.
    Well, maybe it is and maybe is isn't. I have a piece of paper here in front of me that says Lynn_Fox has contracted to pay me $1,000,000 in equal monthly installments of the next 20 years. Does that prove that you have actually made such an agreement? It is only circumstantial evidence.

    It is a physical form of circumstantial evidence, just like the Bible is physical circumstantial evidence of the contract God has made with humanity. It offers salvation which, apparently, you have rejected and are, therefore, no more a party to than the contract to pay me $1,000,000. There is no quantum of physical evidence which will convince you if you do not want to believe. You would reject a million pieces of physical evidence, even to the point that if a person arose from the dead, you would not believe that.
    I guess if you want to apply completely different standards of reason you can say that.
    If there were a contract presented to a judge, who's trained to apply reason, he'd know that you exist, that I exist, and would probably have our signatures which he could examine on the paper as well as check every other supporting fact about were it happened compared to were we might have been etc. If any of that wasn't true or suspect he's have good reason to doubt the contracts' veracity.

    Your bible story doesn't have anything resembling that to affirm its authenticity--no physical evidence that Jesus existed, no writings of his, no contemporary records that any of the extraordinary events recorded in the story an attributed as miracle actually happened even though there were people dutifully recording history and walking the very same ground at the same time. (there are several recent threads on the same I don't wish to repeat). There's not even any no credible proof of an afterlife for either or anybody--your currency of salvation is made of monopoly money.

    The whole awkward response just bypasses the obvious point of if there is a living god, there would certainly be physical evidence, particularly a personal one, which effects our individual lives, there should be a plethonra of measureable objective evidence of gods action. So far there simply isn't any--even in cases under careful measurement.
    Why would there be a plethoria of physical evidence? What makes you think that God is required to fulfill your demand for a huge quantum of physical evidence?
    Even if my requirement were really tiny as he wouldn't be meeting that requirement. Essentially you're comfortable in running on nothing but faith--I'm not, I actually want a wee bit of credible proof. But you're right about one thing--I'd suspect even an entity which demanded just faith without proof and ask why would a superior being reject logic and reason in followers?

    The thing is that atheists have this uncanny knack for formulating all sorts of physical circumstantial "proofs" that ostensibly show God does not exist while completly ignoring and discounting similar circumstancial "proofs" of His existence.
    I certainly don't look for proof he doesn't exist. Some do though I admit...just this morning I read an editorial about how screwed up humans genetics are as evidence that there certainly isn't intelligent design. I was more interested to learn I'm 1-4% Neanderthal though--perhaps I'll look for some phrase in genesis to explain it all later.



    What you want is unnecessary evidence, what you need is salvation.
    And what that whole statement implies is a complete rejection of credible available evidence--that everything you are minus memories in others (and memorabilia dedicated to you) will be recycles into the bio-system after you're gone. Simply Dead--no afterlife--no salvation--just like all other life on this planet.

    --
    Perhaps getting back to the meat of the thread is this:
    But I do not see why believing that the Universe and life just happened is more satisfying than believing that they were created with meaning and purpose because it pleased God to do so.
    I don't see how think something there's no proof of created something with meaning and purpose helps. The spiritual wonder I feel is just that--one of emotional awe and I'm pretty sure analogous to what I felt as a younger man but wrapped it in religion. Stripped of its religious trappings the emotion is exactly the same, at least in my case somewhat better connected with our understanding of reality through science without being diminished one whit.
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  100. #99  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    another response to inow's non question:

    Can you please describe for me how one can obtain objective evidence that something does not exist?
    Uhmmmmm. Assumption: the "something" you refer to is God. Maybe if you can find no objective support for your premise, it is because it is invalid. I have no idea how you would find objective evidence for that which is not true or even why you would want it.
    Except, I'm not the one who wants it. You were. Remember?




    Here... From the last page:

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    You have zero evidence outside your own experience that God does not exist.
    Can you please describe for me how one can obtain objective evidence that something does not exist?
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  101. #100  
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    Lynn_Fox said:

    I guess if you want to apply completely different standards of reason you can say that. If there were a contract presented to a judge, who's trained to apply reason, he's know that you exist, that I exist and would probably have our signatures which he could examine on the paper. If any of that wasn't true or suspect he's have good reason to doubt the contracts' veracity.

    You bible story doesn't have anything resembling that to affirm it's authenticity--no physical evidence that he existed even--no contemporary records that any of the extraordinary events recorded in the story an attributed as miracle actually happened even though there were people dutifully recording history and walking the very same ground at the time. There's absolutely no credible proof of an afterlife either of anything or anybody.
    You are the one wanting to apply different standards. A contract represents, in its most simplistic form, an offer and an acceptance. The evidence of this is in the written document or in the verbage of a conversation in a verbal contract. The people present in the court are irrelevant as to whether there is a valid contract. Only when it comes to enforcing the contract is it necessary to make sure of the parties. I suppose the judge could make a decision without either party being in court, if they were represented by attorneys C and D.

    As to the second paragraph -- it is within the purview of the judge to consider any and all things offered and just because one side refuse to accept the authenticity of the document does not mean the judge will view it the same way. In any trial, there is both a winner and a loser and I can tell you that each side believes himself to be right -- otherwise they would not be in court!!!

    How would you have contemporary records of something that happened 2,000 years ago or 4,000 years ago. Is there any contemporary evidence that Caesar existed -- or Aristotal. Noooo. The only evidence we have of anyone from ancient times are writings that were made in ancient times or, perhap, contemporary archaelogical finds. (The thing here is that a huge percentage of contemporary archeological findings support the stories of the Bible.)

    Your claim that there is no credible evidence relates only to you and those who agree with with. Those of us on the other side of this issue find considerable evidence which we think credible. And, were you not in rebellion against God, you would also find it credible.

    Judges and jurors look at evidence and determine that which they individually think is relevant and true. Just because one judge or one jury finds one way on a set of offerings does not mean that others will not find just the opposite. In such a case, one group is right and the other wrong.

    So, if you are saying that the evidence which supports the Bible is questionable, are you willing to subject all of ancient literature to that same standard of proof? If so, you will have to reject every ancient document extent. There is no evidence that the information in Egyptian hieroglyphs is accurate. If ancient writers made up characters such as Moses and Jesus, why is not just as reasonable to assume they also made up characters such as Aristotle and Caesar?
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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