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On Religion.

Devil’s Advocate: Having a unique perspective on all this, as should be obvious from my very name, allow me to inject my two cents.

People come down here all the time. It gets quite crowded, and the waiting line to boiled in the fiery flames is very long. So we all have plenty of time to while away, and we talk very freely. Here are the various religious positions people tell me they have.

The Scared in a Scary World Guy: I can’t handle it anymore. I’m about to lose my mind. I can only keep on going if I can assume there is Someone more powerful than me out there to help me out. Naturally, I’ll seize on any scrap of anything to bolster my need.

The Mellow Atheist: I see no evidence for any spiritual forces, and I feel no inner need for them to be any. So let’s leave it at that.

The Varieties of Religious Experience Guy: I never gave it much thought, until one day I was dying in a hospital bed. Suddenly I looked down and saw myself. An out of body experience. Then a very warm, friendly, masculine voice told me, “God here.”
“Nice to meet You, Sir. Am I dead?”
“No, you still have a minor role to play in the world.”
“Then what am I doing here floating above my physical body?”
“It’s a way of giving you some rest. You’ll be back inside soon.”

Smiling Dave: Why was he down there with you, Devil?

DA: Nobody’s perfect. BTW, what’s your take, Dave?

SD: I’m a very, very, very, very, mild case of V. of Rel. Exp Guy. But I’ve spoken to a solid V.O.R.E.G., and, given my pre-existing mild case, I was open enough to be totally convinced by his story.

DA: But what about all the unanswered devastating questions that Science Guy and Bitter Atheist Guy keep asking?

SD: I don’t know the answers.

DA: How does God expect people to even believe He exists, given that He almost never shows Himself like He did to your friend, when all the q’s about Him remain unanswered?

SD: I can only assume that’s the way He wants it. And I think it follows that the assumption that we are all going to join you down there, Devil, unless we believe in Him, are incorrect. He seems too nice a guy to screw all humanity like that.

DA: So the default position should be agnosticism, or maybe even atheism, unless He takes us personally by the hand? Why did He set things up like that?

SD: He baffles me sometimes. In fact, most of the time.

DA: What about Jones here, who is open minded and wants to investigate? Is Jones to just twiddle his thumbs until God shows up in his living room?

SD: Some people say He can be found if one looks with all ones heart and all ones soul.

DA: What does that even mean? How do you play hide and seek with an Invisible Being?

SD: Some say Jones should be alert. Be on the lookout for instances of Happy Coincidence. Others say to open mindedly think about Nature and the Universe. They claim that this whole theory of evolution thing is full of obvious gaping holes.

DA: What about the Great Teachings that have been handed down by the various religions?

SD: You think I’m here to give all the answers?

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6 Comments

  1. anarcholibertarian says:

    I’ve found that whenever science discovers something that doesn’t require God to work, people simply assume that God works through that new-found science. So if science is able to show how life formed (and a recent breakthrough was made on this) people will look at that and say, “I can see God using that mechanism to form life.”

    Here are some questions I think should be asked about God’s existence:

    1. Even if He existed, do we even want such a God to exist?:

    Stephen Fry on God | The Meaning Of Life | RTÉ One: https://youtu.be/-suvkwNYSQo

    2. Are the feelings we have about God coming from social conditioning?:

    The Internet: Where religions come to die: https://youtu.be/0Rqw4krMOug

    3. Are the feelings we are having coming from our brain? Having been raised a Mormon, this video really helped explain how all of those “spiritual” experiences that came when I testified about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon being true in fact came from my brain. The brain is much more mysterious than I ever imagined possible. I know they weren’t from God because of the numerous contradictions and lies that I have discovered about that Church and book since I decided to study my church objectively:

    8.0 – My LDS Journey – Follow the Spirit: https://youtu.be/ycUvC9s4VYA

    4: It is impossible for a God to exist that is all-knowing, for there can be things that He doesn’t know that He doesn’t know:

    God’s God: https://youtu.be/ODetOE6cbbc

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  2. Smiling Dave says:

    Say a person dove deep underwater and found the Lost City of Atlantis down there. He saw it with his own eyes, ate the foods the Atlanteans ate, and lived there for ten years. Then he came back up. His personal experience proves to him beyond all doubt, correctly, that there is an Atlantis. Unfortunately, he has no means of convincing others, because he lost the path leading there.

    Now you could ask him 1.Even if it exists, do we even want Atlantis to exist? 2.Are the feelings we have about Atlantis coming from social conditioning? 3.Are the feelings we are having coming from our brain? 4.It is impossible for Atlantis to exist because of some logical argument, say that they need oxygen to breathe and they don’t have it.

    You can see how absurd such questions are to the person who actually physically went down to Atlantis.

    Similarly, I have personally experienced, not mere feelings, but actual reality events, that proved to my satisfaction beyond all doubt that there is Somebody Out There.
    I don’t wish to describe them, and nobody would gain anything if I did, because they would not be experiencing them themselves. It would be mere hearsay to them, even if it is not to me.

    About the Mormon faith, we have to distinguish between God and organized religion.

    One last thing. Questions 2 and 3 apply to the atheist as well as the Deist.

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  3. anarcholibertarian says:

    Well I wrote out a response on my phone and it got all messed up. Here is basically what I was trying to write, with me being the atheist and you being the universalist in this video: https://youtu.be/P0A_iF1B3k0

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  4. anarcholibertarian says:

    When I asked whether we even want such a God to exist, it is a legitimate question because it has to do with whether or not our brain is responsible for these purported spiritual experiences. If every person desires, whether consciously or subconsciously, for there to be a God(s), then perhaps the brain is pliable enough to give them what they want. When people talk about having seen God(s), they do so with a certain joy about finally “knowing.” I have never seen anyone talk about seeing God(s) with dismay, which if they were thinking rationally about this monster as Stephen Fry does in the video I posted, at least some of them should. In other words, some of them should be saying, “I’ve got horrible news! I spoke with God, and found out that He exists!” Like the graffiti scribbled on the wall of the Mauthausen concentration camp by one of the doomed prisoners: “If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.”

    Furthermore, even if it is a god communicating with us, it’s not even theoretically possible for mortal human beings to know what kind of a god it is. For all we know, any communication could be from Loki, the Norse god of tricks, who loves toying with humans to see them start a war of words/swords with each other over their religious beliefs.

    Now, had you and I been the first humans on earth, your point about going to Atlantis would hold more water with me. But the problem is that almost all of the people that exist today and have ever existed have declared that they have been to Atlantis (including myself), and yet they come back with a different story of what Atlantis is. And that story, with a few exceptions, just happens to be the same for people within the same political boundary. If all of these people are seeing Atlantis, talking with the people, and eating their food for 10 years, their stories should not be influenced by where they started their journey. Is there another model that explains this? There is. It is that none of them went to Atlantis. Their brains were powerful enough and pliable enough to make up the journey. In fact, thousands of people have claimed that they were abducted by aliens. There were seven witnesses to the abduction of Travis Walton. They all passed lie detector tests and none of them have ever recanted their story.

    Just think about how powerful the brain is. Imagine experiencing a horrible torture, say getting your hand burned off. Did your hand feel anything? No. The pain you experienced had almost nothing to do with the flesh. It was your brain that made up what you should be feeling, a pain so bad that you could go unconscious from it. The same goes for when you eat food. Food has no inherent flavor. Your brain makes up how one thing should taste compared to another. So when someone says that they had an experience with God, they should at least be humble enough to admit that it might have been from their brain. I am humble enough to admit that it could indeed have been a real experience with God, but I am opposed to the idea that their is no way it could have come from the brain. In fact, since it is possible that we are all in the matrix right now (including God), no one can say with certainty that anything they experience in life is “real.” Therefore the default position about whether there is a god should always be “I don’t know”.

    It is true that for the atheist there may be things that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know. But the atheist doesn’t claim to be all-knowing. God is making that claim, which is impossible. For all God knows, he was placed in a standard level 7 universe simulator by advanced humans to see what a human would do when he thinks he is given all-power and knowledge. The simulation is about to end and God will be given an F grade. The only way that you can know that God is not lying when He claims to be all-knowing, is if you yourself are all-knowing. I doubt you are making that claim. Seeing God does not give one omniscience. No offense, but just because the ruler of Atlantis said that he is omniscient as he gives you a hug, does not make it true.

    In this video, I suppose that you would be the universalist and I the atheist:

    Do You Know God?:

    Here are some scientific explanations:

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/vis_brain.htm

    Author Curtis Peters explains the dynamics by which a brain might create a God experience: “There are two temporal lobes in the brain, one on each side. They are in constant communication with each other. The lobe on the right controls our sense of self. When communication between the lobes is interrupted, during an epileptic seizure for example, the result is a separate sense of self on the right side, to that of the left. Because of this, there is a sense of presence. The feeling is usually undeniable and unexplainable.”

    ….Michael Persinger, is a professor of neuroscience at the Department of Psychology of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He wondered whether religious, spiritual, and mystical experiences had a natural rather than a supernatural source. He speculates that we are somehow programmed so that they can generate religious experiences via our brain’s internal processes.

    ….He built a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator, starting with a yellow motorcycle helmet, and outfitted it with build-in electrical coils that can create electromagnetic fields in the wearer’s temporal lobes. These are the part of the brain which are linked to religious belief, “time distortions, dream states and assorted odd physic phenomena.” During an experiment, the subject sits in a quiet, dimly lit, room. Soothing music is played in the background. A “gently flickering strobe light” is provided. The subject’s brain wave patterns are monitored by an EEG instrument.

    By 2002, he had performed the experiment on over 1,000 volunteers. 80% had some sort of supernatural experience. Many say that their experiences were “so profound they would be life-changing had they not understood the mechanistic underpinnings of what they had experienced.” About one in every 15 subjects reports an intensely meaningful experience. One saw a figure of Christ in the strobe light. Others, depending upon their cultural background, reported Elijah, the Virgin Mary, Mohammed, or the Sky Spirit. Some have reported out-of-body experiences, a sensation of floating, and a sensation of “great meaningfulness.”

    [Note that the cultural background being an influence supports my argument about social conditioning].

    His team conducted a study involving sixteen subjects. Six of the eight subjects who had previously experienced above average numbers of complex partial epileptic-like experiences sensed the presence of a sentient being during stimulation of their brain’s right-hemisphere. A very weak, 1 μT (microTesla) frequency-modulated magnetic field was used. A microTesla is equal to about 2% of the Earth’s magnetic field. Five of the eight noted a presence during bilateral stimulation. None of the eight subjects who had below average scores had this type of experience.

    The helmet was given the ultimate test. The producers of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Horizon science television series arranged to have Richard Dawkins try out the helmet. Dawkins is the well known author of “A Devil’s Chaplain” and “The Blind Watchmaker.” He is also a well known Atheist and skeptic. He was considered “the ideal candidate for a test of whether science can explain away religion, given his views of religion as a ‘virus of the mind’ and an ‘infantile regression.’ ” Although Dawkins reported some strange experiences and tinglings during the experiment, no visions were forthcoming. It seems that Dawkins was not a likely subject for this experiment. He had previously scored low on a psychological test which measures proneness to temporal lobe sensitivity. Dawkins said: “It was a great disappointment. Though I joked about the possibility, I of course never expected to end up believing in anything supernatural. But I did hope to share some of the feelings experienced by religious mystics when contemplating the mysteries of life and the cosmos.”

    ————-

    People who have more spiritual experiences than others, also have brains that are wired that way. A new study finds that people who have had near-death experiences are generally more likely to have difficulty separating sleep from wakefulness. http://www.livescience.com/health/060411_near_death.html

    Psychiatrists see a constant stream of these vagaries of the mind, which may be why psychiatrists rank at the bottom in percentage of believers. When a psychiatrist was asked how to produce hallucinations, he replied, “Fasting and prayer”.

    One gentleman’s description of an encounter with Satan sounded like a classic Sleep Paralysis experience. http://watarts.uwaterloo.ca/~acheyne/S_P.html

    In the last couple of decades, great progress has been made in understanding how the brain works, with explosive learning ahead. A highly recommended book called “Don’t Believe Everything You Think” by Thomas E. Kida presents scientific studies in easily understandable language on the unreliability of the human mind, perception, and memory. This is why we have science which is testable, reproducible, quantifiable, peer reviewed, double blind with placebos, and all the other objective checks and balances to limit the vagaries of human perception, wishful thinking, and affirmation bias. “The true critical thinker accepts what few people ever accept-that one cannot routinely trust perceptions and memories.” -Jim Alcock, “The Belief Engine”

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  5. anarcholibertarian says:

    ^ I meant to say: I am humble enough to admit that it could indeed have been a real experience with God, but I am opposed to the idea that their is no way it COULDN’T have come from the brain.

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  6. anarcholibertarian says:

    ^On second thought, I am too tired to know if I have to double-back on that double-negative stuff. Ya’ll know what I mean to say. Nap time…

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