The Default

Back in March, I commented on a Beliefnet debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan. In part 4 of that debate, Andrew Sullivan made what I thought was an astonishing concession:

But I can say that [this experience] represented for me a revelation of God’s love and forgiveness, the improbable notion that the force behind all of this actually loved us, and even loved me. The calm I felt then; and the voice with no words I heard: this was truer than any proof I have ever conceded, any substance I have ever felt with my hands, any object I have seen with my eyes.

You will ask: how do I know this was Jesus? Could it not be that it was a force beyond one, specific Jewish rabbi who lived two millennia ago and was executed by the Roman authorities? Yes, and no. I have lived with the voice of Jesus read to me, read by me, and spoken all around me my entire life – and I heard it that day. If I had been born before Jesus’ birth, would I have realized this? Of course not. If I had been born in Thailand and raised a Buddhist, would I have interpreted this experience as a function of my Buddhist faith rather than Jesus? If I were a pilgrim right now in Iraq, would I attribute this epiphany to Allah? An honest answer has to be: almost certainly.

I couldn’t agree more, and we should remember this lesson when faced with stories of religious experiences told by other believers. Take this post, which I found through a comment in the thread “Instruction Manual or Chronicle?

What happened instead was that I slowly became aware that someone else was in my room. I couldn’t see anyone, but I could sense a presence. The intensity of the presence began to grow, until it was so overwhelming that I was aware of nothing else, not even myself. I knew I was in the presence of God.

…Tonight is the 20th anniversary of that experience, and the memory is still as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday.

There’s no doubt that experiences like this are real, and that they often have a profound and lasting effect on the lives of people who have them. But at the same time, there are some important features of religious experience which the passage above exemplifies, and to which I’d like to call attention.

First: These experiences, while rich in emotional color and texture, are typically light on actual content. (Sullivan revealingly refers to “the voice with no words”). In the many accounts like this that I’ve read, there’s hardly ever an audible voice or a clear message. Instead, the believer experiences a variety of sensations: an oceanic feeling of transcendent bliss, a vivid sense of heightened significance and interconnection, a perception of being swept away from oneself or unified with the infinite.

Second: These experiences virtually never cause a person to convert to a completely different religion, one which they were unfamiliar with prior to the experience. Instead, the religious experience is almost always interpreted as confirmation of a belief set which the person either already belonged to or was seriously considering converting to. Look for a lifelong Christian who had such an experience and felt it as the presence of Vishnu (or a lifelong Hindu who felt the presence of Jesus) – I can all but guarantee your search will be in vain. As Sullivan says, these experiences are shaped and interpreted in light of the believer’s upbringing and culture. Whenever and wherever they occur, they are almost invariably believed to be manifestations of the local god, whichever one that is.

These facts add up to an important conclusion for atheists. In many cases I’ve encountered, the life-altering power of religious experience is put forth as the first reason for belief in God. The people who have these experiences rationalize that no other power could have moved them so deeply. Yet this is an argument that assumes its own conclusion: people consider it as proof of their particular god because that is the only thing they have been taught to interpret it as. That is the conventional wisdom, the default interpretation, in our society. And since it’s widely claimed that these epiphanies are experiences of God, people who have them naturally fall into believing and proclaiming that this is what they were, thus setting up the next generation of self-supporting circular interpretation.

In reality, the sense of rapture is like many other things: not a religious phenomenon, but simply a human phenomenon common to all people. If it were more widely known that believers of all sects have equally persuasive experiences of this kind – and if it were more widely known that atheists have them as well (yes, atheists also have moments of transcendent joy) – then we might develop a more realistic view of their cause.

Rather than leaping to interpret them as divine visitations, we should recognize them for what they are: natural products of human neural wiring. They emerge from the structure of the brain; they are precipitated by the right kinds of events, either internal or external; and when they occur simultaneously with the making of a decision that had been coalescing in the believer’s mind, they’re viewed as powerful confirmation of that decision and can inspire people to restructure their life around it. These experiences are real, yes, and they can certainly be meaningful, but they do not point to anything outside the self.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Kevin Morgan

    Excellent post. One of the side effects of having to defend my atheism over the last 6 years or so has been all of the psychology and neuroscience books it led me to. Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (to name but a few) soon led me to read Phillip Zimbardo, Stephen Pinker and others.

    The scientific research which showed how out of body experiences could be induced with an electromagnetic field and research in “waking dreams” just goes to show that there is a natural explanation for everything if we look hard enough using the scientific method.

    I have to thank the religious fanatics. If it weren’t for them I would never have learned so much about philosophy, neuroscience and evolution.

    Exercise your mind! READ!!!

  • terrence

    Next Tuesday will be the 50th anniversary of my transcendent experience that did have content. I had gone to bed as usual the previous night, and when I awoke very early the next morning (who can sleep on Christmas?), my room had been transformed! There in the corner was a 6 x 4 piece of plywood, upon which was a figure-8 track, Lionel train with a blue and orange diesel engine, complete with crossing gates, a station, and a little factory that loaded barrels into a boxcar.

    Say what you want about “neuroscience” but I know I was in the presence of Santa that day. Seasons Greetings to all!

  • Friday

    To be sure, that such an event comes from the self makes it that much more profound – one is not being acted upon by an external entity…given an artificial high as it were.

    I can only comment from my own experiences performing transcendental meditation. The goal was not to give me some kind of religious experience, but to calm my troubled mind and help me to realise I was a living, organic being that actually existed in this reality – not just a placeholder for the afterlife, as it were.

    Having been stoned, and taken a ‘trip’ on more than one occasion -I feel reasonably qualified to comment on altered states of consciousness. I even felt the ‘spirit’ as a mature age baptized Mormon (crikey that was the low point of my life! Though does baptism count if you are stoned at the time?). To be sure, I was giving a speech on how good it felt to give speeches and ‘testify’ really it was just a part of my therapy that brought me back to my atheist roots.

    My apologies for the somewhat rambling nature of this post. Ive been reading here for a while, and with my altered state of consciousness due to inebriation I felt it an opportune time to make comment.

  • GSmith

    Great post. The bottom line is that people who are believers in God and/or those who are searching for God, will interpret these vague emotional experiences as communication from God, while non-believers will search for a worldly explanation for their experience.

  • http://www.sunclipse.org Blake Stacey

    The following is, I am assured, a true story from the altered states.

    A friend of mine once told me about a transcendental experience she’d had after eating a “heroic dose” of dried mushrooms, Psilocybe cubensis chopped and baked into chocolate candies. Queasiness came and went in her stomach, the walls started to breathe. . . and then the bottom dropped out of reality, and in the autumn afternoon light, a single sentence spoke itself in her mind, in a voice which was not sound, but rather the meaning to which sound is an approximation, the language of which words are shadows:

    “Nothing exists, save atoms and the void.”

    She says she’s had a whole new appreciation of the scientific method ever since that day. One more reason for parents to keep their kids off drugs!

  • Landis Schmitt

    At the age of 9, I attended a Baptist Revival meeting and literally saw the light. ?Convinced I had been saved, I set out for the next five years trying to spread the word. In college, I became interested in Yoga and Eastern religions, and with the help of psychedelic drugs, I saw the light again only from a different perspective. Eventually, after years of meditation, a trip to India, and a lot of deep thinking, I came to the reallization that the experiences were all the result of neural impulses in my brain, affected by external and internal (LSD)influences.

    As a confirmed atheist, I can still visit those inner realms of my mind which offer peace and solitude, but I do not interpet them to be the result of contact with a Supreme Being. Great Post!

  • http://www.brucealderman.info/blog/ BruceA

    Yes, it’s true that religious experiences — including my own, which you link to above — are “rich in emotional color and texture” while light on spoken content, and yes, it’s true that virtually all people who have such experiences interpret them in terms of their existing beliefs. If I had grown up Muslim or Hindu, would I have interpreted that experience in my bedroom differently? I say along with Andrew Sullivan: almost certainly.

    On the other hand, mystics of many religious traditions have been led by such experiences to move beyond the doctrines and myths of their own traditions, to seek a deeper spirituality, one which respects the sacredness of all life. Former Catholic priest Matthew Fox incorporates Native American and Wiccan spirituality into his life and practice. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has written extensively about the common ground between the best of Buddhism and the best of Christianity. Recently retired scholar Marcus Borg has done extensive cross-cultural studies of mystical experiences and catalogued the similarities.

    While I acknowledge that everybody interprets these experiences within their own default framework, I don’t see why your own default — that these experiences do not point to anything beyond the self — should be considered any more true than any other explanation.

  • shifty

    BruceA says:
    “Former Catholic priest Matthew Fox incorporates Native American and Wiccan spirituality into his life and practice. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has written extensively about the common ground between the best of Buddhism and the best of Christianity. Recently retired scholar Marcus Borg has done extensive cross-cultural studies of mystical experiences and catalogued the similarities.”

    Doesn’t this just support the redundancy of religious dogma and the idea that morality and spirituality are truly human based?
    If we come up with a list of “bests” from all religions, we would have a fine list of all that is good with humans…..of course if we compile a “worsts” list from religions, then we will have found all that is horrible with humans.
    If there are “cross-cultural studies of mystical experiences” that show similarities, doesn’t that indicate that a specific belief should be ruled out as a factor and that the phenomena has a different cause?

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    I submit that The Beatles must be divine. I had an experience while listening to “And I Love Her” probably 10 years ago. Except, unlike many you hear of, mine wasn’t some joyous experience, voices, or divine presence. If anything, it was actually profound sadness and loneliness that I felt, along with some subset of complete understanding, though I don’t remember exactly what it was that I thought I completely understood at the time. It happened during the lines “Bright are the stars that shine Dark is the sky” (gee, I wonder where the sadness and loneliness aspects came from, considering I was familiar with the song).

    While I acknowledge that everybody interprets these experiences within their own default framework, I don’t see why your own default — that these experiences do not point to anything beyond the self — should be considered any more true than any other explanation.

    Occam’s razor. Why posit a “higher spiritual plane”/deities/etc. when they can be explained by things we already know about?

  • billf

    “I don’t see why your own default — that these experiences do not point to anything beyond the self — should be considered any more true than any other explanation.”

    Because that is the conclusion that the evidence points to. Because this conclusion is testable. And to my (limited) understanding, this conclusion has been tested and has stood up to those tests.

    BruceA, It sounds like you are saying that maybe these experiences point to a deeper religious meaning, they point to some deep true religion that none of the organized religions have gotten right or even really suspect? This line of thinking has always appealed to me, and sometimes caused me doubt in my atheism / agnosticism. However,if true there is still absolutely no reason to belong to or pay any attention to any of today’s religions. Regardless, they have all got the story completely wrong.

    At any rate, based upon the little bit of reading I have done about research into how our amazing brains do what they do, my bet is that these experiences are entirely internal. Still wondrous, but internal.

  • Matt R

    Bruce A.

    While the ubiquity of religious experience does not necessarily call into question the existence of God, it does call into question the claims of any specific religion that claims to be “the true religion”.

    Let us consider Christianity. The clearest and most reasonable reading of the Bible leads us to understand that Christianity claims to be “the true religion”. No one approaches God except through Jesus. A common apologetic for Christianity is religious, life-changing experience. Now, if it can be shown that all religions display a reasonably similar amount of religious, life-changing experience, it weakens that Apologetic. This is because one would expect that if there was a God, only that God’s chosen religion should have true religious experiences, or that the experiences of that religion should be different than the (presumably) self-made experience of all the false religions.

    One also has to wonder that if one religion is true, why all religions seem to have this religious experience.

    So, while the ubiquity of religious experience does not necessarily kill God, it does weaken the “religious experience” apologetic of any given exclusive religion.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • DKrap

    I am very late in commenting on this website. I just found it a couple of weeks ago. Most excellent! Anyway, I was raised by totally non-religious parents. The closest we got to a religion was attending Unitarian Universalist “church” for about a year when I was 10. So, I consider myself a second generation atheist and I hope to be raising a third generation for my family. I find inspiration from nature, hiking, extreme skiing and scuba diving. However, my most inspirational moment came when I was playing golf on a Sunday morning. I got my first birdie on a particularly difficult hole. Ever since I associate golf and the outdoors with what makes life worthwhile.

    As a side note, although I am married, are there any atheist dating services on the web? My daughter will be wanting to date in a few years and I want her sources to be unlimited.

  • John Gathercole

    I don’t think Sullivan was making a concession at all. He said

    “I have lived with the voice of Jesus read to me, read by me, and spoken all around me my entire life – and I heard it that day. If I had been born before Jesus’ birth, would I have realized this? Of course not.”

    Note that he says “I heard it that day,” not “I thought I heard it.” Also, he says if he had been born before Jesus’ birth, he would not have “realized” that it was Jesus’ voice. You can only “realize” a true proposition. What Sullivan is saying is that the voice that everyone hears REALLY IS Jesus’ voice, but that people from other religions interpret it differently and incorrectly.

  • random guy

    I used to participate in a “spiritual group” at my college, because despite being atheist I believed that there was some “Capital-T Truth” to spiritual experience. Over the next two years I met about a dozen plus people who claimed to have spiritual experiences. I began to notice a disturbing trend. Everyone that had one of these experiences seemed to be on the edge of death, tripping balls on acid, starving, dehydrated, suffering from sleep deprivation, or under severe emotional distress. Usually a combination of these conditions were in play. It became apparent that no one in their right mind ever saw god, allah, vishnu, or the universal spirit.

    As I did more and more research I kept coming across science articles about neurobiology and psychology. I started looking at the science and found out that many of my suspicions I had already been confirmed by the scientific literature, every one of these experiences were explained by the brain tricking itself under abnormal conditions. The research I did along these lines pretty much cemented my atheism, I felt that all my reasonable doubts about religion had been answered.

    I stuck with the group for about a year after that, I still had friends there and it was always good for an intelligent conversation. But the group eventual got taken over by some new age guru wanabe. I got kicked out because I didn’t swallow her bs regarding auras, past lives, and healing crystals. It eventually disbanded, apparently I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to drink the kool aid.

    Still I learned a lot and met plenty of interesting people. That kind of stuff can be fun so long as you dont keep your mind so open that it falls out.

  • shifty

    I have been a fairly competitive adventure racer for some time now. The very nature of the sport involves extreme physical activity with sleep deprivation and under-nourishment over the course of several days. This situation affects the mind on many different levels not the least of which is the ability to distinguish reality from delusion. Our team had a standing rule: Every hallucination, delusion or bit of imagery had to be verbalized and shared with the group. After 2 days we were rarely without a good story to tell. I have experienced dozens of these events (both visual and aural) and even while expecting them have acted out on their validity because they seem so real at the time. While most people don’t put themselves in this situation without the use of pharmaceuticals, it is not a stretch to imagine these events happening to the average person under even the mildest amount of stress. While I have spoken on many occasions to these delusions, I don’t believe any of them were god…although I’m pretty sure I saw “Nessie” in the middle of a lake.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    BruceA:

    …I don’t see why your own default — that these experiences do not point to anything beyond the self — should be considered any more true than any other explanation.

    Bruce, I suggest you consult my recent post on falsifiability and the burden of proof. Anyone who makes a positive assertion which they wish others to believe has the duty to support that claim with evidence. And as others point out, we should always go with the simplest explanation for any given phenomenon, the one that invokes only those entities necessary to explain the effect in question. We have no evidence that gods are necessary to produce transcendent spiritual experiences, but we do have copious evidence for the existence of brains and the unusual effects on a person’s consciousness which certain types of neural activity can induce.

    For John Gathercole:

    What Sullivan is saying is that the voice that everyone hears REALLY IS Jesus’ voice, but that people from other religions interpret it differently and incorrectly.

    Perhaps, but it’s still an astonishing concession. What he’s saying is that people’s religious beliefs, including Christians’ religious beliefs, are shaped and determined by the culture they grow up in. This in itself is an admission that I’ve seen very few believers willing to make. Even if he throws in an obligatory apologetic – “But my religious beliefs are the real thing!” – it still shows that he recognizes the more or less arbitrary nature of how those beliefs arise and spread.

  • terrence

    No one has brought up this excellent observation from Richard Dawkins, so here it is:

    “Out of all of the sects in the world, we notice an uncanny coincidence: the overwhelming majority just happens to choose the one that their parents belong to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favor, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained glass, the best music; when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing, compared to the matter of heredity. This is an unmistakable fact; nobody could seriously deny it. Yet people with full knowledge of the arbitrary nature of this heredity somehow manage to go on believing in their religion, often with such fanaticism that they are prepared to murder people who follow a different one.”

  • DamienSansBlog

    BruceA, when are we going to hear from you?

    I ask honestly and with good will. Too many believers pop in for a one-shot statement and are never seen again.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2006/01/porn_and_musica.html Greta Christina

    “Say what you want about ‘neuroscience’ but I know I was in the presence of Santa that day.”

    Terrence, you are a bad person. I scared the cat out of the room, I laughed so hard.

  • valhar2000

    Terrence: I have to disagree with Dawkins there. Many believers are quick to deny that heredity plays any part in religion, or even that the parents religion is correlated with the child’s religion. They really detest and disbelieve this idea. Have you ever brought this up in a place where Christians dwell and seen hordes of “I used to an atheist”‘s come up to deny it?

  • OMGF

    How many of those do you really think were atheists?

    No religion isn’t hereditary, it is learned. Children learn it from their parents. Also, it doesn’t follow that the idea is wrong simply because theists “detest and disbelieve” the idea. Many theists also detest and disbelieve evolution, but it doesn’t make it wrong.

  • Valhar2000

    Yes, I know, but what I’m saying is that not that many people accept that a person’s religion is strongly correlated with their parent’s religion and still beleive that this religion is true. Many people avoid this conundrum by denying that it exists (in much the same way they resolve the incompatibility between Science and scripture by denaying the former).

  • http://www.brucealderman.info/blog/ BruceA

    Sorry I haven’t responded sooner. I’ve been out of town for a few days, with limited access to the Internet.

    First, Ebonmuse:

    Anyone who makes a positive assertion which they wish others to believe has the duty to support that claim with evidence.

    I understand falsifiability and burden of proof. I understand that when I talk about my own experience, which I believe to be an encounter with God, I am not making a falsifiable statement. I don’t expect anyone to take my word for it that I’ve interpreted the event correctly. I don’t expect anyone to be convinced that God exists on the basis of my experience. Still, it strikes me as arrogant that someone who wasn’t there assumes that they know better than I do what happened that night.

    If we lived in a world goverened by reason alone, I’d grant that the simplest explanation is always the best one. William of Ockham, who gave his name to this principle, rejected (as I do) all so-called proofs of God’s existence. Ochkam also believed that God exists nevertheless. When using reason, Ockham’s razor is a valuable tool, but faith is not grounded in reason.

    I can’t make a rational case for faith, and I’m not going to try. I will try to suggest by analogy that we have multiple ways of interacting with the world, of which reason is only one. Another is art. I suppose one could make the case that a painting, a sculpture, a musical composition, or a dance is meaningful only to the extent it can be rationally analyzed, but I disagree: Great art can bypass our reason and touch our emotions, perhaps leading us to actions that we might not otherwise take. (I’m not arguing that we should always act on our emotions without using reason, BTW.)

    I would say that faith is more like art than like reason. And so, to those who say, as Matt R says above:

    While the ubiquity of religious experience does not necessarily call into question the existence of God, it does call into question the claims of any specific religion that claims to be “the true religion”.

    I’d have to say I agree. I don’t think any religion has everything right. All religions are merely grasping for ultimate truth, with varying degrees of success. Though I call myself a Christian, I don’t believe I have found all the answers, and I certainly don’t believe Christianity as a whole has.

    Faith is often described as a relationship. Relationships, are by their very nature, subjective. You don’t have the same relationship with your spouse that you have with your raquetball partner (unless you play raquetball with your spouse). You have a different relationship with your parents than with your children. If faith is a relationship, different people are going to have differnet experiences of the divine. To extend the analogy a bit: some relationships are toxic or abusive. I’m not saying that everyone who believes in God has a healthy relationship with the divine.

    Those who rely primarily on a holy book as a mediator between themselves and the ultimate are essentially letting themselves be guided by others’ experiences. They are no better off than someone who might decide to believe in God because they read a story on my blog about an experience I had when I was 17. While I believe the Bible is important for Christians to study, I don’t think it is wise to simply take a single verse and proclaim it to be The Truth.

    I’ve probably rambled enough for one comment. I’ll have more to say later.

  • Tomas S

    Bruce,

    I’m struck by some similarities between your story and mine. We’re about the same age. I had a mostly non-religous up-bringing, although my parents were both believers and my mom was a major fan of Robert Schuhler. I accepted Christ into my heart my senior year at an independant Baptist church, not as the result of a vivid experiece, like you, but as the result of some quiet assurance from the Holy Spirit that the Bible is true as it claims to be.

    What struck me most in your blog entry is that you see that moment as the start of a journey which has led you places you never expected. (Quoting from memory here.) In many ways, I look at my salvation experience much the same way. I spent the next several years learning to be comfortable with how God made me. I learned to move away from the isolation and rejection I felt as a high school student. I even (in constrast to what is often suggested here) read the Bible from cover to cover and actively encouraged others to do the same. There wasn’t a church like the one I was used to in my college town, so I paricipated in many different groups, and became very familiar with different Christian denominations and movements.

    Then, in the early 90′s, I realised (somewhat suddenly) that I don’t believe in God. The years of routine and sticking my neck out made this difficult to confess – especially to myself. Odly enough, though, the “journey” continued into even more places that I never expected.

    I think the “journey” is called life, and what you and I both experienced is called “growing up”. I’m glad that I had the Christian experience through my major growing up years, but I’m also glad that it isn’t the end of the story.

    My best to you.

    Tomaso

  • DamienSansBlog

    Many thanks to BruceA for coming back. Looks like I’ll be the first to respond…

    If we lived in a world goverened by reason alone

    Proposition: That we do, in fact, live in a world governed by reason alone. It is mankind which acts irrationally, and it is our responsibility to correct our irrational behavior whenever necessary.

    Great art can bypass our reason and touch our emotions, perhaps leading us to actions that we might not otherwise take.

    I, for one, do not deny the emotional power of religion, any more than I deny the emotional power of Michelangelo’s “David” or da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. But emotional power isn’t the question for atheists: it’s truth. We do not believe that David (if he existed) was 14 feet tall and fought Goliath in the nude; we do not believe that Jesus and his disciples (if they existed) all sat on one side of an extremely long table; and we who are atheists do not believe that religious claims about the divine are true.

    I’m not saying that everyone who believes in God has a healthy relationship with the divine.

    Well, I think we can all agree about that.

  • OMGF

    I’m not saying that everyone who believes in God has a healthy relationship with the divine.

    I’m at a loss as to why this would be, if god is omni-max as described in the Xian myth. How can one have a relationship with god that is toxic if god is omni-benevolent and omniscient and/or if god is supposedly perfect? This seems contradictory to me.

  • DamienSansBlog

    Well, then you get into the problem of evil/free will. I, for one, am looking forward to what BruceA or other believers might have to say on existing topics (since he promised “I’ll have more to say later”), without bringing up new ones just yet.

  • Dutch

    Bruce,

    I believe you will find the posters here quite gentlemanly and sincere. Most are far better writers than me.

    I know in your post that you have searched for some meaning in your life – reply here and I’ll give you some info to get you started. You do need an open mind and a very strong desire to know Him. No money is invlolved. That is all, I do not wish to intrude on this group of people with Christian talk.

    Many of them from posts elsewhere know what I know(believe).

    Nice to see all of you in here, I am almost finished reading the current article area of this website. I had no idea that those terrible things are going on in Africa, whitch hunts – how medieval.

    Happy New Year to all, Dutch

  • 2-D Man

    Still, it strikes me as arrogant that someone who wasn’t there assumes that they know better than I do what happened that night.

    This is akin to the following situation. A peasant in the middle ages witnesses a church’s steeple get struck by lightning and destruction ensues. Our peasant concludes that it was God’s expression of anger with that particular congregation. Later, a person knowlegeable about electricity later comes along, they might helpfully explain what gives rise to lightning, that it was doubtfully God’s wrath and suggest the implementation of a lightning rod, at which point they get rebuked by the peasant because ‘they weren’t there’.

  • Anne Cognito

    I’ve had a couple of temporal lobe transients (i.e., religious experiences). They’re really lots of fun! Once I cross off all the items on my life list above it, I’d like to see if I can develop the ability to self-induce transients. It’s kind of like going out drinking on Friday night, without the Saturday morning hangover…

  • http://www.sirthinkalot.wordpress.com Sir-Think-A-Lot

    One reason I dont use religious experences as proof of Christianity.

    Well that and the fact that I’v never had one.

  • http://www.morelightmorelight.com Matt Katz

    You say that all religious experiences are subject to the default religion of that person. A quibble: many conversion experiences have happened where default Tarvuists experience the noodley appendage because they have been recently exposed to his sauciness.