A Dialogue with Quixote, Part III

Hello again Quixote,

In reply to your last letter:

Since we’re discussing the real reasons why people become atheists or theists, I concede you make a good point about how many people have just never thought all that deeply about it. That’s a good point which I suspect we’ll have occasion to return to. I agree that people who’ve devoted extensive time to investigation and self-reflection are the odd ones out, compared to the population as a whole. (That makes me doubly glad we’re engaging in this exercise, because the world needs as much introspection as it can get!)

I would stress, however, this is probably somewhat less true for atheism. Certainly you can be an atheist without thinking too much about it, but it’s nevertheless true that in most of the world, some religion or other is still the default option. It takes a certain amount of swimming against the tide to become an atheist, no matter where you’re born. Of course, if atheism ever becomes a popular and established alternative, then it will be true that some people will be raised atheist just as many people are raised theist.

This leads into something else I wanted to comment about:

If existence does in fact precede essence, and my actions determine meaning in my life, then how does the choice to believe in God differ from any other choice, Sartre’s wish to be unobserved notwithstanding?

This may surprise some of my readers, but I don’t think the choice of whether or not to believe in God is the most important decision a person can make in their life. Far more important, in my view, is what moral system you hold and how you relate to your fellow human beings. If it’s a good philosophy, I’m not all that concerned with whatever naturalistic or supernatural premises you put behind it (see my essay “Enemy of Faith“).

That said, just because we’re free to choose doesn’t mean that all choices are created equal. I think knowing what’s true is a valuable thing in its own right, and if I go through life deceived – particularly if I’m deceived about something important – then I think there’s a meaningful sense in which my life is worse than it could otherwise have been, even if my false belief never becomes known to me or causes a bad outcome to one of my other decisions. Making a “good enough” choice is a benchmark, but we can also go further and ask: Am I making the best choice?

If such a thing as proper basicality obtains, belief in God is certainly properly basic in the classic foundational sense. It’s incorrigible, presenting itself as clearly as pain. No wonder most theists do think God is as evident as the sun.

I think there’s an obvious rejoinder here which you haven’t acknowledged: If God’s existence is so obvious, why is there so much disagreement about it?

As you must certainly be aware, there are millions of believers worldwide in hundreds of sects, all of whom insist that their perception of God is clear, unimpaired, and correct, who nevertheless disagree dramatically about fundamental issues of the nature, characteristics, and desires of this God.

For instance, there are large numbers of theists who believe that God is basically like a human being, only larger – he gets angry and jealous, he forgives, he cares about the minutiae of our daily lives, he favors some people and disfavors others, he can be flattered or persuaded through prayer. There are also large numbers of theists who believe that God is not personal, but is more like an immanent vital force that permeates the universe. Some people believe God is a trinity, others a unity, and for much of history, the dominant view was that there was a whole pantheon of gods each overseeing a different aspect of nature. Some people believe that God is still actively involved in the creation and working miracles; others believe in a deist clockmaker who started off the universe and hasn’t done much since.

And, of course, there are atheists. Unless one takes the stance that every professed atheist is being deliberately dishonest – and I know that’s not a position you take – I don’t see an easy explanation for why that awareness of God you write about hasn’t affected us. All I can say for myself is that I have no awareness of any such being, nor any sense of an absence that such belief would fill. If you’re certain that you’ve experienced something different, I may have to say, with David Hume, that “we are essentially different in this particular”. Of course, one can postulate that God is deliberately withholding his presence from some people. Then again, one could also say that some people have some sensory or neurological peculiarity that causes them to perceive a presence where none exists.

That said, I am interested to know more about this feeling you speak of, and I’d like to hear you describe it in more detail, if you can. Is it a unique quale, something indescribable through other sensory modalities, or is it an awareness that comes through the usual five senses?

Also, it seems to me that such a manner of knowing could point to God only as a simple, unitary essence – not as a being with complex desires, traits, and dispositions. It’s true that I would find it hard to explain the basis for my belief, “My friend Mr. Jones is standing in front of me.” But if you asked me to substantiate the statement, “My friend Mr. Jones is a generous person,” I would be able to cite evidence: various statements he’s made, acts he’s taken, gifts he’s given. None of these things boil down to mere intuition on my part. Isn’t there a large distinction between the philosopher’s God who’s a properly basic belief and nothing more, and the world-creating, rule-decreeing, miracle-working, sin-forgiving God of Christianity?

And now, to your second point:

Our shared observation of the universe — love, morality, justice, consciousness, justice, you know the drill — screams God as the best explanation for the theist.

Again, this hearkens back to a point in my last letter. If the existence of justice, morality and the like point toward the existence of God, then it seems to me that injustice and immorality must be evidence against the existence of God. It’s easy to see how those good things you mention could come about by accident, at least some of the time, in a world with no higher authority; random chance will sometimes turn out in our favor, sometimes not. But I think it’s a lot more challenging to explain how evil and injustice could come to be in a world overseen by a deity that does not desire such things.

Furthermore, to the degree that morality and justice exist in our world, they are human creations. They are not woven into the fabric of the cosmos, nor would they exist in our absence. If they existed naturally, without our intervention – if lightning always struck evildoers, say, or virtuous people consistently won the lottery – then I agree you’d have a case for an outside power in control of nature that cared about such things. But as I said, the world lacks any such obvious moral order, so I don’t think I see what you’re getting at here. Can you elaborate? Why is it the case that justice, consciousness and the like raise the odds in favor of a world-with-God hypothesis over those of a world-without-God hypothesis?

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.

  • Stacey Melissa

    It’s incorrigible, presenting itself as clearly as pain. No wonder most theists do think God is as evident as the sun.

    I have no such experience now that I’m an atheist. And perhaps more importantly, I had no such experience back when I was a fervent Christian believer. Back then, God wasn’t at all obvious to me; his existence was something I incorrectly deduced from other observations. I find it rather bizarre when people claim God’s existence presents itself clearly and directly.

    Our shared observation of the universe — love, morality, justice, consciousness, justice, you know the drill — screams God as the best explanation for the theist.

    The explanation for love lies in evolution and biochemistry. The explanations for morality and justice lie in evolution and anthropology and sociology. The explanation for consciousness lies in evolution and neurology. God is neither necessary, nor sufficient to explain any of the above.

  • Pither

    For my 40+ years as a theist, my god belief was like my fluency in English. I speak English all day, I dream in English, even my inner narrative is in English. It’s hard to even imagine not knowing English. Obviously I could not speak it for my first few years of life, but even then, I was being taught English every day. Now I cannot imagine not speaking English. It’s as obvious and automatic to me as recognizing pain.

    I think for most theists, their belief system is all they’ve known. They make sense of every event in terms of their theology. Good theists are expected to devote time every day to reading their sacred texts and reflecting on it, reinforcing the learned theology. It’s no wonder it’s so hard to break the pattern – “swimming upstream” as Ebon puts it.

    But I did. Like most former theists, it took a while. Now it’s clear to me that the theist’s framing of everything in context of their theology is a learned bias. At least it’s clear that it was for me. But it’s so basic that they simply cannot imagine living life without that context.

    It’s disheartening to see my friends and family still framing every single thing into their learned theological context. Sometimes it’s so painful to watch the crazy gyrations they go thru to keep the framing intact. Like this discussion over here. They are completely blind to the most obvious solution to their dilemma: the Bible is just a book written by humans making their best guess about the world at the time. And yet the wrangling continues. Anything to keep those learned “properly basic” assumptions in their sacred place.

    I’ve always wished I’d learned to speak fluently in another language, even live somewhere where I’d speak that language every day instead of my native English. I may be too old to learn it well, but my guess is that it would feel a lot like “un-learning” theism.

  • TJ

    Pither, you comparison of religion to English is excellent. It is hard to imagine not being able to speak, and not being able to speak and think in specifically your native tongue if you are monolingual. Of course, we know that there are people who get along quite well in languages that are very little if at all like English. (A whole lot of people speak Chinese!)

    Imagine if there were no radically different languages in the world, only dialects of English. Sure the Australians have heretical pronunciation, and Cockney is a blasphemous divergence from the One True Language, but we are all children of English. It would be very hard to imagine that there could be any word for, say, “dog”, other than “dog”. It would be impossible to imagine a language with click sounds in it (like some African languages).

    I’m not sure where to go with this, other than to reinforce the idea that a feeling that it could be no other way than the way it is, especially when the way it is permeates every aspect of your conscious life, is not a solid argument in favor of it actually being that way, since we have an obvious counter-example in monolingualism.

    I think overcoming the patterns of religious thought is similar to overcoming the assumptions of your first language. You know someone will never be fluent in Spanish when their first comments about the language are along the lines of “a table is female? that makes no sense!” and “the adjective comes after the noun, that’s just wrong!” If you never step outside the boundaries of those patterns, you will never see them for what they are.

  • mikespeir

    I like your language analogy, Pither. It’s one I’ve used myself. (“Can’t those idiot French see that that’s not the way to pronounce that particular string of letters? Why, it’s self-evident that they should be pronounced like this: _______. Anybody who’s not blind can see that!”)

    Stacey, I, on the other hand, did have “supernatural” experiences as a believer. I was raised Pentecostal, and Pentecostals teach that the believer should experience such things. My conversion was awesome! I did the speaking in tongues thing. I even had a couple of experiences that I termed “visions.” And, of course, I interpreted all that as rock-solid evidence that my beliefs were founded in reality. But I interpreted it that way because I had been provided no alternative way of looking at things. I no longer believe that the supernatural is required in order have these experiences. People of all–even contradictory–faiths have them. Furthermore, such things as drugs and intense magnetic fields can have similar effects. Not only is the supernatural not the only explanation, I can’t see it as the best explanation.

  • Pi Guy

    *facetiously* We are an English Nation!

    No, a good analogy, Pither. It’s difficult to see outside the box when it’s all that you know.

  • Scotlyn

    Mikespeir you beat me to it – I was also going to say that several profoundly moving emotional experiences and visions, which I still remember vividly, would have confirmed my faith when I was still in it. I still occasionally have dreams, visions and profoundly emotional experiences, and put them down to the general wierdness of the human mind. These are the “qualia” of human experience, and need no external explanation to be invoked. No gods, no fairies, no guardian angels, no ancestral spirits (and no chemicals, other than endogenous ones – :)-).

  • Dave

    I will add an additional two cents concerning “unusual” experiences. As a dancer (modern and ballet) for 25 years, and now a practitioner of tai chi, there have been several moments where something unusual happens. The best I can describe it is that “I” was not there. The difference between in here and out there ceased. Then my skin returned. My reaction was “now that was interesting”.

    I have now read of such experiences described by others, and conclude that the induction of such an experience can be taught. The Eastern meditation traditions seem to be pretty good at it.

    It could be explained as “god did it”, but that is not necessary. As noted, people can be taught to do it. The more you practice, the better you get.

  • velkyn

    I’m guessing in about two more exchanges, Quixote will trot out the usual last bastion of theist argument, one step less than solipcism. The argument will be that we can’t be sure that we are in the “real” world at all.

    good to watch adam debate though.

  • Hank Bones

    Excellent post Ebon.

    Does Quixote have a Christian blog at which he is also posting these? I’d be interested to see the response from his readership, if he does.

  • mikespeir

    (and no chemicals, other than endogenous ones – :)-)

    Good catch, Scotlyn. I said these experiences can be induced by magnetic fields and drugs, but neither is necessary to get the same experiences. We can bring them on ourselves or they can come on without any intent on our part.

  • robthehall

    I’ve also been thinking about incorrigibility, from Quixote’s first post.

    The incorrigibility of pain means that if you believe you’re in pain, then you’re in pain. If would be an unsupported leap to say that since you believe you’re in pain, then there’s some other entity causing that pain.

    So, to move from a belief that God exists, via incorrigibility, to the fact that God exists is invalid.

  • Scotlyn

    Dave, that’s very interesting – as a Tai Chi practitioner, I agree. I do concur there is a capability of getting lost in a sense of “something greater” that can be taught and reproduced without resort to recreational chemicals (although these can provide a shortcut). Common themes in inducing or self-inducing them are things like reduction of external stimuli or the creation of “white noise” through repetitive movement, chanting or drumming, breath control, “emptying” the mind, fasting, among others. Other situations may lead to spontaneous (ie not self-induced) “visions” or “transcendent” experiences – for example, injuries and near-death experiences, solitary captivity, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation or extreme insomnia (sleep disturbances often associated with mental disturbances). Shared emotional experiences (a live football match or concert, for eg.) can do it.

    In this context, I was reading recently about a phenomenon associated with age-related macular degeneration (a blinding disorder). Sufferers frequently see things that are not there – often people, bits of furniture, or other things that aren’t there, but appear as real as the things which are. These hallucinations are not associated with any mental disturbance (although they can be initially disturbing to sufferers who don’t understand why they are happening). The hypothesis is that the eyes are affected, but not the nerve or the brain area responsible for vision, and so in the absence of real stimulation from the eyes, the brain “makes up” something from its stored memories in order to have something to visually process.

    Perhaps the key to this type of experience is that a brain being deprived of its normal range of sensory experience must keep itself busy and entertained – and it has recourse to a huge cache of memories, emotions, imaginings and other ingredients from which to fabricate “visions” and “transcendent” experiences – perhaps in a similar way to how dreams are constructed. The way these experiences feel is often uplifting, spooky or a bit surreal. But how they feel is not necessarily what they are. Which is why anecdotal accounts do not count as evidence of anything except that X happened to Y.

  • Maynard

    Robthehall,
    I’ve been struggling with the incorrigibility/pain analogy too. If God is as evident as pain, what about phantom pains experienced by amputees? (We all know how much he hates them.)
    If the “pain” comes from a non-existant part of the body, who or what caused the pain to be so evident?

    Does god hate amputees so much that not only will he not regenerate the missing limb, but he has to inflict discomfort to an area where there is no way to comfort?

  • Scotlyn

    Should have said “that Y experienced X.”

  • Dave

    scotlyn:

    In this context, I was reading recently about a phenomenon associated with age-related macular degeneration (a blinding disorder). Sufferers frequently see things that are not there…the brain “makes up” something from its stored memories in order to have something to visually process.

    Perhaps the key to this type of experience is that a brain being deprived of its normal range of sensory experience must keep itself busy and entertained.

    Interesting. In 1989, I contracted a viral infection in my middle ear (the vertigo was not nice). When it was over, I had lost about 30% of my hearing in the left ear. Entirely in the upper range. My brain now manufactures a high pitched whine (tinnitus) to fill in for the lack of stimulation.

    Now, since working memory in the brain can only maintain a limited set of items, if I am involved in a complex task (debugging sequel queries for a project due in an hour), I frequently find I do not attend to the ringing. When I am interrupted, it “returns”. So perhaps intense focus allows the brain to cease attending to all incoming stimuli. The result is the non-dual experience people describe.

  • http://skepticaloccultism.com/ pendens proditor

    On the subject of God as a “larger human being” I have a question for Quixote that I’ve never been able to get a response to from a theist. I’m hoping he might be the first to indulge me.

    Many atheists are of the opinion that widespread belief in a deity is just a consequence of the human propensity for anthropomorphization. We’re inclined to believe that anything outside of us is also a person or agent of some sort — even the universe itself — until it’s demonstrated otherwise. Gods started out very much like us, and through the centuries theists have been stripping the humanity away from the beings they envision layer by layer (an approach that’s precisely backwards, those atheists argue).

    The current picture of the Christian deity is something like this. God is infinite and eternal, omnipotent and omniscient. God is above causality (escaping the “what caused God” question) because he (it) exists outside of time and space. God is the creator of time and space and all the matter and energy therein. Embedded in this picture is a contradiction which I think goes unnoticed because this deity still retains a layer of humanity that hasn’t yet been stripped away. I don’t think theists notice the contradiction because after all their efforts there’s still some anthropomorphization at work.

    We’ve pushed God outside of time and space, but we’re still surprisingly content to think of it as a temporal entity. We say it acts, but a being must exist within the framework of time for action to be possible. The entity’s existence must embody periods of “before the action” and “after the action” and perhaps “during the action” or else what does it mean to say that it has acted? We say it’s conscious, but without the capability of having a “thought A” and then “thought B” and then “thought C” what does it mean to say that this entity thinks? Thinking about everything at once is a lot like not thinking at all.

    I believe this assumption of a temporal existence is so easy to make because, to us, time is special. Being three-dimensional beings it’s easy for us to conceptually remove God from space, but to remove him from time is much harder. Time for us is like the water that the fish in the allegory inhabits but never becomes aware of, and yet owes to it all that he is. But mathematically time is no more special than width and depth. What reason could we have beyond anthropomorphization to deny God the first three dimensions while eagerly granting it the fourth?

    The contradiction becomes important when we talk about the creation of the universe. It seems to me that the #1 problem that God is the proposed solution for is the question of existence. Why is there something instead of nothing? Someone or something must have created the universe, theists argue, because it couldn’t spontaneously come to be. But for a being without a timeline, what does it mean to create something? How could there have been a period before the universe existed and a period after the universe existed when time itself is part of the creation? How could the emergence of time itself possibly appear on a timeline?

    I hope the contradiction is clear. We say God transcends time, but we still think of God just as we think of any other temporal thing, and most theists don’t seem to notice that they’re doing it. To say that a timeless being acts and thinks requires us to all but redefine the words “act” and “think”. Instead we’re left with an entity that can hardly be conceived of as personal or as a first cause. As an agent of any sort, it seems to me to be entirely impotent.

    So my question for Quixote is, do you think that there’s a specific reason to attribute a temporal existence to God, approaching it forwards (starting from scratch) rather than backwards (starting with a person)? Or am I correct that this is yet another artifact of the human template that we’re working to strip away?

    And if this is just another artifact, what are we left with? How is God still useful as an explanatory mechanism for anything? What is it besides a word that has been hollowed out to the point that it no longer has any meaning of its own?

    I apologize if this is a long-winded question. Even if it goes unanswered, I’m very glad Quixote is here to share his perspective with us intelligently and eloquently and I look forward to the rest of the exchange. Welcome, Quixote, and thank you very much.

  • nfpendleton

    It was the very fact that god was NOT self-evident and that I had to force religion into my outer and inner life since childhood that eventually lead me to free thought.

    Thanks for addressing this one small point, Ebon. This is just one of the myriad points – both big and small- that renders the “other side’s” entire argument moot, in my estimation. And it’s why exchanges like this make me grumpy. This time is best used to explore how we can improve conditions in a purely naturalistic world.

    Grrrrr…

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    This time is best used to explore how we can improve conditions in a purely naturalistic world.

    nfpendleton,

    I understand your frustration. And for what it’s worth, I understand your estimation of my beliefs, and I’m OK with that. Now, I think the main point of this exchange is not to argue the existence of God, but to determine reasons beyond the technical arguments to maybe glimpse why people believe what they do. I’m not sure exactly what Ebon has in mind, but one reason for this exercise in my mind is to cut through some of the frustration so that we can at least talk with one another, a thing not exactly common between internet atheists and theists. That would improve the conditions in this world, whether it’s purely naturalistic or not.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    So, to move from a belief that God exists, via incorrigibility, to the fact that God exists is invalid.

    Exactly, robthehall. Thanks for bringing this up again. I don’t know why I keep getting rung up for this, when I’m not making this argument.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    So my question for Quixote is, do you think that there’s a specific reason to attribute a temporal existence to God, approaching it forwards (starting from scratch) rather than backwards (starting with a person)?

    pendens,

    I don’t know you previously, so I could be wrong about this, but based solely on your comment, you’re a tribute to your atheism. I’d like to address your comment in detail when I have time, and will.

    The short shrift is this: I think you’re correct, and I would add some related difficulties in addition to the ones you’ve delineated. I think a good way to conceive of God is timeless without creation and temporal with creation. But more on that later…

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    I’m guessing in about two more exchanges, Quixote will trot out the usual last bastion of theist argument, one step less than solipcism. The argument will be that we can’t be sure that we are in the “real” world at all.

    This, I think, is a good point Velkyn to the discussion at hand. It’s all too common with Christians, and sort of results in some weird quasi-relativism from a group of folk who claim to be non-relativists.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Scotlyn “Perhaps the key to this type of experience is that a brain being deprived of its normal range of sensory experience must keep itself busy and entertained…”
    Dude, I’ve experienced both hypnopompic and insomnia-induced hallucinations. For the former I woke up in the middle of the night and Death (seriously!) was sitting and watching my TV (which was off), and the latter (during bootcamp) I saw a field of grain turn into giant crickets (the guy in the trench beside mine had that same field populated by giant coke cans). I’ve also had a transcendant “lose I, gain everything else” experience induced by simply watching a millipede saunter along (a personally experience powerful enough that years later when I ponder it, I still wander into deism).
    Failing that, you can try these (drug-free) or Salvia divinorum (if you want to experience the “loss of I” legally and really don’t mind not enjoying it). Note: do not try either alone. The first provides natural hallucinations of wildly varying potency, and the latter’s loss of body can be panic inducing. I haven’t attempted either. Regular reality is quite trippy enough, thank you very much.

  • TommyP

    “Is it a unique quale, something indescribable through other sensory modalities, or is it an awareness that comes through the usual five senses?”

    Pardon, is Quixote handicapped? We have Sight, Sound, Touch(Texture), Taste, Smell, Sense of Temperature, and Sense of Acceleration. These are all distinct senses, and it totals seven in number for the majority of human beings. I feel it may be far clearer if we asked whether Quixote had some additional eighth sensory apparatus tucked away somewhere on his person.

  • robthehall

    Maynard: I think I detect a little sarcasm/humor in your post but I’m going to respond as if you were 100% serious. I think you’re getting too hung up on the pain example of incorrigibility.

    An incorrigible belief is a first-person belief that the believer can’t be wrong about. So, if I think I’m in pain, then I must be in pain, because this is something I can’t be wrong about. But there’s plenty of non-pain incorrigible beliefs. From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article on Religious Epistemology:

    For example, I might be mistaken about the color of the grass or sky but I cannot be mistaken about the following: “The grass seems green to me” or “The sky appears to me to be blue.” I might be mistaken about the color of grass, and so such a belief is not certain for me, but I can’t be wrong about what the color of grass seems to be to me.

    MS Quixote: I made that post because I thought that even if you weren’t making that argument for other people to accept, you were saying that you believed because God’s existence was incorrigible for you. And I tried to point out that another being’s existence cannot be incorrigible for you.

    Thanks for the prior response. And thanks for the willingness to share your views here.

  • http://zeroanaphora.blogspot.com/ Abbie

    TommyP: Uh, “the five senses” is the standard phrase. Everyone knows there’s a few others. You missed the sense of where your limbs are… I forget what it’s called.

  • Dave

    The Nine Senses:

    Proprioception (pronounced /ˌproʊpriːəˈsɛpʃən/ PRO-pree-o-SEP-shun); from Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own” and perception) is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body. Unlike the six exteroceptive senses (sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing, and balance) by which we perceive the outside world, and interoceptive senses, by which we perceive the pain and the stretching of internal organs, proprioception is a third distinct sensory modality that provides feedback solely on the status of the body internally. It is the sense that indicates whether the body is moving with required effort, as well as where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other.

    From Wikipedia

  • Scotlyn

    Modusoperandi –

    Regular reality is quite trippy enough, thank you very much

    Can I please visit your brain next time I feel like partying? Sounds like it takes its entertainment job very seriously :) (from the dudess…)

    Actually, though, here’s the point of this whole discussion – any one of us could point to this type of experience, even an experience that feels, tastes, sounds, etc like an experience of god, and still not conclude that there is a god.

    Does that mean that we’re thick, and that even if God himself ate our cookies, without leaving any crumbs, that we still would stubbornly refuse to believe?

    Or is it that this type of experience simply isn’t persuasive and doesn’t add up to evidence?

  • TommyP

    Thanks for the best clarification of our true number of senses that I have ever seen, Dave.

  • Brad
    If existence does in fact precede essence, and my actions determine meaning in my life, then how does the choice to believe in God differ from any other choice, Sartre’s wish to be unobserved notwithstanding? [MS Quixote]

    This may surprise some of my readers, but I don’t think the choice of whether or not to believe in God is the most important decision a person can make in their life. [Ebonmuse]

    Personally, I’m hesitant to call belief a “choice”. Obviously one can see the light of reason, the clarity of logic, the facts of self-evident personal experience and scholarly study – excepting human fallibility and bias, but at the end of the day it’s the infrastructure of the psyche that determines whether or not a belief will be accepted, embraced, denied, rejected, discarded, transformed, ignored, or put into some other epistemological category or cognitive holding-place of the mind. I’m prone to suspect that pure reason is rarely ever the whole story behind a significant belief held by people. Only at the end of the bell curve do the determined investigators dwell.

    Second, I think you’re being a bit weaselly by saying “I’m not all that concerned…” and then turning around and saying a belief is unequal because truth is valuable in and of itself. It seems extrapolitical to claim relative disinterest as long as there is a “good philosophy” and at the same time imply we should shoot for the “best” choice. Perhaps further elaboration would clear that up.

    If such a thing as proper basicality obtains, belief in God is certainly properly basic in the classic foundational sense. It’s incorrigible, presenting itself as clearly as pain. No wonder most theists do think God is as evident as the sun. [MS Quixote]

    In retrospect, I think Quixote may have been saying that belief in God simply felt incorrigible to some significant subset of theists, as he is trying to lay down the reasons most theists believe. From the many testimonials I’ve heard – and from my own experience – I’d have to say that many theists perceive their own belief as unchangeable and incorruptible and then months later wind up on the other side of the spectrum.

    Can you elaborate? Why is it the case that justice, consciousness and the like raise the odds in favor of a world-with-God hypothesis over those of a world-without-God hypothesis? [Ebonmuse]

    In the original statement, MS Quixote qualified with “screams … to the theist.” There are probably a number of reasons behind this one, but the immediate one that comes to my mind is that theists may react with wonder and awe which they can’t easily explain without believing in a powerful positive force behind it.

  • Danikajaye

    I was watching a documentary about heart transplant patients and the phenomenon of organ donation recipients having radical personality changes and actually taking on characteristics of the people from whom they received the organs. Now I think to a theist this could be interpretted as evidence of God or the soul or some type of miracle or spiritual connection.

    The following is from an article by Leslie A. Takeuchi, BA, PTA on this very subject:

    Candace Pert, author of Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel, says, “Memories are stored not only in the brain, but in a psychosomatic network extending into the body . . . all the way out along pathways to internal organs and the very surface of our skin.” After having discovered neuropeptides in all body tissues, Pert suggests that through cellular receptors, thoughts or memories may remain unconscious or can become conscious-raising the possibility of physiological connections between memories, organs and the mind.

    It has been suggested that the storage of memories does not reside solely in the brain but throughout the whole body. It is still currently under study but it is believed that the heart may also have a memory of its own. I’m sure for many transplant recipients this would feel like a spiritual experience to them. However, even in such an extraordinary circumstance as this there is still a physiological explanation. To further counter the argument that personality is evidence of the soul and the soul is evidence of god how would a theist interpret this new scientific research?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Wow, I really enjoyed the glimpses into people’s personal deconversion stories. They’re a bit hard for me to relate to though, because I never bought into most of what the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements were selling. That others did and were disappointed does not surprise me at all, as distrust is nearly always justified by empty claims. Regarding Eastern transcendentalism, I’ve never been the type to jump to the conclusion that unexplained phenomena necessarily entail God. Lastly, I’d like to compliment Scotlyn on her writing (I apologize if you are biologically male or identify as such, but I vaguely recall seeing a picture of a female with your name on it over at Chaplain’s blog, and the writing style was similar).

    Ebon,

    ..there are millions of believers worldwide in hundreds of sects, all of whom insist that their perception of God is clear, unimpaired, and correct, who nevertheless disagree dramatically about fundamental issues of the nature, characteristics, and desires of this God.

    I’ve never understood this “religious dissonance” argument. Whether we’re talking science, politics or pop culture, I can’t think of a single human field of endeavor that is free from internal dissonance and disagreement. Was there not strong disagreement as to the nature of the pre-Hubble universe, or the peculiarities of the fossil record? Are cosmologists agreed on dark matter today? Disagreement does not entail that all interpretations are false anywhere else, so why not make this allowance for religion?

    If the existence of justice, morality and the like point toward the existence of God, then it seems to me that injustice and immorality must be evidence against the existence of God.

    Or, evidence for another god which possesses said attributes – and interestingly, that’s exactly what the Bible describes.

    ..it’s a lot more challenging to explain how evil and injustice could come to be in a world overseen by a deity that does not desire such things.

    A cogent explanation of how we might know evil leads to suffering without experiencing either would be far more impressive in my book.

    pendens proditor,

    Well, I don’t see that anyone else has taken a stab, so why not… I read your comment twice and carefully, but I don’t think I can satisfy you because I disagree with your definition of time. The way I see it, evidence is consistent with the idea that all conscious, sentient beings have timelines, as what we call time is literally just a measurement of energy expenditure between two events. Therefore, a “timeless God” or “timeless consciousness” of any sort appears logically impossible. That’s my two cents worth.

  • Doug

    2 quick things…

    Do you think we burned Quixote out?

    All this talk of ‘incorrigible’ reminds me of this.

  • Leum

    I’ve never understood this “religious dissonance” argument. Whether we’re talking science, politics or pop culture, I can’t think of a single human field of endeavor that is free from internal dissonance and disagreement. Was there not strong disagreement as to the nature of the pre-Hubble universe, or the peculiarities of the fossil record? Are cosmologists agreed on dark matter today? Disagreement does not entail that all interpretations are false anywhere else, so why not make this allowance for religion?

    There’s a difference between “free from internal dissonance and disagreement” and the dissonance between religions. If science had as much internal dissonance as religion there’d be disagreement as to whether monkeys were primates or conifers, whether schist existed or was just an illusion in the minds of metamorphic petrologists, the existence of gravity in Newtonian physics would be a point of angry contention, and there would be several hundred versions of the periodic table.

    Pop culture, unlike religion, is a matter of taste. Religion deals in objective truths, things that are correct even if nobody agrees with them (as does science).

    On politics you have a point. But, unlike with religion, there isn’t some being that actually knows all the answers to political questions perfectly and no one claims that that being has given them (or anyone) the answers with the exception of some highly religious people (and possibly Marxists and Objectivists).

    Obviously, this argument doesn’t work against Quixote’s god, since He doesn’t want everyone coming to Him.

  • Dave

    @ 31 cl:

    I’ve never understood this “religious dissonance” argument. Whether we’re talking science, politics or pop culture, I can’t think of a single human field of endeavor that is free from internal dissonance and disagreement. Was there not strong disagreement as to the nature of the pre-Hubble universe, or the peculiarities of the fossil record? Are cosmologists agreed on dark matter today? Disagreement does not entail that all interpretations are false anywhere else, so why not make this allowance for religion?

    Ok, I will take a stab at this. Others can join in.

    With regard to hundreds of religions with their differing takes on morality and other issues, one needs ask if there are hundreds of sciences, each with a different methodology? Only then would cl’s question (or challenge) make sense. In fact, while individual problems within science may, at any given moment, have researchers with different ideas about a problem, there are not many sciences. So cl’s analogy fails, and ebon’s point stands.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Scotlyn “Can I please visit your brain next time I feel like partying? Sounds like it takes its entertainment job very seriously :) (from the dudess…)”
    Make no mistake, reality is plenty weird on its own without gods. Ever see slugs mate? If simple stuff like that doesn’t blow your mind, you have no sense of wonder.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    cl @ #31: Science has its own methods, as does religion. Science, however, entails a capacity for self-correction which religion lacks.

    I believe that it is disingenuous to compare disagreements on scientific matters to disagreements on religious matters. Why?

    Disagreements on scientific matters can be settled through the scientific method – that is the self-correction mechanism I have mentioned. Revelation seems to be the general method of religion, and what kind of results does it produce?

    At every level, revelation produces greatly contradictory and convoluted results with limited predictive power. Science has a mechanism to demonstrate the empirical validity of its claims – religion does not. Its main method, revelation, tends to produce contradictory results which largely cannot be substantiated. If scientists in India, China, Australia, North America, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe all continued to produce contradictory and unworkable conclusions for thousands of years, would you have any reason to believe in the efficacy of science? Yet this is the current state of religion.

    Is there any way to effectively establish whether Hinduism/Buddhism/Sikhism is more empirically valid than Christianity? Religion cannot do what science can do: it cannot demonstrate the empirical validity of its results. Yes, religion does proposes hypotheses at times. Does this make it scientific? No, that is not enough to be scientific – the entire scientific method must be employed.

    Of course, I believe you would be entirely correct in asserting that religion should not attempt to perform the functions of science. However, you criticize science for sharing certain flaws of religion, and yet you fail to engage on a basic level why science and religion produce the answers they do, and how they produce those answers, and the critical differences between the methods of science and religion.

    Disagreement does not entail that all interpretations are false anywhere else, so why not make this allowance for religion?

    It is not mere disagreement between religions which suggests the high probability that its observations are false — it is the overwhelming contradiction, confusion, and chaos inherent in the results obtained through religion over the past several thousand years, which is the direct result of religion’s lack of self-correcting mechanisms, which suggests the high probability that the observations of religions are false.

  • Stacey Melissa

    cl said:

    I’ve never understood this “religious dissonance” argument. Whether we’re talking science, politics or pop culture, I can’t think of a single human field of endeavor that is free from internal dissonance and disagreement. Was there not strong disagreement as to the nature of the pre-Hubble universe, or the peculiarities of the fossil record? Are cosmologists agreed on dark matter today? Disagreement does not entail that all interpretations are false anywhere else, so why not make this allowance for religion?

    The difference is that over time, religious belief diverges, while scientific thought converges. Scientists gradually home in on facts, while religionists imagine up a plethora of new “facts” to add to their coreligionists existing, competing “facts”. Scientists start out with a variety of hypotheses to explain something, and eventually, they whittle the list down to one hypothesis. Relgionists, OTOH, start out with one religious belief, which then diverges into many different competing religious beliefs as it spreads.

    So the “dissonance” refers to the divergence of religions. And as someone else mentioned, pop culture and politics are pretty much just matters of opinion, so it’s no surprise they change and diverge all the time.

  • Pi Guy

    Religion deals in objective truths, things that are correct even if nobody agrees with them (as does science). [emphasis mine]

    Whoa – what?

    I don’t even know how to respond to that except to say that if theists believe that religion is objective and is based upon truth then there is really no point in having this discussion. I now think I know how believers believe what they believe: they simply redefine words so that they don’t mean what they really mean and – BAM! – science and religion are exactly the same. QED.

    Now, wheres my copy of Of Pandas and People

  • http://skepticaloccultism.com/ pendens proditor

    @ cl (#31),

    Well, I don’t see that anyone else has taken a stab, so why not… I read your comment twice and carefully, but I don’t think I can satisfy you because I disagree with your definition of time. The way I see it, evidence is consistent with the idea that all conscious, sentient beings have timelines, as what we call time is literally just a measurement of energy expenditure between two events. Therefore, a “timeless God” or “timeless consciousness” of any sort appears logically impossible. That’s my two cents worth.

    That a timeless consciousness is logically impossible is my point, in a nutshell. However, if time is a subjective thing, then maybe it’s the underlying framework that allows for there to be two distinct events that I’m really trying to pinpoint here as the metaphysical substrate that a creator must necessarily inhabit, but that theism today doesn’t seem to allow for.

    God was evicted from space-time for reasons that are obvious to us now, but as far as I can tell the realm God was transported to generates at least as many problems as it solves (much like Cartesian dualism did for the mind). I’m not convinced that placing God there can even be considered a lateral move for theists. So I’m curious how some of these new problems are addressed, if they’ve even yet been considered.

  • Scotlyn

    Modusoperandi

    Ever see slugs mate? If simple stuff like that doesn’t blow your mind, you have no sense of wonder.

    Modus, I think that I shall never forget that I have seen this wonder, even when I’m getting my fingers sticky picking slugs off my lettuces and finding them a new home in the next field. Thank you!

    Teleprompter

    Is there any way to effectively establish whether Hinduism/Buddhism/Sikhism is more empirically valid than Christianity?

    I believe that at one time or another, all of these religions, including (especially?) the last have resorted to the empiricism of the sword as the final arbiter of Truth…special emphasis on the word “final”.

    I’ve yet to encounter a bunch of scientists who set out to prove their case with their fists, or any other display of force…although cutting logic sometimes does the job!

  • Leum

    I don’t even know how to respond to that except to say that if theists believe that religion is objective and is based upon truth then there is really no point in having this discussion. I now think I know how believers believe what they believe: they simply redefine words so that they don’t mean what they really mean and – BAM! – science and religion are exactly the same. QED.

    You misunderstand me. Religion makes claims about the nature of objective reality. As such, it deals in objective truths, even if it is entirely wrong. Science also makes claims about objective reality, and thus also deals in objective truths. The difference is in the methodology used to support the claims. This is more true for some religions than others, of course (ie, some religions deal more with the subjective and philosophies of life than with the nature of the universe).

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Sorry to pile up my responses, but those are just Ebon’s silly rules. The short story is, although there was much reaction to the “religious dissonance” part of my comment, nobody successfully demonstrated how disagreement over a proposition entails its implausibility.

    Brad‘s knife was quite sharp (in a good way). Leum, Quixote can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Quixote believes in the God of the Bible. If that’s the case, your final sentence in Comment #33 is incorrect. As far as the rest of that comment, I can agree that pop culture is a matter of taste, and I can agree that religion purports to deal with objective truths. I cannot agree with the idea that strong disagreement over a proposition constitutes evidence of its nonexistence or implausibility, and that’s where the “religious dissonance” argument inevitably leads as far as I’ve seen it argued here. Also, I understood exactly what you meant by “religion deals in objective truths,” and I disagree with all disagreement on that point. In my opinion, your statement is correct as worded.

    Dave seems to think the non-existence of “many sciences” upholds the religious dissonance argument, but I’m not convinced. Is there a different methodology for each religion? Only then would Dave’s comment make sense.

    Danikajaye,

    To further counter the argument that personality is evidence of the soul and the soul is evidence of god how would a theist interpret this new scientific research?

    Let me be clear that logically, a soul is not evidence of any particular God. Still, I would start without the assumption that this “new scientific research” poses any threat to theism or ideas of the soul, because that position is not logically sustainable.

    I disagree with Teleprompter that religion lacks self-corrective measures and that revelation is the general method of religion, and I don’t see how comparing religious matters to scientific matters entails disingenuousness, as I’m not ignoring any pre-existing facts. Yet I can agree with Teleprompter that revelation by its very nature entails a certain and seemingly inherent level of suspicion, and a reasoned reading of the Bible supports that idea in the very first chapter. Also,

    Is there any way to effectively establish whether Hinduism/Buddhism/Sikhism is more empirically valid than Christianity?

    Certainly, but one step at a time. What we call Hinduism/Buddhism/Sikhism/Christianity are actually macro concepts each entailing a unique subset of claims that are most certainly fair game for reasoned analysis.

    Religion cannot do what science can do: it cannot demonstrate the empirical validity of its results.

    That depends on the particular nature of the claim. If we’re talking about proving miracles, revelation or prayer, for examples – then I agree with you. If we’re talking whether Jesus ever existed or some similar epistemologically accessible claim, that’s a different story. And, you’re right – I don’t think religion should attempt to perform the functions of science.

    ..you criticize science for sharing certain flaws of religion,

    Such as? I don’t recall such an argument here..

    It is not mere disagreement between religions which suggests the high probability that its observations are false — it is the overwhelming contradiction, confusion, and chaos inherent in the results obtained through religion over the past several thousand years, which is the direct result of religion’s lack of self-correcting mechanisms, which suggests the high probability that the observations of religions are false.

    I appreciate your closing opinion, but I disagree.

    Stacey Melissa,

    The difference is that over time, religious belief diverges, while scientific thought converges.

    I disagree. There is both convergence and divergence in science and religion, today.

    Scientists gradually home in on facts, while religionists imagine up a plethora of new “facts” to add to their coreligionists existing, competing “facts”.

    That’s an oversimplified and inaccurate argument. Scientists often imagine facts, and religionists often home in on facts.

    pendens proditor,

    That a timeless consciousness is logically impossible is my point, in a nutshell.

    Then it seems we agree, but where I don’t follow you is when you say that theism doesn’t allow the metaphysical substrate that a Creator must necessarily inhabit. Why not?

  • Scotlyn

    cl

    and I disagree with all disagreement on that point

    so …I’ll see your contention and raise you two polemics!!!
    :)

  • Stacey Melissa

    cl – I was referring to overall historical trends; I realize there will always be pockets of religionists and scientists who buck their respective trends.

    The overall historical trend in religion is for the number of different god concepts to multiply. The overall historical trend in science, however, is for consensus to be reached after competing hypotheses are gradually eliminated.

    That’s not to say there isn’t also some degree of lateral reconsolidation, such when the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Bretheren Church to form the United Methodist Church. But that still leaves thousands of Christian denominations, which have diverged from the one original Christianity (assuming there was one original, rather than a set of originals all making claim to the name).

  • Dave

    cl @ 42

    Dave seems to think the non-existence of “many sciences” upholds the religious dissonance argument, but I’m not convinced. Is there a different methodology for each religion? Only then would Dave’s comment make sense.

    cl failed to comprehend the meaning of between and within when he stated “I’ve never understood this “religious dissonance” argument.”

    The “dissonance” ebon cites is between religions. Each religion has its own recipe for enlightenment, salvation, morality or whatever. Granted, some of the religions can be quite similar in specific aspects. But there is little evidence that they are anything but at odds with each other over most things.

    The dissonance and disagreement cl observes in science is within the discipline itself. Individuals within science may disagree, but as others have well noted, the single enterprise we call science resolves these disagreements over time.

    Noting cl’s criteria that there be “a different methodology for each religion” for my original comment to make sense, and the corollary of “the non-existence of “many sciences”, my original comment makes sense.

    Now, given cl’s methods of argumentation, I would expect him to ignore whether the logic holds here, and instead ask another question.

    If he had evidence or logic on his side, he would have offered it on behalf of the “many sciences” idea. Like wise, he would have offered evidence that all religions share the same methodology. Then, he could have asserted my comment made no sense, rather than suggesting the comment might not make sense.

  • http://skepticaloccultism.com/ pendens proditor

    @ cl (#42),

    Then it seems we agree, but where I don’t follow you is when you say that theism doesn’t allow the metaphysical substrate that a Creator must necessarily inhabit. Why not?

    Space-time provides the framework that facilitates the existence of multiple entities and multiple events. The cause/effect nature of creation seems to rely on such a framework. Multiple events, certainly, as creation is an event. Multiple entities as there is both a creator and a creation.

    Centuries ago theists removed God from space-time because they couldn’t solve the problem of how the framework could preexist him (I’m giving up on genderless pronouns here) or how he could be bounded by it. Logic dictated that God couldn’t be imagined as anything but some sort of spaceless timeless singularity. But I’d argue that God has been tossed from the frying pan into the fire because he’s been transported to a realm where there’s no reason to assume that there’s an analogous framework that would facilitate the act of creation (or any act at all). To assume it just because it makes God feasible is just too ad hoc for me. And you also have a double-standard to deal with: why is it a problem that space-time preexists God (whatever it means to “preexist” when space-time itself facilitates preexistence) but not a problem that this new super-framework seemingly also preexists him?

    It’s difficult as hell for us humans to fully conceptualize an existence in a realm where there’s truly no space or time (if we can even label it “existence”), and I think it’s ultimately our continual failure to do so that allows this picture of God to persist in our minds.

    Maybe the fish from the allegory would help me clarify. Imagine a group of fish philosophers who finally become aware of the water they exist in. Fish theologians decide that there couldn’t have been water before Fish God, because he is their eternal first cause, so they remove Fish God from water completely. But then they suggest that he still swims, and floats, and blows bubbles, and does any manner of watery things. We’d be right to suggest that they haven’t removed Fish God from water, they’ve just put him in different water. And it’s obvious to us that they did so because they hadn’t stopped anthropomorphizing (well, ichthymorphizing) him.

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    pendens proditor:

    Good analogy! A perfect example of how theists want their god to have his worm, and eat it, too.

  • Pi Guy

    If science had as much internal dissonance as religion there’d be disagreement as to whether monkeys were primates or conifers, whether schist existed or was just an illusion in the minds of metamorphic petrologists, the existence of gravity in Newtonian physics would be a point of angry contention, and there would be several hundred versions of the periodic table.

    It’s not “internal dissonance” that distinguishes primates from conifers. It’s precisely because there’s a truly objective delineation between them there’s no, as you say, dissonance. There is no analogy that I can think of to a “personal carbon” or a personal “personal rate of acceleration due to the Earth’s gravity”.

    I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be dismissive but I utterly fail to see what’s objective about assuming that there’s a god despite the fact that there are no objective (that is, you don’t need to personally feel anything) observations that would lead to that hypothesis. Just because you’re seeking truths doesn’t mean that you’re automatically being objective.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    I feel it may be far clearer if we asked whether Quixote had some additional eighth sensory apparatus tucked away somewhere on his person.

    I appreciate the set up on this one Tommy, but I better not :)

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    cl @ 42: Thanks for responding to my post. Please allow me to clarify some of my remarks.

    I disagree with Teleprompter that religion lacks self-corrective measures and that revelation is the general method of religion

    What are some of the self-corrective measures of religion? Could you give an example or two? And if revelation is not the general method of religion, what is? Again, could you please give me an example?

    I don’t see how comparing religious matters to scientific matters entails disingenuousness, as I’m not ignoring any pre-existing facts

    cl, earlier you said in comment #31:

    I can’t think of a single human field of endeavor that is free from internal dissonance and disagreement. Was there not strong disagreement as to the nature of the pre-Hubble universe, or the peculiarities of the fossil record? Are cosmologists agreed on dark matter today? Disagreement does not entail that all interpretations are false anywhere else, so why not make this allowance for religion?

    You claim not to be ignoring any pre-existing facts. Your facts do seem to be in line: yes, there has been strong disagreement between scientists over the implications and kinks in certain hypotheses and theories. However, your comparison between science and religion seems to suggest that the scientific evidence is a matter of mere “interpretation”, when in fact the controversies to which you’ve alluded have mostly been placeholders for scientific evidence. Where is the evidence for religious hypotheses? Where is the possibility of evidence? Where are the gods? In the clouds, according to those who knew the best science of the day in their times. Where are the gods? Beyond space and time, according to those who know the best science of their day. Is it a curious coincidence how religious ideas are continually “re-interpreted” according to the best secular knowledge of the time? Is that the corrective mechanism you’re proposing? Your comparison between science and religion is disingenuous because it implies that they are some kind of equal ground as far as the nature of the deliberations between scientists on the one hand and between theologians on the other.

    Yet I can agree with Teleprompter that revelation by its very nature entails a certain and seemingly inherent level of suspicion, and a reasoned reading of the Bible supports that idea in the very first chapter.

    What is your standard for a reasoned reading of the Bible? Could you describe it?

    Certainly, but one step at a time. What we call Hinduism/Buddhism/Sikhism/Christianity are actually macro concepts each entailing a unique subset of claims that are most certainly fair game for reasoned analysis.

    I think that’s fair enough. I agree that all of the claims of all religious beliefs should be subject to reasoned analysis.

    If we’re talking whether Jesus ever existed or some similar epistemologically accessible claim, that’s a different story. And, you’re right – I don’t think religion should attempt to perform the functions of science.

    I agree with you here again. I agree with you that religion should not attempt to perform the functions of science. However, I am genuinely curious about something…you were talking about evaluating the claims of individual religions. If a religion hypothesizes that a god actively intervenes in the world, then isn’t that a scientific claim?

    Such as? I don’t recall such an argument here..

    When I said that you were criticizing certain flaws of science that are shared by religion, I was referring to your comment about “internal dissonance and disagreement”.

    I appreciate your closing opinion, but I disagree.

    Thanks.

  • Brad

    I’ve never understood this “religious dissonance” argument. Whether we’re talking science, politics or pop culture, I can’t think of a single human field of endeavor that is free from internal dissonance and disagreement. Was there not strong disagreement as to the nature of the pre-Hubble universe, or the peculiarities of the fossil record? Are cosmologists agreed on dark matter today? Disagreement does not entail that all interpretations are false anywhere else, so why not make this allowance for religion? [-cl]

    Although Ebonmuse may not have taken the pains to so thoroughly present this point (it’s been a while since I’ve been on the Musings), I think he’s saying slightly more than “disagreement = no truth.” Religion has a horrible track record compared to science, and one only someways comparable to politics and pop culture.

    Scientific communities have a long track record of getting over their disagreements whenever facts could be accessed and given enough time to boil in the sun. Politics have always involved conflicting interests and power structures, and so politics has always had some measure of inevitable self-defeat present in it. Pop culture conflicts with tastes and backgrounds – it is an engine of arbitrariness that gives us stuff to do, and dissonance and competition are human nature. Religion, on the other hand, has simply kept splitting into varied pieces as well as popping up in new manifestations. As Ebondude says, this suggests human imagination is at root here, if not the whole foundation for it all.

    To me, this clears the table of possibilities of any gods that would preclude this sort of thing from happening, i.e. highly interactive and closely involved gods. I think the “dissonance” argument has at least narrowed the investigation down to relatively distant beings who would allow wholescale confusion to erupt in their virtual nonparticipation.

  • John Nernoff

    I know it’s late in this discussion; I will quickly summarize my response to “religious experience.”

    So you encountered “God.” (Boredom makes a guest appearance right now). How do you know it was the “God” which has attributes such as O-O-O (you know, the omnimax variety sold like breakfast cereal by most any church).

    He’s the creator. How do assess this being you encountered as having created anything? Think about it.

    He’s omniscient. Did you ask it all questions and get correct answers? Are you omniscient and are able to test any subject you meet as to his complete knowledge? Did you do this in your religious experience?

    He’s omnipotent. Were you able to test this being which you claim is “God” by asking him to perform some difficult tasks? I hate to get picky and persnickety, but I don’t believe you did. But if I am wrong, why not provide the details.

    I could go on. But the least investigation into any claim of direct experience of “God” should provide some minimally good evidence that you indeed met an entity with almighty manifold specific powers, and not simply that it was just a fantastic feeling or dream or emotion.