Guest post; I’m a Christian…But it’s Not What You’re Thinking.

Today’s guest post comes from Lee Woofenden, who blogs at Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life, a rich and thoughtful site that will, I’m sure, give you many hours of blog reading pleasure. This is a wonderful post that I’m sure you will enjoy.

By Lee Woofenden

I grew up in a family that was materially fairly poor, but spiritually very rich.  I grew up in working class neighborhoods, wearing hand-me-downs from my older brothers. Yet despite modest material circumstances, our world was rich withspiritual love and understanding.

My parents were steeped in a deep, thoughtful, and satisfying faith that went back several generations on both sides. Yes, they inculcated that faith in us. But more than that, they lived their faith. This meant giving us love, respect, and practical guidance through the many events and issues of our childhood and teen years.

Their lives expressed their faith. Here are a few key points:

1. God is pure love and pure wisdom. These are behind everything God does.

God loves all people, saint and sinner alike, regardless of race or religion. There is no anger in God, no desire to punish us for our sins. There is only a loving desire to lead us out of evil, pain, and suffering toward what is good, true, and joyful.

2. Jesus Christ is God come to save us from our own evil.

There was no need to assuage God’s anger or satisfy God’s justice. Jesus was not saving us from God, but from ourselves, and our own downward spiral into selfishness, greed, and lust for power over others.

3. God saves us by touching our hearts and minds and changing us from the inside out.

God will not step in to fix the world that we humans have broken so badly. Instead, God is continually reaching out to us from within, touching every receptive heart with the will and the strength to go out into the world and bring justice, comfort, and joy where there is injustice, pain, and sorrow.

And yet . . . is it true? Or is this just a lot of wishful thinking?

That’s the question I faced in my late teens. I realized that as beautiful as all of this was, it was simply what I’d been taught. How did I know it was really true? I realized that I could go either way.

·         I could reject what I had been taught about God and creation, and become an atheist.
·         I could accept that God is real, that God is love, and that we are all here for a reason.

Whichever choice I made, I knew that I would convince myself that I had made the right choice. I realized that my mind would go wherever my heart went.

Ultimately, it is not reason or logic that determines what we humans will believe, as necessary and useful as they are in making sense of this world of ours. Ultimately, we humans will believe whatever we think will bring about the most good for those we most love and care about, whether that is ourselves, our family, our country, or humanity as a whole.

When faced with that ultimate question in my late teens, I chose to believe in the God of love, wisdom, creativity, and compassion that I had learned about all though my growing up years.

Why did I choose this rather than disbelief and atheism?

I decided that this belief would bring about the most good in me, and in how I would touch the world around me.

With that choice, my belief and my purpose in life was set. Despite the rocky road I have traveled since then, I have never looked back. My faith gives meaning and purpose to everything I do.

 

 

48 thoughts on “Guest post; I’m a Christian…But it’s Not What You’re Thinking.

  1. Reblogged this on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life and commented:
    Here is a guest post I wrote for Eva over at The Aspirational Agnostic: Searching for a God who’s playing hard to get. The post is in answer to the question, “What do you believe and why do you believe it?” While you’re over there, take the opportunity to browse through some of Eva’s thoughtful and thought-provoking posts.

    • Dear Reader,

      If you are so foolish as to actually read the long, drawn-out debate that follows, may I suggest that you also read this post on my blog?

      Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?

      It offers a more organized, point-by-point presentation of some of the issues and ideas discussed below–from my perspective, of course.

      My apologies to those who find these debates tiresome. You really don’t have to read it. But if you do, I hope you will find some new and interesting tidbits about reality and the human experience in my comments.

  2. Lee writes that his folks lived their faith, namely giving us love, respect, and practical guidance through the many events and issues of our childhood and teen years.”

    That’s not faith; that’s good parenting.

    The ‘choice’ to believe or not believe is hugely problematic. I’ve read many people steeped in a particular faith who, try as they might, could not believe… as well as many people of no belief (and then usually through a marriage commitment with a religious spouse) become convinced that they’ve always been wrong and do, in fact, believe (which just so happens and surprisingly so to align with that of their new spouse).

    Unlike many believers, atheists must be autonomous and take full responsibility for themselves, for their morals and ethical practices, for their relationships, for their purpose and meaning, for their lives in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for all the decisions they make. It’s not a question of being good; it’s a question of being honest with integrity. It is much more difficult to autonomous and good than it is to be dependent for that same good; one owns the former while borrows the latter.

    • Hi tildeb,

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      It’s not easy for anyone to live with honesty and integrity, and do what is good. With so many tempting but unethical or morally questionable shortcuts available, whether atheist or theist, our character is tested with every decision we make.

      None of us is truly autonomous. That is an illusion. Day in and day out, we depend upon one another, upon our environment, and upon whatever it is that gives us life.

      However, ultimately we all must take full responsibility for ourselves and our own actions, whether theist or atheist. Theists cannot hide behind their religion to justify evil and destructive acts, or just plain laziness. Nor can atheists use the excuse that because there’s no god (as they believe), they can just live however the hell they want with no rules or boundaries at all.

      Obviously, I’m a theist. And I believe that when we metaphorically stand before God after death, God will not ask us what we believed, or even whether we believed in God. God will ask what we did with our life, and whether we truly cared about anyone else, and benefited anyone besides ourselves.

      • That sounds very reasonable. But is it true?

        First, you claim Theists cannot hide behind their religion to justify evil and destructive acts, or just plain laziness yet this is exactly what we see around us all the time… with the caveat that the acts that are justified as good are so because they are religiously inspired. This is the very hiding you suggest isn’t typical. I think it is and demonstrably so. What you call ‘evil and destructive acts’ is really a tautology (when considering how religion is used all the time to justify an act as ‘good’) in order to set up the false dichotomy with atheists… some of whom you claim use the excuse that because there’s no god (as they believe), they can just live however the hell they want with no rules or boundaries at all. I am a New Atheist who has read extensively the works of other atheists (and in contact with many more), and never have I come across this comparative justification. Ever. If it were equivalently typical in order for the comparison to work, I would have by now.

        So the point is that the morality used to justify what constitutes ‘good’ in religious terms is borrowed from the religion (which is a very convenient way to justify almost anything), whereas in a fair comparison there is nothing equivalent for the atheist’s convenience… other than personally assembling a moral framework and then being responsible for acting on it.

        The theist – especially in the public domain – can and does hide behind the religious moral prescriptions all the time (and doesn’t have to think too much about it) and then acts on these not because they are honestly held after some compare-and-contrast merit but because doing so is seen as a matter of piety. This is borrowed morality and it lack intellectual integrity. (Just following orders…)

        I’m claiming the atheist – by this personal assembly of a moral standard and allegiance to its principles – does not (and cannot ) hide behind anything. The atheist must accept full responsibility for the moral standard being used and argue by merit why some act is morally justified. This is owned morality. (which is both honest and used with integrity) whereas the theist can pull out which ever prescription best fits with a momentary and selfish urge and pretend they are just following divine orders. And we see this kind of religious justification in action all around us every day.

        I think if you were honestly concerned with doing the most good for real people in the here and now, you would use a metric based on what you thought represented the kind of ‘good’ you wanted to accomplish in the here and now (no middlemen involved). And it seems to me the metric you are actually using is not based on a primary consideration of real people in real life for their real world aid in the here and now but on first understanding and then pleasing a divine critter for some later payment… doing the kind of ‘good’ – in the name of others – you think it prefers.

        And that’s not a trivial difference in motivation; it reveals a willingness to act in the name of altruism, in the name of goodness, in the name of others and pretend the act itself reveals you to be an autonomous moral agent. This isn’t the case. This approach hides a deeper manipulation aimed at benefiting yourself by helping others under various names.

        Your claim to be an autonomous moral agent is therefore suspect because you haven’t really thought through why your actions when done in the name of one thing but justified under the name of piety are not really you acting to do ‘good’ for goodness’ sake, for the sake of others, for the sake of exercising altruism ; you are actually and admittedly acting as an agent of your god doing good in his/her/its name to benefit your standing with him/her/it at some later date.

        Doing good for a theist is more often than not a means to some other end than doing good as so widely advertized. And that’s dishonest… even if it benefits people desperately in need of your aid.

        For the atheist, doing good for goodness’ sake is straight up and honest. The end and the means are in harmony between an autonomous moral agent and the acts done by the same agent. No middleman.

        • Hi tildeb,

          That’s a lot of fairly abstract words, painting with a broad brush of generalities.

          Rather than having you tell me about my beliefs and motives–which I happen to know more about than you do–I would be more interested in hearing you talk about how you personally came to think the way you do. I suspect that as for me, it has to do with what you think will bring about the most good in the world.

          To get very specific, several of the New Atheists I have encountered so far grew up in Fundamentalist Christian families. Was that the case for you?

          • I commented on this post because I thought a response was needed to the suggestion that one believes in gods or a god because this naturally follows if one wishes to be good, to do good, to make a choice to love, to seek wisdom, to exercise creativity, and implement compassion. My criticism is that none of these follow from such a choice and, in fact, are less likely to follow because of the way religious belief is widely used and accepted to justify actions done in its name (a surrogate agency for the actual agency being so ‘honoured’). Hence, I raise the point that in practice religious morality is borrowed rather than owned and dishonestly advertised as something it is not: a moral standard representing personal integrity.

            You attribute all of these positive and enriching things you name to be some element of faith – or a natural extension of faith – based on the lessons you learned being raised by theists. This connection is a non sequitur. What you didn’t learn to do is to question and criticize this attribution successfully because if you had (and if you did) you would allow reality the power to show you why the attribution you make is factually wrong, highly misleading, and tends to cast a shadow of moral doubt on those who do not similarly believe. This is the real cost paid by people like me for your attributions to continue be accepted as if true without the necessary criticism to demonstrate why they are not.

            And this confirmation bias you exercise (assuming that religion, when properly done, is a force for good in this world) has very negative consequences to those of us who do not believe, which is why as a New Atheist I step in and do so. After all, if I don’t, then who will?

            Not you; you have no need because of the privilege accorded to you by association with piousness, which is why you wave the criticism away as if it were simply a matter of abstraction and unfounded generalities. This, too, is a capitulation of autonomous integrity, of feeling that YOU don’t need to defend your attributions from targeted criticism, that it is the person criticizing your mistaken attributions who does so for some OTHER reasons than accuracy and respecting what’s true.

            My personal history has no bearing in this matter… other than utilizing a teachable moment for those readers who may be swayed not by any context of my life tangential to the issues at hand but by the content of compelling reasons to be highly skeptical of claims about moral justifications that utilize the broken methodology of faith-based belief… a guaranteed method to promote credulity and gullibility as if empowering this willingness to be led by belief were a virtue when it is anything but. And you demonstrate exactly this by assuming your attributions are correct. They’re not. Now the question becomes, ‘Do you even care’?

            • Hi tildeb,

              Thanks for your response.

              Twenty or thirty years ago, when I was a young man, I would have been eager to engage you in a point-by-point debate of your statements and claims. However, I’ve gone down that road before (twenty or thirty years ago), and it only leads to interminable debate.

              The fact that you continue to state what I think and why, when you barely know me or my beliefs, shows that your statements are not based on evidence. It appears that you are applying generalities that you have learned from your extensive New Atheist readings to every instance of theism that you encounter, regardless of whether it actually applies. (Keep in mind that my title is, “I’m a Christian…But it’s Not What You’re Thinking.”)

              This is not how logic and scientific method work. Scientific method posits a theory or hypothesis, then investigates particular cases in reality to see whether they fit the theory. If any of the real world phenomena investigated don’t fit the theory, then the theory must be modified, or scrapped altogether.

              Your theory above does apply to many cases of religion and theism. However, there are many other believers and theists who don’t think and act according to your theory. Therefore, as cogent a criticism as your arguments may be of some instances of religion and theism, they are weak and invalid as universal hypotheses about religion and theism.

              If you don’t want to speak publicly about your own personal history and how you came to the way of thinking that you now hold to, I can respect that. However, I would ask that instead of speaking confidently about others’ history and beliefs–about which you know relatively little–you speak about things that you do know about. That would be your own history and ideas, and the ideas of those with whom you share your particular type of atheism.

              The question to which my post responded was, “What do you believe and why do you believe it?” Rather than listening to you telling me about what I believe and why I believe it (which I already know more about than you do), I remain most interested in hearing what you believe and why you believe it. That’s something I know less about than you do, and would be interested in learning more about.

              • Lee, you complain that you continue to state what I think and why, when you barely know me or my beliefs, (which) shows that your statements are not based on evidence. It appears that you are applying generalities that you have learned from your extensive New Atheist readings to every instance of theism that you encounter, regardless of whether it actually applies.

                Umm, I read your post. You make certain claims:

                1) God is pure love and pure wisdom. These are behind everything God does.

                2) Jesus Christ is God come to save us from our own evil.

                3) God saves us by touching our hearts and minds and changing us from the inside out.

                Your line of reasoning is that you learned this from your parents because they lived their faith. This (meaning religious faith) meant giving us love, respect, and practical guidance through the many events and issues of our childhood and teen years.

                I’m not making this up. I’m not applying to you MY beliefs about your attributions here. I’m listing them and responding to what you have written. You, not I, are stating them. I am criticizing them. You are waving away the criticism under the misrepresentation that tildeb is “telling me about what I believe and why I believe it (which I already know more about than you do), I remain most interested in hearing what you believe and why you believe it.

                This is changing the subject. The subject is your attributions about how your religious beliefs are justified (representing love, respect, practical guidance) and my criticism is about why this justification is not related to religious faith but good parenting, why your attributions about what your religious faith represents (emboldening you to claim what God is, namely, pure love and pure wisdom that has not one shred of evidence to back this up) are not just misplaced but very much mistaken in fact.

                Furthermore, I explain why your attributions mislead you and end up making it much more – not less – difficult to do what you say you set out to do: cause good in the world.

                I know you’d rather be left alone to sound reasonable and sprinkle in tidbits of Oogity Boogity here and there as if they naturally relate to reasonableness, toss in some claims about your god as if they were adduced from reality and knowable when they, in fact, come from you and your beliefs and are unknowable from reality itself (but reliant on assuming the attributions you make are true) but this kind approach is pure poppycock sweetened for the credulous and gullible to swallow whole… perhaps not realizing just how unreasonable and dishonest these claims really are.

                You believe this stuff because you’ve been taught to believe this stuff. You can also teach yourself why you shouldn’t empower poppycock, too… especially when you come to understand that empower these kind s of baseless attributions is the foundation necessary for acting on religious justification to cause real harm to real people in real life. Your desire to avoid confrontation is understandable but impossible as long as you continue to empower your attributions with confidence that ends up maligning others…. whether you understand that or not. Your beliefs deserve criticism if acted upon and your public beliefs deserve public criticism not because I say so but on a lack of merit.

                • Hi tildeb,

                  Thanks for your continued responses.

                  However, I doubt we are going to accomplish much beyond having an endless debate in which you continue to say all of the same things about why I am wrong.

                  I have a lot of sympathy for you. You are standing up for what you believe to be the truth against what you believe to be false and destructive beliefs. Not everyone is willing to do that. Most people just move through life without bothering to dig in very deeply and examine why they believe what they do. You have my respect for your willingness to stand up and fight for the truth as you see it.

                  Given your avoidance of talking about how you arrived where you did in terms of beliefs, I do suspect that you had a fundamentalist background, as do so many New Atheists. This would explain the evident emotion with which you put forward your current viewpoints against all comers.

                  I can’t say that I blame you. The best things, when corrupted, become the worst, and do terrible damage. That is what has happened to much of religion over the ages. Someone needs to stand up to that corruption, and the resulting abuse and damage. Believe it or not, I appreciate the atheist movement for the work it is doing in tearing down old, false structures of religious belief that deserve to go into the dustbin of history.

                  However, the fact that there is false and corrupt religion does not affect the reality of true and genuine religion. Personally, I’ve heard all of your arguments before, and they have little or nothing to do with what I believe and why I believe it. To me, your arguments are simply irrelevant.

                  None of this has anything to do with reason, logic, or science. The fact of the matter is that you cannot even prove that the physical universe, upon which all of science is based, actually exists. See my article:
                  Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?

                  The only things we can know for certain actually exist are our own thoughts, feelings, awareness, and consciousness. Everything else comes to us second-hand, and is therefore less certain.

                  This includes the objective, physical existence of material universe.

                  If you want to question my views of God and spirit, and speak with such absolute certainty that I am wrong, you might want to start by thinking very deeply about whether you can actually demonstrate to yourself or to anyone else that the physical universe exists anywhere else except in your own mind. That is where you experience it. How can you truly know that it exists anywhere else? How can you be certain that you are not in a Matrix-like reality that is all being generated by your consciousness itself, or by some superior intelligence to which your consciousness is attached?

                  Make no mistake about it. You have certain beliefs that are based on particular unprovable, non-demonstrable assumptions about the nature of reality. So do I. There is no reason, logic, or science by which you can be sure that your assumptions about the nature of reality are correct. You simply have to accept them as basic truths or axioms, and build your system on top of them. That is what we humans do.

                  However, all I have to do to call your entire structure of reality into question is to call into question the basic assumptions upon which it is built. And there is nothing you can do to prove that I am wrong and you are right. The basic assumptions from which we all work are themselves unprovable.

                  I very much suspect that you are young and full of fire for beliefs that have given you meaning. And I have no wish to argue with you about them or attempt to rip them away from you, even though I believe they are mistaken.

                  Your beliefs give your life meaning, and give you a reason to live a decent and humane life with your fellow human beings. That’s what’s important. I would not want to take that away from you even if I were able to do so.

                  If you truly wish to debate some of these issues, I would be willing to spend a limited amount of time on it at your blog–not mine, and not Eva’s.

                  However, I think it would probably be better if we just agreed to disagree. That’s what people of good will do when they realize that the other person has strongly held beliefs that are not likely to change.

                  The fact is, it’s not our beliefs that are most important, but our integrity as human beings, and the way we treat our fellow human beings. I am willing to accept that your desire and motive is to treat your fellow human beings well, even if I happen to think your beliefs are mistaken. Are you willing and able to accept that about me?

                  • My last comment in this thread will be to let you know that what you believe about me I consider irrelevant to the purpose of my responses. I tried to let you know that your attributions do not translate into knowledge about the world (or me) because the method you use to inform your assumptions have no means to differentiate between wishful thinking and reality (I know you will assume your experiences overcome this deficiency… but they still pass through the filter of your attributions). This assumption you maintain – that your attributions are correct and reflect reality accurately – carries a cost you impose on others, namely, a belief that degrades ownership for their moral autonomy that you assign to your god without any compelling evidence independent of your attributions! Confusing your attributions to be knowledge about reality provides you a way to justify acts in ways that maintain that cost.

                    I suspect you are not hearing what I’m saying nor following my line of reasoning so busy are you assuming that I must be wrong because your attributions are correct!

                    Hence, the impasse.

                    For example, you relegate my criticism of your attributions not on their own merit – as I keep trying to convey – but assume they are due to some kind of personal religious abuse you presume I once suffered. I speak not to your assumptions about me (which are flat out wrong but, hey, you have no means to know anything different – but to their effects they have on people like I am: atheists in general who, I think, are arguably more moral for accepting full responsibility for them (as well as purpose and meaning and love and wisdom and so on) than are believers who borrow theirs from their religious traditions but present them as if they possess equivalent merit.

                    You attribute all of these characteristics and emergent properties to represent your god’s interactions in this world and thereby refuse to recognize the fullness of your own moral and ethical responsibilities… by always inserting an invisible middleman in all of these dealings. God is love. God is wisdom. God is This and God is that.

                    This middleman is the agency you empower to be the owner – and therefore, the arbiter – for all claims dealing with descriptions of how reality operates (and the agencies it contains), whereas the atheist allows only reality to be such an arbiter for any and all claims made about it.

                    The metrics we use for our moral and ethical behaviours is therefore significantly different (you present yours as if inherently good and the atheists’ as if inherently selfish) and this is a problem that has real effects played out all around us everyday everywhere. You assume yours is superior because its source you attribute to your god, who just so happens to be the source of all goodness. How convenient for you.

                    I assume mine is actually identical to yours as it really is: a personal responsibility accepted by atheists but deflected by theists to that invisible middleman for arbitration. And therein lies the root problem we see played out around us not just between these two camps but between incompatible gods.

                    Whereas the justification for sharia is identical to that for biblical and pentateuch moral prescriptions (the bible/torah/koran says it, I believe it, that settles it), we find an inherent incompatibility because they are in direct conflict with each other. And the human cost to this subservience to the supposed morality of these supposed gods is not trivial and cannot be waved away as some kind of response to childhood religious trauma to those who point this out.

                    There’s something deeply flawed about how much power and confidence you give to your attributions once you understand how this empowerment causes real harm to real people in real life… including yourself.

                    • Hi tildeb,

                      Thanks for your response.

                      However, most of it is a response to other religions, not to mine. You do not know enough about my religion to offer a coherent response to it.

                      A few points in response to your statements:

                      I do not accuse you of selfishness because you are an atheist. You seem to believe in a goodness that transcends your own self-interest. In my religious view, that is an acceptable, even if attenuated, stand-in for a belief in God. Though it may mean nothing to you, I believe that belief is sufficient, if acted upon in your life, to cause you to end out in heaven in the afterlife. In short, though you condemn me because of my theism, I do not condemn you because of your atheism. And I don’t believe God condemns you either.

                      God, in my view, is not a middleman, as you keep repeating. God is the source. The source is the source, not the middleman.

                      I do not subscribe to a literal interpretation of ancient scriptural law. All of your criticisms along those lines are irrelevant to my beliefs.

                      As I have already said, all people, whether religious or not, must ultimately accept full responsibility for their actions and their moral choices–assuming, of course, that they have attained an adult state of rationality and self-responsibility.

                      You, too, cannot know for sure what is truly real. Intellectual honesty requires that you recognize the assumptions that underlie your thinking and your beliefs–and have the humility to recognize that they are just that: assumptions.

                      And once again, regardless of your condemnation of me due to beliefs I hold about which you are generally quite mistaken, I do not condemn you for your conflicting beliefs. In my view, people are to be judged by their actions. That is what shows a person’s true beliefs.

  3. Upon reflection, I will comment yet again and let you know how I came to this understanding about why granting power to our attributions causes so much harm.

    As an eight years old child, I sat on a bus bench in apartheid South Africa marked for a race different than the one I apparently belonged to and was spat upon an elderly woman for my ‘disrespect’ of her attributions.

    A few months later, I stood before the iron gates of Auschwitz (Work will make you free) and saw the concrete rooms ready for the next batch of Jews and Undesireables ready for the ‘delousing’ by Zyklon B.

    These two deplorable situations came about by people believing that their attributions were correct by faith that they were so, that some Master was best served by abandoning the moral compass we are born with and relying on the morality of inhuman/anti-human ideas (that divide us by race/religion/gender/sexual orientation and so on).

    I saw and felt and smelled the power of attribution at work, causing real harm to real people in real life. Placing great confidence in these attributions without some independent means to verify their accurate reflection of reality (rather than the personal beliefs we impose it to serve some cause, some Master, some agency other than what’s true) is a root cause of untold human misery. It must be fought by each of us in our own hearts first.

    I am doing my part.

    • Hi tildeb,

      Thanks for this most recent comment. I appreciate its honesty and humanity. My apologies if I goaded you into it, but I prefer a concrete discussion based on real events and experiences rather than one full of abstractions and generalities.

      I also did not see this comment until after I had already posted my response to your previous comment, since I was responding from my reader.

      I do understand the horrors that have been done in the name of religion and beliefs. To be fair, this is not limited to theistic beliefs. Tens of millions of people died miserable deaths in Soviet Russia and Maoist China due to the application of non-theistic beliefs.

      But in reality, man’s inhumanity to man has little to do with beliefs. It has to do with greed and lust for power. Those who desire wealth, power, and pleasure above all other things will press whatever beliefs they happen to hold to into the service of their own selfishness and greed.

      It is neither theism nor atheism that caused the holocaust, apartheid, the cultural revolution in China, the forced communalization of farming in Russia, and many other horrible pages in human history that resulted in millions of deaths and untold suffering. It is the desire for raw power over others, and the desire for personal wealth, privilege, and pleasure regardless of the wellbeing of others, that have caused all of these things. That is why I said early in this discussion that theists cannot hide behind their religion to justify evil and destructive acts. Neither can atheists hide behind theories of communism or socialism or any other ism to justify evil and destructive acts.

    • Now about God and religion, I believe it is important to distinguish between true religion and false religion.

      And just as it is important to search out the true nature of physical reality and of human moral and ethical reality, it is essential to search out the true nature of God. False beliefs in any of these areas will tend to lead to or be complicit in evil and destructive actions.

      When I said in my guest post above that God is pure love and pure wisdom, that was not just a throw-away line. It is a statement with definite content–and that content is fundamental to a definition of what God is and is not.

      Saying that God is pure love means that there is no anger, hatred, jealousy, bigotry, or any other non-loving attribute to God.

      Saying that God is pure wisdom also means that God is truth. When we search out the truth about reality, we are ultimately searching for the true nature of God. Everything true is either an attribute of God or is derived from the nature of God.

      All of this is not mere abstraction.

      If someone claims to believe in God, but acts with anger, hatred, jealousy, bigotry, racism, xenophobia, or any other motive or character trait that is not characterized by genuine love and concern for all of their fellow human beings, then that person is not, in fact, believing in God as God really is, nor is that person acting from God. That person is believing in and acting from a false god.

      If someone claims to believe in God, but rejects the truth when it is encountered, preferring lies and deception–including self-deception–then that person is not, in fact, believing in God as God really is. That person is believing in a false god.

      In short, it is impossible for anything evil and false to come from God, because God is the antithesis of evil and falsity. Anyone attributing anything evil and false to God is lying or deceived or just plain ignorant.

      Consider the possibility that God is not something manufactured by human minds, but actually exists independently of human beings. If that is the case, then God is not some blank screen upon which we humans can project whatever characteristics we want. Rather, God is a definite being, with definite attributes that do not depend upon our belief in or understanding of them.

      In saying that God is pure love and pure wisdom, I am making a very specific statement about the nature of God. I am also, by extension, stating that many, if not most, beliefs about God in the history of humankind have been mistaken and false, in whole or in part.

      If speaking of God is beyond what you are willing to contemplate, then in the above discussion substitute “reality” for “God.” It will be the same discussion. God is nothing more than ultimate reality. Just as with material reality, our job as human beings is not to decide what God is, but to discover what God is.

      So you see, your objections to religion and “attributions,” as you call them, simply do not apply to my views of God and religion.

      I am aware that I as a person can be mistaken, and can have bad motives, and can do hurtful and destructive things. I am a fallible and faulty human being just like everyone else. But to the extent that I do such things, I have departed from God as I understand God.

      If I attempt to claim coverage from God for any immoral, unethical, evil, or destructive action, that cover will be ripped away either here or hereafter. I will have to stand trial for my own evil actions with no cover, no excuses, and no middleman to shield me from the consequences of my own freely made choices and actions. And if it is found that my true motives were neither Godly nor spiritual, but were instead characterized by selfishness, greed, and a desire to dominate and control others, the facade of religiosity will be rapidly torn away, and I will have to answer for everything I have done pursuant to those anti-God motives.

      In short, my religion gives people nothing to hide behind, and there is no middleman. Anything we do that harms others is contrary both to God as God really is and to genuine religion, regardless of any beliefs we may profess or any “attributions” we may hold to.

      • Okay. I lied. I will continue to comment if I think it might be productive. Your latest comments indicate this a possibility so I’ll continue.

        You say In short, it is impossible for anything evil and false to come from God, because God is the antithesis of evil and falsity. Anyone attributing anything evil and false to God is lying or deceived or just plain ignorant.

        I know you’re talking about your god here but I see you utilizing a methodology to justify certain claims you’ve made describing the reality we share and must navigate that doesn’t do what you think it does: produce knowledge and wisdom. It’s false advertising.

        Whereas you see differences in practice of faith-based beliefs justifying the principle that faith-based belief is a way to know about (in this case) the nature of your god (and its attributes, purpose, meaning, desires, characteristics, abilities, preferences, and so on), I see similarities in principle that all faith-based beliefs share, namely, an inability to lead one to knowledge about how the universe operates and by what agencies and mechanisms. Ever. Knowledge is not the product of faith-based methodology; protecting faith-based claims from independent verification by reality is. And this is hugely problematic.

        Whereas you don’t see the tautology you rely on in the above quote to justify your faith-based belief that your god is good and true, I do; you are applying what you think is good and what you think is true to be evidence for your god’s nature that you appoint to be both good and true. Think about that for a moment and appreciate how easily this can mislead you. Faith-based belief and the claims made about reality are fully dependent on your belief that your premises are true BECAUSE they are connected to the reality we share, yet cannot be demonstrated to be independent of that starting assumption. This is faith-based belief in action (assigning more confidence to a claim – and a high degree of hope that it is true – than the evidence independent of the belief warrants).

        This approach, this methodology, this epistemology, is just as much in action in justifying the claims of alternative medicine and apartheid politics as it is in hyper-nationalism and religion. It’s all the same principle at work: a justification for beliefs dependent for its merit on the assumed truth value of the belief itself, and reliant on denying any means for independent and unbiased confirmation to alter that belief.

        This is a real problem when it is applied to the real world we share. Its use harms people reliably and consistently in the name of enforcing these beliefs on others.

        That’s why faith-based belief in any practical form never produces knowledge about the reality we share but a kind of denialism of reality itself; its only function is to justify beliefs without sufficient evidence from reality to warrant that justification.

        I know you like to pretend that reality itself is an equivalent kind of belief but you know perfectly well that you function in it and not the other way around. And you know this because you can demonstrate it consistently and reliably well. Your cell phone doesn’t work because you believe it does; it works because it utilizes knowledge adduced from reality that works for everyone everywhere all the time independent of anyone’s beliefs about it. Might we have been fooled about how the cell phone works by reality? Sure. There may be a better model of understanding but that doesn’t negate the current model we call ‘knowledge’!

        This example, and countless others, raises the likelihood that reality exists independently of our beliefs about it to the point where you willingly risk your life on this likelihood on a daily basis.

        Navigating reality is not a philosophical issue but a physical one. Neither is making claims about how it operates independent of our beliefs a philosophical/metaphysical issue but a scientific one. Applying reasoning that disallows reality to arbitrate claims made about it is a guaranteed method to never produce practical knowledge. And this is exactly what we find: faith-based beliefs do not, have not, and never shall produce applications, therapies and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time. It can’t, because the methodology is, in practice, a tautology… a circular journey that confuses premises with conclusions and conclusions with premises. It is a method that does not describe reality but imposes our beliefs on it and then denies reality the right to arbitrate and adjudicate these claims.

        This is what you’ve done. This is the method you demonstrate in these comments. This is how you justify your faith-based claims about your god and it efficacy in the reality we share and then make the mistake of assuming that these claims – formulated and justified by your faith in their truth value – accurately describes reality. And here’s the kicker: if these beliefs DID describe reality accurately, then we could use them to build practical applications, inform efficacious therapies, and reliable technologies on this understanding, on the conclusion you have supposedly reached, on the ontology of the method you empower. We would expect to find stuff in reality that supports the belief you claim is descriptive of it… stuff like the efficacy of prayer independent of the belief that it works, faith healing independent of the belief that it works, and so on. We should see real world effects from the supposed cause you presume is really there independent of your belief it is.

        But we don’t find this. We don’t find causal efficacy in reality that can be linked in any way to the benevolent agency you claim is responsible… other than rely on faith in a benevolent divine agency you claim is real, is good, is true in spite of a lack of compelling evidence that might warrant confidence in such a belief.

        Here is where the rubber of one’s epistemology – faith-based versus evidence adduced belief – meets the road of reality. And we all have a choice to make which method we are going to respect, were going to empower by our use of it, because we can’t have it both ways. Either our method works to produce knowledge about the reality we must navigate together and the claims we make to describe it accurately or it does not. We are obliged to demonstrate which method works if we want to make the claim justified on principle as well as practice that our method does what it is advertised to do: describe the reality we share.

        Your method fails spectacularly and you should moderate the degree of confidence you place in it accordingly. This would help make the world a more rational, kinder, and respectful place to share.

        • Hi tildeb,

          Thanks for your response.

          Unfortunately, it is a return to the same abstract assertions and unfounded assumptions about my beliefs that you were engaging in earlier. You know very little about what I believe, and yet you presume to make grand statements about its total error. You are speaking with great confidence about things that you have not put in the effort to learn about and understand.

          I am a guest on this blog. I do not wish to subject the readers of Eva’s blog to this sort of interminable, fruitless debate. If this is the only type of conversation you are willing to have, I might be willing to continue it on your blog if you so desire. However, we will make very little progress as long as you presume to be an expert on things you know very little about.

          As a basic ground rule for any further discussion, I would suggest that you refrain from telling me what I believe. Your statements and analysis in that regard are inaccurate and off-point. Instead, tell me what you believe. I, in turn, will extend the same courtesy to you.

          • I am not ‘telling you what to believe’; you’re telling me what you (presumably) know!

            I’m pointing out that HOW you justify what you’re telling me doesn’t work to produce knowledge; it works to uphold your <i.a priori beliefs… whatever they are beyond those you have claim in the OP.

            The METHOD you use does not, can not, will not ever produce knowledge. This means your claims are not worthy of confidence because they are not justified by anything other than your faith.

            These points I make are not ‘abstract assertions’ nor ‘unfounded assumptions. They are critical of your specific claims based on the method you demonstrate here to justify them. That’s why I continue to assert that you are not dealing with my pointed criticisms of HOW you justify these claims YOU make.

            In case you haven;’t noticed, I don’t care about the content of your claims because they are based on a failed methodology to describe the reality we share. These kinds of claims – including yours in the OP – do not, can not, and never will succeed in producing knowledge BECAUSE the method you use doesn’t do this.

            To show that my criticism is without merit, please demonstrate a knowledge claim arbitrated by reality to seem to be the same for everyone everywhere all the time that only faith-based belief has produced. Just one will suffice.

            I’ll wait….

            • Hi tildeb,

              This is just a lot of fancy-sounding but ultimately empty ratiocination.

              What you are asking cannot be done for any type of reality, physical or spiritual. Reputable scientists do not agree on the nature of physical reality. One scientist interprets physical reality one way, another interprets it a different way. Major scientific theories that are used every day are known to conflict with one another.

              How, then, can you reasonably expect everyone everywhere to agree about anything relating to spiritual reality?

              This is not a reasonable test, nor is it an honest seeking for truth. It’s just standard atheist believer-baiting, showing the usual lack of understanding of the nature of reality–especially of spiritual reality.

              Your own claims cannot stand up to the test you propose for my beliefs.

              I will take up your issues, and point out specifically where your knowledge and reasoning are lacking, if you can demonstrate to me conclusively that physical reality exists as anything other than a projection of the human mind–which, as we experience it, is a non-material entity.

              Given your line of reasoning, until you do that, I don’t care about the content of your claims, because they are all based on an unproven and unprovable assumption.

              I would suggest taking up this challenge as a post on your blog. Then we can have a discussion about it there.

              • What you are asking cannot be done for any type of reality, physical or spiritual. Reputable scientists do not agree on the nature of physical reality. One scientist interprets physical reality one way, another interprets it a different way. Major scientific theories that are used every day are known to conflict with one another.

                Sure it can, Lee. That’s why your cell phone works. It works for you., It works for me. It seems (you forgot that word, didn’t you?) to work for anyone everywhere all the time.

                How can this be if physical reality exists as anything other than a projection of the human mind? Are all these minds in alignment that makes the cell phone work?

                Your line of reasoning here fails to appreciate the significant difference between explanatory models that work (knowledge) and assertions that don’t (faith… such as the claim stated as if true that the human mind is a non material entity… a claim so abusive of terminology that what is being described is incoherent: a non entity entity). These methodological approaches are not equivalent and do not produce equivalent results. The former is adduced from reality’s arbitration by what seems to work and the latter is imposed on it without any need for testing.

                All I’m asking is for you to demonstrate this equivalency you assume and show a single product of faith-based belief that has produced an equivalent explanation that similarly works.

                That you can’t is quite revealing about the quality of the explanatory model you use for your explanations through faith.

                • Hi tildeb,

                  Haha! It’s funny that you should use that particular example. In fact, as if to poke fun at both of us, my cell phone seems not to work for me. I began typing out a reply on the @#$% thing from the comfort of my bed this morning, and what I had typed just . . . vanished. So now I’m at my trusty ol’ desktop, which does seem to work better . . . most of the time. 😛

                  If you insist on having this debate here, I’ll continue as long as I’m enjoying myself . . . or until Eva, our long-suffering host, has had enough.

                • Hi tildeb,

                  Thank you for emphasizing the word “seems.” That is precisely the case.

                  The cell phone seems (sometimes) to work as a physical entity. But there is no way of demonstrating that it actually is a physical entity rather than a projection of the human mind. You cannot demonstrate it, and neither can anyone else. You can only assert it.

                  I can agree with you or disagree with you. If I disagree with you, you’re stuck. There’s nothing you can do about it. Science, logic, and reason have no ability to demonstrate the actual, objective reality of the material universe itself, or of my cell phone in it. They can only accept it as a given, and build their theories upon that assumption.

                  To answer your questions, yes, the human mind, or better, spiritual reality, is perfectly and quite easily capable of projecting an apparent material reality in which cell phones work (fairly) consistently.

                  In fact, according to those who have been there, everything we accomplish with our sophisticated information technology here on earth is already possible (and much more that we are not currently capable of) in the spiritual world without the need for all that gadgetry.

                  Star Trek, move over! Subspace communication? Holodecks? Teleportation? We can already do all that fancy stuff in heaven! It’s built right into the operating system of the spiritual universe. It was all described as a spiritual reality over two hundred years before Star Trek first hit the airwaves in the 1960s.

                  As far as capabilities, it would be a trivial matter for the human mind, or some greater intelligence in which the human mind exists, to project a reality containing the little pieces of tech of which we are so fond, and to make them work most of the time, but quite maddeningly not work at the most inopportune times.

                  This idea that physical reality could be simulated by minds–or by computers–has become a staple of popular science fiction movies and novels. The Matrix, Inception, Next, and all the way back to “The Cage”–the pilot episode of the original 1960s Star Trek television series. It has become an ordinary thought for those who think about such things. I find it rather quaint that you think this idea so outlandish that you ask reductio ad absurdum type questions about it.

                  I happen to agree with you that physical reality does exist objectively out there, and not just in the human mind. But unlike you (so far), I’m willing to admit that this is an unprovable assumption, which could possibly be mistaken.

                  There have been and are serious philosophers who believe and argue expansively that physical reality does not exist objectively out there. Look up “Idealism” (the philosophical variety, not the high hopes variety), and you’ll see.

                  Who’s to say they’re wrong and you and I are right about this?

                  The fact of the matter is that you cannot demonstrate conclusively that material reality exists objectively out there, and not simply as a projection of consciousness.

                  The fact of the matter is that you believe that the material universe exists objectively out there.

                  I can respect that belief. I happen to agree with it.

                  But let’s be clear about this: It is a belief on your part, not a demonstrable fact. All of your mental constructs about the nature of reality are based on a belief that seems to you to be correct.

                  So thank you once again for emphasizing the word seems. It is key to the issue at hand.

                • Now about your proposed test:

                  Aside from the fact that even physical reality cannot pass it . . . .

                  It’s important to understand that spiritual reality is a layer of reality entirely distinct from physical reality. Although it does have substance and solidity, it is not physical substance. And although it does have definite laws, they are not the same as physical laws. (There is a definite relationship between the two layers of reality, but that is a whole subject unto itself.)

                  Scientific methodology was developed for, and is adapted to, the study of physical reality, and the discovery of physical laws. For that purpose, it is a powerful tool.

                  However, scientific methodology does not work for studying spiritual reality. For one thing, time and space, which are properties of matter, do not exist in the spiritual world as such. So the very act of measuring and quantifying time and space, which is essential to science, simply cannot be done in the spiritual world.

                  All of the tools of science fail when applied to spiritual reality because spiritual reality exists outside of the field to which scientific method applies.

                  As I’ve said elsewhere, using science to investigate spirit would be like using a steam roller to build a house, or a hammer to paint the house. It just doesn’t work, because that’s not what it’s designed for.

                • Hi tildeb,

                  To continue my previous comment:

                  You ask me to “demonstrate a knowledge claim arbitrated by reality to seem to be the same for everyone everywhere all the time that only faith-based belief has produced.”

                  This request, as I’ve said, cannot be met by tests of the nature of physical reality. Even on trivial matters such as cell phones, the fact is, they often don’t work for various people. Mine only sometimes works for me–and it’s a very good cell phone.

                  When it comes to spiritual reality, there is another layer of law that makes such a test even more impossible. In fact, spiritual reality is specifically designed to cause such “objective reality” tests to fail, as a matter of preserving human freedom. But that, too, is a whole subject unto itself.

                  Unlike physical reality, which is generally the same no matter who observes it (except in the murky mists of quantum phenomena . . .), spiritual reality rapidly changes and adapts to the mental and emotional state of the observer.

                  If you were to stroll through the spiritual world, what you saw around you would be a reflection of your own mental and emotional states.

                  Don’t get me wrong. It would be real. You could reach out and touch it. You could play catch, swim in the ocean, or go skiing on a mountain if you like. But the ball, the ocean, the mountain, and the skiis would all exist because they reflect corresponding realities in your mind and in the minds of the people who share those experiences with you.

                  Mind you, you do not “create your own reality” in the spiritual world, as the popular New Age buzz has it. Rather, God creates spiritual reality that is responsive to your mental and emotional states.

                  This also does not mean spiritual reality is arbitrary and unstable. Our minds (or spirits) do have long-term, stable qualities about them, even as other qualities change over time, and our moods can change rapidly. There is a stability to spiritual reality that matches the stability of the character of the various human beings that inhabit it. And there is also change reflecting the more gradual changes as we learn and grow, and the daily and minute-by-minute changes of our moods.

                  Now I hope you are beginning to see why, according to the laws that govern spiritual reality, it is not possible for any spiritual reality (or “faith-based belief” to use your terminology) to “seem to be the same for everyone everywhere all the time.” That’s simply not how spiritual reality works. It changes and adapts according to the particular perspective of the observer. Even the same scene in the spiritual world will look very different to one observer than it does to another.

                  This is just one example of how scientific methodology cannot be applied to spiritual reality. It simply doesn’t work, because spiritual reality does not operate by the same laws as material reality.

                  I wish I could say, “Wait until you die. You’ll find out,” as so many religious folks do.

                  But the reality is that if you are steadfastly opposed to the very idea of spiritual reality, even when you die and enter that reality, you will still not accept its existence. You will be firmly convinced that you are still living in the material universe, and you will continue to make the same arguments you make now as to why God and spiritual reality are illusions and fanciful beliefs without any evidence to support them.

                  That, too, is due to the nature of spiritual reality. If you have fully and firmly convinced yourself of the belief that only material reality exists, you will continue to believe that even after you die.

                  So once again, according to the laws that govern spiritual reality, it is not possible to “demonstrate a knowledge claim arbitrated by reality to seem to be the same for everyone everywhere all the time that only faith-based belief has produced.” Spiritual reality simply doesn’t work that way.

      • The cell phone seems (sometimes) to work as a physical entity. But there is no way of demonstrating that it actually is a physical entity rather than a projection of the human mind. You cannot demonstrate it, and neither can anyone else. You can only assert it.

        Yes, I can only assert it. So what informs the assertion and how much confidence should be lent to that assertion?

        There two points here: the first is that an explanatory model that seems to produce applications, therapies, and technologies that work reliably and consistently well for everyone everywhere all the time is a very strong indicator that the explanatory model on which the assertion is made is as close to true as we can possibly demonstrate and is deserving of a very high degree of confidence because it seems to account for all the data successfully. In any fair comparison with other explanatory models, then, assertions that cannot be similarly informed deserve less confidence. Assertions that can be demonstrated not to work equivalently well but rely on an explanatory model contrary to the ones that do should be held in the lowest possible confidence because it doesn’t fit the data but accounts for very little of it. This is the category that fits faith-based beliefs. It’s special pleading for an explanatory model that doesn’t work to account for the evidence we have.

        The second is that if reality were the projection of the human mind then why did you make your cell phone stop working, and why didn’t you then ‘fix’ it with your mind alone? The explanatory model that seems to fit the data snugly and work for everyone everywhere all the time is that your mind does not create the reality in which the cell phone operates; rather, your mind finds itself trying to account for how reality seems to operate independently of your mind. Why not make a projection and then fly? Fill your bank account? Solve world poverty? Poof wondrous things into and out of existence at will? Because there is no evidence you can do any of these things with your mind. In fact, there is a medical term for those who believe this is the case: delusional.

        To account for the overwhelming evidence against your assertion and maintain belief in a ‘spiritual reality’ that you claim to know about and understand how it operates, you use what Sagan called the The Dragon in my Garage model. It doesn’t work to explain the reality we must navigate, Lee; it works only to maintain faith-based belief that is in conflict with that shared reality.

        • Hi tildeb,

          Thanks for your response.

          To take your last point first:

          Sagan’s “The Dragon in my Garage” model is simply a slightly complicated example of the logical fallacy of assuming the result.

          Sagan assumes as a starting point that all reality is physical. He also assumes, as a corollary to this, that all reality must have physical effects. And he assumes that these physical effects must be verifiable by scientific methodology.

          However, all of these assumptions are precisely what he is attempting to prove with the Dragon model itself.

          All that’s necessary to invalidate his argument is to deny the assumptions upon which it is based, thus:

          * Not all reality is physical
          * Not all reality has physical effects
          * Therefore not all reality can be verified or falsified by scientific methodology.

          The Dragon in My Garage is a typical example of materialist or physicalist thinking that assumes that its own premises are true in order to prove those premises.

          • No, no, no. The assumption being made here is by you, namely, that you have somehow adduced evidence to support your claim for some ‘spiritual reality’ that you then claim to be completely immune from having to provide any evidence from this reality!

            In other words, if what you claim is true, then you can have no means to know anything about it!

            To overcome this paradox, you assign a non entity entity called ‘mind’ to be the required connection. But the mind is not independent of the material world. It is demonstrably an emergent property of the brain and fully dependent on it to ‘exist’. I only appears to be unrelated in substance to the brain… in the same way flocks of birds or schools of fish appear to be discrete entities. They’re not, anymore than your mind is a discrete entity. The connection you presume is reliable to produce ‘evidence’ for this ‘spiritual reality’ is nothing more and nothing less than a way to permit you to believe that your imaginings – any imaginings – are justified not by your faith-based assertions but ‘evidence’ independent of them. This is false; your faith-based beliefs are justified only by your faith-based beliefs and can produce not one jot or tittle of independent evidence adduced from the reality we navigate. Your claims are circular and privileged by you and cannot be shown to be connected in any way with the reality we share. This is why the scientific method cannot be used to justify your faith-based claims about causal effects in this reality… you have nothing to work with. And that’s why you claims about this ‘spiritual reality’ is empty of any and all knowledge value. It’s pure conjecture, yet you utilize these claims as if true in this reality to ‘explain’ stuff. That’s why it’s a god-of-the-gaps approach and produces no new knowledge in spite of being claimed to be magically insightful. It’s equivalent in all ways to delusion with no means to differentiate between these kinds of claims from it.

            • Hi tildeb,

              I already responded to this in my most recent comment.

              The mind is not demonstrably an emergent property of the brain. This is, in fact, the subject of a massive, long-standing debate: the “Mind–body problem.” For you to blithely assert that this problem has already been solved, and your physicalist assertion and assumption is the correct solution, is a case of monumental hubris.

              All science can show is that there is a general correlation between brain activity and the activity of consciousness. It cannot show that the brain is the locus of consciousness. And it is far from being able to explain how specific thoughts and emotions are (supposedly) produced by specific physical brain activity.

              Once again, the only phenomena of whose existence we can be 100% certain are mental phenomena, because we experience those phenomena directly. It is pure assumption and assertion to say that those phenomena are physical when we actually experience them as non-physical.

              My assertion is that the brain is not the locus of consciousness, but is the primary means of communication of the contents of consciousness to the human body, and of relaying data from physical reality to consciousness. It is a massive, intricate communication apparatus between the mind and the body.

              Your assertion that the brain essentially is the mind is simply an assumption and a belief. It cannot be demonstrated by scientific method. But it is an assumption that underlies all of the efforts to posit consciousness as a property of the brain.

              Those who make such assertions are, once again, engaging in circular reasoning, and assuming the result. They are assuming that all things must be material, and therefore drawing the (logically fallacious) conclusion that consciousness must be a property of the brain, because otherwise it would violate the initial assumption.

              One more time: the only phenomena of whose existence we can be entirely certain are phenomena of consciousness that are themselves non-material in nature. To try to assert that physical reality is the primary or only reality flies in the face of this most obvious fact of our existence.

              • the only things of whose existence we can be absolutely certain are non-material in nature.

                Well, my demented mother is certain, too, but that’s not evidence that what she’s certain about is connected to the reality we share.

                The reason why I use terms like ‘seem’ is because I’m not suggesting that certainty – yours, mine, or anyone’s – is the goal here; the goal is indicate some way to demonstrate that the claim you make are connected by independent verification that you actually know something that is true – meaning a high likelihood to justify the confidence you grant to them.

                I’ve tried to argue that your method doesn’t work to justify these claims and you’ve waved this away with the assertion that all methods are faith-based and that reality is an extension of mind in spite of compelling evidence (specifically demonstrated by the working of your cell phone) that this simply isn’t the case with a preponderance of contrary data for which your model doesn’t account.

                I’ve tried to argue that the level of confidence should be far less than you accord and you’ve waved this away on the assertion that if your believe it, it must be so because only your non entity entities (that cannot be demonstrated to be entities at all) provide you with certainty. (This is a straight up rehash of the ‘reality’ of platonic forms).

                I’ve tried to argue that your connection to this ‘spiritual reality’ is a premise that isn’t verifiable or testable but is equivalent in all ways to delusion, but you’ve waved this away on the assumption that dualism is true when all the evidence we have is that the mind is what the brain does.

                My approaches collectively reveal why increased skepticism is fully warranted for the truth value of your claims that explain why you believe what you do… by the inherent weakness of likelihood I’ve revealed associated with how you justify your claims, by what independent evidence (meaning the lack thereof) you use to justify your claims, and the improbability of your fundamental assertions contrary to our explanatory model that empowers applications, therapies, and technologies that seem to work for everyone everywhere all the time. You offer no alternative explanatory model that produces equivalent knowledge but continue to assume your model of a supernatural interventionist agency is enough to justify that your premises do link to the reality we navigate (but premises that you cannot demonstrate to link between what you assume to be true and the reality we share). You use this very wobbly model to present a case for a reality you assert is beyond it… but a hyper-reality that you claim is still a causal factor in effects in the here and now that you just so happen to know something about… knowledge that apparently you have access to in this reality with no way to demonstrate it.

                You know, Lee, there’s a reason why this kind of metaphysics you use lasted as long as it did (for about two millennia). It’s hard getting out of the circular reasoning and privileged premises. But we have move beyond it and now use an alternative method that seems to work to an astounding degree, causing an explosion of new knowledge to be accumulated and applied. There’s simply no need to make room for some divine causal and interventionist agency. Doing so is a throwback to reanimating a method we know doesn’t work to produce knowledge about the reality we navigate… no matter how much confidence we place in its use and the obfuscating arguments we use to convince ourselves that its wishful conclusions are true.

            • To avoid confusion, I should mention that my “most recent comment” (before the previous one) actually appears below. It is the one whose time stamp is May 29, 2014 @ 00:28:02.

              Since for me, it is still May 28. I will happily accept the label of “being ahead of my time” 😛

        • Hi tildeb,

          Now about your second-to-last point:

          This, too, is a standard materialist or physicalist argument that is based on a particular assumption common to materialists.

          The assumption is that non-material reality must be arbitrary rather than law-abiding.

          The physical universe as we know it obeys definite laws. It is a logical leap to assume that non-physical reality will not obey any definite laws, but will proceed arbitrarily or haphazardly. Yet this leap of logic is required in order to posit that if everything were mental rather than physical, we could control reality arbitrarily and at will–your “Poof” hypothesis.

          This argument, too, is easily punctured simply by denying its basic assumption: that non-physical reality is also non-law-abiding.

          As a secondary point, (philosophical) idealism does not require that we should be able to control reality at will with our mind. This is in no way a logical necessity for belief systems based on the existence of non-material reality.

          All of the “imaginary pink unicorn” type arguments ) commonly made by atheists (including Sagan’s Dragon in my Garage model) are examples of this faulty line of argumentation. They assume that just any old arbitrary thing is possible if the universe is made of consciousness, or of spiritual substance, rather than of physical matter.

          However, that is not how spiritual reality works. Spiritual reality is just as law-abiding as physical reality. It operates by definite, non-arbitrary laws that cannot be violated.

          The study of psychology indicates that human minds operate by certain patterns and laws. We have barely scratched the surface of understanding what those laws are. However, even our rudimentary knowledge of psychology falsifies the idea that if all that existed were consciousness, we could arbitrarily create, destroy, or modify reality at will, without constraint by any limiting laws.

          In short, this is another common atheist argument that fails simply by denying its basic assumption.

        • Hi tildeb,

          Now about your first point (yes, I’m numbering them differently than you did):

          The problem with this is that the assertion that only material reality exists is not an explanatory model. It is an assumption that underlies an explanatory model.

          The explanatory model itself is a certain set of laws and procedures by which science goes about doing its business.

          Some of the principles you mention are among these laws and procedures–such as the idea that to demonstrate something’s reality, it must be subject to experiments repeatable by anyone, and it must also be falsifiable by scientific methods.

          These laws, principles, and procedures are all fine tools for studying material reality as it seems to us to exist.

          However, none of them say anything about whether that reality is, in fact physical. That, once again, is simply a useful assumption that we make so that we don’t have to spend all of our time debating the fundamental nature of reality.

          Once again, the idea that all reality is material is simply an assumption which means it is a particular species of belief. We believe that all reality is material, so we are going to proceed on that assumption. This also means we assume that anything that can’t be demonstrated by the models we use to investigate what seems to be material reality must be non-real.

          It’s simply another case of circular reasoning. Only material reality exists, therefore anything non-material, and therefore non-demonstrable and non-falsifiable by scientific methods, does not exist.

        • Hi tildeb,

          The massive flaw in your arguments, Sagan’s arguments, and atheist, materialist, and physicalist arguments in general is this:

          The only things of whose existence we can be absolutely certain are themselves non-material in nature.

          One of the fascinating lines of argument often used as a method of disproving physicalism is “Philosophical zombie” theory. The idea is that the universe as we know it, including the human beings in it, could exist as a purely physical phenomenon, without requiring any of the beings in it–including human beings–to possess consciousness. All of the phenomena we see, including human society and its various interactions, the theory goes, could be explained by purely physical stimulus and response mechanisms.

          Of course, this has sparked a major debate.

          However, there is just one little fly in the ointment of zombie theory: We humans do, in fact, possess consciousness.

          And the fact of the matter is that all of the reality we experience is experienced in our conscious mind. This means that no physical (non-mental) reality is experienced directly. All of our experience of physical reality is second-hand.

          What we do experience directly are things such as thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, ideals, and so on. We know for sure that these things exist because we experience them directly for ourselves.

          And yet, none of these things can themselves be tested or verified by pure scientific method. We see the effects of such things as love, hate, anger, and compassion. But they themselves cannot be demonstrated to exist by science. From a purely scientific and material standpoint, zombie humans would be possible.

          But we know that at least one human being is not a zombie: ourselves. That’s because we do experience our own consciousness. And based on the fact that other humans look and act sort of like us, we make the reasonable assumption that they, too, possess consciousness.

          It is a massive leap of logic to assume that our consciousness is material, when in fact everything in it operates in a way that scientific theory just doesn’t apply to. Love, hate, anger, compassion, thoughtfulness, and so on, operate by their own set of laws on a level quite distinct from the laws by which the material universe that seems to be out there seems to operate.

          Short version: the only things of whose existence we can be absolutely certain are non-material in nature.

          The fact of the matter is that we can be much more sure that the things usually called “spiritual” exist than that the things usually called “material” exist because we experience the spiritual ones directly in our own conscious mind, while we experience the material ones only indirectly–and also in our conscious mind.

          It is only by ignoring this indisputable fact that materialists can go on their merry way assuming that all reality is material, and build massive castles in the air based on this assumption for which there is no reasonable basis in the reality of how we actually experience reality.

  4. Hi tildeb,

    You say:

    The reason why I use terms like ‘seem’ is because I’m not suggesting that certainty – yours, mine, or anyone’s – is the goal here; the goal is indicate some way to demonstrate that the claim you make are connected by independent verification that you actually know something that is true – meaning a high likelihood to justify the confidence you grant to them.

    . . . and a whole lot more fancy ratiocination that fails to address any of the points I have made. You just keep repeating the same off-point arguments over and over. The points I made stand unrefuted.

    My world view subsumes yours. It does not lack any of the characteristics or realities that you subscribe to. All of the laws of science, logic, and reason that you subscribe to, I recognize as well.

    The difference is that I don’t limit myself to a flat model of reality.

    You insist that physical reality is the only reality that exists. And yet, all of our experience takes place within a reality that is non-physical. We experience the physical as something outside our conscious mind.

    You claim there is no evidence for spiritual reality.

    In fact, the evidence is so common that it is the water we swim in.

    Fish don’t argue about whether water exists. They just swim in it.

    We swim in an ocean of spiritual reality so common to us that we don’t even notice it is there unless we specifically think about it. That ocean is the individual and collective consciousness of all of humankind. This is a realm of reality that does not obey material laws, although it does interact with them.

    To take just one example:

    In ordinary space, time is a precise and measurable entity. Yes, it can dilate and contract. But it does so according to precise relationships with mass and relative velocity.

    No such laws govern the analog of time that exists in the human mind. In our conscious experience, time dilates and contracts, not according to mass or velocity, but according to enjoyment or or suffering. When we are engaged in something we enjoy, time zooms by. When we are bored, in pain, in fear, or otherwise suffering, time slows to a crawl as we experience it. This phenomenon has nothing to do with any physical laws. It operates by an entirely distinct set of psychological, or as I would call them, spiritual laws.

    Those laws do have a relationship with the physical laws that govern space and time. But they are a distinctly different set of laws, because they operate on a different level of reality.

    The human mind and consciousness exists, not in physical space and time, but in their spiritual analogs. The human mind is a spiritual entity that interacts with the physical body primarily through the brain and nervous system.

    So the idea that spirit has no effect on matter is not only a complete misconception; it is preposterous. In fact, spirit has influence on matter every day. Every time you pick up a fork to eat, spirit is influencing matter. Your mind is telling your body to pick up the fork and use it to bring food to your mouth. Then your mind is telling your body to chew and swallow the food.

    All of the great technological wonders we humans have achieved, and all of the explorations of the nature of the physical universe, were originated by the human mind. So what has moved us to that explosion of scientific and technological prowess you hail is precisely spirit.

    The idea that the mind is simply a function of the brain is pure, ungrounded assertion and assumption. Other than a desire to deny the existence of any other reality besides physical reality, there is no good or rational reason to make such an assumption. The mind asserts its superiority over matter every day. The fact that an airplane can fly through the air is just one of millions of ways that the human mind has mastered physical reality.

    And the stubborn fact is that all of our experience is non-physical in nature, even if its subject is the physical world. All of it takes place in the human mind. And the only phenomena of whose existence we can be entirely certain is mental or spiritual reality.

    By choosing to assert the exclusive reality of physical phenomena, you are ignoring the most basic facts about human consciousness and experience. You are choosing a reality of which we have only secondary evidence over a reality of which we have primary, first-hand evidence.

    That is a belief system not a demonstrable fact. And your physicalist belief system has less direct, primary evidence for it than my belief system, which includes physical, spiritual, and divine reality. The middle level of reality–spiritual reality–can be and is experienced by us directly, unlike either of the other levels of reality.

    Why should we accept a reality of which we have only indirect, secondary experience and evidence over one for which we have direct, primary experience and evidence?

    • all of our experience takes place within a reality that is non-physical. We experience the physical as something outside our conscious mind.

      You make statements like this repeatedly. What does the term ‘non physical reality’ mean? Describe its properties (and not by analogy), please, and then explain how you can know anything about it?

      You continue unabated to presume that mind is independent of this physical reality. Show me this mind independent of this reality, please, and then demonstrate how you can know anything about it.

      Look, your brain is a neuro-chemical and physical organ. Alter any part of it, and you alter this ‘independent’ thing you call ‘mind’. This is compelling evidence that mind is what the brain does. Add chemicals, alter mind. Reduce chemicals. alter mind. Damage the brain, damage the mind. Kill the brain, kill the mind. ALL the evidence we have access to demonstrates this one-to-one connection, which is why dualism fails. There is no evidnece that mind is in any way, shape, or fashion independent of the brain. There is zero evidence that there is some little invisible driver – something independent – controlling the brain’s operations; we can demonstrate its operation is local units obeying local rules that presents itself in many complex ways. We can demonstrate that affecting these local units or the local rules directly alters the mind’s presentations. That’s why I said mind is an emergent property of the brain (demonstrably dependent ON the brain)… an emergent property that can be understood to be like flocks of birds or schools of fish that only SEEMS to be a discrete and independent thing when in fact – and demonstrably so – is really a property of local units obeying local rules. It’s not independent at all. It’s not divisible at all. It’s not two things – one based in the physical reality we navigate and the other based in some ethereal realm. That hypothesis simply doesn’t work to explain the overwhelming evidence against it.

      Our brains are very complex… and you really have two of them – what’s called a bicameral brain, two hemispheres that interact and communicate. Our experiences are all brain experiences doubled up. Our sensory organs collect and transmit neurological input to this organ processed in many locations in many ways and then creates a meaning of it. This is the part where attribution plays a central role in how we interpret our experiences. But we don’t leave it there; we then apply our attributions to our map of reality and test them to see if they’re accurate. That’s why you can train your skin to ‘see’, for example, why you train your tongue to act as an inner ear for balance, It’s your brain making meaning of input that can accurately improve navigation.

      But we can fool ourselves, too, and quite easily as it turns out. We can make meaning that seems to work. I dance. It rains. Oh look… causal efficacy. I sacrifice a chicken to the fertility god, the crops grow. Oh look, causal efficacy. My map seems to be pretty good. My ‘mind’ is powerful; it projects reality.

      ?

      I dance and it doesn’t rain? Must be because my dance wasn’t the right dance. The crops fail? Must be because my sacrifice wasn’t the right sacrifice. You see the problem? I presume causal efficacy and then rationalize contrary data to fit my original attribution rather than discard it. But is my original attribution really the only possibility? Might there be an better attributions, attributions such as the likelihood of an independent reality that is not a projection of my ‘mind’?

      Of course. Re-evaluation of attributions is called critical thinking and discarding models that don’t work is not a failure but an advancement towards models that do this job better. That’s how we know dancing has nothing to do with meteorology, ritual blood sacrifices have nothing to do with agriculture.

      This is the problem of assuming original and simplistic and causal attribution is correct, compounded when the assumption is held in confidence that the meaning extracted must also be the correct one or that contrary data accumulated later is somehow at fault… not because we know we have experienced something but because our original attributions about it – and its supposed causal effects – may have been premature. We haven’t just experienced something; we made all kinds of assertions and assumptions, proposed some attribution, and made meaning from this process. We’ve then tested it and found it useful. Coming across contrary data means revisiting all of this, reworking a map, accounting for the new data as well as the old and then making necessary revisions by making new meaning.

      This is why learning is hard work…. starting with the fact that our brains have to rewire, so to speak. It has to make new connections when the old ones continue work perfectly well… even if the meaning made is problematic. This relearning (like creating new channels for water to flow in a field already tilled, already planted, already yielding product) is much harder than learning anew. Our brains have to re-channel neural pathways, pare back and discard the old, rework patterns of attributions and meanings we have used, apply them backwards into memory and forwards for ongoing testing. Our brains physically grow by this process.

      This process is called plasticity and we are quite capable of doing it constantly. But it’s easier to remain static and figure out ways to justify the meanings we have already made than it is to re-learn. This is why its so much harder to relearn than it is to learn (it takes about six attempts to learn something new, but about 16 attempts to change that), so much harder to break down beliefs invested with confidence than erect the originals.

      If you want to learn about the mind, and understand all the processes by which it presents itself, then the inquiry lies in neuroscience and not philosophy or metaphysics or religion that have no means to arbitrate themselves against the reality they presume to describe.

      I keep saying it, I keep demonstrating it, you keep waving it away, that the attributions you have made to support your religious claims you presume are knowledge are not supported by the reality we navigate but stand contrary to and in conflict with knowledge we have adduced from it, knowledge we have tested against reality and found sufficient to produce applications, therapies, and technologies that seem to work for everyone everywhere all the time. Making room in this explanatory model that works for an invisible ethereal realm populated by non entity entities that magically have causal effect with no mechanism by which the non physical can interact with the physical is spiritual is an exercise in special pleading, one that you yourself work on to look exactly like a reality that has no others.

      • Hi tildeb,

        You say, “What does the term ‘non physical reality’ mean? Describe its properties (and not by analogy), please, and then explain how you can know anything about it?”

        Non-physical reality means a reality that is not physical. The primary one that we can experience directly is spiritual reality. There is also divine reality, which is above or within spiritual reality, and which we can experience only indirectly. These three are the major levels of reality. They can be broken down into sub-levels to our heart’s content.

        We can know about spiritual reality because in addition to our physical body, we have a spiritual body, complete with a full set of spiritual senses. During our normal, conscious life in the material world, we are not aware of the functioning of our spiritual body and its senses. But they continue to function nevertheless. All spiritual experience takes place due to the activity of our spiritual senses.

        As for describing its properties, that would require an entire book. And as it turns out, a book has been written about it, and its relationship both with divine reality and with material reality:
        Divine Love and Wisdom, by Emanuel Swedenborg

      • Hi tildeb,

        You say, “You continue unabated to presume that mind is independent of this physical reality.”

        No, not independent. More like interdependent.

        There is a close and very precise relationship between spiritual reality and material reality. Material reality is created through spiritual reality, and expresses the nature of spiritual reality on the material level to the extent that that is possible.

        A common error, both on the part of atheists and on the part of theists, is to think that the relationship between matter and spirit is arbitrary.

        It’s not.

        If something exists materially, that’s because it is a very precise and faithful representation in physical reality of some very specific, distinct entity that exists in spiritual reality. As we continue to learn more and more about the incredible complexity, variety, distinctness, and precision of the many physical phenomena we study–including the human brain–we are, by extension, finding out something about the incredible complexity, variety, distinctness, and precision of the spiritual reality from which those phenomena came.

      • Hi tildeb,

        You say, “I dance and it doesn’t rain? Must be because my dance wasn’t the right dance.” (and other variations).

        Do you use science from 4,000 years ago to explain physical phenomena?

        I think not.

        The idea that sacrifices could affect crops, fertility, and so on is thousands of years old, originating in an earlier and more ignorant time in human history. I agree with you that it is wrong. So let’s stop having that stupid and irrelevant conversation.

      • Hi tildeb,

        You say, “Look, your brain is a neuro-chemical and physical organ. Alter any part of it, and you alter this ‘independent’ thing you call ‘mind’. This is compelling evidence that mind is what the brain does.”

        I already responded to this in an earlier comment below. The situation is much more complex than the brain just being a receiver. That’s a convenient analogy to give some simple, concrete idea of how it works, but it’s more like a very complex set of two-way communications in which the effects go both ways.

        Even that is a simplified version of what actually happens, but we don’t have time here to delve into any level of detail. That’s what Divine Love and Wisdom is for. Of course, even that book was written 250 years ago, and needs to be updated in some respects. But it has all the basics in answer to the questions you raise.

    • Hi tildeb,

      Interesting article. But it’s only a variation on two common materialist themes:

      1. This is too complicated to be explained by old fanciful theist and dualist ideas.

      (The appearance of fairies, that staple of atheist argumentative dogma, is a dead give-away on this one.) Of course the old, fanciful theist and dualist ideas are not adequate to explain the phenomena–just as 18th century science is not adequate to explain all of the phenomena we have now investigated. The old understanding of spirit was crude and simplistic. In reality, the spiritual world is not less, but more intricate and complicated than the material world. The relationship between spirit and matter is fantastically complex. The brain would have to be as intricate, complicated, and precise as the author describes to have any hope of being an instrument capable of receiving very precise and specific spiritual impulses and translating them into material actions, and making material sensory inputs available to the spiritual mind.

      2. We don’t need spiritual reality. Everything can be explained by material processes alone, so Occam’s Razor eliminates the need for, and therefore the reality of, any other level of reality besides the material.

      The reality is that material processes do not require a spiritual explanation. That’s what science is for. What requires a spiritual explanation is spiritual processes and experiences. But I’ll deal with that in another comment–which will probably appear above this one because it will be a response to your previous comment.

      Another point I should make is that the physical brain does have an effect on our conscious awareness as long as we are living in this world. While we’re living in our physical body, the mind is not independent of, but intimately connected with, the body and the brain. This means that our awareness and experience is affected by the functioning, or malfunctioning, of the brain. Yes, there are specific areas of the cerebral cortex and other parts of the brain that are mapped to specific emotional as well as physical responses. There have to be. And if those areas are stimulated or disabled, they will cause particular emotional or mental responses in the person, not because the mind doesn’t exist separately, but because the mind is intimately connected to the brain as long as we are living in our physical body. Otherwise, how could we feel coldness in our mind when we’re out in the cold physically?

      The usual radio receiver analogy posits a one-way connection. The instrument receives only. But the reality is that there is a complex two-way connection. My analogy above about communications between the generals in army HQ and the soldiers out in the field is a little more like the reality. A distortion or cutoff in communication affects both ends of the communications link.

      The radio or TV receiver is just an analogy to help understand the situation. It’s not a full depiction of how it actually works. Saying dualism fails because the radio receiver analogy can’t fully explain the phenomena of the brain is like saying that a photograph fails because it has only two dimensions, whereas the scene it is depicting has three. But a photograph is precisely a two-dimensional depiction of a three-dimensional scene. And a radio is a very simple analogy for what is in fact a fantastically more complex reality.

    • Hi tildeb,

      You said in an earlier comment: “There is no evidnece that mind is in any way, shape, or fashion independent of the brain.”

      This gets to the crux of the matter, so I’m placing my response at the (current) end of the conversation rather than above.

      I would modify your statement thus:

      There is no scientific evidence that the mind exists on a different level of reality than the brain.

      There is no scientific evidence that anything other than material reality exists.

      That’s because science is the study of material reality. As I’ve already pointed out above, science is the wrong tool to use in investigating spiritual reality. If you search for any evidence of spiritual reality using science, you will search forever, and never find it.

      This doesn’t mean spiritual reality doesn’t exist. It simply means that science is not useful in studying spiritual reality, which includes determining whether it exists.

      (continued . . .)

    • (. . . continued)

      This means that any evidence for spiritual reality must be non-scientific. If the only evidence for anything that you will accept is scientific, you will never accept the existence of spiritual reality.

      That is the way God designed the universe, in order to protect human spiritual freedom. We will not be forced to accept spiritual reality, and all that it entails. It must be something that we willingly accept, by choice.

      I’m sorry if that bothers you, but that’s the reality of the situation.

      That’s why whole phalanxes of atheists can insist that there’s no such thing as God and spirit, and be completely unaware of their own total immersion in spiritual reality, and their own dependence on God for their very existence every nanosecond of their lives.

      In fact, there is a massive and growing amount of evidence of the existence of spiritual reality as a realm distinct from physical reality.

      It is all non-scientific, for the reason stated above.

      In general, it consists of eyewitness testimony. This is to be expected. Spiritual reality can be experienced only through our spiritual senses. It cannot be detected by our physical senses nor by any of the scientific extensions of our physical senses. The only way it can be conveyed to others who are living in the material world is by reporting the experience through the communication capabilities of the human body, now as aided by technology. In other words, it can be conveyed mainly through speech and writing.

      There are many categories of this evidence.

      Over the long term, many people have reported spiritual experiences of one sort or another–mainly experiences of God communicating with them, and of seeing higher (spiritual) levels of reality. Some of those reports have been incorporated into the many sacred writings of the various cultures of humankind.

      True, the writers’ understanding of what was going on was very crude by today’s standards, so much of that writing looks primitive to us by today’s standards. Still, it is a nearly universal part of human experience cross-culturally throughout the world that some people experience non-physical realms of reality, and report it to others orally or in writing.

      But to jump to today, the strongest body of evidence for spiritual reality comes from the millions of people who have had near-death experiences, and the smaller number who have had out-of-body experiences.

      I am aware that skeptics and atheists attribute all of this to functions of the brain. But this is more a tribute to their faith in the ability of science in general, and neuroscience in particular, to explain all phenomena than it is to a real, in-depth study of the subject and a detailed explanation of how the brain could produce such effects.

      I have personally spoken with many people who have had near-death experiences. I have also read quite a bit of literature on the subject. Though there is, of course, great variation in the experiences of various people, there is also a general pattern and consistency to their accounts. That pattern and consistency is congruent with the overall cross-cultural belief in the reality God and spirit, and the nature of the spiritual realms. It is also highly congruent with what Emanuel Swedenborg described 250 years ago based on his nearly three decades of experience in the spiritual world. This was long before near-death experiences became a popularly known phenomenon.

      Turning to Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation of near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences is that the human spirit exists as an entity distinct from the physical brain and body, and that the things described by the millions of people who have had these experiences reflect a real, distinct layer of reality–the spiritual realm, or spiritual world. Everything they report is quite easily explained by what we know of spiritual reality. Meanwhile, the attempts of atheists and skeptics to explain it all look strained and far-fetched to anyone who has spent any considerable time studying these phenomena without the preconceived notion that they must all be hallucinations of an oxygen-deprived brain.

      If you speak with people who have had near-death experiences, nearly all of them will assure you that their experience was nothing like a hallucination. Many of them have had hallucinations of various types, and are able to compare the experiences. They will tell you that the two are nothing alike. In fact, they will assure you that their experience in the spiritual world was far more real than anything they experience here in the material world, and that all of material reality is a dark and pale shadow in comparison.

      (continued . . .)

    • (. . . continued)

      I’m well aware that you will most likely just reject all of that evidence out of hand, and claim that it can all be explained by physical brain processes–perhaps along with charges of lying, deception, and delusion on the part of those who say these things are genuine experiences of another reality.

      This bothers me not at all.

      Why not?

      Because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

      We humans are supposed to be able to deny the reality of God and spirit. And God has designed the universe so that we can do so to our heart’s content if we do not wish to believe in God and spirit.

      God wants a willing relationship with us, not a forced one. And considering the overwhelming nature of an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God, for those who do not want to have a relationship with God, there must be the ability to reject God’s existence altogether.

      God has specifically designed the universe so that the physical universe is internally consistent, and its phenomena can be explained without reference to any other level of reality.

      I realize this will sound arbitrary to you. But even with this I’m simplifying things to make a specific point. There are much more complex laws in effect that are also reasons the physical universe can operate as if it were independent of spiritual reality.

      It’s not that the spiritual realm has no effects on the material world. But those effects are part of the basic fabric of material reality. And the only way we can know about them is through experiences in our own mind or spirit. If we close off those avenues because we do not wish to have any connection with God or spirit, we also close off our ability to know about and understand spiritual reality and its relationship with material reality.

      I’m well aware that all of this will seem like nonsense to you. You do not wish to believe in God and spirit. You had specific experiences in your childhood and youth that evoked in you a repugnance to the idea of gods and spirits. God respects that, and will not force you to believe in God and spirit. To do so would be to damage your humanity and your compassion–neither of which God is willing to do. Humanity and compassion are more important than belief.

      If there were incontrovertible scientific evidence of spiritual reality of the type you keep asking for, you would be forced to believe, and that would cause great damage to you, given your particular background and experience.

      That ain’t gonna happen. God will not do that to you.

      Here’s the short version: You can believe in spiritual reality or not, as you wish.

      As I said in my original article above, I faced that choice as a teenager. At that time, I chose to believe in the reality of God and spirit. Once that choice was made, my conceptual world firmly embraced all three levels of reality–material, spiritual, and divine. I find that this view of reality explains far more phenomena in a far more satisfying way than if I were to restrict my mind to material reality alone.

      If you wish to make a different choice, and believe in material reality alone, you are perfectly free to do so. Nothing I or any other theist says will make the slightest dent in that. You are human, you are free, and you can choose to believe whatever you want to believe. Once you have made that choice, everything you see will be interpreted by your mind to fit the belief you have chosen.

      Have you noticed that no matter how hard you argue, you can’t convince a confirmed theist that there is no God?

      It works both ways.

      (continued . . .)

    • (. . . conclusion)

      Hi tildeb,

      It doesn’t bother me that you don’t believe in God and spirit. I’m much more interested in the quality of your character as a person, and why you believe what you do.

      My interpretation of all you’ve said is that you believe humanity would be better off without any beliefs in gods and spirits. You believe that more good will come of a lack of belief in gods and spirits than from a belief in gods and spirits.

      I respect that belief.

      It’s exactly the same reason I do believe in God and spirit–as I said in the article we’re discussing.

      From what I can tell, you and I believe different things for the same reason. We both want what is good for ourselves and for our fellow human beings.

      Our beliefs may distinguish us from one another. But our common seeking for the good of humanity binds us together in common humanity.

      That’s enough for me to think of you and your fellow good-hearted atheists as brothers and sisters.

  5. Hi Eva,

    Thanks for the typo fix. However, it’s still not quite right. Still in the fourth to the last paragraph, “had I” should be “I had.”

    Thanks!

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