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If you only knew the power of the dark side of the Force.

Roy Sablosky

I agree. It should be noted that "spiritual" perceptions are only spiritual when so interpreted. The perceptions themselves carry no label. You don't know, in the moment of perception, what the heck those things are. Nor do you afterwards! -- but afterwards, you have a label for them. The label -- whether it's 'spiritual', 'holy', 'cosmic', 'Jesus', or anything else -- comes from your education. Could you have interpreted your experience as "talking to Jesus" if you had never heard of Jesus? Of course not.

David Cass

Too complicated for them; too nebulous. These are religious people, -- Christians, no less. They are ready to refute everything not matching their own world view, their own grasp of "reality." Ergo, they're not too analytical (read bright) from the start. Give them something they can hear once and make them take stock -- seriously. What we've got here is a very large group that has huge privilege. Because the lie that they believe is believed by millions of others, they conclude that it's the Truth. As far as they're concerned, they're right and we're wrong. What's needed is a grass roots campaign with simple words and hard evidence that has as its goal to convince Christians that their religion is no truer than any other. Copied, in fact, from many pre-dating it.

That's never going to happen, and even if it does, it won't be successful. It's wwaayy too late for that. I fear the future of this country.

Account Deleted

"Ergo, they're not too analytical (read bright) from the start."

I think it's a huge (and common) mistake for atheists to think that we're smarter than theists. Religious believers aren't necessarily stupid. I've been both and I was definitely no dumber as a theist than I am now. It's really more like I managed to dislodge a really persistent bad habit than anything else.


"What's needed is a grass roots campaign with simple words and hard evidence that has as its goal to convince Christians that their religion is no truer than any other. Copied, in fact, from many pre-dating it."

Some kind of Atheist Meme of the Day, perhaps. Just an idea.

Joel Monka

David Cass- you should listen to DA. I am one who has had these experiences. I am not a Christian. My IQ may not be the equal of yours; but at 142 it counts as functional, and I am capable of understanding long words.

Roy Sablosky- Are you a telepath or empath, that you know the exact nature of all experiences described as "spiritual"?

Greta Christina

Joel: Roy doesn't have to be a telepath or an empath for his point to be valid. He just needs to be someone who understands how the brain and the mind works. There is no evidence whatsoever that so-called "spiritual experiences" are anything other than another trick of the brain. Calling them "spiritual," and concluding that they have a supernatural cause, is simply an interpretation people put on the experience.

David Cass: Like D.A., I don't agree that being religious means not being bright or analytical. Many smart people are religious, and vice versa. Religious belief isn't stupid. It's mistaken. It's a mistaken conclusion based on a set of cognitive errors -- but we all have cognitive errors. They're an inherent part of being human. (And for the record, today's Meme wasn't about Christianity -- it was about all spiritual experiences.)


You would think that someone with an IQ of 142 would realize how pointless it is to mention it.


Tommy, I am impressed by your paradoxical sentence: his IQ indicates that his intelligence is high enough that he ought to realize that IQ doesn't indicate how high anyone's intelligence is.

If I were a robot my head would now asplode.

Joel Monka

Greta, my point to Roy wasn't meant to say that the experiences aren't mind tricks. It sounded like he was saying that that the experiences are nebulous or undefined, and that they are interpreted as spiritual only because we are taught to do so. But often, such experiences can be very vivid and concrete- to use his example, one might actually see and hear Jesus. In such as case, the experience, whatever its origin, is both well defined and spiritual- it is the interpretation that it must be a trick of the mind that must be taught.

There's an old comedy routine- old even before the Marx brothers used it, in which a woman catches her husband in bed with another woman. Rather than being contrite or defensive, he tells her it never happened, that she's imagining it because of her own mistrust. The laugh line is, "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?" There are many of us who understand that woman's dilemma quite well. Regardless of what the reality may be, to deny your eyes takes a leap of faith, a belief that a logical argument is more trustworthy than "your lying eyes". Even if you believe the logic to be impeccable, it's not an easy thing to do.


The analogy does not quite work, Joel. Cheating husbands are not an extraordinary claim!

Greta Christina
Regardless of what the reality may be, to deny your eyes takes a leap of faith, a belief that a logical argument is more trustworthy than "your lying eyes". Even if you believe the logic to be impeccable, it's not an easy thing to do.

Joel, we've talked about that before. And my point is the same. Which is that if you know that the overwhelming body of logic and evidence support the idea that your experience, however vivid, wasn't real... then yes, it is more reality-based to let go of the experience and embrace the analysis.

And Maria's right -- the difference has to do with how extraordinary the claim is. If I see an empty soda can on the street, I'm not going to doubt my eyes -- because that's an ordinary thing for me to see. But if I see a fifty foot tall pink zebra on the street, I am bloody well going to try to get corroboration -- since that would be a very extraordinary thing indeed. And if I don't get any corroboration -- and in fact, if I get strong evidence and arguments countering the zebra hypotheses -- I'm going to conclude that my personal zebra experience was a cognitive glitch and not a genuine perception of reality. Regardless of how vivid it was. The vividness of an experience is not an accurate metric for how likely it is to be true.

Again, I repeat the meme: To base your conclusions about reality on your personal perception, and your perception alone, is to assume that your perceptions are more accurate than those of everyone else in the world.

Joel Monka

Greta, note that the passage you quoted makes no argument for the accuracy or truth of the vision at all- only that it is difficult to deny the vision. And the vividness of the experience, while not a metric for its accuracy, is most certainly a factor in the difficulty of denying it.

Here's a different analogy: pilots are taught to trust their instruments only, not their own senses. And yet, despite this training, pilots will often depend on their own inner ears, and fly to their deaths- that's what killed John F Kennedy Jr. And he was not a foolish or unintelligent man. My point is that if even people who have been trained that their senses can lead them to their deaths have difficulty denying their senses; can you imagine how difficult it is to deny an experience that involves not merely one's sense of balance, but sight and sound? When you don't have instruments there telling you otherwise?

That difficulty was all I was speaking to. Not everyone finds it easy to turn their sense of reality on and off like a light switch.

Greta Christina

Joel: I'm not arguing that doing this isn't difficult. It was difficult for me, too: I had spiritual beliefs myself once, and part of why I had them was personal experiences that I interpreted as spiritual.

I am suggesting that, if you care about whether or not your beliefs are true, you do it anyway. I am suggesting that you trust your instruments rather than fly your plane into the ground.

Account Deleted

When I was a Muslim, I was once doing Tarawih (optional late night prayers during Ramadan). At one point I was overwhelmed by the sense that the Kaabah in Mecca was front of me. For a moment I even saw it, clear as the sky. It didn't prove Islam was real then, and no matter how many people see Jesus, it won't prove that Christianity is real now.

Brad Warner, a Buddhist teacher and author, has a really interesting part of his first book where he talks about this amazing spiritual experience he had, the most real thing he'd ever expereinced. He went to his teacher to tell him and his teacher basically said 'That's a fantasy. You're daydreaming.' I'm not a huge fan of Warner or his teacher, but I really wish more people could face things like that.

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