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Old 02-26-2010, 06:29 AM
 
Location: Golden, CO
2,108 posts, read 2,631,039 times
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Believers of all sorts of things claim that we would believe, too, if we experienced what they have. If we saw Bigfoot, or a UFO, or had an out of body experience, or had an astrological reading, or felt God's glory and love fill us, etc, then we'd believe, too.

Experiences are always vulnerable to reinterpretation when we adopt a new perspective. So, the argument that "if you had only experienced what I have experienced, then you'd believe" does not have any validity for me.

I experienced what Mormons call "the Spirit testifying to me" that something was true, but now I feel forced by the evidence to think differently about those powerful experiences. I now believe that those experiences are produced entirely by the biological brain.

When I was nine, I had an experience that I interpreted as being visited by an angel. I no longer interpret it that way. When I was 14 years old, my mother passed away. On the day of my marriage in the temple, I believed I felt her presence there. I now believe that that experience was entirely produced by my brain.

Raw experiences aren't proof of anything. They are given meaning and interpreted by us according to our worldview or paradigm. As our worldview changes, our interpretations of those experiences can change as well. It is not that we doubt that we had the experience, it is that we doubt the interpretation and meaning we gave to that experience.
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Old 02-26-2010, 06:34 AM
 
Location: Golden, CO
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In the Mormon Church I still hear many people testify that they "know" God lives or that they "know" Jesus is the Savior, etc. Some Mormons and other Christians also claim that God has "proven" his existence to them or that they know God exists because they have a personal relationship with him. Other Christians instead wisely say that they "believe" God exists or have faith that God exists.

There is a large distinction between knowing and not knowing, yet believing. It is my position that one cannot "know" that God exists and anyone who believes they know are likely forgetting or ignoring the assumptions and subjective interpretations that they are making about their experiences.

Now, these people who claim to know will often confess that they cannot prove God's existence to you, but that you must go to God to get your own proof as they have done. They often believe that we atheists have never had the kind of experiences they have had, but that if we did we would believe too. Or, sometimes they think we are too rash in dismissing personal experiences, since their evidence is not of the scientific kind. Allow me to clear up a few things. One, I have had the types of experiences that "knowers" and believers have had. Two, I accept those experiences as evidence, not proof, but I limit my acceptance to the raw experience only, not to the meaning that has been given to that experience. Let me give a few examples.

A woman claims that God spoke to her during her prayer last night. Upon further questioning it is discovered that she did not actually hear a voice, but instead had a thought that gave her peace and offered a solution to her problem that she believes could not have come from herself. I challenge the position that it was impossible for her to come up with the idea by herself. But, she just says she knows it was from God as an answer to her prayer.

What was the basic phenomenological experience? She had a thought accompanied by a feeling of peace while speaking about a problem. That is what I accept as evidence. All of the rest is conjecture, assumptions, and interpretations. One does not "know" that thought came from God. One did not experience God directly, all one did was have a thought accompanied by peace while speaking to an unseen being that might be real and might not. Might this be thought of and used as evidence for God's existence? Certainly. Might this be thought of and used as evidence for the natural power of the brain? Certainly. The experience itself proves nothing. It is not impossible that the thought and feeling of peace was entirely a creation of the brain. To any who claim that it is impossible, I ask "impossible? Impossible?" Surely it is possible, why would it be impossible? Regardless of the different probabilities we might assign to the possible explanations of the event, we both must admit that either interpretation is possible.

The existence of the earth and the variety of life upon it is often claimed to prove that there is a Creator. I will admit that if God did create it, it is evidence of his existence. But, is it not also possible that the universe and all that is in it came about by natural (uncreated) laws without the involvement of a Creator? It most certainly is possible. If you disagree, shall we review the law of large numbers, gravity, and evolution by natural selection? You may not think it likely, but logic demands you admit that it is possible even if you refuse to imagine it.

Look, all the "knower" has are raw experiences and events. Do not accept your interpretations, and assumptions as givens. For they are debatable and they are not part of the raw experience. You do not "know" that God changed your heart. You do not "know" that God answered your prayer. You may know that you experienced a change of heart, but you do not know that it came from God. That is but one interpretation that is often accepted as part of the experience, but it is an assumption that might be incorrect. If you have difficulty imagining or buying the possibility of a naturalistic explanation for a phenomenon (near-death experiences, prophecies, etc), ask a naturalist and they will explain until you get it.

"Knowers" have no proof. To prove something, you must be able to demonstrate that there is no possibility that any alternative explanation could adequately account for the phenomenon. Only then can you claim to know. Many scientists and philosophers have demonstrated that there is no experience you have ever had or event that has taken place that does not have possible alternative explanations. Therefore, you are not justified in claiming to "know" that God exists. You can believe it, but you cannot know it. Is the God hypothesis possible? Yes. Is the naturalistic hypothesis possible? Yes. Therefore, no one "knows".

The rest of the argument is about likelihoods and probabilities. I personally feel that the likelihood of a god existing is very low, but I am ok with believers believing that it is high. But, I really would like those who claim to "know" that God exists know that they cannot know and learn to separate in their minds the raw experience from the interpretation they give to the experience.
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Old 02-26-2010, 08:36 AM
 
Location: Pawnee Nation
7,525 posts, read 15,538,401 times
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Well discussed position. While I don't disagree with all you said, it is still a matter of both personal experience as well as personal interpretation. Still, the denial, by someone else, of either is equally a matter of personal interpretation. What is undeniable is that the fundamentals of all the worlds great religions have common threads that make it appear that peoples from around the world have similar spiritual experiences, and while they interpret them somewhat differently, the basic elements of each are nearly identical. And absent scientific proof one way or another, then the experience of billions of people over thousands of years take precedence to someone who postulates a theory that simply seems right to them.

FWIW, I do not consider "variations" of existing religions to contain much credibility. The Roman Catholic church is a derivative of the original teachings of Jesus and Paul. Pauls teachings were a derivative and an amplification of what Jesus taught, but he focused on rules instead of that one on one relationship with God that Jesus taught. That makes Pauline churches a religion while Jesus taught a faith. Similar incidents happened in India, China, North America, South American. In virtually every culture, a teaching of one on one with the universe/creator/god/buddha/whatever was eventually expanded into a liturgy. The problem that you perceive with religion and the problem most people have with religion appears to me to be because you focus on the liturgy. If you can get past that things might appear different to you.

While your mother's presence MIGHT have been a comforting thought created by a wishfulness and a product of your "brain" it is NOT proof that your mother's spirit wasn't there. One should leave the door open for the fact that mom's spirit created that product of your brain.

Just for informations sake, when I was 16 my grandfather woke me early in the middle of the night by sitting on the edge of my bed. We talked for a few minutes and he disappeared. I was living in Roswell, New Mexico. He was in Tulsa, Oklahoma.....about 600 miles away. A few minutes after he left the phone rang, my dad came in to wake me and when he saw I was awake, he asked me to get the car ready, we had to go to Tulsa because my grandfather had passed. My grandfather dying was not part of my thoughts. It was not a part of my "brain." When he passed, he was healthy, happy, and living a full life. He had not been sick. He had not been injured. Him dying was unthought of.

Much of what churches do emulate reality and really are hypocritical. But scattered in there are those genuine experiences that lend credibility to the whole.......makes it difficult to discern. Thankfully I realized I cannot be judge of your life or experiences. If you believe something I will celebrate with you, if you don't, we can still have fun. And, for the most part, I will not share my experiences with you because you cannot experience what I do. but then, that is the personal nature of faith.

Last edited by Goodpasture; 02-26-2010 at 08:54 AM..
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:01 AM
 
Location: Somewhere out there
9,618 posts, read 11,903,462 times
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Default And.... it's over the cliff with your mind!

By the same token, Goodpasture, as herd animals, we like to "go with the flow" as long as the lions aren't out and about looking for lunch. It also relieves us of the burden, quite onerous in some cases, to apply critical thinking to the more important aspects of our lives.

It's very easy to go with that flow as regards church and community and belief systems. But let's not confuse psychological inertia and cultural convenience with The Truth. Especially when so many aspects of those old fairy tales can and have been totally debunked.

The idea that billions of people have been Christians over the last few millenia does not in any way lead one to conclude that it's THE last word. After all, man's been on the planet for millions of years, and there are billions of those who believe in other spiritual fantasies, and there are growing numbers, billions in fact, who are confirmed analytical and logical atheists. With more to come in the future, BTW: education is taking it's inevitable toll on mass ignorance.

The statistics for Christianity are actually on the wan; in another few centuries, we'll be able to confidently point to an entirely different set of numbers that, by the same uncritical review, PROVE Christianity's dead.

Now if folks like to be swept along with the common belief; if that gives them comfort, lemming-like, in the direction the crowd's happy stampeding, then so be it.

http://www.biblepicturegallery.com/S...%20stopped.gif

Actually, if one witnesses some unusual potentially inexplicable or spiritual experience, why not check it out with further research and further intellectually honest investigation, rather than yowling that just because Aunt Sally's cancer went into remission, why then, there MUST BE a God.

Answer: it may be truly uncomfortable to find out there's really no good proof of God or the supernatural. But then where would the needy follower types be left? Surely not all on their own, with The Reality Monster under the bed, and growling.....
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:27 AM
 
5,906 posts, read 5,369,957 times
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I am very tempted to share in this thread, but the hostility by posters I otherwise respect is preventing that entirely.

Suffice it to say I side with Goodpasture.
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:40 AM
 
Location: Pawnee Nation
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rifleman View Post
...........The statistics for Christianity are actually on the wan; in another few centuries.....
You're talking religion. I'm not. It's like me talking about taking a walk in the woods and you tell me the horse and buggy are obsolete........my only response is a bewildered "so?"
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:58 AM
 
47,747 posts, read 30,139,631 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hueffenhardt View Post
There is a large distinction between knowing and not knowing, yet believing. It is my position that one cannot "know" that God exists and anyone who believes they know are likely forgetting or ignoring the assumptions and subjective interpretations that they are making about their experiences.
You obviously have given this a lot of thought . . . but you seem not to have explored very deeply the philosophical aspects that have been argued for millennia. Solipsists would challenge ANY of your experiences and knowledge as subjective since they are ALL produced and interpreted by the brain. What ISN'T?
Quote:
Now, these people who claim to know will often confess that they cannot prove God's existence to you, but that you must go to God to get your own proof as they have done. They often believe that we atheists have never had the kind of experiences they have had, but that if we did we would believe too. Or, sometimes they think we are too rash in dismissing personal experiences, since their evidence is not of the scientific kind. Allow me to clear up a few things. One, I have had the types of experiences that "knowers" and believers have had. Two, I accept those experiences as evidence, not proof, but I limit my acceptance to the raw experience only, not to the meaning that has been given to that experience.
This is patently false . . . you have given them what you think is a non-God interpretation called "Natural." This is a false and unjustified distinction based entirely on a preference for the atheist view (nothing scientific). You cannot point to anything natural that could not as easily be characterized as of God. It is all the religious personifications of God that you reject . . . not the inherent God-like aspect of what you preferentially call "Natural" . . . because "It just is."
Quote:
Let me give a few examples.A woman claims that God spoke to her during her prayer last night. Upon further questioning it is discovered that she did not actually hear a voice, but instead had a thought that gave her peace and offered a solution to her problem that she believes could not have come from herself. I challenge the position that it was impossible for her to come up with the idea by herself. But, she just says she knows it was from God as an answer to her prayer.
There are right brain disciplines that can enable each of us to distinguish the myriad things within that are of personal origin and those that are not. These of course are not transferable to others via second hand "proof."
Quote:
What was the basic phenomenological experience? She had a thought accompanied by a feeling of peace while speaking about a problem. That is what I accept as evidence. All of the rest is conjecture, assumptions, and interpretations. One does not "know" that thought came from God. One did not experience God directly, all one did was have a thought accompanied by peace while speaking to an unseen being that might be real and might not. Might this be thought of and used as evidence for God's existence? Certainly. Might this be thought of and used as evidence for the natural power of the brain? Certainly.
What exactly IS this "natural" power of the brain you so cavalierly cite?
Quote:
The experience itself proves nothing. It is not impossible that the thought and feeling of peace was entirely a creation of the brain. To any who claim that it is impossible, I ask "impossible? Impossible?" Surely it is possible, why would it be impossible? Regardless of the different probabilities we might assign to the possible explanations of the event, we both must admit that either interpretation is possible.
A solipsist would ask: "This differs from the interpretation of ANY other experience HOW?"
Quote:
The existence of the earth and the variety of life upon it is often claimed to prove that there is a Creator. I will admit that if God did create it, it is evidence of his existence. But, is it not also possible that the universe and all that is in it came about by natural (uncreated) laws without the involvement of a Creator? It most certainly is possible. If you disagree, shall we review the law of large numbers, gravity, and evolution by natural selection? You may not think it likely, but logic demands you admit that it is possible even if you refuse to imagine it.
Given the chaos of a mindless un-directed universe . . . How does any "law" or "propertiy" of matter or energy come about without "direction." They are themselves "directives" . . are they not? The "survival drive" is a directive . . is it not? Your "natural selection" would not be possible without it. So what exactly ARE these "natural" things you so cavalierly champion over God . . . and how do they differ from things of God?
Quote:
Look, all the "knower" has are raw experiences and events. Do not accept your interpretations, and assumptions as givens. For they are debatable and they are not part of the raw experience. You do not "know" that God changed your heart. You do not "know" that God answered your prayer. You may know that you experienced a change of heart, but you do not know that it came from God. That is but one interpretation that is often accepted as part of the experience, but it is an assumption that might be incorrect. If you have difficulty imagining or buying the possibility of a naturalistic explanation for a phenomenon (near-death experiences, prophecies, etc), ask a naturalist and they will explain until you get it.
They may explain but they cannot explain their explanations because they are taken as givens without introspection. They cannot distinguish a "naturalistic" explanation from a God one in any meaningful (scientific) way . . . since everything science discovers is about God anyway.
Quote:
"Knowers" have no proof. To prove something, you must be able to demonstrate that there is no possibility that any alternative explanation could adequately account for the phenomenon. Only then can you claim to know. Many scientists and philosophers have demonstrated that there is no experience you have ever had or event that has taken place that does not have possible alternative explanations. Therefore, you are not justified in claiming to "know" that God exists. You can believe it, but you cannot know it. Is the God hypothesis possible? Yes. Is the naturalistic hypothesis possible? Yes. Therefore, no one "knows".
It is the "naturalistic" hypothesis that is nonsense . . . it is self-contradicted by the very processes and evidence that it produces.
Quote:
The rest of the argument is about likelihoods and probabilities. I personally feel that the likelihood of a god existing is very low, but I am ok with believers believing that it is high. But, I really would like those who claim to "know" that God exists know that they cannot know and learn to separate in their minds the raw experience from the interpretation they give to the experience.
Your rejection is of any "personal" God . . . NOT a generic God (which you accept unquestioningly as "Nature.")

Last edited by MysticPhD; 02-26-2010 at 10:07 AM..
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Old 02-26-2010, 05:44 PM
 
16,329 posts, read 15,228,805 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hueffenhardt View Post
Some claim that God has "proven" his existence to them or that they know God exists because they have a personal relationship with him. one cannot "know" that God exists and anyone who believes they know are likely forgetting or ignoring the assumptions and subjective interpretations that they are making about their experiences.
you get to be the authority on your experiences.
but you are NOT the authority on anyone else's experiences on this planet

the only person in the world who gives my experiences meaning, is ME. Not you. Not anyone else.

and if you are open to some feedback, it is offensive and insulting to try to tell someone how to think, because it reeks of arrogance and superiority. It is also offensive and insulting to ridicule and belittle someone's life as "nonsense" (see thread title "If You Had Experienced It, You'd Believe Too" Nonsense ).
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Old 02-26-2010, 05:46 PM
 
4,047 posts, read 4,667,708 times
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Think of how messed up it would be if these christian beliefs were true: "God" gives some people experiences that make them believe, but not others; while at the same time eternally punishing those who don't believe.
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Old 02-26-2010, 05:52 PM
 
16,329 posts, read 15,228,805 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hueffenhardt View Post
Now, these people (say) that you must go to God to get your own proof as they have done.
yup, that's how life works. do you want to read about orgasm, or experience it yourself? which is more fun? Do you want to read about love, or feel the joy of love yourself? Which is more satisfying? And if someone balks at doing life, but insists instead on merely talking about life, or reading about life instead, or arguing about life instead of living life....then they usually have trouble trusting life and trusting themselves to do life.

Last edited by Tzaphkiel; 02-26-2010 at 06:09 PM..
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