Christian Science – the misuse of the word science!

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Discussion by: scientific_philosopher

Dear fellow non-theists!

I've always been very annoyed by the constant misuse of the word "science", especially when it's in the same sentence with religion. The difference between science and religion is that the former is always willing to reconsider any of its theories, laws and rules. The catch is that the longer a theory is supported by evidence, the stronger the evidence must be to disprove it. Ask any religious person if they would accept any evidence disproving the existence of his/her god(s) and the answer will always be "No." That is why religion can never be classified as "science" regardless of what name they give to it. I would like to share the following website with you that claims to be Christian science, it's part if not sponsor of a major news/blog website called the Chistian Monitor. 

http://christianscience.com/prayer-and-health/firsthand-experiences-of-healing

People seem to forget that everything that we use in your daily life is a product of science, our job, the computer we are reading this one, the tools that we use, the toothpaste we're brushing our teeth with, the medicine we take, the clothes we wear, the modern kitchen we cook in or the car we drive and much more. Without science we all would still sit in a candle lit room reading our holy scriptures and dying of influenza or tooth decay and infection thanking our God for his grace!

What I always wondered about is, if religious people are so convince that evolution and science is wrong about God and religion, why's that they all go to see a doctor when they get ill, why not say a prayer asking for healing instead? I think the Vatican has a pretty good track record how effective that is, which is 66 mirical healings in a century and  a half, avarge visitors of 80.000 sick pilgrams per year, feel free to do the math how many millions have parished in the false hope of a mirical healing by God.  Why do the use toothpaste, electricity, cars, airplanes, elevators and smartphones, they should ask God to provide them with it. I'm sorry for my sarcasm, but I'm annoyed beyond a tolerable limit, how little credit science is given, most of the time religious apologists will say science is a product of God, since the human mind invented it. I'm not going to comment on what I think about this absurd assumption!

What has religion/God actually contributed in the last 15.000 years except division, slavery, prosecution, genocide, war and intolerance? What are your thoughts on religious pseudoscience?

Thank you for taking your time to read my post and I wish you all a wonderful and restful weekend!

Best regards,

The Scientific Philosopher

45 COMMENTS

  1. A boy met his Christian Science minister in public. “Reverend,” he said, “Please pray for my sick father.”

    “My son,” the minister replied, “your father misunderstands our faith. Sickness is an evil, and evil is an illusion. He only thinks he’s sick.”

    A few days later, when the boy saw the minister again, the man asked the boy how his father was. The boy answered, “He thinks he’s dead.”

  2. Religion has become the chief institute within which bigotry can incubate, nurture and propagate. Pre-enlightenment, religion was the vehicle for established thought – it wasn’t necessarily foolish to be irrational, as God was more-or-less as good an explanation as any other. Then we really began to understand that particular process by which things can be known, and the authority of religion was challenged.

    Not all religion is equal, and some deserve our ire moreso than others, but whereas before it was a reasonable, if not dubious, establishment around which to rally for comfort, charity, leadership and moral guidance; it is now an empty shell, manipulated and abused by the insane or the evil.

    We can draw the best aspects of organized religion (as Dennett argues), and banish the rest. There are some ‘things’ at which religion is good at, which we can utilize, but the best case scenario for it is that we repurpose and recycle the bits that aren’t too rusty. The rest is junk.

    So it’s not so much about what religion has given us (nothing much good), but what can we take from it before it’s gone.

  3. I share your frustration. I quite often visit bookshops, and almost despair at the size of the sections on God and on ‘woo-woo’ (crystal therapy blah blah) versus those on science.

    But only almost despair. I think the emotional drivers for unreason are very strong. The fear of dying, a need for a sense of security, wanting hope in the face of suffering etc is bound to recur and many religions and woo-woo’s undoubtably offer an immediate and simple solution.

    Thus it has been for millennia. It’s a long road to reason. But this and many other places do, I feel, say there is progress, thuogh it wil falter at times and on a global scale it could take many generations for grip of superstition to weaken. I suppose you could compare this to how long it is taking to, say, providing clean drinking water. The Romans made a start, the Victorians returned to it thousands of years later but its still not available to all.

  4. Various theological cults will use anything as a “badge of authority” to prop up their views.
    Science has a reputation for establishing truths, so it should be no surprise that it is dishonestly misused as a fake badge of authority for whimsical claims.

    Scientology, Xtian Science, “Theistic Evolution”, “Creation-Science”, pseudo-controversies etc.

  5. The old chestnut that gets on my goat mainly because it is repeated so often is ; “science can be wrong”; or “science has been wrong in the past ; for example…”.

    What somebody means when they say this is that if a claim is made to be a certain fact by an authority figure without evidence but strong authority then this has at least equal validity as something produced by methodological naturalism and in their minds more.
    The brighter ones just attack methodological naturalism as a flawed process of knowing, usually by flying into solipsism or some such philosophical.

    I had an argument with somebody recently who claimed to be an atheist but also claimed things could be non falsifiable and still true. I couldn’t make him see that you can’t say something is non falsifiable and then claim anything about “its” nature because the lack of falsifiability makes the imaginary indistinguishable from the real. So “the brain in a jar” scenario could never be said to be true until you have a way of establishing what a universe would be like if you were and weren’t a brain in a jar. If they are the same you can’t make a judgement. I guess it is the difference between what is possible and what is knowable and relates to what knowledge you should ask on.

    My point being is that this same person used his insistence that non falsifiable things could be true to assert that supernatural things could exist and science couldn’t disprove them.

  6. religion could, in my book, be defined as any subversive ideology that makes dishonest use of words and deeds to elicit belief in its victims.

    priests wave their hands about on the alter muttering special words, as if their actions have actual consequences in reality and only really make sense once you’ve read a little about cargo cults. they give you a cracker, tell you it a bit of dead ape, tell you to agree, because they’re cleverer than you and if you question them it means you’re stupid. all woo merchants use words to confound the credulous. “energy”, “power”, “let jesus enter you” are all terms that have very clearly defined meanings in the real world but are used in a nebulous fashion by con-men

    Deepak Chopra loves to bandie the word “quantum” about. the point being that sciency-sounding terms carry some sort of power, if only you had one of those special brains that understood them. of course we know this is hogwash, there’s nothing in science that can’t be understood by any normal person given a little education but they love the illusion that it’s beyond most. personally, I think this is where all religios/mystic belief comes from, trying to emulate someone with real power (e.g. a mysterious lone enemy who walks calmly out of the woods, shouts a special word and suddenly your tribesmen all fall about dead with little bits of wood sticking out of them)

    They steal words, terms and even arguments from science, then with a bit of misdirection convince their audience they understand something they don’t butthere’s no point demanding the word “science” back from christians, might as well ask them to stop misusing the word “truth”.

  7. When theists begin talking about “Christian Science”, they need to be reminded that the only sciences that apply to religion are psychology and psychiatry. Spiritual and metaphysical matters are solely a product of philosophy mixed with conscious delusion – neither of which is based on physical or biological science.
    The fact that they try to extend their philosophies into science shows that there is conscious doubt about their own beliefs. If their beliefs were based in reality and they truly believed everything their religion teaches as fact, there would be no reason for them to engage in debate.
    Comparing religion to science is like comparing broccoli to bicycles – they are both things, but they are not the same type of things. Belief in religion needs to be addressed as a symptom of mental illness – not acknowledged as an argument to science and fact.

  8. Its interesting to observe debates between religious spokes persons and those who are not. While the non-religious are generally constrained to being factual, the religious apologist seems free to use all varieties of obfuscation, distortion and mendacity in their statements, much like some used-car sales persons. If being religious is such a superior way of life why do its promoters appear to be so dishonest?

  9. Several years ago, a church known as Religious Science changed the name of their religion to United Centers for Spiritual Living. I wonder if part of the reason was because of some of the slams they took for having “science” in their name.

    I think some of the worst cases that misuse science are new age. Anyone recall “what the Bleep” or “Down the Rabbit Hole?” These two videos did more damage; certain parts of the movie was “snagged” by popular gurus who brought it to the masses via PBS, Oprah, and other popular “news” shows.

  10. I think it is highly important when discussing religion and science to find mutual definitions…. especially for the word “God” which is highly subjective. Even Dawkins made an exception for the “purely poetic God of Einstein,” which he says has the tendency to confuse. Dawkins even referred to himself as religious in a sense, but objected at the word “religious” because he felt the word implies “supernatural.”

    I think it is interesting that you think that science is given little credit in society. That definitely isn’t the viewpoint that I have of science in society. However I live in the San Francisco Bay Area – a highly diverse and highly liberal microcosm – so that affects my viewpoint and opinion much like yours is affected by your unique perspective.

    QUOTE: “if religious people are so convince that evolution and science is wrong about God and religion….”

    That’s a stereotype and a highly inaccurate one. The sentence in itself is somewhat a catch-22. Google the Catholic church’s stance on evolution – they have no problem with it. At over a billion members you might want to understand their stance before making inaccurate judgments. I think the Catholic Church’s concern is more involved with the creation of the Universe, which is still a mystery to modern physics, rather than in evolution.

    Science relies on the scientific method and statistical analysis of it’s results. Religion is based more out of history, interpretation of events, morality, human purpose, the after-life… The two institutions serve different purposes so they shouldn’t really be linked…. Which MAY VALIDATE YOUR POINT, BUT it’s critical to understand what religion is before making a statement like, “if religious people… think science is so wrong about religion…”

    What does that even mean? Please enlighten me with “science’s” view of religion without violating the logical fallacy of appeal to popularity. (i.e. the folly of saying something like, “because so many scientists think religion is bullshit, science’s view of religion is that it is bullshit.”)

    To understand the differences between the two institutions I think it’s critical to first understand the scientific method, and indeed the scientific method is a subset of all potential human thought. Like Einstein said, “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”

    QUOTE: “What has religion/God actually contributed in the last 15.000 years except division, slavery, prosecution, genocide, war and intolerance?”

    A lot… But I mean, that’s a history lesson and a huge debate… especially if we’re looking at the past 15,000 years. And when it comes to genocide, I’m pretty sure the logic of the holocaust was highly influenced by Darwinian thought… Ethnic cleansing, eugenics, creation of a master-race – the logic seems Darwinian based….

    The fact that politics and religion are so closely tied together is a product of human nature. When blaming religion for everything bad that has happened in history, we have to remember Stats 101 (the mathematical basis behind scientific findings) and remember that correlation does not imply causation. There are countless examples of the Catholic Church tied up with shady acts throughout history, but that doesn’t implicate the Christian religion itself as being bad. As honest Abe said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In fact, throughout time many people have been suspicious of Christianity and yet continuously they can not find anything morally wrong with Christianity in and of itself. I’m more inclined to blame general human ignorance and greed for the problems of the world rather than any particular religious institution. Just because people warp the truth about Christianity for political motives does not make Christianity itself bad.

    Also, if you’re going to group “religion” and God together, you need to be specific about what your understanding of God is. Some people consider themselves spiritual, or believers, and have no religious affiliation. Or you need to attack a specific religion or a specific God. To lump them all together for the past 15,000 years and to make a claim that “religion is bad” makes no sense in forming an argument unless you provide your own definitions. Grouping all human concepts of God together is incredibly naive – it shows that the only God you really have a problem with is your own personal understanding of God. That has interesting psychological implications and it’s hard to take someone’s opinion seriously who does that.

    In regards to faith healings – positive thinking has been linked to increased recovery from a variety of ailments. This is shown through the placebo effect which is taken into account through controls in scientific studies. Obviously there are limits to what positive thinking is capable of… But body builders like Arnold Schwarzenegger swear that mentally focusing on muscle groups while working out can increase results substantially. And the fact that miraculous recoveries are rare does not refute the fact that they occur. You can’t just disregard the outliers in statistical analysis – you have to examine them to make implications about a study and the real world. Let’s be realistic about what statistics is capable of doing in terms of the infinite.

    [Link to user's blog removed by moderator]

    • In reply to #12 by BipolarAltruist:

      I think it is highly important when discussing religion and science to find mutual definitions…. especially for the word “God” which is highly subjective.

      How is this possible when every religion and cult has its own definitions? http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/godsmyth/a/070809godsandgoddesses.htm

      QUOTE: “if religious people are so convince that evolution and science is wrong about God and religion….”

      This is too sweeping a generalisation to apply to all, but it is true of many religious groups.

      That’s a stereotype and a highly inaccurate one. The sentence in itself is somewhat a catch-22. Google the Catholic church’s stance on evolution – they have no problem with it.

      Actually they only PRETEND to have no problem with it. They accept much of the scientific theory, but cherry pick bits of human evolution and insert “God fiddled with it” in their pseudo-scientific version of “Theistic Evolution”.

      Theistic evolution, theistic evolutionism or evolutionary creationism is the view that religious teachings about God are compatible with modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. Theistic evolution is not a scientific theory, but a range of views about how the science of evolution relates to religious beliefs.

      “In one form or another, Theistic Evolutionism is the view of creation taught at the majority of mainline Protestant seminaries, and it is the official position of the Catholic church”,

      ..

      BipolarAltruist – At over a billion members you might want to understand their stance before making inaccurate judgments.

      Actually their position is well known and on record. Could I suggest you study the differences between the scientific theory and the pseudo-scientific substitute which the RCC refers to as “Evolution”.

      I think the Catholic Church’s concern is more involved with the creation of the Universe, which is still a mystery to modern physics, rather than in evolution.

      They have been belatedly dragged into accepting the science, (after years of denial following Vatican I – Pius IX), but are still fighting some rearguard actions. They do lump cosmological evolution together with biological evolution, as the quote and link below shows.

      The Church has deferred to scientists on matters such as the age of the earth and the authenticity of the fossil record. Papal pronouncements, along with commentaries by cardinals, have accepted the findings of scientists on the gradual appearance of life. In fact, the International Theological Commission in a July 2004 statement endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger, then president of the Commission and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, later Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, includes this paragraph:

      According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the ‘Big Bang’ and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5–4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.

      The Church’s stance is that any such gradual appearance must have been guided in some way by God, but the Church has thus far declined to define in what way that may be. Commentators tend to interpret the Church’s position in the way most favorable to their own arguments.

      @12′) by BipolarAltruist: Science relies on the scientific method and statistical analysis of it’s results. Religion is based more out of history, interpretation of events, morality, human purpose, the after-life… The two institutions serve different purposes so they shouldn’t really be linked….

      Science is very much valid as a method of checking historical claims (Bible myths are not historical records).

      Which MAY VALIDATE YOUR POINT, BUT it’s critical to understand what religion is before making a statement like, “if religious people… think science is so wrong about religion…”

      The nature of numerous different religions is well known, but as you say it important to give specific details of which ones are being described, when commenting.

      What does that even mean? (i.e. the folly of saying something like, “because so many scientists think religion is bullshit, science’s view of religion is that it is bullshit.”)

      While many religious claims are to put it bluntly “bullshit”, and refuted by science, the refutation of claims would be based on scientific testing particular claims (of miracles etc) not on populist views.

      Please enlighten me with “science’s” view of religion without violating the logical fallacy of appeal to popularity.

      Religious belief is an evolved feature of the human brain. – Often focussed on a parental or leadership figure.

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1160904/Research-brains-God-spot-reveals-areas-brain-involved-religious-belief.html

      Scientists searching for a ‘God spot’ in the brain have found three areas that control religious belief.

      A study of 40 participants, including Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, showed the same areas lit up when they were asked to ponder religious and moral problems.

      MRI scans revealed the regions that were activated are those used every day to interpret the feelings and intentions of other people.

      ‘That suggests that religion is not a special case of a belief system, but evolved along with other belief and social cognitive abilities,’ said Jordan Grafman, a cognitive neuroscientist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091223.htm

      “We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain,” said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. “Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.”

      In addition, Johnstone measured the frequency of participants’ religious practices, such as how often they attended church or listened to religious programs. He measured activity in the frontal lobe and found a correlation between increased activity in this part of the brain and increased participation in religious practices.

  11. Thank you Alan4discussion for answering the majority of his questions.

    @ BipolarAltruist

    Over the last 17 years of my scientific carrier, I have had the privilege to examine almost all existing religious scriptures, archaeological findings and books spanning over a period of approx. 10.000 years. So you can imagine how long I have been studying ancient texts and religions and their Gods. I can tell by your ignorance that you have spent the majority of your time focusing on your religion and that you stayed within the realms of your religion. I’m not going to answer all your questions since Alan4discussion has done a pretty good job summing it for me, although it shouldn’t have been necessary. When I wrote this discussion proposal, I was relying on the readers to have a sense of logic and historical knowledge. Therefor I did not include the official take on evolution by the Catholic church, because honestly your Church has no understanding of evolution and how it works. They just simply cherry pick the bits they like and throw in the absurd claim that God has injected the “soul” in the evolutionary process. Some food for thought, why didn’t God mention that he injected the “human soul” while life on earth evolved, but rather he said and I quote:”

    “And the Lord FORMED MAN of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) After God created Adam, He gave to him dominion over all His creation and the garden of Eden as a home to tend it and keep it. But He gave one restriction: Gen 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Adam would know what it meant to participate in evil, and the result would be banishment and death. Death is separation from God.

    Then God created the woman: Gen 2:18-24 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. “.

    I’m not going to include the talking snake part, because this is getting to ridicules. I’m pretty sure you don’t see any sub-message in the biblical texts above, right? So much to in “God’s eyes” we are all equal! Strangely enough, men dominate the bible and pretty much everything else including women. Just reading through those passages reminds me how simple and illiterate your God is, surely you would agree that God must be a very intelligent being, considering that he has “created” our universe, time, our planet , us and approx. 450 billion galaxies, yet he could not come up with a better way to present his commandments other than to inscribed them on two stone tablets. Who he then gave to a peasant on a mountain, for no one else to see, eliminating the possibility to historically document this so important event (the bible does not qualify as proof, as it’s the only source claiming that this is the truth)? I could go on for hours, asking simple logical questions, that you could simply not answer, because let’s face it, religious doctrine is not logical. No matter how much you deny or twist facts around, they are not going to become true because of that.

    I love your arguments, the way you try to defend your God or religion. Another logical question, isn’t it funny, that God never speaks for himself? He always needs humans to do his bidding? Why? Because he does not exist! Even if I wouldn’t have the vast religious/historical knowledge at my disposal, I could still spend weeks, months if not years, logically dissecting your God and his words and I would use his own words to render your irrational belief system useless. And still, you, like any other religious person, would find a way to excuse it. And if you can’t, you are going to change the topic and move on. Because you are not visiting secular websites like richarddawkisn.net to educate yourself, but rather to defend God and spread your doctrine.

    Here is what we know about God:

    • There is no scientific evidence indicating that God exists.

    • There is no scientific evidence indicating that God answers prayers.

    • If we set up an unambiguous situation, like asking God to restore amputated
    limbs, nothing is going to happen. Why? Because God never answers prayers!

    • The Bible is clearly the work of primitive men, not of an all-knowing
    supernatural being.

    • Etc..

    In other words, God is imaginary. It is obvious.

    Yet, if one talks to actively practicing Christians like yourself, they ignore all of this evidence. They will tell you that God certainly does exist and that he is answering prayers for them every day. Christian bookstores and Christian magazines are filled with stories of answered prayers. Christians believe that God is reaching down out of heaven and answering billions of prayers on Earth for Christians.

    Therefore, the question arises: If there is all of this evidence showing that God is imaginary, and if there is certifiable, undeniable scientific evidence showing that God never answers prayers, then why do Christians insist that God is real and that God is answering prayers for them on a daily basis? What would prompt Christians to make these statements despite all the contrary evidence?

    To put it another way, what might motivate Christians to ignore the strong evidence that God is imaginary? Here are five possibilities:

    • Christians might choose to believe that God is answering their prayers, despite the evidence that “answered prayers” are nothing more than coincidences, because they are afraid of death. There is no evidence whatsoever that there is a “heaven” or an “afterlife.” Yet the prospect of permanent mortality is very uncomfortable to many people. Because of this discomfort, they may have such a strong reason to believe in Jesus’ promise of eternal life that they need to support their belief with other evidence. Since Jesus also promises that he answers prayers, they are willing to turn any coincidence into an “answered prayer” and ascribe the answer to Jesus.

    • Christians might choose to believe that God is answering their prayers, despite the evidence that “answered prayers” are nothing more than coincidences, because it is a huge boost to the ego. This explanation works both for big “miracles” and small ones. Imagine this: Imagine that you have cancer, you pray to God for a cure, you undergo surgery and chemotherapy, and the cancer does go into remission. What cured you? The surgery and chemo all evidence indicates that this is the case. If God was going to cure you, you would have been able to skip the surgery and chemo. Yet, as a Christian, it is a huge ego boost to believe that the all-powerful creator of the universe cured you. It means he has “big plans” for the rest of your life. Or imagine something much smaller: you pray that God remove a stain from your favorite blouse when you wash it, and after you wash it the stain is in fact gone. It is the detergent that removed it. But a Christian interprets the event differently. What it means to a Christian is that the all-powerful creator of the universe has reached down from heaven to specifically hear and answer a prayer. If you selectively ignore all the prayers that God does not “answer” with the statement that “it is not part of his plan”, then the idea that God is listening to and responding to you individually can be tremendously satisfying to the ego. It means that you are special in God’s eyes. The entire thing is an illusion that is created in the mind of the Christian to stroke the ego. 


    • Christians might choose to believe that God is answering their prayers, despite the evidence that “answered prayers” are nothing more than coincidences, because they are afraid of being alone. They need an invisible friend to talk to in order to cope with loneliness, and God is the “community sanctioned” invisible friend that is accepted in our society. It may be that, for millions of people, an invisible friend is the only way they can cope with being alone. In order to make this invisible friend seem more real, it may help the illusion if you believe that he hears and answers prayers.

    • When we are born, we instinctively have a place in our brains for an “all-knowing, all-loving being”. When we are young this being is called a parent, and children naturally and instinctively bond to their parents. What if a large number of people never outgrow this phase, and need to fill this place in their brains with something once they have left their real parents and moved on? In other words, what if this place in the brain remains into adulthood for many people, long after it has served its need, and people feel lonely unless they fill this place with something? Having an “all-knowing, all-loving” invisible friend would be an obvious thing to fill it with. If you can heighten the illusion by believing that this imaginary friend answers prayers, all the better.

    • Christians might choose to believe that God is answering their prayers, despite the evidence that “answered prayers” are nothing more than coincidences, because it makes them the center of attention with their peers at church. If you ever watch a group of Christians comparing their answered prayers, you can see how this process works. One Christian starts the conversation, “Well, my dog Susi was suffering from terrible skin sores, and the vet gave me some medicine and it didn’t work when I first put it on, but I prayed to God and four days later the sores were gone! Praise Jesus!” Now what can happen is a game of one-upmanship. Another will say, “Well, I was planning my vacation and I had no idea where the money was going to come from, so I prayed to God and that very day a credit card offer came in my mail and the credit line was just enough to cover the bills! Praise the Lord!” In such an environment, if you don’t have a prayer story to tell, it appears that you have lost favor with God. Therefore, you may be willing to exaggerate a little, and even make something up, in order not to lose face with your peer group.

    Is this a direct proof that God is imaginary? No. But it shows that Christians have strong incentives to delude themselves into believing. What you can see is that Christians, especially Christians who are members of church communities have strong reasons to make up stories about prayer and to ignore all the evidence that “answered prayers” really are coincidences. These motivations completely explain the phenomenon of “answered prayers” in Christian communities.

    I agree, spirituality can mean something that I’m very sympathetic to, which is, a sort of sense of wonder at the beauty of the universe, the complexity of life, the magnitude of space, the magnitude of geological time. All those things create a sort of frisson in the breast, which one could call spirituality. But, I would be very concerned that it shouldn’t be confused with supernaturalism. Which most forms of spirituality are! The confusion stems from the fact that the words “spiritual” and “religious” are really synonyms. Both connote belief in a Higher Power of some kind. Both also imply a desire to connect, or enter into a more intense relationship, with this Higher Power. And, finally, both connote interest in rituals, practices, and daily moral behaviors that foster such a connection or relationship. Before the 20th century the terms religious and spiritual were used more or less interchangeably. But a number of modern intellectual and cultural forces have accentuated differences between the “private” and “public” spheres of life. The increasing prestige of the sciences, the insights of modern biblical scholarship, and greater awareness of cultural relativism all made it more difficult for educated people to sustain unqualified loyalty to religious institutions. Many began to associate genuine faith with the “private” realm of personal experience rather than with the “public” realm of institutions, creeds, and rituals. The word spiritual gradually came to be associated with a private realm of thought and experience while the word religious came to be connected with the public realm of membership in religious institutions, participation in formal rituals, and adherence to official denominational doctrines.

    A group of social scientists studied 346 people representing a wide range of religious backgrounds in an attempt to clarify what is implied when individuals describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” Religiousness, they found, was associated with higher levels of interest in church attendance and commitment to orthodox beliefs. Spirituality, in contrast, was associated with higher levels of interest in mysticism, experimentation with unorthodox beliefs and practices, and negative feelings toward both clergy and churches. Most respondents in the study tried to integrate elements of religiousness and spirituality. Yet 19 percent of their sample constituted a separate category best described as “spiritual, not religious.” Compared with those who connected interest in private spirituality with membership in a public religious group, the “spiritual, but not religious” group was less likely to evaluate religiousness positively, less likely to engage in traditional forms of worship such as church attendance and prayer, less likely to engage in group experiences related to spiritual growth, more likely to be agnostic, more likely to characterize religiousness and spirituality as different and non-overlapping concepts, more likely to hold nontraditional beliefs, and more likely to have had mystical experiences. Those who see themselves as “spiritual, but not religious” reject traditional organized religion as the sole-or even the most valuable-means of furthering their spiritual growth. Many have had negative experiences with churches or church leaders. For example, they may have perceived church leaders as more concerned with building an organization than promoting spirituality, as hypocritical, or as narrow-minded.

    Forsaking formal religious organizations, these people have instead embraced an individualized spirituality that includes picking and choosing from a wide range of alternative religious philosophies. They typically view spirituality as a journey intimately linked with the pursuit of personal growth or development. A woman who joined a meditation center after going through a divorce and experiencing low self-esteem offers an excellent example. All she originally sought was a way to lose weight and get her life back on track. The Eastern religious philosophy that accompanied the meditation exercises was of little or no interest to her. Yet she received so many benefits from this initial exposure to alternative spiritual practice that she began experimenting with other systems including vegetarianism, mandalas, incense, breathing practices, and crystals. When interviewed nine years later by sociologist Marilyn McGuire, this woman reported that she was still “just beginning to grow” and she was continuing to shop around for new spiritual insights.

    Finally, as a scientific philosopher I find spirituality which mostly is nothing but supernaturalism highly irrational, anti-intelligent and full of mysticism, experimentation with unorthodox beliefs and practices like healing crystals, incense, some higher power that channels wisdom and positive energy through the stars and beams of light to them and so on. There may be some less superstitious forms of spirituality, but I’d need to see some scientific and logical evidence first. Prof. Richard Dawkins made a pretty good documentary about the supernaturalism/spirituality form I mentioned above in The Enemies of Reason, which can be purchased here: http://store.richarddawkins.net/collections/dvds .

  12. My mates a PhD Nuclear physicist and former NASA contractor (68 retired). Older and wiser than I it was my pleasure to discuss Newton’s 3rd, Hawkings, Cosmic microwave background radiation, theology, energy, density, big bang, cooling, women’s rights, digital imaging, sharia law, and abortion with him briefly. Rather than two opposing viewpoints we found commonalities in the data, agreement in some areas. I could be right, he could be right. I gave him some studies, and he suggested some reading, that’s where the debate ended.

    12 months in space and a human being will have been subjected to a lifetimes worth of cancer causing radiation. The nearest blue dot is generations away. NASA budget is a waste of money, waste of time, waste of boffins. If they ever build a ship to abandon our dying planet, I wont get a golden ticket, ordinary folk wont get a chance. CERN costs a fortune and yields very little for it’s investment, if they found a ‘god particle’ why has nothing changed..?

  13. In reply to #15 by Notion of self:

    NASA budget is a waste of money, waste of time, waste of boffins. If they ever build a ship to abandon our dying planet, I wont get a golden ticket, ordinary folk wont get a chance. CERN costs a fortune and yields very little for it’s investment, if they found a ‘god particle’ why has nothing changed..?

    I agree that NASA’s budget is a joke compared to what the American military spends annually, if that is what you mean.

    CERN observations and experiments have confirmed the existence of the Higgs Boson which was one of its main purposes, so how you consider that a waste of money is beyond me.

  14. Consistency to a scientist is absolutely required. It is nothing special to a religious thinker. Inconsistencies are just signs of God’s quirkiness. To them expecting the universe to be consistent is as obsessive as demanding your girlfriend be consistent.

  15. I have never made a dent in a Christian by pointing out an inconsistency in their belief.

    The people who have the most success are Muslims. They promise a sexier heaven.

    In South America, the Catholics are losing to the churches who have more modern peppy music.

    The official beliefs are somewhat irrelevant in holding customers. It is threats of hell, promises of heaven, promises of rewards for tithes. People go to church to see their friends.

    Churches could probably be destroyed by offering picnic baskets on Sunday.

  16. Of course I agree with most of your points and understand your frustrations. However, when you say

    “The difference between science and religion is that the former is always willing to reconsider any of its theories, laws and rules”

    what you are correctly expressing here is the ideal situation, the way that science should operate. However, in practice, it seems to me that many scientists are very reluctant to reconsider their views even in the light of new findings.
    Perhaps we are all guilty to some extent of holding on to favoured views, but some ‘established facts’ in science are really just established assumptions, and we should probably remember more often that science is not an area for lovers of certainty.

    I know this is a little off topic but it occurred to me on reading your post.

  17. Soon we’ll need some kind of badge or seal to mark real science so we can find books and documents in the pile of crap…
    I think even right now it’s sometimes really hard to get material that is real science and not some load of crap disguised as “science”.

    Something like “In Science we trust” or “No God, just science” articulated on purpose so that religious organizations would not want to print it on their books.

  18. I’ve always been very annoyed by the constant misuse of the word “science”, especially when it’s in the same sentence with religion.

    can’t say I get very excited about it. But then I’ve got a degree in Computer Science which I also doubt is a science.

    The difference between science and religion is that the former is always willing to reconsider any of its theories, laws and rules. The catch is that the longer a theory is supported by evidence, the stronger the evidence must be to disprove it.

    not always. Take a look at relativity. 400 years of Newtonian physics gone with the wind.

    What has religion/God actually contributed in the last 15.000 years except division, slavery, prosecution, genocide, war and intolerance?

    literature, architecture, learning, science. And where did 15,000 come from?

    What are your thoughts on religious pseudoscience?

    no idea what it is

    • In reply to #21 by nick keighley:

      not always. Take a look at relativity. 400 years of Newtonian physics gone with the wind.

      Newton is still 99.99999% accurate for subsonic speeds on Earth! – Hardly gone!!

  19. not always. Take a look at relativity. 400 years of Newtonian physics gone with the wind…But then I’ve got a degree in Computer Science which I also doubt is a science.

    That’s unfortunately a common misconception. Take an intro physics class, not “physics for liberal arts” but a real physics class where you start applying Newton’s laws and you solve calculus problems to determine the trajectory of objects, the gravitational attraction on planets, the stress formulas for a bridge, etc. Its all Newton all the time. Nothing is “gone with the wind”. I had to take a year of physics and calculus (where I went to school there was no doubt that computer science was a science and all science majors had to have some physics) and in that year the only time Einstein came up was on extra credit or little digressions “actually in this case relativity starts to play a role but if you want to go into it that’s a later class” Einstein added to Newton he didn’t replace him.

    • [a scientific theory is only replaced when a lot of evidence piles up against it] not always. Take a look at relativity. 400 years of Newtonian physics gone with the wind…But then I’ve got a degree in Computer Science which I also doubt is a science.

      That’s unfortunately a common misconception. Take an intro physics class, not “physics for liberal arts” but a real physics class where you start applying Newton’s laws and you solve calculus problems to determine the trajectory of objects,

      yes I’ve done some of that

      the gravitational attraction on planets, the stress formulas for a bridge, etc. Its all Newton all the time. Nothing is “gone with the wind”. I had to take a year of physics and calculus (where I went to school there was no doubt that computer science was a science and all science majors had to have some physics) and in that year the only time Einstein came up was on extra credit or little digressions “actually in this case relativity starts to play a role but if you want to go into it that’s a later class” Einstein added to Newton he didn’t replace him.

      I exaggerated for effect. But the point I was trying to make is that relativity wasn’t invented because there were great piles of evidence that refuted classical physics. As you demonstrate so well!

    • In reply to #22 by Red Dog:

      not always. Take a look at relativity. 400 years of Newtonian physics gone with the wind…But then I’ve got a degree in Computer Science which I also doubt is a science.

      That’s unfortunately a common misconception.

      Asimov’s “Relativity of Wrong” comes to mind:

      “John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

      • In reply to #26 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #22 by Red Dog:

        not always. Take a look at relativity. 400 years of Newtonian physics gone with the wind…But then I’ve got a degree in Computer Science which I also doubt is a science.

        That’s unfortunately a common misconception.

        Asimov’s “Relativity of Wrong” comes to mind:

        as usual Asimov is worth a read

  20. For some strange reason I can’t seem to get comments to load on this page and only this page, otherwise I would have liked quite a few of them. I have tried different browsers.

    Edit: OK, I fiddled with the sort and now they seem to be loading.

  21. @ The Scientific Philosopher: You made a lot of false assumptions about me as an individual in your response. I did skim through it… And I’m not trying to spread religious doctrine… However I am interested in understanding the atheist mindset. That’s why I am here.

    @Alan4discussion: Thank you for your response. A lot of the things you said were helpful. In response to your question about how we can find mutual definitions for God, “when every religion and cult has its own definitions,” it’s just a matter of finding commonalities, understanding the differences, and accounting them in the context of the times and culture… My personal way is to relate the ultimate Abrahamic God to the ultimate Hindu God Brahman. Then it seems Jesus is similar to an incarnation of Vishnu. Ultimately “God” in all religions seems to come down to omnipresent energy that interconnects everything in the universe…. that can’t be denied and so its a good meeting place for both believer and non-believer.

    For me, it’s about understanding and individual experience; how an individual interprets events presented to them. To say that prayers being answered is just coincidence is a solid argument, just like how life on Earth could be seen as just coincidence, how the universe in its entirety is “coincidence.” For me, the answer lays in where you draw that line between coincidence and that which accounts for individual identity. How can one claim consciousness for themselves and deny it for the Universe at large – that is the question I’m interested in understanding about the atheist mind.

    • In reply to #29 by BipolarAltruist:

      @Alan4discussion: Thank you for your response. A lot of the things you said were helpful. In response to your question about how we can find mutual definitions for God, “when every religion and cult has its own definitions,” it’s just a matter of finding commonalities, understanding the differences, and accounting them in the context of the times and culture…

      Of the thousands of religions there are some with commonalities, but many more with contradictions. Some like the Abrahamic religions have self contradictions.

      My personal way is to relate the ultimate Abrahamic God to the ultimate Hindu God Brahman.

      Strangely many Christians do not seem to be aware of the history of the Abrahamic god!

      Early history

      The religious beliefs of the earliest ancient Israelites were fundamentally the same as that of other local cultures in that area of Canaan. The supreme god of all creation was El, and under him were the gods of particular domains or tribes, such as Baal, Moloch, and of course Yahweh. Asherah was a fertility goddess, and in some traditions was considered to be the wife of El and the mother of most other gods.[1] In this function she was also called Elat, which, if El is God-with-a-capital-G, would mean Goddess. Like her counterparts in other pantheons, such as Isis, Hera, and Frigg, Asherah was the Queen of Heaven. This title was eventually stolen by that goddess wannabe Mary.

      My personal way is to relate the ultimate Abrahamic God to the ultimate Hindu God Brahman.

      They do have the common claim of multiple gods being combined as the properties of one, but this is only a minority example.

      Then it seems Jesus is similar to an incarnation of Vishnu. Ultimately “God” in all religions seems to come down to omnipresent energy that interconnects everything in the universe….

      Not really. There is a huge diversity of contradictory claims.

      omnipresent energy that interconnects everything in the universe…. that can’t be denied and so its a good meeting place for both believer and non-believer.

      The energy of the universe could be presented as some deist god which does not interfere with physics or people, but that is not the claim of most religions, and is nothing to do with claims about Jesus. ( About whom you may note there are no authenticated historical records. – Only Bible mythology)

      For me, it’s about understanding and individual experience; how an individual interprets events presented to them.

      That is the fundamental difference between scientific and “faith” thinking. Science provides the best information available by its methodology of experimental evidence and independent repeat testing. Faith chooses what it wants to believe without evidence.

      To say that prayers being answered is just coincidence is a solid argument,

      Where double blind tests have been carried out, prayer has been shown to be no more effective than chance events turning up.

      just like how life on Earth could be seen as just coincidence, how the universe in its entirety is “coincidence.”

      The structure and nature of the universe flows naturally from the inflationary stage of the Big-Bang. Science does not know everything, but it is a mistake to pretend it knows nothing. The formation of stars, galaxies, accretion disks and planets is now well documented. It is not “a coincidence”!

      The sort of reactions giving a transition from non-life to self-replicating and living structures (abiogenesis) now have numerous models and examples as to how these processes can work.

      For me, the answer lays in where you draw that line between coincidence and that which accounts for individual identity.

      Individuals and life forms on Earth, are a microscopic % of the matter or volume in the universe. The historical claims that humans are the central feature of the universe is laughable egotism.

      How can one claim consciousness for themselves and deny it for the Universe at large -

      The electrochemical processes of thought in a brain, are quite different from the physics of galaxies, stars and planets.

      that is the question I’m interested in understanding about the atheist mind.

      The atheist mind recognises that gods are a feature of imagination in brains looking for leaders or parent figures to answer their unanswered questions – hence “god-did-it-by-magic” for answers which are not known to the individuals concerned.
      Religions have historically provided answers to questions which were unknown at the time – and hence many have since been debunked by science. Such answers allowed leaders and priests to appear knowledgeable when they were in fact ignorant – hence the need to attack dissenters to prop up the establishment.

      I gave quotes and links @13 which explained the work of neuro-psychologists, working on identifying the specific areas of the brain involved and how these mechanisms work. We can expect rapid progress in this area because of these projects:-

      http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/imaging/bigbrain-project-makes-terabyte-map-of-a-human-brain
      For the first time ever a complete 3-D digital map of a post mortem human brain will be available online for neuroscientists and anyone who wants a better idea of what their grey matter really looks like. The new ultra-detailed model, consisting of a terabyte of data, is part of the European Human Brain Project, created in a joint effort by Canadian and German neuroscientists. With a resolution of 20 micrometers it’s the only model yet to go beyond the macroscopic level. At this degree of resolution cells 20 micrometers in diameter are visible. Although individual smaller cells can’t be seen, it’s possible to identify and analyze the distribution of cells into cortical areas and sub-layers. Previous brain mapping efforts had resolutions one-fiftieth as fine.

      • Alan4discussion: Interesting… thank you again for the response.

        To discuss the Abrahamic religions, I’d like to share a passage which I (personally) think is critical to the understanding of the origin of their notion of God. In Genesis 2:27, The Bible Reads:

        “God created man in his image;
        in the divine image he created him;
        male and female he created them.”

        When referring to the divine image, is it possible that the writers of this are referring to Phi – the divine ratio? Because that’s how I interpret it, so please correct me if I’m wrong.

        And if so, could this merely be implying the correlation between microcosm and macrocosm between God (i.e. The Universe) and Man (humanity?) Knowing that this ratio is essentially the definition of “beauty,” and is repeated through the infinitely small and infinitely large, through the Universe to a man’s body…. I dunno… if there was an “‘all-loving modern day God,” what else but Phi could represent it mathematically?

        I’m just curious… does seeing that correlation change your opinion of that religion? I mean beauty’s real. Numbers are real… kind of.

        Then as far as a historical Jesus… does it matter if Jesus was real or symbolic myth? If we assume that “religion” is some sort of archaic “evolutionary benefit,” now unnecessary and a “delusion?” Why would that change whether or not the time-transcendent Universe (i.e. the “modern” notion of God?) is conscious or not conscious?

        Also, to say that Jesus wasn’t real would indicate some sort of religious conspiracy or something. Do you think that there is some sort of religious conspiracy, and if so what is it?

        What are your thoughts on astrology? What do you think about Isaac Newton and his relationship with Christianity, astrology, physics, and the like? He predicted the second coming of Christ to like 1947 or something like that…. Obviously Jesus (fake or not) isn’t back but what do you think about that prediction in terms of psychology, astrology, Phi, and the political climate of 1947?

        I dunno, I think if we can meet some ground on those questions we’ll find some common ground on a more ubiquitous definition for “God”

        • In reply to #31 by BipolarAltruist:

          You don’t seem to following up on the various points I have made.

          To discuss the Abrahamic religions, I’d like to share a passage which I (personally) think is critical to the understanding of the origin of their notion of God. In Genesis 2:27, The Bible Reads:

          “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.”

          This image clearly bears no relationship to the deist energy you described earlier. It is the imagined father leadership figure in the brain I described earlier.

          When referring to the divine image, is it possible that the writers of this are referring to Phi – the divine ratio? Because that’s how I interpret it, so please correct me if I’m wrong.

          Humans have evolved the survival skill of pattern recognition and see beauty in numbers shapes and patterns.

          And if so, could this merely be implying the correlation between microcosm and macrocosm between God (i.e. The Universe) and Man (humanity?)

          This seems to be rather a large mental jump to an assumption.

          Knowing that this ratio is essentially the definition of “beauty,” and is repeated through the infinitely small and infinitely large, through the Universe to a man’s body….

          Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but tends to be pattern recognition and reassuringly familiar forms.

          I dunno… if there was an “‘all-loving modern day God,” what else but Phi could represent it mathematically?

          There is nothing like an “all loving god” in the OT – The descriptions is more like a vengeful tyrant. The NT is full of self contradictions, but in any case is an edited composite put together about 300 years after supposed events to meet Roman criteria.

          I’m just curious… does seeing that correlation change your opinion of that religion? I mean beauty’s real. Numbers are real… kind of.

          The images and patterns in believers’ minds seem to be good enough to maintain the delusions. I think atheist’s minds have the same features, but the are not usually allowed to dominate thinking, and over-ride rationality the same way.

          Then as far as a historical Jesus… does it matter if Jesus was real or symbolic myth?

          It matters in so far as much abuse is committed in the name of dogmas which are endorsed by the denominations and cults using his name as a badge of authority.
          For anyone who knows the history, there were numerous Gnostic, Coptic and other Xtian cults around in the first centuries AD – often disputing each other’s accounts The area was over-run with itinerant preachers, with Jesus a common name, and the Romans crucifying thousands of “trouble-makers”. The name Jesus is notably absent from Roman historians accounts of notable events, and it is pretty certain that the disciples named were not the authors of the NT or the rejected gospels.

          If we assume that “religion” is some sort of archaic “evolutionary benefit,” now unnecessary and a “delusion?”

          Religious views would help tribal bonding, and accounts suggest genocidal attacks on other cultures have had gods on the side of the winners (or on both sides) Religious fanatics make more determined troops/ suicide attackers.

          Why would that change whether or not the time-transcendent Universe (i.e. the “modern” notion of God?)

          There are multitudes of versions of gods, – some defined as being very vague to resist having properties which can be refuted. This adds nothing in the way of evidence to support them. They also bear no resemblance to the traditional gods of major religions.

          is conscious or not conscious?

          Modern neuro-psychology indicates that gods are conscious/subconscious parts of believers brains, and are simply projected on to their personified image of the universe.

          Also, to say that Jesus wasn’t real would indicate some sort of religious conspiracy or something.

          There were all sorts of religious conspiracies among the early Xtian cults. (not to mention the Jewish cults.)

          Do you think that there is some sort of religious conspiracy, and if so what is it?

          Conspiracies are very much a part of religious politics, but these are no exclusive to religions. I am sure you are aware of a whole host (nutty) conspiracy theories which are strongly believed by their followers.

          What are your thoughts on astrology?

          Astrology is bunk, apart from its use of astronomy as a calendar.

          What do you think about Isaac Newton and his relationship with Christianity, astrology, physics, and the like?

          Like many early scientists, they had grown up in culture where education was dominated by religious institutions. The enlightenment began in Europe with Protestant movement providing some liberation from the strangle-hold of the Vatican which had been suppressing learning.

          I dunno, I think if we can meet some ground on those questions we’ll find some common ground on a more ubiquitous definition for “God”

          As I said earlier, the conflicting definitions of gods come from the diverse religions past and present.

          Atheists have no problem with defining all gods as delusions within the brain, projected on to the outside world, – but the conflicting diversity of the properties of those delusions, is in the dogmas and doctrines of religions. List of deities Their followers are unlikely to accept any redefinition of their gods. -

          Some of them have killed people for less

  22. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. You’ve probably heard the last of me… I think secularism is definitely the way for the future – the way to unite the world’s religions. I will never be an atheist, but good points.

    @Alan4discussion: “This image clearly bears no relationship to the deist energy you described earlier. It is the imagined father leadership figure in the brain I described earlier.”

    To clear that up, here is my personal interpretation of what “God” is.:

    Mostly, I see it as word to represent “that which is beyond individual human thought.” I guess I’m what someone would call spiritual… I understand the connection our bodies and mind have to the universe at large and I see the various world religions as ways humanity has been studying that relationship. I don’t see God as a mass delusion, but some sort of developmental process – unique to the culture associated with it and how they feel their children should be raised. I consider myself “a weak agnostic,” I guess.

    I don’t see anything wrong with Christianity itself, but I acknowledge how it has spawned evil. Overall I agree with it’s message of love, compassion, charity, etc – in terms of the individual. I understand that a lot of Christians in America are douches, so I feel sympathy for atheists, because I’m sure it’s annoying. Indeed a lot of Christians are hypocrites. I saw a quote by Gandhi: “I like your Christ, but not your Christians.” Even Gandhi, and shit -even Christ himself, acknowledges hypocrites within religion.

    In spiritual matters, I think if people seek they will find but if they don’t they wont. I consider myself to be a believer just because of individual experience…. My reasons aren’t scientific. But for me it just involves bullets whizzing by me, shooting stars timed with interesting thoughts… Basically strange coincidences… several close encounters with death and just an overall resulting appreciation to be alive and for life. “Supernatural activity” I guess…. God is what has driven me to my passion in my career. God is time and I am how time and my desire has shaped me in my short length of life. My mantra is “everything happens for a reason, for we as humans decide that reason.”

    Anyway, thanks again for helping me answer those questions I had about the atheist perspective.

  23. I think that anyone who holds to an untested view is going to produce suffering for themselves and others. It does not matter to me what that view is. It does not matter wether they call themselves a scientist or a muslim or a fascist or a jew – it’s all just ideas. Real enquiry into the nature of existence is a very intense and private affair and the discoveries made are of course not conceptual but experiential. Someone can assert something which is true from the point of view of someone who has researched the matter and yet be quite wrong because they do not know it to be true from their own experience. They hold a mere belief and do not know. Beliefs are dangerous because they always have to be defended and we know where that goes. Reality needs no defence as it is self evident – if sincerely inquired into. Such enquiry is rare however. People have always accepted heresay both in what is called religion and in what is called science. Only what has been seen for oneself can be asserted as true and even then the possibility of delusion must always be allowed for. I don’t think scientists are necessarily any closer to knowing the truth about the nature of their own existence than any one else. There are people in the world of spirituality and the world of science who are humbly and honsetly investigating and there are those in both worlds who are dogmatically asserting. I know which I prefer.

    • In reply to #34 by myojo:

      I think that anyone who holds to an untested view is going to produce suffering for themselves and others. It does not matter to me what that view is. It does not matter wether they call themselves a scientist or a muslim or a fascist or a jew – it’s all just ideas.

      Someone can assert something which is true from the point of view of someone who has researched the matter and yet be quite wrong because they do not know it to be true from their own experience.

      It is not possible to research everything personally. We must stand on the shoulders of the intellectual scientific giants of the past.

      They hold a mere belief and do not know. Beliefs are dangerous because they always have to be defended and we know where that goes. Reality needs no defence as it is self evident – if sincerely inquired into.

      Reality will indeed always trump “beliefs”, but it takes sciene to predict how!

      Such enquiry is rare however. People have always accepted heresay both in what is called religion and in what is called science.

      What is different, is that where there have been mistaken views in science, fellow scientists have corrected them. Religions merely diversify into factions and cults.

      Only what has been seen for oneself can be asserted as true and even then the possibility of delusion must always be allowed for.

      It is simply not possible to cover the vast scope of human knowledge by personal investigations. We have to rely on scientific methodology as the best system available for finding out what is true about the universe.

      I don’t think scientists are necessarily any closer to knowing the truth about the nature of their own existence than any one else.

      This simply shows a lack of understanding of the sciences of biology, psychology and neuroscience. Scientists in these specialisms know vastly more, than the general population.

      There are people in the world of spirituality and the world of science who are humbly and honsetly investigating

      There are indeed, but those investigating by objective scientific methods, should not be falsely equated with those engaged in the delusions of mystical introspection.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091223.htm
      Now, University of Missouri researchers have completed research that indicates spirituality is a complex phenomenon, and multiple areas of the brain are responsible for the many aspects of spiritual experiences. Based on a previously published study that indicated spiritual transcendence is associated with decreased right parietal lobe functioning, MU researchers replicated their findings. In addition, the researchers determined that other aspects of spiritual functioning are related to increased activity in the frontal lobe.

      and there are those in both worlds who are dogmatically asserting.

      This is a false equivalence of evidenced studies and wishful thinking.

      I know which I prefer.

      Personal preferences are frequently more likely to be determined by cognitive biases than evidenced reasoning, unless scientific methodology is followed.

  24. I am not interested in second hand knowledge I’m afraid. Neither are you really. Are you? Knowing the nature of ones existence is essential for everyone not just a few. What you describe is not what I am talking about anyway. You are talking about the functioning of mind and body. Knowlege in this area is interesting but does not answer more fundamental questions.

    • In reply to #36 by myojo:

      I am not interested in second hand knowledge I’m afraid. Neither are you really. Are you?

      Everyone with a wider knowledge of the universe, uses second-hand knowledge. For example, no single individual knows how to land a rover on Mars. The issue is how we check and cross check the accuracy of the knowledge we use. If we were limited to what we could personally investigate and prove, the scope of our knowledge would be tiny. We would not yet have invented the tools to carry out the investigations, let alone come to useful conclusions.

      • I think we are discussing from a very different stand point.
        In relation to the manipulation of matter we have built up a large store of information and do quite well at it.
        We have built up a very complex system for sharing our imaginary world of ideas also.
        Where we tend to get into trouble is nn the area of being at peace.
        Both religious and secular types seem to spend a lot of time being unhappy, contentious, contradictory, destructive …..
        Despite their assertions about the rightness of their views the observer sees nothing but distress.
        I don’t think that the advances made in science have produced a happier, less dangerous world.
        I don’t think that religions have either.
        Neither religion nor science generally invite people to really investigate THEMSELVES and their own functioning.
        It is my contention that despite a person’s individual background and circumstances there are certain fundamental questions about the nature of existence which need to be understood for a person to be at peace.
        By at peace I do not mean happy all the time – I mean not at odds with reality.
        I think it is important to know the answer to the following questions absolutely from one’s own experience;
        Do I exist?
        If so what am I?
        There are other ways of putting it and probably other things which might need to b cleared up but not abad place to start.
        I think regardless of philosophical genius or scientific research it will always be necessary for a person to settle the matter of their own existence.
        This resolution is possible regardless of the religious or technological sophistication of that person’s background.
        Individuals have achieved self realisation from poor uneducated backgrounds and from wealthy educated ones.
        I am not against scientific research but I do believe that if the individuals involved have no self knowledge then the results will just be pressed into the service of greed and self interest.
        Equally I have nothing against religion per se but if the people involved are just pushing a mass of dead peoples ideas then they will wind up creating misery too.
        Fundamentally I am in favour of first hand knowledge of my own functioning – which IS ABSOLUTLEY possible.
        What is amazing is the way that people try to find out about themselves the way we are taught in school.
        This is the problem with second hand knowledge.
        We build up theories about ourselves and others. We read books. We follow religions and therapies but the crazy thing is we are right here all the time, every minute of every day and yet we look for the answer to our problems everywhere but here.
        I would like to see people examine themselves more and exchange second hand information less.
        We might find that the problems we seek to solve are are being made by ourselves and that we can stop. In reply to #37 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #36 by myojo:

        I am not interested in second hand knowledge I’m afraid. Neither are you really. Are you?

        Everyone with a wider knowledge of the universe, uses second-hand knowledge. For example, no single individual knows how to land a rover on Mars. The issue is how we check and cros…

        • In reply to #38 by myojo:

          I think we are discussing from a very different stand point. In relation to the manipulation of matter we have built up a large store of information and do quite well at it.

          That is the nature of science.

          We have built up a very complex system for sharing our imaginary world of ideas also.

          Connecting to physical reality is important to distinguish wishful thinking (which will cause grief if applied to the real world) with usable evidenced information.

          Where we tend to get into trouble is in the area of being at peace. Both religious and secular types seem to spend a lot of time being unhappy, contentious, contradictory, destructive …..

          Personally I am happy, secure and generally relaxed in my mental attitude to life, but physical and financial security obviously have a bearing on this, as do social relationships.

          Despite their assertions about the rightness of their views the observer sees nothing but distress.

          Viewpoints come from personal attitudes, and physical circumstances.

          I don’t think that the advances made in science have produced a happier, less dangerous world. I don’t think that religions have either.

          Science provides the means and the understanding. It is up to individuals, groups, and states, to apply this with wisdom and altruism. Unfortunately a lot of selfish attitudes and irrational dogmas, do make for conflict and insecurity.

          Neither religion nor science generally invite people to really investigate THEMSELVES and their own functioning.

          Religion spoon feeds followers preconceived attitudes. Science can provide details about ourselves, but human brains are not equipped for self diagnosis, although rationality and scientific methodology can keep thinking tidy and constructive reducing self-conflicts.

          By at peace I do not mean happy all the time – I mean not at odds with reality.

          Scientific methodology is the best method we have to establish the nature of reality. Religious wish-thinking only produces delusions based on biases, leading to incompatibilities with the physical world, and internal mental conflicts.

          I think it is important to know the answer to the following questions absolutely from one’s own experience; Do I exist? If so what am I?

          The first we can take as read, because unless we exist we are wasting our time talking about it. Biology (I am a biologist) and neuroscience answer the question of “What am I”? I am a thinking living organism of a social species.

          I am not against scientific research but I do believe that if the individuals involved have no self knowledge then the results will just be pressed into the service of greed and self interest.

          Scientific research can provide insights, but in “soft sciences” extra care must be taken in avoiding band-wagons of mistaken notions.

          Fundamentally I am in favour of first hand knowledge of my own functioning – which IS ABSOLUTLEY possible. What is amazing is the way that people try to find out about themselves the way we are taught in school. This is the problem with second hand knowledge.

          You see this problem in philosophers/theologians who are utterly detached from physical reality in their closed imaginary world of quoting opinions from other philosophers/theologians.

          We build up theories about ourselves and others. We read books.

          That is the difference with science. Theories are cross checked and any capable person is welcome to repeat test the processes described. Science books are not read in isolation. They are read in conjunction with hands-on activities where practical applications constantly retest the theories.

          We follow religions and therapies but the crazy thing is we are right here all the time, every minute of every day and yet we look for the answer to our problems everywhere but here.

          To be in touch with reality it is necessary to be engaged with reality. It will kick you if you get it wrong. (I spent a week in hospital last month after making a mistake doing tree surgery. – (the scientific laws of motion and gravity are real!)

          I would like to see people examine themselves more and exchange second hand information less.

          In a modern environment involving large populations using shared facilities, we all use vast amounts and depend on vast quantities of second hand information. It is the ability to check this against reality which matters to our well-being. This ranges across numerous human skills, from choosing a reliable make of vehicle, using competent tradesmen, living in a safe environment, understanding a healthy diet etc. The ability to research information and come up with regular right answers is a crucial skill to learn. It is not learned by introspection, but from studying the experience of other skilled persons.

          • We are discussing from a very different stand point.
            Humans are quite capable of self enquiry.
            It is just that there are unexamined assumptions like “I exist” which you take as read.
            When you say that you exist – what precisely do you mean? What are you referring to as yourself? Are you sure you are what you think you are? I do not mean to imply that there is not existing taking place, it’s the ‘I’clause which can and should be questioned. What I am saying is that people make assumptions about what they are and never really examine it for themselves.
            I am curious to know what you think ‘I’ consists of and what method you used to come to your conclusion.
            It is my experience that many people of a scientific bent are deeply uninterested in examining themselves (subject) with the same clarity as they examine objects.
            Is that your view?In reply to #39 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #38 by myojo:

            I think we are discussing from a very different stand point. In relation to the manipulation of matter we have built up a large store of information and do quite well at it.

            That is the nature of science.

            We have built up a very complex system for sharing our imaginary w…

          • In reply to #40 by myojo:

            We are discussing from a very different stand point. Humans are quite capable of self enquiry.

            Humans can use introspection, but cannot analyse their own subconscious.

            It is just that there are unexamined assumptions like “I exist” which you take as read. When you say that you exist – what precisely do you mean?

            I exist as a biological organism which has a neurological and sensory network which interacts with the living and non-living environment, to give me a built up “world-view” and an awareness of my local surroundings. Many other animals have these capabilities to a greater or lesser degree.

            What are you referring to as yourself? Are you sure you are what you think you are?

            Day to-day functioning and interactions confirm this via sensory perceptions. Philosophical imponderable doubts have been bandied around for centuries, but do not provide any credible alternative answers.

            I do not mean to imply that there is not existing taking place, it’s the ‘I’clause which can and should be questioned. What I am saying is that people make assumptions about what they are and never really examine it for themselves.

            I am sure many people show little interest in their physical/biological structure, functions, health or psychology, but understanding of these is likely to be found in objective observations and study of research done by others using modern equipment. Introspection can provide some information, but is very limited.

            I am curious to know what you think ‘I’ consists of and what method you used to come to your conclusion.

            I think the above explanation covers it.

            It is my experience that many people of a scientific bent are deeply uninterested in examining themselves (subject) with the same clarity as they examine objects. Is that your view?

            It is true that some scientists are focussed on narrow specialisms to the exclusion of a wider range of subjects, but ecology, the study of humans and other social animals, psychology, neuroscience, and studying social and political interactions, builds up a bigger picture of how we as individuals fit into our physical, economic, and social environment. These can help us build our image of ourselves. Those who do not study these sciences, have an even more confused and restricted view due to a lack of scientific checking and a small sample size in their observations.

  25. Can we agree that selfish attitudes religious or otherwise are the main cause of the unnecessary suffering in the world?
    I think that having gotten rid of the “God delusion” atheists should stop going on about their extraordinary achievement and move on to the “Self delusion”.
    I find it quite interesting that atheists are so unwilling to examine themselves to root out their own delusions. It’s a shame to see all that ruthless analysis go to waste.

  26. Christianity is grounded in the historicity of the resurrection and the assertion that the universe was was brought into existence by God. Provide historical evidence to contra indicative to the resurrection and Christianity falls. Demonstrate that the universe is eternal and, likewise, it falls. So, the premise of your argument is not true.

    • In reply to #43 by Oldschoolsaint:

      Christianity is grounded in the historicity of the resurrection and the assertion that the universe was was brought into existence by God.
      So with no historical evidence for either, and the well established scientific evidence that dead bodies do not come back to life, it does not have an intellectual leg to stand on.

      Provide historical evidence to contra indicative to the resurrection and Christianity falls. Demonstrate that the universe is eternal and, likewise, it falls.

      The onus of proof is on those making assertions. If you are going to claim that gods have to be disproved, you can work your way down the list – there are thousands of them!

  27. BipolarAltruist:

    I’d like to address a couple points that I don’t think were mentioned by others:

    “And when it comes to genocide, I’m pretty sure the logic of the holocaust was highly influenced by Darwinian thought… Ethnic cleansing, eugenics, creation of a master-race – the logic seems Darwinian based.”

    I’m afraid ‘pretty sure’ doesn’t hold any weight where ignorance is concerned. Any number of texts on Hitler will explain how his belief that the arian race was superior to the other races due to being ‘created superior by god’ was his main motivation behind his ethnic cleansing. He had a whole heirarchy, with the arian race at the top and the negros at the bottom.
    Not in the least bit influence by Darwin’s theories, which Hitler would have seen as heretical.

    “There are countless examples of the Catholic Church tied up with shady acts throughout history, but that doesn’t implicate the Christian religion itself as being bad. As honest Abe said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In fact, throughout time many people have been suspicious of Christianity and yet continuously they can not find anything morally wrong with Christianity in and of itself.”

    Once again, any cursory glance at a critique of the Bible will provide you with a wealth of examples of despicably immoral teachings. For example, Jesus conconded slavery, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5 NLT) The bible also encourages misogyny, rape, incest, killing people for commiting trivial ‘sins’, and much more.

    But much more than that, along with all the Abrahamic religions (although moreso Islam) it encourages the destruction of the Earth, as only through armageddon can we ascend into heaven. Some of the most fanatical are hell bent on bringing about the second coming of Christ by actively destroying out world and inviting Christ down to us. That is probably the most immoral thing of all to come from Christianity.

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