Mucha Man wrote:BrentGolf wrote:And what would an "obviously religious" experience be?
Check out James "Variety of Religious Experiences". Your question is frankly bizarre to me. What would be an obvious experience of falling in love? Or friendship. There are some pretty basic human experiences we take as starting points and religious feelings are one of them.
Feelings of intense unity and dissolving oneself into something greater than one's self are basic human experiences.I've had them myself; according to neuroscience they're what happens when the part of the brain that tells you where your body is positioned in space and where it ends and the outside world gets shut down fo whatever reason. It can happen spontaneously, in reaction to stress and emotion, or as the result of chemical intererence.
Religion is to these feelings as marriage is to love.
You would likely have no problem with a study on the religious experiences of epileptics, or those on the influence of lsd or peyote so why be coy now? People without mental problems have incredibly profound religious experiences. Anyone curious about the human condition should be interested to know why and how and what this says about us.
Absolutely. And why and how our cultures label some of the many variant aspects of experience "religious".
No. And you are conflating belief in god as the originator of the universe with an experience of god. Not the same thing. I am an atheist but I have felt the profound presence of god (I mean an experience that is only adequately described in religious language and that just doesn't feel like any other) on many occassions. It's one of the reasons I don't feel much affinity with the new atheism, though Sam Harris at least seems to have a fairly rich inner life.
As I've said, I, and many other atheists, have had these same feelings , without ascribing them to an experience of God/the gods/the Great Unity. As you note, Sam Harris believes these experiences can be cultivated through non-religious meditation.
In any case there is an interesting section in the book where he describes experiments using fMRIs to scan the brains of carmelite nuns reciting te Lords Prayer and non-believers recalling childhood rhymes and songs and memories. They aren't even close in intensity.
Does he also measure the religious feelings of a Carmelite nun given a penance of Hail Mary's while scrubbing the floor at six o'clock on a cold winter's morning after getting into an argument wth the Mother Superior over her showing favoritism to another nun, and compare it a young Nazi singing the "Horst Wessel" while marching in the great displays at Nuremburg, as immortalised in "Triumph of the Will"?
Or an ardent Communist singing "The Internationale" while storming the Winter Palace? Incindentally, that scene in the movie "Reds" had me nailed to my seat, tears streaming down my face- I wonder what an MRI would have shown then?
How about a young black South African singing "Nkosi Sikeli" in a crowd of supporters while Nelson Mandela was being inaugurated as President? Or, hell, my younger cousin charging through the streets with a gang of Stretford Enders, singing "Come On You Reds" while heading for a clash with Liverpool supporters?