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Theism/atheism debates

Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby MikeN » 26 Feb 2016, 23:17

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?
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby Mucha Man » 27 Feb 2016, 01:02

No Mike he doesn't make any of those comparison or measurements. He does argue that mystical or transcendental experiences within the context of religion are more intense than those of non-believers. Again, the world's art and literature would concur. Or are atheists experiencing profound life-altering experiences and just keeping quiet about it? Lol.

Brent, I listed the parts of the brain associated with religious experience according to those who study this. I assumed you might be interested to look at the general function of each. Nothing to do with Sam Harris critiques at all or whatever it was you were trying to say.

I like Sam for what it is worth.

The most interesting parts of the book so far regard religion and the Self and its possibly evolutionary role in promoting executive function, personal growth, and positive suppression of desires and instincts for the sake of long term planning.

The way research on religious experiences dovetails with current psychological thinking on the Self is fascinating.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby finley » 27 Feb 2016, 11:56

Thanks for the eloquent review MM. I think I'll get that myself. I don't much bother to keep up with my (long-ago) chosen field anymore, but perhaps I should. The last time I felt genuinely enthused by psychological research was the discovery of the Dunning-Kruger effect ;)

Incidentally I will reply to the observations about the 10 commandments when I get time. Just been horribly busy lately.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby BrentGolf » 27 Feb 2016, 22:36

Mucha Man wrote:Brent, I listed the parts of the brain associated with religious experience according to those who study this. I assumed you might be interested to look at the general function of each. Nothing to do with Sam Harris critiques at all or whatever it was you were trying to say.

I like Sam for what it is worth.


I didn't mean it as some gotcha point if that's how you took it. My only point was to claim it's scientific just because a scientist is saying it, or because it involves scientific words to explain it, doesn't actually make it scientific. That's the criticism against Sam Harris sometimes and it just struck me as quite similar in this case as well.

Obviously if I really wanted to fully join the conversation, the first thing to do would be to read the book myself. Since I haven't done that it's not like I'm saying you or the author is wrong. Just chatting. Currently my "must read eventually" list is quite long as is so whether I add this one to the list is basically up to how you sell it, if you're up to the challenge :)


I don't think anybody could prove in any meaningful scientific way that religious experiences are more intense than non religious ones. The only reason some studies appear that way as far as I can tell is, the tests are structured very poorly. An example was already mentioned comparing nuns reciting prayer and non believers recalling childhood memories. Is an apples to oranges comparison of two completely unrelated things supposed to prove something? Of course the brains respond differently to those. Nuns reciting prayers vs the same nuns recalling childhood memories would also be different, no surprise there.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby MikeN » 28 Feb 2016, 22:48

Mucha Man wrote:No Mike he doesn't make any of those comparison or measurements. He does argue that mystical or transcendental experiences within the context of religion are more intense than those of non-believers. Again, the world's art and literature would concur. Or are atheists experiencing profound life-altering experiences and just keeping quiet about it? Lol.


I have- and so have many others. It's often of a political/ethnic/social nature- if you're going to compare intensity of experiences, you compare intense experiences, not recollections of nursery rhymes.

Not saying it doesn't sound like a great book. I've read Pascal Boyer''s "Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origin of Religious Thought"" and Iilka Pyyaiainen's "How Religion Works:Toward a New Cognitive Science of Religion"; so I'll check this one out


The most interesting parts of the book so far regard religion and the Self and its possibly evolutionary role in promoting executive function, personal growth, and positive suppression of desires and instincts for the sake of long term planning.

The way research on religious experiences dovetails with current psychological thinking on the Self is fascinating.


Yes, religions have definitely played important roles in
forming our selves as social creatures - that's how they originated.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby triceratopses » 29 Feb 2016, 08:35

Tempo Gain wrote:
triceratopses wrote:
Dennett denies qualia (subject awareness/experience) and says we are mechanical machines (mindless zombies) with illusions of experience. Our current actions were determined and set in motion 3/10000000 of a second after the big bang. Thats scientific materialism.

I don't believe that. Dilemma solved!


Oh, but, Brent said you all understood materialism, and dennett is as fat a materialist as fat materialists come. You HAVE to believe it.

Mucha Man wrote:Despite what many atheists think, the parts of the brain where we experience religion and God are not the emotional primitive parts but those parts associated with executive function and the ability to form a coherent sense of self.


Oh you've discovered either that discrete particles or collections of them do in fact experience. Congraturations. You should go and tell someone important.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby Tempo Gain » 29 Feb 2016, 12:29

Oh, but, Brent said you all understood materialism, and dennett is as fat a materialist as fat materialists come. You HAVE to believe it.


I don't think you understand it.

First of all, there is difference of opinion on this theory among scientists. If some very smart people don't believe this, I don't see why I have to.



You're a Buddhist right? The anti-Tibetan people are Buddhists and say certain things must be true. That means you HAVE to believe that right?

Of course not, and the same for me. It's just common sense really. We're talking about an entirely theoretical question. Even if it's true it must have an infinitely small relevance to the reality of our daily lives, as can be seen by the unpredictability of our actions and other events, and our demonstrable ability to make decisions and act on them. You don't believe it right? It's pretty weak to try to use something like this as a hammer to demonstrate your view must be true, it's like what the sad pre-sup people do.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby antarcticbeech » 29 Feb 2016, 17:12

If all the statues I see are correct, Buddha had a body fat percentage way higher than 12%. :noway: I wouldn't be listening to anything he said. :hand: Jesus, on the other hand . . .
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby triceratopses » 01 Mar 2016, 09:33

Tempo Gain wrote:First of all, there is difference of opinion on this theory among scientists. If some very smart people don't believe this, I don't see why I have to.


Sigh. Usually it's the annoying spiritual quacks that bring quantum physics in a discussion about free will, not materialists. Quantum physics has no place in neuroscience. The ontological status of uncertainty is like "dark matter", it's a word with zero non-theoretical meaning. Uncertainty could easily end up just being a physical process subtler than our space-time. In fact that is precisely the position of probably the leading authority on quantum physicists anton zeilinger. There are no "real observers" he and dawkins explain, observers are illusions, there are only coarse and subtle physical mechanations.

It's pretty weak to try to use something like this as a hammer to demonstrate your view must be true, it's like what the sad pre-sup people do.


I've never stated my position. It's just that the vast majority of the materialists i talk to actually know their position and don't say dopey shit like mind is the physical brain yet insist that qualia are real. When you say such things you're saying that mind is both entirely the brain and entirely not the brain.

antarcticbeech wrote:If all the statues I see are correct, Buddha had a body fat percentage way higher than 12%. :noway: I wouldn't be listening to anything he said. :hand: Jesus, on the other hand . . .


Hah. You're just trying to piss me off by amassing as much ignorance into a single place as possible. The historical buddha was a fucking ascetic who did not eat and barely moved for 6 fucking years. The fat statue you see is some chinese mythical crap that materialists use to rub their lotto tickets on.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby zender » 01 Mar 2016, 10:32

Yeaaaah antarticbeech, that fat Chinese mythical Buddha has nothing to do with the true-and-totally-factual, historical Real Buddha!

The real historical Buddha (to be) was born to a standing woman who held the branch of a tree while the baby Buddha came out of her side. T'was a miraculous birth involving a white elephant and no vagina passage.

And as soon as he was born, he stood on the earth and took even steps, saying, "I am the best in the world. This is my last existence. I will have no birth again."

And the true factual history is that during those six austere years, he lived on a grain of rice a day, and later on nothing at all! So, we know that fat Chinese picture of him is FALSE MYTHICAL CRAP!

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
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