Ye of Subjective Faith

I started writing this in response to an interesting, new commentor to this site, SandalStraps, but it got a little longer than most comments should be. I tried to generalize it a little.

I asked SandalStraps, "What reasons do you have for believing there is a god to place your faith in?" He responded:
Intuition, personal religious experience, and all sorts of other "non-rational" but not irrational claims.

Faith in God is not principally about belief in propositions, but rather about experience of a personal nature which fills life with meaning.

I've seen a study that says 70% of the world's population has experienced déjà vu. I've experienced it several times myself and it is very real. I truly felt that I had been in that conversation, room, situation before.

So, it seems I have two choices in my analysis of this very real, subjective experience. I can (1) believe that time is noodlier than I thought and that I am actually experiencing the same events a second time, or (2) my brain is simply mixing qualia and it is applying the sensation of the past where it should be applying the sensation of the present to my situation.

Now, I must choose between these two options. I ask myself which is the simplest answer. Is it easier to think that I am experiencing time in a different way than the person next to me, or is it simpler to think that my brain has simply made a “mistake”?

The latter seems far more plausible.

Many Christians describe their subjective "personal religious experience" very similarly. They believe that they have had an experience with a disembodied mind. Is this probable? How does a thought exist without a brain? Have you ever heard of a thought without a brain? Yet this is what some Christians are claiming for their god. This being of theirs has a really odd characteristic; one that seems impossible, in fact.

On the other hand, it could be that a Christian’s brain produces a qualia that we call a religious feeling. Feelings of religious experience can be induced in labs.

Dr. Michael Persinger, for instance, has constructed a "God Helmet" that causes 80% of its wearers to have a "religious experience." Read about it here and here.

Other, less controversial, experiments have also linked the temporal lobes of the brain to religious experience.

Temporal lobe epilepsy, for instance, has been shown to cause intense religious experiences. The brains of praying nuns and Buddhist monks have been studied during their religious practice and the temporal lobes have been singled out as the location of these religious experiences.

What if religious experiences are simply actions of the brain that are as real to us as anything else? Just like we really experience déjà vu, so some really experience a religious feeling.

Now, you must choose which is the simplest answer. Either (1) your religious experience is the result of an action inside your brain, or (2) an eternal, all-wise, all-powerful, disembodied ghost-mind has spoken to you.

Either way, the experience is the same. The question is whether a disembodied ghost-mind is the cause or your brain is the cause.

Look at the evidence for the former (viz. your religious experience is the result of an action inside your brain): (1) people with temporal lobe epilepsy often have religious experiences associated with their condition. (2) Studies on monks and nuns in deep meditative states show the temporal lobe active during those religious experiences. (3) A "God Helmet" can produce religious experiences in most people by creating a magnetic field around your brain.

Let's examine the evidence for the latter (an eternal, all-wise, all-powerful, disembodied ghost-mind has spoken to you.):

. . . [Sorry, can't think of any. Maybe the Christian bloggers can help me out here. Your job is to show me why you should believe that the religious feeling you experience isn't simply result of a brain activity and that it si more reasonable to believe a disembodied mind causes your religious experience.]

If no one offers any reason to think that a disembodied ghost-mind caused your particular religious feelings, then I think I'm going to have to side with the brain explanation since there is more evidence in that direction.

Update:

I wrote this post before I read SandalStraps' latest comment. There, he writes,
If a person, S, has experience, E, which seems to be of a particular object, O, then, everything else being equal, the best explanation of S's having E is that S has experience O, rather than something else or nothing at all.

and

The presumption created by BEE that a seeming experience of a particular object, O, is, in fact, an experience of O is strengthened by the more "sightings" of O and the more variable the circumstances under which O has been sighted.


This fits in very nicely with my comments above.

I, person S, experience the feeling, E, of having lived this moment before (i.e. deja vu; object O). Everything else being equal, then, the best explanation of my, person S, having E is that I, S, have experienced living this moment in time before.

Sounds pretty fishy so far.

As I mentioned, as many as 70% of the world's population experience deja vu--i.e. they feel they have lived a particular moment before.

Therefore, the presumption that I have experienced living a particular moment in time before is strengthened by the more "sightings" of living in a particular moment in time before.

[I know this sounds bad, but you have to blame the argument, not me. In religious encounters, a person S is not experiencing an "object," (i.e. something with mass or appearance), but rather an emotion. No one is having a "sighting" of a god, just as no one truly has a sighting of deja vu. They may have experiences of both, but they really aren't "seeing" anything in either case. I'm simply using the language of the argument.]

Using the argument above then, it would be most reasonable to assume that experiences of deja vu are actually occassions of re-experiencing a particular moment in time.

This, however, seems implausible and I refer my reader back up to my argument above about which seems to be more likely.

31 comments:

Former_Fundy said...

SS's comment: "Faith in God is not principally about belief in propositions, but rather about experience of a personal nature which fills life with meaning," sounds like Friedrich Schleiermacher and is very close to fideism.

Frankly, I find fideism as the best position relative to a belief in God.

If a person says, I choose to believe in God for non-rational reasons and because it makes me feel good--I say, more power to you.

John W. Loftus said...

FF, is "feeling better" the new qualification for what we believe about non-empirically tested metaphysical beliefs?

Then people of all kinds of faiths can believe whatever they want to, if it makes them feel better, right?

But they cannot all be correct, can they?

Where does truth come in here?

And aren't you against ignorant superstition?

Don't you think that false beliefs cause some harm?

And aren't you an agnostic? Don't you believe agnosticism is a better position to take regarding metaphysical beliefs, and do you argue for it over alternatives?

Or are you saying fideism is the basis for all of our metaphysical beliefs and the best any one of us can do? Is this a true agnosticism?

exbeliever said...

FF,

It's okay as long as their belief doesn't affect others, right? If their non-rational reasons leads them to believe in a God that tells them to treat others (let's say, homosexuals) like second-class citizens, are you still okay with their non-rational beliefs?

I feel sorry for people who think so little of themselves that they believe they would run out and murder people, cheat on their spouses, and do all kind of horrific things if a god didn't exist. These are truly terrible people if they feel like this.

Don't you think it is just a little sad? I mean a person is intentionally deluding themselves because they are happier in a world of Santa Claus' than they are in the real, stark world. That's nice for children, but just sad in adults.

William said...

No, religious experience is not déjà vu.

Déjà vu, as we know, is a sense of re-experiencing of a particular feeling, a sense of being, doing, and/or seeing something again. Anyone who has experienced déjà vu knows that it is déjà vu.

I am religious. I have experienced déjà vu, and déjà vu is just what it is, and nothing more. That is why it is called: Déjà vu.

To say Déjà vu can be interpreted as being a religious experience means that the first occurs--the occurrence prior to the first episode of déjà vu--literally--could’ve been a religious experience.


1. What needs to be determined is: What constitutes a religious experience?

2. Can religious experience be defined?

3. And if can’t be defined, how can we possibly determine what it is or what it is not?

Simple dropping in Déjà vu as the answer, without first examining the question, is bad science.

Former_Fundy said...

Lofton said:
" FF, is "feeling better" the new qualification for what we believe about non-empirically tested metaphysical beliefs?

Then people of all kinds of faiths can believe whatever they want to, if it makes them feel better, right?

But they cannot all be correct, can they?

Where does truth come in here?"

Well since I am agnostic, I don't think ultimate objective truth concerning the existence of God is possible.

My point was that, if a person wants to say I believe in God because I choose to and it makes me feel good. Then great. Now if you try to impose that belief on me or others as the only "right" belief, then I have problems.

I just think that life is really short and people need to do what makes them feel good inside. If that belief then begins to affect other people and you are trying to impose that belief as the only acceptable one, then there is an issue.

Former_Fundy said...

exbeliever said: "It's okay as long as their belief doesn't affect others, right? If their non-rational reasons leads them to believe in a God that tells them to treat others (let's say, homosexuals) like second-class citizens, are you still okay with their non-rational beliefs?"

No, if a persons beliefs begin to hurt other people then I am opposed. What I was saying is that if a person believes in God because it make them feel good and they acknowledge that their belief is not rational and thus not enforceable upon others--I have no problem

exbeliever said...

william,

What the hell are you talking about?

Did someone say that deja vu was a religious experience? Are you talking about another post?

Reread, dude. I simply described two different subjective experiences: (1) religious experiences and (2) deja vu.

I pointed out that deja vu makes one feel that they are reliving a particular moment, but that they really are not. I stated that, instead, the experience is simply an activity of the brain.

I, then, suggested that when someone subjectively experiences a religious feeling, that it is most reasonable to assume that this, too, is an activity of the brain, not an actual encounter with a disembodied ghost-mind.

Just as we say we are not reliving a particular moment in time even though we really believe we are, we should also say of religious feeling that we are not actually encountering a disembodied ghost-mind, but instead, the feeling is simply an activity of our brain.

That is the easiest solution.

Seriously, though, did you read my post before commenting? I can't imagine how you could have and put forward this comment.

John W. Loftus said...

FF, you'd still disagree but you wouldn't be opposed unless there is harm. Is that your distinction? If, so, I can see it.

Weston said...

“For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1st Corinthians 1:13 – 24

You might be wondering why I chose to use a circular argument (using the Bible to prove God). Simply stated, if the Holy Spirit of God does not bring you to a humble state of repentance, is there anything that any human can do to convince you of His existence? Why would you ever petition man to instruct in about God’s existence? My advice, if you truly are seeking God, is to read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). If God Himself does not open your eyes, to the sin that all of humanity is plagued with, than there is nothing that any human or I can do for you.

John W. Loftus said...

If God Himself does not open your eyes, to the sin that all of humanity is plagued with, than there is nothing that any human or I can do for you.

Since God does not do this, then there is nothing else you can do. The real question is why God does not do this. Surely you wonder yourself, don't you>

Jer said...

Actually, there's a saying in the Qur'an that goes "God leads to his path who he chooses." Which means some people have no faith simply because they haven't been given the ability to have it, and no one, no matter how convincing his/her argument might be, can change these folk's minds. That is unless God chooses to lift the 'veil' and allow them to finally understand.

As for why.. who knows? None of us are ever going to have that answer. Just like there will never be any definitive proof regarding God's existence or non-existence. You can argue against it all you like but it will just go in circles. We'll know who was right and who was wrong when we die.

Anyhow, we all live in this world together, so make it happy!

John W. Loftus said...

Ahhhh, Jer proposes the casket test for our beliefs.

But we've proposed the Outsider Test.

Our "test" can be applied before we die.

exbeliever said...

So, does any theist plan on offering an explanation of why you should believe that the religious feeling you experienced isn't simply result of a brain activity and that it is more reasonable to believe a disembodied mind causes your religious experience?

I'm always amazaaed how the "real" issues get lost in a comments section.

Sandalstraps said...

Interesting post. To it I would add only two qualifiers:

1. Who said anything about God being all-powerful or all-knowing? I certainly didn't. That view of God is called seriously into question by the ancient problem of evil/pain/suffering. I'm sure I don't need to tell any of you, who have evidently given up trying to salvage the concept of God, that none of the theodicies work.

2. Just because something is explainable in physical or functional terms doesn't mean that it is reducible to that explanation.

There may be a physiological cause for "religious experiences" (and that would explain something which has been bothering me, which is why some people have them and others don't. It certainly isn't because all who failed to have a religious experience didn't really want one. I'm sure that many of the former ministers here spent many long nights waiting in vain for some sort of answer from God, metaphorically sweating blood with Jesus in the garden.) but it does not follow from that that the experience is reducible to that physiological cause, or that it doesn't point to something real.

As far as fideism goes, that's dangerous grounds. Faith should not be grounded strictly in reason, because faith grounded strictly in reason is empty agreement with a set of propositions which can be either true or false. But when faith disconnects itself completely from reason you create a great many problems. This is obvious to anyone who has ever tried to engage a radical fundamentalist of any religious tradition in a serious conversation. They are willing to say and believe almost anything, and those beliefs often have dangerous ethical implications.

exbeliever said...

Sandalstraps,

You added two qualifiers:

---
1. Who said anything about God being all-powerful or all-knowing? I certainly didn't. That view of God is called seriously into question by the ancient problem of evil/pain/suffering. I'm sure I don't need to tell any of you, who have evidently given up trying to salvage the concept of God, that none of the theodicies work.

2. Just because something is explainable in physical or functional terms doesn't mean that it is reducible to that explanation.
---

1. I was just adding adjectives. If your definition of god only includes eternal and disembodied ghost-mind (or simply the latter), my point is still the same. My adjectives make it more improbable, but the kicker for this post is the disembodied mind. I assume that you do believe that your god is a non-corporal being, right?

2) I never claimed that "just because something is explainable in physical or functional terms doesn't mean that it is reducible to that explanation."

My point was that if you are basing your faith on a religious experience, then it seems that you would want to know whether or not that experience had any other possible explanations.

If a more probable explanation exists, it seems that it is more rational to go with that one (I'm trying to avoid the term Ockham's Razor because it raises too many objections (yes, I know it isn't a formal law)).

In your comment that I am responding to, you said that one of the reasons you believe is your "personal religious experience." In this post, I am arguing that a more rational explanation of religious experience is a certain brain activity.

Let's say that I saw a ball in my living room, broken glass on the floor, several kids with bats and baseball mits running from my house. I look at the ball and say, "Some goddamn purple frog from the moon of Endor launched a 25 foot tall furry space robot through my window, right as the wicked witch of lower Budapest flew by and changed him into a baseball."

Now, certainly, if someone pointed out the running children and all of the other evidence that they hit the ball through my window, that would not disprove my elaborate theory, but I would think that you would agree that it is definitely more rational to accept the obvious explanation.

Also, I would like to hear your comment about the religious experience/deja vu analogy.

In your other comments, you said that your subjective belief in god was superior to the subjective belief in a dragon because many more people say they experience it and only few people say they experience dragons.

In the case of deja vu, however, a great number of people experience it. It is literally the subjective feeling of having lived a particular moment in time before. I'm sure, however, that you do not believe that deja vu is actually re-living a particular moment in time. But isn't this as prevalent as religious experiences?

I'm very curious about your answer.

tim said...

Ugh, "religious experience." I think I can agree with the majority of the criticisms produced by the group of apostates.

"Faith," as the Bible uses it, means "belief." A person believes propositions. Christianity IS a set of propositions and "saving faith" is mediated through the belief of the correct propositions. Many Christians don't like this, but to say otherwise is philosophically naive and indefensible.

FF has rightly observed that it sounds much like Schleiermacher, definitely no representative of orthodox Christianity.

Philosophically, we all start with an axiom that we cannot "prove" (understood in its proper technical use of validly deducing a conclusion from premises). Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, Agnostic, Hindu, etc.; we all have a fundamental axiom that we work from. For any interested, I briefly touched on this in this article. Also, my cohort in crime has also dealt with this here and here.

exbeliever said...

tim,

You wrote: "Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, Agnostic, Hindu, etc."

Apple, Orange, Apple, lawn chair, Apple. Nice job!

Christian = a religious person

Buddhist = a religious person

Hindu = a religious person

Atheist = a person who does not have a theistic belief

Agnostic = a senseless term

Corrected to make a real comparison, your list is:

"monotheist, atheist, panentheist, [confused], and polytheist."

I'm tired of the sloppy use of language by our presuppers. If you want to compare religions, name religions. If you want to compare theistic viewpoints, compare those. Stop mixing them up.

By the way, if "theism" is defined as "a belief in a god," then atheism is "the absence of a belief in a god." There is no such thing as an "agnostic" if these definitions are correct. An "agnostic" either has a belief in a god or s/he doesn't have a belief in a god. If the so-called "agnostic" has a belief in a god, s/he is a theist. If the so-called "agnostic" doesn't have a belief in a god, then s/he is an atheist.

People who call themselves an "agnostic" simply mean that they cannot universally prove that a god does not exist. Join the club! Few atheists believe they can prove this. I would never say uniequivocally that "there is no god." I will say, however, that it seems EXTREMELY unlikely that any god that I have heard of exists.

Anyway, I just wanted to make a point about language.

I hope this doesn't derail my post. I am still waiting for a theist to give me reason to believe that his/her religious experience is best explained by the existence of a disembodied ghost-mind and not simply an activity of the brain (which seems to have more evidence in its favor).

Jer said...

"religious feeling you experienced isn't simply result of a brain activity"

Maybe, but just because you can find a scientific explanation for something doesn't mean that there is nothing divine about it.

Personally I find science and religion to give me a complete picture of the world around me. So your point is kind of moot from where I'm standing. And before converting to Islam I used to be as atheistic as any of you, even proposing some of the same arguments. My biggest change? I let go of my ego.

By the way, John W. Loftus, that outsider test is just ridiculous. So religions tend to gather geographically... so what? They also spread from those geographical locations. Looking back historically you would see that. Rome, for example, wasn't always Christian, nor were the Middle Eastern countries always Islamic (and on that note, Islamic countries actually do allow other religions to practice, just so you know.. even in Saudi Arabia. Might want to read up a bit more on some of your proposed subject matter). As cultures mix, religions can change and adapt just as quickly in some cases. But basing disbelief on the supposed convenience of geographical religiosity? Give me a break.

And there's nothing wrong with "the Casket theory." Sure, I tend to be a little morbid that way - a hold over from my atheist days, but death truly is the only way to proof we'll ever have. It's not like this particular existence has any real meaning anyway. All we need to do is get through it see what awaits us after.

Jer said...

Just a quick addition:

I'm a white muslim who grew up in Canada, which is predominantly Christian... So from my perspective, and likely from anyone in my shoes, the outsider test is rendered completely meaningless and without merrit.

Sandalstraps said...

exbeliever,

Interestingly, my definition of God (to which I am not attached) does not have God as a being at all. I side with Tillich in calling God the Ground of Being rather than an individualized expression of being.

But since I hold that all definitions of God are "empty," feel free to attack that one, too.

John W. Loftus said...

Jer, My Oh My, aren't YOU the critical thinker!

You claim to be an exception.

Therefore, you claim to disprove the rule.

Really? Is that how it's done? Somebody give me a laugh.

I'm supposed to explain the exceptions, like you. And if I knew you better, I could.

But you're supposed to explain the rule. Why is it 99% of the people around the globe and throughout time adopt religious beliefs based on the "accidents of birth."

Besides, antecdotal evidence like your faith can never disprove a statistical generalization.

The statistical generalization is rock solid. So I conclude that a measure of healthy skepticism is how we ought to approach our adopted faith. If our faith survives, we can have it.

Of course, I don't think religious faith will survive this test, but that's just me.

I also conclude that those who have adopted a religious faith based on "when and where they were born" ought to take a good long look at how they came to believe in the first place. Did they believe the first thing that came along? We usually do.

The incarcerating nature about believing the first hing that comes along, is that from that moment on we have a control set of beliefs. They act like blinders to cause us to see things they force us to see. Reason itself is brought in at the service of these beliefs, so one can hardly reason himself out of them.

People first adopt their faith based on "when and where they are born," then they maintain it until there is a personal crisis in their lives. (Again, this is the rule).

Sandalstraps said...

exbeliever,

I never said that my experiences don't have other possible explanations. In fact I offered up quite a few explanations for them. But I also say that my explanation is a probable one, made more probable (but certainly not certain) by tradition. You reject tradition as grounds on which to hold things, so we probably don't have enough in common to be able to arrive at any consensus.

I would add, however, that in reminding believer's that there are other explanations for their experiences you are rendering them an invaluable service, and I do the same thing. We ought to try to understand all perspectives so that we don't become too arrogantly entrenched in our own.

To that end, you might want to consider the possibility that for all the flaws in arguments from experience (this is induction, after all, rather than deduction) that perhaps religious experience points to something more than just a physiological phenomenon reducible to the firing of a few neural synapses.

No argument for the existence of God will ever meet your standard for proof, so I will not bother you with them. It would be insulting to think that you reject the possibility of God because you haven't heard the arguments before. Instead I will simply advocate that even non (or ex) believers lose a degree of attachment to their own beliefs, and open themselves up to experiences with many possible explanations.

Sandalstraps said...

John W. Loftus,

The argument from "accidents of birth" rests on an assumption that the reasons which one has for holding a particular belief are the best way to gauge the validity of that belief. But that assumption is not warrented. The truth value of one's position rests on its own merits, not on the reasons which one has for holding it.

That said, the argument does speak to the arrogance of absolutism. Just because, by some accident, we might be right; it does not follow that we are justified in assuming that we are right and that everyone else is wrong. After all, if we are right (whatever our belief) it is purely by accident.

exbeliever said...

jer,

You wrote: ". . . just because you can find a scientific explanation for something doesn't mean that there is nothing divine about it."

which sounded a lot like sandalstraps earlier comment from yesterday:

"Just because something is explainable in physical or functional terms doesn't mean that it is reducible to that explanation."

to which I responded:

---
I never claimed that "just because something is explainable in physical or functional terms doesn't mean that it is reducible to that explanation."

My point was that if you are basing your faith on a religious experience, then it seems that you would want to know whether or not that experience had any other possible explanations.

If a more probable explanation exists, it seems that it is more rational to go with that one (I'm trying to avoid the term Ockham's Razor because it raises too many objections (yes, I know it isn't a formal law)).
---

exbeliever said...

sandalstraps,

You wrote: "I never said that my experiences don't have other possible explanations. In fact I offered up quite a few explanations for them. But I also say that my explanation is a probable one, made more probable (but certainly not certain) by tradition."

In my post, I didn't stop at saying that positing an activity of the brain as the basis of "religious experience" is only another possible explanation. Instead, I said that it was more probable. It is the answer that doesn't "multiply necessities." Brain activity can and does explain some religious experience (e.g. religious euphoria in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy). It is "multiplying necessities" to posit some kind of spiritual being as the cause of religious experience when the same phenomena can be explained by reference to the brain.

And about tradition, what about my discussion of deja vu? The vast majority of the world's population experience the very real feeling that they have lived a particular moment in time before. Does this "tradition" make this feeling more plausible?

In the case of deja vu, you firmly reject your sensation of living a particular moment in time before, because there is a much simpler explanation for it (an activity of the brain). It doesn't matter to you that almost everyone else in the world has had that exact feeling. You stick with the simplest explanation.

Yet, for some reason, you treat your religious experience differently. Even though there is a simple physiological explanation of your experience, you choose to multiply necessities and posit some kind of supernatural explanation for it. You, then, bolster your claim by saying, ". . .in nearly every culture many, many people have some experience of God."

So, you neglect majority experience when seeking an explanation of deja vu, but appeal to it when seeking an explanation for your religious experience. How do you explain the inconsistency?

Dan Barker said...

Seems to me this applies equally well to dreams. Most humans report dreams, some vivid.

The dreams themselves -- if not the objects in the dreams -- are verifiable natural phenomena that have physical effects in the real world.

You wake up in the middle of the night, screaming, having dreamed that a burglar is climbing through the window. Your palms are sweating, your heart is pounding, your breathing is heavy, your eyes are wild with fear, you are sitting upright. You have awakened the whole house with your yelling.

You have had a very power experience that has caused physical changes in your body and psychological/emotional reactions. No one can deny that what you experienced is very real.

But there is no burglar climbing through the window.

What has happened has happened in your mind. It points to nothing outside of your mind. Yes, burglars are real, but we also dream of things that are not real, such as alien monsters or demonic dolls, and the "burglar" in the dream is usually generic, and even if it were a specific known person, it is still tru that THAT person was not climbing through your window.

So it is with religious experience. It is very real, but it points to nothing outside the mind.

I know this is true. I used to have many religious experiences. I talked with God, communed with the Holy Spirit, prayed to Jesus . . . and I felt a response, usually comforting, sometimes chastising.

And I can still do that, as an atheist. I can "talk with God" and feel all those old feelings . . . feelings that I now know exist only in my mind. It seems rather silly now, if I do it . . . but I can still do it.

Personal religious experiences prove the existence of one thing only . . . the existence of personal religious experiences.

John said...

I wouldn't believe if God hadn't hit my serotonin button a few times. The case will become mute on the last day. We all go to a party. Everyone will believe then. Some sooner, when miracles start up again.

exbeliever said...

john,

Thanks for your well-reasoned, thought-provoking defense of your faith. With devasting arguments like yours, I have no doubt that I'll reconvert any day now.

Ellen1910 said...

Just now arriving at your forum and being intrigued with your discussion of religious experiences as material mental states, I wish to offer up my symptoms for your expert diagnosis.

Over the course of my life I have experienced one intense hypnopompic hallucination* and several "egoless" states -- the latter coming uncalled and when in a state of physical relaxation in nature -- which I (knowing a particular term for them) call "oceanic."

Are these the types of experiences which you are discussing?

* An extremely large and bloated termite queen in mine and my partner's bed. It turned out in my coming awake state that I was as ready to sacrifice my partner to that monster as Winston was Julia.

exbeliever said...

ellen,

I'm as far from an expert in diagnosing mental states as you can get. My field is philosophy.

I'm simply asking those who claim to have had religious experiences if it is more probable that those experiences are the result of some supernatural force or an activity of the brain.

In your case, I'm sure you agree that it is more probable that your brain was playing tricks on you (how's that for a non-expert way of putting it) than it is that an "extremely large and bloated termite queen" was in your and your partner's bed.

From my point of view, religious experience is the same.

Fabien said...

Forgive me if I missed someone else mentioning this in an earlier post but...isn't the whole point rather moot?

As soon as an object can be assigned to which the faith is associated, it becomes an objective faith.

Whether it is a holy book, a priest, pastor or "encounter" with the divine...they're all objective.

As opposed to an opinion, which is purely subjective.

If someone wants to call faith subjective, then essentially they are saying that faith is their opionion...and thus, not open to objective rebuttal.

If it is only their opinion, then they have no grounds to insist that anyone other than them should hold it, nor should any efforts to justify it even be attempted.

Opinions are subjective...faith is not.