I Am He As You Are He

Question from Nick:
I’ve done research on many different concepts in religion and philosophy, and have come to the conclusion that we should just call the universe God. To me this makes the most sense. Everything you could say about God can be applied to the universe. It’s everywhere, all-powerful, all-knowing, etc. And it seems to match with science; everything is just quantum foam.

But I’ve tried to talk with other people that call themselves atheists, and they demand to prove that existence even exists with science. One even said they reject philosophy (which I think is one of the foundations of scientific knowledge).

I don’t understand why some atheists are so aggressive when it comes to the idea that the Universe/Multiverse could be God.

Answer by SmartLX:
The concept of everything, or the universe itself, as God is called pantheism. It has been around for a very long time and has found some popularity among people who like to imagine we are all part of God. It’s never served well as a uniting position though, because it sits poorly with either theists or atheists depending on how it’s defined.

The main difference between a materialistic universe and most concepts of God is agency. God has goals, and some amount of influence with which to exert His/Her/Its will on reality in order to achieve those goals. A plain old universe just runs along like a clockwork toy, and whatever happens happens. If (hypothetically) the universe has its own goals and somehow works towards them within itself, then it actually is a theistic god but atheists won’t accept the idea because there’s no good evidence for its agency. If on the other hand the universe is beholden to its own laws and cannot bend or break them to advance a particular cause, then it is at best a deistic god because of the lack of intervention. Some atheists might be okay with calling it that but theists believe their god is capable of more than following the rules to the letter.

Philosophy is impossible to avoid in some form or other. Each of us knows that he or she exists, which implies that there is some kind of reality even if everything we can sense is a lie. Simple logic when applied to the self will get you that far, so it’s not as if philosophy requires special training or education (though education can certainly help).

Apologies for the late reply, I was working overseas. Got a bit of a backlog of ATA questions to cover, which is a positive sign.

46 thoughts on “I Am He As You Are He”

  1. As a theist, I agree with SmartLX in respect of pantheism being unsatisfactory. In my philosophy, God is Consciousness while the Universe is a creation which allows God to express himself through an enormous variety of conscious beings which are part of himself (though mostly unaware of that unity).

    While not accepted as objectively proven, there are sufficient experiences through peak religious experiences, near death experiences, meditation and after death visitations that offer this as a consistent recurring theme – That we are all part of an infinite God, that the universe (Earth for us), is a “training camp” and that God is experienced as Love, and that we are eternal but having a main goal which is to express love in our physical incarnations.

    You can check volumes of similar anecdotes not only on NDE websites but also on nursing / hospice websites etc. But even so most rational people will view these reports skeptically unless they experience it themself. I did via a religious experience and like others fortunate enough to have firsthand knowledge, no theoretical arguments will convince me that my experience was an illusion.

    1. NDEs are not evidence of supernatural places or the existence of god creatures. What they are evidence of is what happens to your brain when it is running out of oxygen and about to die. NDEs have been recreated in laboratory settings, and data collected on the physical processes. There is no data, none mind you, that support the existence of a soul, or that your physical mind can leave your body and travel somewhere. There is zero empirical evidence that these experiences are anything other than physical death.

      That you had an experience is not unusual, nor is your attachment of unfounded conclusions to it.

  2. There is no consciousness attributed to the quantum foam, no will, no direction of purpose, no ability or desire to change the course of the universe etc.
    How do we call it God then … unless you intend to change the definition of the word “god” from “heavenly father/mother – benevolent or not – but certainly omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent” to “a posited, incomprehensible (at the moment), all pervasive, quantum foam”.

    Quantum mechanics posits a unity of sorts, true. But not the kind that conscious sentient beings feel naturally. Even if we (sometime in the future) legitimately feel it (the quantum unity) as opposed to merely intellectualizing it, through machines/ equipment of our own making, as long as our perception of individuality remains, the unity is just an added perception that does not dissolve away our perceived individuality.
    And even if one does “see” / “perceive” the unity, then its just the highest realization of science. Where does god and such stuff even begin to come into the picture in this?

    1. If God is just some being, or unbeing, that as a whim set all into motion, with not desire to maintain, shape, or bother in any way with the uncontrolled thought that randomly crossed his, her, or its mind, then why is every thing so orderly. So neatly packed. Why does the Cosmos, run on such a mathematical, balanced and to a certain degree, a way to know what to expect to happen next.
      No, my friend. God took great care in the making of our universe. Especially when it came down to the making of man in His image. He didn’t speak us into existence, as He did for everything else, but employed the use of His body to shape man. Getting down in the mud and placing His lips on that same image that He sculpted, and breathing life into him.
      And later you can see that God prepared the earth as a unique environment made especially for humanity. All to show the love He had for man, making it possible to enjoy, his environment, through his senses. Colors, sounds, tastes, and tactile, senses as well. But even more, He provided man the opportunity to enjoy, his unknown surroundings, by giving man a mind that operates in realms that only his imaginations can limit. Giving him the ability to imagine, calculate and postulate, the improbable and unthinkable, and as it is said in the book of Genesis chapter 11 verse 6, that they can do anything.
      Psalm 139:13-16New King James Version (NKJV)

      13 For You formed my inward parts;
      You covered me in my mother’s womb.
      14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;[a]
      Marvelous are Your works,
      And that my soul knows very well.
      15 My frame was not hidden from You,
      When I was made in secret,
      And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
      16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
      And in Your book they all were written,
      The days fashioned for me,
      When as yet there were none of them.
      No, fellow, human being, God formed us to demonstrate His love for His creation. We weren’t an accident, or and after thought. He conceived us on purpose, and even though He needed to come and give His life for us, He did and He did it willingly, and He would do it again

      1. Gerald writes: [If God is just some being, or unbeing, that as a whim set all into motion, with not desire to maintain, shape, or bother in any way with the uncontrolled thought that randomly crossed his, her, or its mind, then why is every thing so orderly. So neatly packed. Why does the Cosmos, run on such a mathematical, balanced and to a certain degree, a way to know what to expect to happen next.]

        The universe runs on a mathematical and balanced way because there are universal laws. These laws govern the interaction of all the energy, as well as the direction of things like time and entropy. So the real question is why these laws are the way they are. The simple is – no one knows at this time. The possibilities include that they are randomly set, or they could have always existed even before the universe, or that they are a reflection of something in quantum mechanics. As a cultist you of course think that the reason the universal laws exist is because your particular flavor of god creature made them so, because they couldn’t have happened naturally. There is no evidence for that of course, and it is also irrational to claim that order cannot happen on its own unless something else ordered (like a divine critter) makes it happen, because it is self-contradictory.

        [No, my friend. God took great care in the making of our universe. Especially when it came down to the making of man in His image. He didn’t speak us into existence, as He did for everything else, but employed the use of His body to shape man. Getting down in the mud and placing His lips on that same image that He sculpted, and breathing life into him.]

        Yeah, the Bible couldn’t even get that right. You probably aren’t aware, but we are actually made up mostly of air. Did you know that? We either eat plants, or eat animals that eat plants, or eat animals that eat plant eaters. And plants receive most of their biomass from the air. Don’t take my word for it, look it up. The Quran got that wrong too by the way…

        [And later you can see that God prepared the earth as a unique environment made especially for humanity]

        Absolutely! Well, 70% of the planet is covered by water, and we really can’t live there. But there is no doubt that 30% of the planet was made especially for humanity. Ok, I know, ice covered areas like Greenland and Antarctica aren’t hospitable, so that 2% is out too. But still, 28% of the planet is unique for us! Alright, I concede that swamps and deep jungles aren’t really habitable too. And high mountains like the Andes and parts of the Rockies and Cascades and Himalayas and Alps aren’t either. Oh, yeah, some of the deserts on this planet are way too barren too. But who cares! There is no doubt that 15% of the planet was obviously made just for us humans….

        (face palm)

        [All to show the love He had for man, making it possible to enjoy, his environment, through his senses. Colors, sounds, tastes, and tactile, senses as well.]

        Sure. That’s why we have olfactory abilities that are in the bottom third of all animals. Our eyesight is middle of the road, we can’t even see nearly the spectrum of light some insects can. Our hearing is ordinary, and limited on the Hertz scale. Even our sense of touch is nothing special. If we are such loved creatures and so special, why are we so ordinary in our abilities? We have a sense of time too, but so do other animals. We can’t even detect the planet’s magnetic fields like some animals that use it to migrate by. If this is special I’d hate to see what we’d be if we weren’t special…

        [But even more, He provided man the opportunity to enjoy, his unknown surroundings, by giving man a mind that operates in realms that only his imaginations can limit. Giving him the ability to imagine, calculate and postulate, the improbable and unthinkable,]

        Our brains are certainly at the top of the heap. That is the one thing we’ve got going for us. There is no evidence that our brains exist because some petty god creature that needed attention from inferior beings created them. And our brains do it better, but other animals can calculate things. Elephants understand the finality of death. We’ve all seen animals play and have fun. Sure we have the best brains in the animal kingdom, but we can’t even process sonar like a dolphin. Even we have limitations…

        [as it is said in the book of Genesis chapter 11 verse 6, that they can do anything.]

        In Chapter 1 it says plants came before the Sun. It’s hard to get to chapter 11 when Chapter 1 is so full of nonsense…

  3. It is not true that the Bible in any way teachest that a human soul exists apart from a body. The Bible states in Genesis 1 that God formed man from the dust of the ground and then breathed His breath of life into him and that’s when man became a living soul. Later after man’s fall the Bible says in Gen. 3 that God said that from dust Adam was taken and that he would return back to the dust upon his death. The Bible also states that a man dies and goes to the grave and that the “spirit of God” goes back to God who gave it. And if you remember what God gave in the creation of Adam, you will see that the word spirit should actually be the same word as was used when God breathed into Adam the Breath of life. So what actually returns back to God is that same breath of life.
    No where in the Bible can any one show that man or the soul of man is immortal. The Bible says that God is the only one who is immortal, and that man if he accepts the free gift of pardon for his sins, that man would then receive eternal life and that would be when Jesus returns to take His children home. So the soul of man is man himself. And when he dies he goes to the grave and awaits Christs second coming to awaken him from the grave then to walk forever with Him.

    1. Gen 1. Plants before the Sun. I see you ignored the rest of my post, ignored the logic and common sense I replied with. But let’s not talk Gen 3 when we can’t even get past Gen 1, Gerald. Why talk about souls and spirits and god creatures that are baseless and devoid of any empirical data supporting the notion, when he have a perfectly good contradiction in the word of a god in Gen 1 that we can kick around…

    2. Gerald you have proven my point. The “breath” that God breathes into the physical bodies including humans, is not a gas but consciousness itself. It (i.e. Your sense of individuality), is part of God and therefore immortal.

      To imagine otherwise is to believe that God is just a giant human who modelled us after himself. That implies that God needs to metabolise and requires food, air and a mighty big latrine pit. Presumably, being a man, he needs a woman or Goddess.

      A literalist view of the Bible gives religion a bad name.

      1. Mantiki writes: [The “breath” that God breathes into the physical bodies including humans, is not a gas but consciousness itself. It (i.e. Your sense of individuality), is part of God and therefore immortal.]

        Great. Let’s see some empirical data and evidence to back up your claim.

        [A literalist view of the Bible gives religion a bad name.]

        Any view of the Bible doesn’t work. There is only three ways a believer can take the Bible: 1) Entirely literally, 2) Part literally and part figuratively, or #) Entirely figuratively.

        1) Entirely literally doesn’t work at all obviously. Plants didn’t come before the Sun, flying creatures didn’t come before land animals, pi doesn’t equal 3, the global flood couldn’t have happened for a copious amount of reasons. The god creature approving of slavery and telling people not to get their hair cut and so forth also doesn’t work well

        2) Many believers fall in this category, claiming that some parts of the Bible have secret meaning or use allegory and figurative speech to teach lessons. This might sound great except that there is no direction given anywhere in the Bible as to which parts are supposed to be literal and which parts aren’t. Which means that believers are basically guessing which is which. There is no consensus among the thousands of Christian sects as to which is which (maybe that is due to there being 20 different versions of the Bible), so any “interpretation” by any one individual is suspect.

        3) This has the same problem with 2), with the added twist that since NOTHING is taking literally, there is no way to be sure what any of it means. Even “there is a god” has to be taken figuratively. One is left making up interpretations for everything, including “virgin birth” and “resurrection” and “creation” and so forth. No word can be taken at face value.

        No matter which of the three you fall under, your stance is fraught with problems…

  4. Thanks for your response Tim. You are incorrect to state that NDEs are evidence of the brain running out of oxygen. The first reason being that NDEs and similar spiritual experiences also occur in circumstances where the brain is not low on oxygen. The reverse is also true – i.e. that oxygen deprivation has not been demonstrated to reliably create NDEs. Oxygen deprivation does create confusion and loss of consciousness whereas NDEs are well structured, vivid and meaningful experiences, the memories of which are retained in detail years afterwards.

    Likewise, your assertion that NDEs have been recreated in laboratory settings is also a common falsehood argued by atheists. If you examine the scientific literature you will find that some elements of NDEs create sensations which some researchers claim to be similar to specific NDE elements. I have read many such research articles and they share the following elements:
    · The experiences compared differ in intensity and quality (e.g. the NDE experience of communicating complex ideas with a loving God is compared with the laboratory experience of “feeling a presence behind me”, or the NDE experience of observing their surgery from the ceiling including the accurate recall of equipment, procedure, conversations between medical team and the emotions and thoughts of each team member is likened to the laboratory representation of wearing VR goggles that present a view of the wearer from the other side of the room).
    · The conclusion of the researcher is exaggerated by subsequent media articles e.g. a conclusion expressed as “we believe that experience X may be attributed to such and such physical process in the brain” is breathlessly reported as “researchers prove that NDEs are all in the mind”.

    Finally Tim, the fact that an “unreal” experience leaves a physical trace in the brain similar to the trace left by a “real” experience, is in no way empirical evidence that the real experience is an illusion. E.g. a visual brain trace left by observing a real lion may be similar to that produced by viewing a picture of a lion. This is not evidence that all lions are pictures.

    The empirical evidence that the brain produces consciousness is of the same nature as the empirical evidence that a TV set produces TV shows.

    1. Mantiki writes: [Thanks for your response Tim. You are incorrect to state that NDEs are evidence of the brain running out of oxygen. The first reason being that NDEs and similar spiritual experiences also occur in circumstances where the brain is not low on oxygen.]

      Yes this is true. I over simplified it. For example people are drugs like PCP or ketamine have NDE-like experiences apparently. In instances like these the brain is experiencing malfunctioning due to impairment of sensory input and processing. The brain has to cope for this. One thing it often does is release lots of endorphins, which is the high drug users experience (or it releases anadamide, or dopamine, etc), which may be an evolutionary mechanism to protect from panic.

      Regardless, the NDE experience, whether or not it is from an actual brush with death, has become much more understood in recent years as research has focused on it. In publications such as Trends In Cognitive Science and the PNAS journal there are articles that give us the physical description of what one “experiences” in those situations.

      Your assertion that NDE’s have not been recreated in laboratory settings is a rather blatant falsehood I’m afraid. NASA and Air Force pilots have had such experiences while in centrifugal training for example, while connected to all manner of measuring devices for both brain and body. There are past as well as ongoing studies being made on people that suffered cardiac arrest as well.

      On the flip side, there is exactly zero evidence or empirical data for the existence of souls, the supernatural, spirits, that consciousness can leave the physical structure of a brain, etc. None. Unless you have some proof that I am not aware of for such claims, there’s no reason to think NDEs are anything more than brain-related activities…

  5. I’m sorry. You lost me. Where does it say in the Bible that God breathed counsiousness into Adam. I have only seen that the Bible said that man became a living soul or as some translations say “a living being”. Not to quibble, because counsiousness would have to be included. But I’m not sure to what point you are referring.

  6. Also. You are assuming something that the Bible is teaching. The Bible says that only God holds immortality or is immortal having it means that His immortality is not or was not im parted to Him. Being God, immortality is part of His makeup. Unlike His creation who are able to receive immortality should God impart it to us. Which the Bible says He will do if, if mind you, we accept His Son Jesus Christ as our Savior. To this I would like to point you to John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave His only that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. So as you see everlasting life or immortality is granted to those who believe in and accept Jesus Christ. So if we follow that plane of thought immortality is not something that we are created with but something that we are given or something we are promised to be given after we have accepted Christ as our Savior. Which means you are in error thinking that we as we are now without having accepted Christ as our savior have immortality. In other words why would Christ offer immortality to us if we have it already. And remember after Adam and Eve fell into sin the godhead said that they would have to remove Adam and Eve from the garden before they eat of the Tree of Life and then have immortality and we know that God does not fail so if Adam and Eve were not permitted to eat from the Tree of Life which would have given them eternal life and therefore they would me eternal beings that were sinful. But since God knew that he could not allow them to eat from the Tree of Life he removd them from the garden. But promised them that they still could have eternal life if they accepted his son as their Savior. So as of yet we do not have eternal life until after Jesus Christ returns the second time to take us home

  7. The Greek word for Spirit is pneuma, a word that is used for breath and also spirit.
    Anywhere in the Bible which refers to God’s breath is really a reference to God’s spirit. And what is spirit except pure consciousness. So we all contain God’s consciousness. And if God is eternal consciousness, then we remain part of that and are also eternal.
    Our separation is illusory – the purpose being to allow an infinite expression of free will. Occasionally in meditation, prayer or near death experiences, the illusion of separation disappears, and people become aware of the underlying unity of life.
    Atheists – being purposely separate from God – have the opportunity to fully express free will. Which is ironic given that the current predominant thinking amongst atheists is that free will is illusory.

  8. Gerald you are incorrect in your reference to the Tree of Life representing immortality in the Genesis story.

    The Tree was in fact the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”. To eat of its fruit was to become like God; but not in power or immortality but by gaining the capacity to know “good and evil” directly instead of simply following God’s instructions. The story represents humankind choosing separation from God and abandoning that connection to gain the free will to know and choose good or evil. The downside of that choice is that we now so frequently choose evil leading to so much suffering.

  9. Tim just in reply to the claims about ketamine and oxygen deprivation, there is a qualitative difference in the experiences. Alan Pring is a former RAF pilot who has experienced both the effects of extreme g forces as well as having had an NDE. He claims there is no comparison. Likewise, the euphoria induced by ketamine is simply a general feeling and often associated with confusion and unpleasant sensations rather than hyper-clarity and insight while being guided by spiritual beings.

    The effects of psilocybin on the other hand are much more worthy of research. Many users claim it to be an agent that opens the reducing valve that blocks spiritual experiences.

  10. Tim I agree there is no agreed way to sort fact from fiction in the Bible nor allegory from literal truth. Theologians of immense experience have argued over texts for centuries. My point is mainly to show Gerald that he has failed to correctly quote basic texts that he uses to support his narrow views.

    On the other hand, I don’t argue that there is no merit in the Bible. It is simply a book that has uses to unify communities and provide a measure of comfort and guidance during times of trouble.

    Personally, the only parts that I draw upon are the instructions of Jesus to love my neighbors and that religion has no role in the State (give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God).

    As to how to give to God, I support social justice and, having I feel a modest degree of enlightenment, I foster that connection through meditation and acts of kindness. If someone else feels they need to sit in Church with their fellows on Sunday or Saturday, or face Mecca 5 times a day, or even to write blogs or sermons, that is also fine with me as long as they don’t attempt to govern me or promote harm to others.

  11. Tim – zero empirical evidence does not equate to zero evidence. You might not be aware but you should know that the inventor of the EEG was inspired by his ESP experience of “knowing” when his sister had a serious accident. His idea that this mental communication was due to the brain somehow producing electricity was ridiculed and he suffered professionally and mentally for years for his idea.

    The common assertion that brain research supports a material basis for consciousness and explains NDEs is also not supported empirically. Such research as I have said, is weak and overstated as well as having an alternative non-material explanation that is more consistent with human experience. The following topics of research should give you food for thought:
    Savantism, the placebo and nocebo effects, the ability of the mind to change the structure of the brain and terminal lucidity.

    There is little to support the theory that complex physical processes produce subjective consciousness and certainly no empirical proof.

    1. “zero empirical evidence does not equate to zero evidence”

      Not strictly speaking, no. But if we kept to that maxim, we’d effectively stop doing science and we’d propel ourselves back to the Dark Ages. A continued lack of evidence observed under conditions where evidence is specifically hypothesised to exist, does increase both the prior and posterior probability that such evidence does not exist.

      “The common assertion that brain research supports a material basis for consciousness……..is also not supported empirically.”

      This is a truly preposterous statement on two levels. First, if it were true you’d be talking certain Nobel Prize territory here. I cannot think of a single instance in which conscious activity has ever been recorded in the absence of electrochemical/functional activity. Can you cite any properly peer-reviewed research conducted by a neuroscience lab in which consciousness has been observed and measured in the absence of a physical substrate? If such research exists I’d certainly want to read up! In appropriately designed and controlled brain imaging studies (not anecdotal and post-event memory studies) electrochemical activity ALWAYS precedes conscious awareness of thoughts/decisions. To some extent we can even predict (up to several seconds beforehand) what that thought/decision will be before the subject has become consciously aware of it themselves, via coordinated activity in as few as a couple of hundred neurons. Consciousness is not magic; it appears to be a coordinated activity specific to cortical and subcortical brain regions which are activated dependent on attentional resources being allocated and environmental stimuli being inhibited. You hear a lot of talk about the ‘hard’ problem of consciousness. Believe me, it’s far more commonly mentioned by those who don’t work in neuroscience than those who do.

      Second, it is a fallacy to assume that demonstrating a hypothesis to be unsupported automatically lends support to a competing hypothesis. So reasonable questions would be (i) what is your hypothesis of the source of consciousness? (ii) which evidence did you employ to generate that hypothesis? (iii) which methodology will you employ to test that hypothesis? (iv) which means are available to you to assess the success of your testing methodology? If you can’t answer those questions with a rigour similar to that used in neuroscience then why should I take any alternative claims seriously? The likelihood that they will ever amount to anything is diminishing fast.

      As far as NDEs are concerned, the whole field reeks of charlatans and pseudoscience, relying on the fallacy of ‘possibiliter ergo probabiliter’ (it is possible therefore it is probable). The published data is overwhelmingly anecdotal (at the popular level look at the Eben Alexander, Alex Malarkey and similar fiascos); and the results obtained do not appear to reliably reflect any objective physiological or even alleged metaphysical reality. Reports are heavily based on cultural expectation. For example, it is extremely rare in studies of NDEs in Hindu subjects to find OBEs and the majority of Hindu subjects (e.g., Paricha & Stevenson, 1986; Pasricha, 1993) report no ‘tunnelling’ experience at all (though Sue Blackmore, 1993 reported some tunnelling claims). Furthermore, Lempert (1994) found that 6 out of 7 of the experiences that are used to characterise NDEs are not confined to life-threatening events at all, and are just as readily experienced by people who have been subject to experimentally induced fainting!

      The only proper scientific experiment I am aware of which has investigated NDEs is Parnia et al., (2014). Before you assume I’m simply biased, I actually applaud this study. It was worthwhile scientifically, and is an unusually large and well-designed study for this type of research (and an unusually large sample for neuroscience-related studies generally). It involved 2,060 cardiac arrest patients in 25 hospitals in different countries. The purpose of the study was to ascertain if patients experienced conscious ‘out-of-body’ experiences during periods of (alleged no-) or at least extremely limited brain electrical activity via their ability to identify a visual target above and outside of the field of vision of both patient and medical staff. A BBC report had Parnia saying beforehand:

      “If after 36 months, hundreds of patients report being “out of body” yet no one can report seeing the images, then we must consider these reports to be nothing more than illusions. If on the other hand there are hundreds of positive reports, then we will have to redefine our understanding of the mind and brain during clinical death.”

      Fair enough. What was the result? Well, decidedly negative…….

      Although 2% of patients reported OBE with visual awareness during an NDE not a single one identified the target image. Therefore, to use Parnia’s own words, “we must consider these reports to be nothing more than illusions.” Indeed, only one patient (Mr A) reported anything resembling a “verified accuracy of recall” of any kind at all during cerebral inactivity and that report was obtained more than a year after the event! And what was it the subject correctly reported? (i) the noise of a defibrillator; (ii) the presence of a bald man wearing blue scrubs puhleease……statistically, we would expect to observe even more detailed false positives at higher levels than this – deliberately fake psychics using cold reading techniques can usually perform more accurately than that. Parnia is now trying to get funding to do a second study from religious organisations. He’s stated:

      “If you look at any scientific discovery people always laughed at the beginning. That’s the way it is, unfortunately it is a bias in the system.”

      He’s obfuscating big time. First, he’s suggesting that if people laugh at his claims, then that’s evidence they must be true! Second, he’s blaming his abysmal lack of supporting data on a bias in the ‘system’. Really? Exactly what part did the ‘system’ play in the sensory/perceptual experiences of patients presenting with cardiac arrest? Parnia’s trying to shift the goalposts. He’s trying to save face by suggesting that if he ploughs on and gathers more and more data, he’ll eventually come across the result he expected in the first place. But this is not how science is done. This is a prime example of pseudoscientific thinking. His was a perfectly good study. New experimental hypotheses should be generated on the basis of previous observations/data. By all means, generate new experimental hypotheses and tighten the methodology accordingly. I would support such an approach. But you don’t just continually hack away at it until you eventually achieve the result you want. If he does do that then statistically, he can be pretty certain he will eventually achieve the result he wants. It will simply occur by chance given enough trials, like tossing 100 heads in a row. Sue Blackmore famously got a positive ESP result several decades ago, that neither she, nor any other researcher has been able to replicate since. It seems to me that some of the primary researchers in this field have a weird obsession with NDEs. Another cardiologist who champions NDEs, Pim van Lommel, has only ever published work related to NDEs, and done no other medical research. I think that says a lot. He has come in for some scathing attacks from fellow medics and researchers having been found among other things to have ignored his own data when it doesn’t fit with his preconceptions and to have misused statistical tests. Par for the course for pseudoscience.

      Even if some evidence of consciousness during cerebral inactivity was verified, researchers would still have to discount a number of perfectly plausible naturalistic explanations, e.g., brain activity might have been present but the resolution of the monitoring equipment was too weak to find an effect. We know this to be the case from brain imaging studies which are now able to monitor functional levels of brain activity that wasn’t possible several years ago due to the relative coarseness of the signal (future increases in resolution will, of course, allow us to make even more fine-grained observations). The most important point is this: in every case reported, brain activation was obviously sufficient enough to enable a lack of deterioration in neural functioning, otherwise we would have no way of assessing whether ‘out of body’ experiences or ‘near death experiences’ had occurred.

      This is the elephant in the room for such claims; you cannot logically and scientifically claim that a complete lack of neural activity results in continued consciousness as evidenced by OBEs and NDEs ascertained via post-event self-report. An EEG can be flat but residual neural activity is still present, especially during cardiac arrest. We know this to be the case because recovery from that state is possible without cognitive deterioration, so in most countries neither death nor ‘near-death’would ever be called purely on the basis of a flat EEG. Even brain-dead organ donors are routinely anaesthetised while their organs are harvested because they can exhibit coordinated muscle reflexes from neural activity in spinal cord. An absolute, complete lack of neural activity (including brain-stem function) for even a minute or so leads to irreversible brain death and, even at those prior stages, when recovery is still possible, comprehensive and extensive brain damage. And, therefore, no post-event self-report of either NDEs or OBEs can occur. So your hypothesis that consciousness is not dependent on a physical substrate is not really testable using NDEs as evidence.

      Basically, your attitude boils down to this: If I knock you on the head once with my fist, your consciousness might be adversely affected for a short time. If I knock you on the head once with a hammer, your consciousness might be adversely affected for the rest of your life – but if I knock you on the head repeatedly with a hammer your consciousness will not only be unimpaired, it might actually be improved…….but you’re not quite so convinced that you’ll actually put your hypothesis to what would be an eminently valid test, albeit the data, unlike that from neuroscience, wouldn’t be publically available…….

  12. You are mistaken about the term breath being a reference to God’s Spirit. First off God’s Spirit is a reference to the Holy Spirit who is the third member of the God head. And when the Holy Spirit acted He acted on His own volition, not being pushed as in beING forced in to Adams lungs. Remember how the Spirit moved upon the waters in Genesis or how He gave the child to Mary. The two are not the same. This form of the use for spirit is better suited as breath with the idea of being power or virtue being given from God

  13. Gerald – when you say “This form of the use for spirit is better suited as breath with the idea of being power or virtue being given from God”, which is it? And what do you mean by power or virtue? If it is power, that implies some form of animating force which would be consciousness otherwise Adam would have power but no consciousness. On the other hand how could an unconscious being have virtue? If you deny that our consciousness comes from God, then you fall into the atheist camp in that respect. Why then is there a need for God or a desirability to worship a being which creates us as an ephemeral animate creature?

    1. You speak as though you beli eve that theres a God who made everything, seen and unseen. Who made even the nothing so that He could make something. If so, so do I

    2. Mantiki “If you deny that our consciousness comes from God, then you fall into the atheist camp in that respect.” Not denied. It, we do come from God. But, He gave us life. Not His life. He is immortal. We are not. As the saying goes ” the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” God gave life to Adam, with the anticipation of making that life permanent. But sin, caused a side tracked. Not unforeseen, but God would not change His plans. That would not be fair to Satan. He had to allow the chips fall where the may, so to say, and work around Satans, interference. So Adams immortality and ours, was put on hold, with the understanding that we would obtain it, if we trusted in God at the end. The end or lives or the end of this world. So, Adam was given life. Not eternal life. Adam was mortal, body and soul. Or body and consciousness. This happened when God breathed the breath of life, yes it was His breath of life, but remember the Bible says that in Ecclesiastes 12:7 “CEB before dust returns to the earth as it was before and the life-breath returns to God who gave it.” I used a different translation than I usually use, which would readKJ21 “then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” from the King James Version
      God’s breath, or if you want His energy, is a part of Him. And amazingly enough, being a part of Him means that it will not die, or dissipate. Not surprising since as we have been taught ” matter can not be created or destroyed. At least if is from God:Colossians 1:17King James Version (KJV)
      17″ And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
      So, yes our souls can die. But for now those souls who do die, just merely go to sleep for now. As Christ said more than once in the Gospels, on a few occasions when He healed some people. And all through the Bible it says Job 14:14King James Version (KJV)
      14″If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” or in Psalm 13:3 “Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;”
      One more Ecc. 9: 5-6 and verse 10″4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
      5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
      10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
      I hope to have clarified somethings and allowed God to reveal something some pastors are lagging behind on learning about God and His word. But in the end no, God will not torture and burn souls who refuse to accept Him, throughout eternity. They be punished, and die forever Matthew 10:28King James Version (KJV)
      Matthew 10:28″And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

  14. 1)”Entirely literally doesn’t work at all obviously. Plants didn’t come before the Sun, flying creatures didn’t come before land animals, pi doesn’t equal 3, the global flood couldn’t have happened for a copious amount of reasons. The god creature approving of slavery and telling people not to get their hair cut and so forth also doesn’t work well”
    Tim we are talking about God who did it all. He can do it in any order. But, it just so happens that there was God who it says in the Bible will be the light in the New Jerusalem when He makes the heavens and earth anew. But still, since everything was done by the sixth day, plants and animals can live at least a few days with out the sun. So, everything would have been all right until God got around to creating the sun. Besides, there are other sources of light besides that of the sun.

    1. There are other sources of light besides that of the sun? Really? You mean other suns? How come they’re not mentioned in the Bible, then?

  15. 2)”Many believers fall in this category, claiming that some parts of the Bible have secret meaning or use allegory and figurative speech to teach lessons. This might sound great except that there is no direction given anywhere in the Bible as to which parts are supposed to be literal and which parts aren’t. Which means that believers are basically guessing which is which. There is no consensus among the thousands of Christian sects as to which is which (maybe that is due to there being 20 different versions of the Bible), so any “interpretation” by any one individual is suspect.”
    First, that which God wants us to know He usually tells us more than once. And it usually comes from a Prophet, who then tells God’s people. And a Prophet is someone whose prophecies, come true. There need to not contradict the known written word of God. There lives must not contradict the life that God tells us to live. So, there are tests for someone who comes out and calls themselves a Prophet.
    And outside of a few non authorized books whose people have made there view of translations, almost all Bibles say the same thing. Only the view points of the beliefs have caused them to make inference to timing and meanings of some things of the Bible. For example, some may allow a text that refers to the first coming of the Messiah and not for the Second Coming. But, there are ususlly texts that can correct these mistakes, because God says it in different parts of the Bible so if one carefully studies, and pulls all the texts for a subject, and of course asking help from God’s Holy Spirit, we do not need to guess. I said something about some unauthorized versions of the Bible, and by this I meant, there are organizations such as the Jehovah Witnesses who have made there own translations, so as to change texts to suit there own way of thinking. The same with a translation made by some Gay Christians, who know that there are texts that show that God condemns homosexual acts and they have altered texts to show otherwise. But, both of these groups have failed to call upon the major translations as a litmus test and they know that there Bible fall short in translations.

    1. “outside of a few non authorized books whose people have made there view of translations, almost all Bibles say the same thing.”

      So why do Christians regularly use specific passages (and only specific passages) from these unauthorised books to support claims that cannot be substantiated in the Gospels? For example, the martyrdom of the Apostles?

      1. Which books and passages. As far as I know, the martyrdom’s of the Apostles are a recorded part of history outside of the Bible.
        But what I was referring to is that most of the regular translations are approved by those who have translating the Hebrew and Greek texts. And there are not any big parts, or any where they do not say the same thing. It is mostly the applying of some texts that bring disagreements. Which is mostly because of the views of different denominations.

  16. This has the same problem with 2),”with the added twist that since NOTHING is taking literally, there is no way to be sure what any of it means. Even “there is a god” has to be taken figuratively. One is left making up interpretations for everything, including “virgin birth” and “resurrection” and “creation” and so forth. No word can be taken at face value.”
    With this I say, that if one considers the preponderance of the evidence, one will see that we have more than enough reason to believe that there is a God. I know we can’t put God in a test tube. Or else He wouldn’t be God. But, we have evidence. Evidences that point to at least a reason to consider the God factor. First we have the miracle of how the universe started. Sure, many say explosion, controlled or otherwise. But, no one has show just how any type of explosion has ever been or made anything more the destruction or a big mess. Through explosions, some one may discover gold or something, but to make a universe and more than that make life, even our imaginations are not able to fathom, how that is possible.
    Even the theories of nothing and gravity, come short as to do nothing more but make more head scratching. The best theory is some intelligence, in some way planned and carried out all that would have been needed as to assure that not only the creation of this universe, but also allow it to be able sustain life, and make it so as to cause us to question, why only on some planets and not others, or why is there life so vibrant here when in every where else there is none. And why is the ” Goldilocks syndrome ” so apparent here. Every thing is perfect for every thing else here on this planet. It is as if it was all planned to fit like and glove.
    2. We have a book. Yes, the Bible, that has been tried and found sound. There are statements that have been used to discover, cultures, cities, civilizations. It has been used to discover medications, and treat sicknesses. It has been used for diets to and even to cure mental health issues. The 12 step treatment to help people recover from addictions has been invaluable all over the world. Then we have the prophecies of the Bible that skeptics have paid good money, to disprove, yet no one has show how things that had been predicted hundred and thousand years in history could have been so correct years later. And yes, we have some of those same skeptics who now are Bible believing Christians.
    Of course we have the other theories that have been spouted as being better theories, and because the Bible makes more sense, those who refuse to give way to logic, push these theories, hoping that if they say if long enough, and loud enough, it will make it right, and I must admit, they have made some inroads in to causing people to doubt, but this serves only to show that people are desperate, and want to snuff out what they feel can’t be right. But as the lift up these other theories, people who look closely enough at them see that there are just too many holes in the logic of these theories.
    People have tried to bring down, burn, outlaw, this Book, but it has been the number one best seller of all time.
    which brings me to the fact that the prophecy of the Messiah, which even though many Jews feel has not been fulfilled, there are many more alive and dead who feel otherwise. History talks about Christ who died on the Cross. These historians, mention Him by name and mention His Christians who although hounded and hunted and killed, for fear and sport, have been said to have grown into the most prolific religion in the world. The Jews although they claim that Jesus did miracles with the help of the Devil, still admit that Jesus did miracles. And the thought that others have claimed to be this Messiah, they ended up dead and there followers scattered. But even though Jesus had been crucified and His followers hiding for fear that they would be next, some how, Christianity has made headway into every culture and civilization around the world. It has been show to change more people than any other tool or threat ever devised. And, people say that it is because, He IS NOT DEAD. The Jews even with the mighty Roman war machine, could not produce a body to prove that Jesus did not come back from the grave. The Jewish hierarchy of that day hated Him enough to kill Him. They wanted Him gone, at all cost. Even if they had to do it over the special time of the Sabbath. But, more than them wanting Him out of the way, they especially didn’t want Him to fulfill what He promised that He would do. Come back from the grave. So they got a special attachment of Roman soldiers, to guard the tomb. But these same soldiers, came back the morning following, reporting that somehow, something knocked them out and that the body of Jesus was not to be found. Expecting there failure to be there last, they were surprised when they were given money, and told to tell a lie, To say that a group of hapless fishermen and refuse from society, subdued, the soldiers and made off with the body of Jesus. Well, yes, I know this sounds preposterous, and hard to believe, but think about it. Even if there weren’t enough soldiers there at the time, there was a garrison with more close by, in Jerusalem. Man, it must have left a bitter taste in the mouths of those soldiers, ” who by the way were happy not only to still be breathing, but also probably, doing so with a pretty penny in there pockets, or uh, there bags, oh well you know what I’m talking about. The point is, this cover up is still the talk of the ages. People are still looking for His body, but His Disciples, testify that He rose up into the clouds and went to His rightful place besides His Father and our Father if we want Him to be.
    Which brings me to my last reason, at least for now. There are and have been many Christians, who testify, that they have had and are having a vibrant, saving relationship now with this God who became man, just to tell us and show us how much He loves us. Me and you. And although, many a skeptic, many an Atheist, have bullied, and poked fun at our faith, there are those, who now, have made the same claim. They said that when they were trying to dig up dirt to throw on the hopes and aspirations of those who were already Christians, they had a life changing encounter with this same Jesus. And now they are Christians now.
    Yes, I know. Malarkey, hogwash. Mass hysteria you say. But you can cry foul all you want. It is a fact that some of the greatest proponents of Atheism, have joined in with those who say they have a saving relationship with the God who was dead but now is alive forever more.
    Won’t you too consider, Him. Won’t you at least ask and tell Him you want to know for sure. Open His word and open your heart. He already put Himself on the line. He Promised ” Jeremiah 33:3King James Version (KJV)
    3″ Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
    And inJeremiah 29:13King James Version (KJV)
    13″ And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
    So He has left it up to us, to you. He promised also, in Revelation 3:20King James Version (KJV)
    20″ Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
    Well it is truly up to you. listen to those who just haven’t met, Him or do your own, searching, and find Him Acts 17: 27 says ” that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might feel after Him and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us.”
    I dare you.

  17. Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis for one. And as I said before God is light itself. He said in Revelation that The sun and moon would not be needed because He would be the light.

  18. Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. But as I said, In the book of Revelation, God said that the sun or moon would no longer be necessary because He would be the Light.

  19. Gerald I can see that nothing will sway you as a literalist. The Bible is crafted with its own internal logic. Many – even most people including atheists and Christians such as Spong and Armstrong, believe that the internal logic of the Bible differs from observed reality including human nature.

    We know that human tyrants command love and obedience out of their own weakness and insecurity. I don’t believe that God, even a Personal God who engages with humans at our level desires even temporary punishment for any human, let alone permanent extinction.

  20. Gary I’m pleased that you have gone into depth and breadth in a well read response to my claims. I’m sorry not to accord you the same effort but I respect you for that. In my own response, let me begin, “Not strictly speaking, no. But if we kept to that maxim, we’d effectively stop doing science and we’d propel ourselves back to the Dark Ages. A continued lack of evidence observed under conditions where evidence is specifically hypothesised to exist, does increase both the prior and posterior probability that such evidence does not exist.” Firstly I don’t suggest that empiricism is worthless, merely that it is only a partial way of modelling reality. In the case of consciousness it is clear that research must rely on subjective reporting of neural correlates for one thing.

    You make much of neural correlates in reference to studies on volition. For my own part I became aware of this in a non-empirical way long before neuro-science began to quantify this when as a non-athletic schoolboy in the 1960s, my arm reached out and expertly caught a passing cricket ball without my conscious awareness or knowledge of a nearby game in progress. Therefore it doesn’t surprise me at all that the brain is processing information and sifting through options for responses even when we believe that we are in control. After all, it is the function of the brain to respond to the environment. In complex functions such as driving, it is our conscious mind that initially must learn and create the algorithms that eventually allow us to drive from point to point while talking or thinking without being aware of how we instruct our bodies to perform all of the subtle and precise actions in driving.

    You mention NDE literature etc to be strewn with charlatans etc. That may be true in part however it is perhaps even truer that the world of finance is full of charlatans and con-artists. But that doesn’t prove that the economic system is based on deception. Furthermore in my own case, I know that my experiences are consistent with commonly reported NDE and other spiritual experiences.

    As to the tongue in cheek comment about getting a Nobel prize for proving the non-physical basis of consciousness, let me know when someone gets one for proving what you believe to be so obvious. There are many reputable scientists such as Francis Crick and Paul Davies who believe that consciousness is not magical or supernatural, but rather a fundamental part of reality.

    1. 2000: Erik Kandel received a Nobel for demonstrating that alterations in shape and function of neural synapses are crucial for learning and memory formation.

      A few months ago the British neuroscientists Tim Bliss, Graham Collingridge and Richard Morris were awarded the Brain Prize, regarded as the ‘Nobel’ of neuroscience for further work demonstrating that memory formation and storage is explicitly and wholly neuron-based.

      No serious neuroscientist would deny that memories are stored in neuronal circuits. No memories, no sense of self. No sense of self, no sense of consciousness.

      Paul Davies cautiously takes the view consciousness may be an inevitable emergent property of the universe, but Francis Crick certainly doesn’t. Crick is considered as an ultra-materialist who had no time for metaphysics at all.

  21. “but if I knock you on the head repeatedly with a hammer your consciousness will not only be unimpaired, it might actually be improved…….but you’re not quite so convinced that you’ll actually put your hypothesis to what would be an eminently valid test”

    Quite true Gary – in a sense. It’s not my lack of confidence that would cause me to demur. My main reason being that my life continues to serve a purpose. The other objection would be that should you fail to finish the job, the interface between my mind and my body would be severely degraded. My awareness would be the same, but my physical perception would be compromised and my control of body processes and local memories and cognitive functions damaged. I would appear unconscious while my consciousness skipped from its temporal anchor.

    Examples of people who survive and live normal lives even with the loss of much of their brains support this – as do examples of terminal lucidity in some patients with dementia.

    1. Again, be careful not to exaggerate the claims you make, Mantiki.

      Quite impressive neuroplasticity and cortical remapping is certainly observed during the so-called ‘critical phase’ of childhood, but the brain’s ability to remap itself after this period is severely diminished and in the majority of adult patients very little or no remapping occurs at all after physical trauma.

      This is another area where much pseudoscience can be found. People like e.g., Norman Doidge make bucketloads of money selling false hopes via anecdotes in his non-peer reviewed books and articles, labelling himself as a neuroscientist even though he hasn’t published any neuroscience research at all; nearly all his published papers deal with psychoanalysis, including such subjects as ‘dreaming about of animals’ and why psychoanalysts have low mortality rates!

      He (they) typically conflate two entirely different things:

      (i) extensive cortical remapping can be observed after trauma during the ‘critical phase’, and;
      (ii) spending large amounts of time and effort doing specific exercises, even as an adult, is known to produce neurological changes in cortical tissue

      Nearly all of the neural changes observed in adult brains is driven by the brain attempting to compensate for neural damage and/or neurodegeneration or, in the case of ‘brain exercises’, compensating because specific circuits are being called upon to work harder. Or repeatedly shifting cognitive processing of already acquired behaviours from automaticity to conscious processing – we can all do that anyway. This is not neuroplasticity.

      “examples of terminal lucidity in some patients with dementia”

      I’m very familiar with dementia, I’ve assessed hundreds of such patients for genetic research and whole brain donation over several years. Reports of terminal lucidity are almost always exaggerated by family members (wish-fulfillment), certainly never complete and often involve only the earliest learned behaviours. I once observed an advanced Alzheimer’s patient who had lost all speech (for 6 months) who responded lucidly to me. His first language was Welsh, though he had not lived in a Welsh-speaking area for over 60 years and rarely used the language as an adult. I was taking blood from him and thanked him in Welsh, in a sentence of maybe 9-10 words. He responded appropriately in Welsh. Everyone present was amazed. I wasn’t.

      It’s an old neuroscience ‘parlour trick’ to get an advanced Alzheimer’s patient, unable to hold a lucid conversation, to read a newspaper aloud. Some can do it fluently. They don’t understand (or remember) a word they’re reading though. Just an automatic, early learned stimulus-response mechanism kicking in. The neurodgeneration is not global, or they’d be dead. Specific neural circuits can sometimes remain intact, and when stimulated in isolation from other task demands, sometimes activate, making the patient appear lucid.

  22. Apologies Gary – I meant to refer to Francis Collins, not Francis Crick.

    Also thanks to Smartlx for the brain stem reference. I agree that consciousness elements can be expressed locally recalling also the Schiavo case where there were elements of facial recognition likely misinterpreted as full awareness.
    The efforts of neuroscientists also show that many patients formerly thought to be “vegetative” are fully aware but “locked in”.
    Examples of schizophrenia and also hypnosis also demonstrate that consciousness is able to be partitioned- though this is also consistent with my beliefs.

    Your own example of temporary or partial lucidity while relevant, is rather less than the cases of terminal lucidity that I had in mind which involved (admittedly rare) cases of dementia patients who asked for and named specific caregivers to thank them while accurately announcing they would die that day.

  23. Hi Mantiki

    The clinical ‘locked in’ effect is a very real worry, but neuropsychological diagnosis is getting sharper, year on year. A similar effect can occur in fully conscious patients with neurodegeneration and with some neurodevelopmental disorders and even psychopathology:

    One of the problems for neuroscience research (and care-givers) is the ‘modularity’ of the brain. Take visual attention for example. It requires several distinct components, each of which uses different brain mechanisms – e.g., the shifting of attention to a stimulus, the allocation and retention of attentional resources to the stimulus, the inhibition of competing stimuli (this is far more important than most people think, schizophrenics, for example, often perform particularly poorly at this stage), disengaging attention to shift elsewhere, then committing the experience to short-term and later, to long term memory (the bane of Alzheimers patients). If even one of those neural mechanisms goes awry, yet the others function perfectly normally, it will often appear to the lay observer as if the patient has lost their ability to attend to a stimulus at all – it will appear as a far more ‘global’ deterioration than is actually the case. Neuropsyche evaluations and/or functional imaging can often ‘tease out’ which circuits are working and which are not.

    If the patient is subsequently able to activate a working neural module with behavioural effect for even a short time, it can appear as if a ‘miracle’ (for want of a better word) has occurred and their abilities have returned. But of course they might not have fully lost them in the first place. This is known as ‘episodic lucidity’ and is not uncommon in some forms of neurodegeneration.

    Of course if such an event happens to occur in the hours before death, confirmation bias can kick in among family and care-givers and it gets labelled differently, i.e., as ‘terminal lucidity’. We also observe a pronounced increase in neural activation before death in any case. So a good researcher isn’t going to jump to metaphysical conclusions.

    BTW, I have great respect for Francis Collins as a scientist and I’m always bewildered when Biblical literalists cite him as supportive of their views. He isn’t. He has no time at all for young earth creationism.

  24. Thanks again for that enlightening contribution Gary – though the processes and cases you describe are also consistent with the “transmitter” model of the brain. I appreciate that you demonstrate and share your expertise and knowledge of this fascinating subject.

    I trust that I also have provided enough opinion not to be classed as a young earth creationist.

    While being aware that no amount of non-empirical examples can persuade rational materialists you will no doubt understand that whatever the truth of the matter, we will all be biased towards our own qualitative experiences. In my youth I was strongly biased towards atheism – knowing that uncanny coincidence can be attributed to agency or that psych-neuro processes in social situations hysteria can appear to be “divine”.

    Personally I have often dreamt of winning money (sadly without validation) but on one occasion I was awoken by a loud (dream) shout instructing me to look in a particular location for a lottery type ticket or risk losing $100. The dream tumbled me from my bed sweating and heart pounding (something that never occurred before or since) and I searched the location (a drawer) subsequently without initial success. Eventually I wrenched out the draw and upended it to find a scrunched up year old ticket that paid precisely $100. I was told a similar story by a family member who was correctly advised in a dream by her late husband where he had hidden a large sum of money for a rainy day.

    On my God belief, this came in the form of a vivid experience when I was an atheist and had begun to despair at the state of politics and environment and the apparent meaninglessness of life. To my absolute astonishment I found myself weeping convulsively on my knees and subsequently enveloped in warmth and love with an intense “knowing” that life was meaningful and that I (and everyone) was important and loved.

    You will I am sure be able to craft a psychological explanation for that experience (as I have myself), yet the experience was so real to me that it would seem like an insult to myself and to God (though I don’t believe can be offended which is a sign of weakness). Finding consistency of my experience with those in meditation and NDEs seems to be a form of empirical validation to me.

    People return from NDEs with instructions to love. No one returns having been told to work harder or get richer or destroy their enemies.

    1. God does communicate with us. In the days before His written Word, He spoke to us through His spoken Word. Sometimes directly from Him. Sometimes through His angels. And sometimes His prophets. And sometimes, He did so through visions and dreams. But, and I mean this with no disrespect but He does not speak to us through the dead. For you see the Bible says “Ecclesiastes 9:5King James Version (KJV)5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. And verse 10 10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” And Psalm 146:1-4 says “salm 146King James Version (KJV)
      146″ Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.
      2 While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.
      3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
      4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.”
      So if we are going to believe something, we should believe God’s word. Even more than our parents, pastors, or our own eyes and ears. Because the Bible says that Satan will try to deceive us which is why God gave us His word.

  25. Mantiki you said “The Bible is crafted with its own internal logic” but the Bible was crafted especially for man. To help us to know what we needed to know, especially when it comes down to our salvation. God meant that His word would help us to know and love Him so we could trust Him. Satan knows this and that is why he is trying to keep us from knowing the one true God. He doesn’t want us to know how loving and faithful God really is. That is how he succeeded with Adam and Eve, by causing them to think that God could not be trusted, and they listened to the lies that Satan, told them about God. He made them think that God lied to them about the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. So, they ate. And they died. And so will all of us, at least the first death. That is, if we do give our lives to Jesus. Then we will live again.
    There are things that are to be taken literally in the Bible. For example, John 3:16. God did so love us. But there are things that are to be taken as prophecy, and literally. Like the prophecy of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. Many times this occurs with symbolism, I believe.
    I would like to ask you just what you think is not to be taken literally?

  26. Hi Gerald. I think that atheists serve well to reveal what is rational and what is not and likely to be false including in the Bible. I’m not a person who is scornful of the achievements and civilisations of the past but we do know that the Bible is a collection of texts written by priestly castes over many centuries. It has been argued about and many texts discarded and added following fierce disagreements. Part of its use is to provide guidance and comfort but there is also a use designed to keep society under the control of the ruler of the day. This was enhanced by Constantine when Church and State became a joint instrument of expansion of the Roman Empire.

    Now “Many times this occurs with symbolism, I believe.
    I would like to ask you just what you think is not to be taken literally?”. Apart from the Creation myth, the fall of Man is the most important. Knowledge of good and evil does not come from eating a fruit. What the story represents is on two levels. At the simple level, the message is to obey God via priestly “representatives” to keep the population unified and under the control of leaders allied to the Church. The more complex level interests me much more. It represents the tension between making decisions of an ethical nature based on human rationality or on our consciences. When we are separate from God, we deny the existence of “conscience” and make ethical decisions based on either selfishness, or enlightened ethical rules. Quite obviously decisions based on selfishness will benefit powerful decision makers / leaders at the expense of others often cruelly and sometimes tragically for their subjects and opposing interests.

    Ethical decision making is of course much kinder and fairer. But the problem is that we don’t have perfect knowledge. How do you decide to punish someone for a crime when one person will be rehabilitated while another go on to become worse? How do you decide to save a thousand refugees when 10 of them will produce terrorists who grow up to kill hundreds? And so on.

    I believe in conscience but also in rationality. Even the most Godly believer and the kindest atheist don’t have perfect knowledge.

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