A Passively Ominous Screed

Question from “once an atheist”:
I have to be very careful what I say because the comments I get from the atheists might backfire and I wouldn’t want them to get in trouble. Call it karma, luck, repercussions, god, it always happens when someone tries to touch me with their unbelief, or harm me with their insults. I was once an agnostic atheist like my parents were before in a 30 second span of time, they were changed forever. It’s amazing to me how many people with exceptional IQs cannot establish the truth in their lives. The smarter you get, the more of a fool you become in God’s eyes. It’s in the rule book that almost everyone knows. I believe the Dead Sea Scrolls might have been embellished by people who wrote them. I could be wrong. The rule book of life (KJV Bible) is supposed to be used to uplift people not make them hate and tremble at the sound of the word god for he is love. Don’t believe it? Jesus says he would rather have mercy than sacrifice. I have seen so many people condemn other people because they wont do exactly what the rule book says. And now I could condemn atheists and agnostics if I wanted to but I’ll just meditate more and learn to love all humans because karma or god really doesn’t need me to judge or convince others, he’ll do it all himself just like he did it to my folks. I wasn’t proselytizing them. I prefer to think with my heart instead of my head now.

“In the beginning was the word and the word was with god and the word WAS GOD” and the word became FLESH and dwelt among us”

Answer by SmartLX:
It’s hard to address this, since there’s not a formal question or challenge, so I’ll just pick up on a few points.
– Your warning that any attack on you will be met with divine retribution will not frighten or dissuade any non-believer. Kids have to believe there’s a boogeyman before the threat of it can be used to make them eat their vegetables.
– Christianity has a long history of anti-intellectualism, concurrent with a long history of claims of intellectual superiority. You’re clearly on the “smart is bad” side.
– Jesus may have wanted mercy, but the God of the Bible wants fear. That’s why “God-fearing” is a compliment.
– I’m sorry for your loss, whatever happened to your parents, but their atheism probably didn’t make it happen. It just fits your story to say it did.

Shawn Weed’s Adventures Through the Noose

Question from Kamil:
Hello there, thanks for answering all my questions thus far. I keep worrying about hell, and this testimony hasn’t helped, by Shawn Weed. His video can be found on YouTube, and he seems so genuine. He cries in his video, and I can’t imagine how someone could hallucinate absolute knowledge ex: he wants to know the demon’s height, and knows automatically it is 13 feet tall. Then, he claims he saw such a beautiful angel, again, how could he hallucinate that?
Here is his story, as his video is very long winded, but in the video, he tears up a lot.

Here are the details about Shawn:

-Was in the marine corps. Had a choice to chill with other broke comrades, go to Disney Land in CA w/ comrades, or Vegas w/ comrades. Lacking funds so he chilled with three others.
-One dude wants to take a picture of him in a noose.
-One other dude sneaks up and while in the noose actually gets Shawn Weed in the noose and it tightens.
-Loses consciousness and eventually dies; his soul leaves his body.
-Describes his soul as himself exactly except he is not physical. Shawn tried to enter his body while he was dead, sort of like matching a the last puzzle piece into the last spot. Didn’t work.
-Ends up in a dark parallel plane that extended forever. Complete darkness. He described it as a “darkness you can feel” and the only light was the dim glow of his own soul or essence. There was a ceiling that he could touch but no walls or doors. Just a never ending chasm dividing Heaven and Hell basically.
-(^^^) He would later describe that place as the doorstep of Hell.
-A demon grabbed him by the shoulders and he describes the demon and the pain he went through.
-Demon: 13 feet high, either blackish red skin or redish black skin, fingers as thick as a wine bottle length little more than a ruler per finger, width of hand was like 8-10 inches, says it’s a fair guess when he estimates the demon weighed 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, built like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime just ripped, grotesque face that scared him terribly (not afraid of no man on the planet will fight anyone no matter how big, etc. but only looked for one second with absolute horror and turned away), the demon was strong and in complete control; there was no fighting this thing.
-Pain: As the demon grabbed him by the shoulder, his legs popped and were kicking up and down rapidly kind of like when you twiddle your index and middle finger up and down quickly, pain in the spiritual is all around according to him meaning if you get pain in your ear you’ll feel it all through your soul all the way down to your feet. He described the pain as electrical current that didn’t stop, he could feel the pain everywhere whereas a cut finger will hurt near the finger an not much further…There are no pain receptors the pain of that finger would flow throughout the entire spirit/soul.

-Sees a light and his hand, almost instinctual, reached for this light that grabbed his hand and it was Archangel Michael. He described him as the most handsome man and the most beautiful woman but shaped like a man. Strong, “not bodybuilder muscle popping out strong but trainer strong” and claims he was definitely there to fight. He says he had the most perfect blue eyes, like flawless perfect blue eyes as if the blue sky were taken and put into his eyes.
-Michael says it is not yet his time, and while the demon still had a strong grip on his shoulder, Michael basically hit the demon like a palm to the neck sort of strike and this demon went flying back like a cartoon bent in half mid-air (hands touching toes) sort of way.
-Michael points a direction and Shawn follows, instantly back in his body alive.

***He claimed that once he knew the demon was taking him from the doorstep of Hell to the actual fire and brimstone part of Hell he kept repeating it in his head like “I’m going to Hell” “He’s taking me to Hell” over and over. Said it was mortal doom basically. And he described the hope he had in him sort of ooze out of him after that realization and he became numb and every bit of energy and will to live was gone drained from his soul.***

He said he was an average guy. Never murdered, stole, etc. Did some drinking and drugs nothing excessive just your average guy. Claims that there are good people in Hell, people who would call themselves Christians. His belief is that God doesn’t want average he wants full devotion and the people who follow Christ and God one foot in one foot out end up in Hell. Full devotion to the best of your ability is what God requires. That was the part that blew me away, to think that good people would be allowed to burn eternally for being lukewarm, spit out into Hell.

Answer by SmartLX:
Found it here.

Weed doesn’t have to be lying to be wrong. His experience can have been entirely real to him and yet not involve any supernatural beings. This is the nature of dreams, hallucinations, and false memories.

Whatever really happened, the more he tells this story the more he reinforces it in his own mind (especially with his emotions engaged), until he may believe it entirely when once he didn’t. All kinds of new and specific details can creep in that way too and become canon, so to speak. This could include not only the height of the demon but his memory of how quickly he knew it, so it actually is possible to fabricate a memory of having certain knowledge. Imagining a beautiful angel is pretty straightforward if you believe in angels.

Much of the story is consistent with him having fabricated the whole thing, consciously or not. It reflects his existing beliefs and even special interests. Besides the obvious Christian imagery, bodybuilder Weed portrays the entities involved as distinct beefcake body types. The bit about spitting out lukewarm people paraphrases Revelations 3:16, and reflects many other Bible verses telling Christians to be active in their faith. (Some evangelicals call it being “on fire for Jesus”.)

Let’s not forget that there isn’t even any obvious support for the non-supernatural parts of the story. We have only Weed’s word that he was in the noose in the first place, let alone accidentally strangled until clinically dead with three close friends present. For this story to be taken as evidence of anything, surely it should be the first pre-requisite to establish that he even had an opportunity to experience the afterlife.

Take note anytime you take “I can’t imagine how” as evidence for something. This is acceptance of an argument from ignorance, unconsciously made to yourself. It may well convince you at the time but it has no right to.

Muslim Exorcism as Medicine

Question from Morrisozio:
Demon possession exists and it occurs. No doubt. There were and there are lots of people (personally known to me) who are ill, and blood used to come from ears and noses. Doctors were never able to cure these so called hidden diseases. They always stated they didn’t find anything. Everything seemed fine. While these poor patients keep suffering. However, when they have been religiously healed, all problems disappeared, since the demons inside were forced to leave. One of these healing was even done in hospital, without the permission of any doctors. Can you imagine that? The medical science has been challenged!!!

Some psychologists say that unknown powers exist which control human minds, which are beyond our comprehension.

In addition, Arab exorcists, since they are already rich, do healing for free. In fact exorcism is also used as something acceptable in these Muslim Sharia countries.

Could you give any reply? Please a proper reply, even short one is okay, but don’t reply with words like “coincidence”, “lucky”. How come that these type of physical and mental problems can be cured by religious healers or TRUE exorcists (not the fake ones) and not by physicians?

Thank you.

Answer by SmartLX:
I have only your word for any of this, so it’s not much to go on and it’s not very powerful as testimony given the extreme claims.

I find it hard to believe, first of all, that doctors were of the opinion that patients bleeding from the nose and ears without physical injury “seemed fine”. If a physical injury was present, on the other hand, everything might well be fine afterwards with or without an exorcism. But discussing the details is not very useful without specifics in the claim.

Generally speaking, a miraculous cure needs three things to be effective as evidence for a miracle:
1. evidence that the illness was present in the first place,
2. evidence that the illness is now gone, and
3. a consensus that no conventional medical treatment that was also given to the patient/victim could have treated the illness effectively.
In my experience, the one most often missing from these claims is #1.

I have no doubt that Islamic exorcism or ruqya is popular and encouraged in countries with self-proclaimed Sharia law, even if it performs no better than a placebo. Muslims are subject to fear campaigns trying to convince them that Western medicine aims to poison or defile them, and choosing Islamic spiritual treatments is touted as a way to demonstrate one’s faith and also support fellow Muslims financially.

Nasir Siddiki, Jesus, and Shingles

Question from Spivak:
I would love to know your impression of this video, do you believe it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1DL9ANF-m4

Answer by SmartLX:
For those who don’t feel like watching, Nasir Siddiki claims that he called out to Allah and Muhammad for help as he was dying of an extreme case of facial shingles combined with chicken pox. Jesus answered instead, he got better, and after 90 minutes in the shower his blisters were all gone and he doesn’t have a mark on him. (To save you a search, shingles leave scars and bad shingles leave bigger scars.)

That’s a straight-up medical miracle, for which there is no evidence presented but his own testimony. He does name the hospital, Toronto General, so this would be on record there if anyone has the ability to check, but doctor-patient confidentiality probably makes that difficult. I do note that the only appearance by his doctor is via the guy playing him in the re-enactment.

To establish an impossible cure there has to have been evidence that the illness existed, and was as severe as described, in the first place. Here’s a relevant story I don’t get to tell often: a Native American healer named Bobby Runningfox once touched my friend’s abdomen and announced that he had cured a small cancer. It had not been detected before his act, and whether he was genuine or not one would not expect to detect it afterwards. So as far as anyone can say, he touched my friend and did nothing.

The other similar claim that comes to mind is the minor character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who accuses a suspected witch: “She turned me into a newt!…I got better.”

There’s another interesting angle on Siddiki which has nothing to do with the medical aspect, brought up by this video. A Muslim has gone through another video where Siddiki tells the same story, and attempted to debunk the claim that Siddiki was actually a Muslim before the event. This responder does the same with many such “ex-Muslim” videos, and frankly appears to be reaching in some parts, but perhaps someone more familiar with Islam can say if there’s anything to it.

Cornering the Market on Divine Visions

Question from Spivak:
I had a question regarding proof of Jesus. People always say the bible or the quran are not reliable proof of Jesus or his existence. My question is, what about all the personal testimonies people have of seeing Jesus. There are many people who make claims that they met Jesus, or Jesus helped them in a particular time. More specifically, I have read and watched accounts of Muslims, Hindus, etc who say they had a problem for ex: they were about to die, they called out to Allah or Krishna, and wouldn’t get an answer. Yet, when they call out to Jesus, they see light, and he comes and saves them. He also tells them bible versus which they later confirm exist. There are healing testimonies, dreams, near death experiences, somehow, it seems no other deity really comes up in these kinds of potentially supernatural experiences other than Jesus. Does this mean Jesus is the most likely deity to exist?

Video examples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PExVfzRsKU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjzdG2tNPgw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSUBn99mTkM

there are many more examples where that came from. There don’t seem to be testimonies of other faiths meeting other deities. Does this seem convincing for Jesus?

Answer by SmartLX:
We’ve often covered the implications of claimed personal experiences of the divine, and how they have little reason to mean anything to anyone who doesn’t already believe. Here I’ll focus on the supposed imbalance between claims of visits by Jesus and claims of other deities. There are a few potential and very likely reasons for this imbalance besides Jesus being the only real godlike entity that makes house calls.

The most obvious reason is the media sources available in the Western world and the English language, both of which have an immense Christian majority. Accounts of Jesus are written out, recorded, published and distributed because there’s guaranteed to be an audience for them. This is helped along by the engines that rely on people’s faith being continually reassured: televangelism and Christian Right political advocacy to name two.

The religion with the next most adherents worldwide, though with nowhere near the amount of English-language media profile, is Islam. It’s not surprising that there are no stories of visits by Allah, because it’s a matter of doctrine (see here for instance) that we’re not capable of comprehending or withstanding Allah’s presence while alive. As for Muhammad, Muslims take it practically for granted that he can appear in dreams (they have to take care that it’s not their Devil “Shaytaan” in disguise) so it’s no big deal when he does and they’re not so driven to proclaim it to the world.
That leaves Hinduism as the only other religion with more than 500 million followers, and it’s got even less profile in the West. From what I can gather it happens plenty for Hindus as well; many yogis, gurus, monks and priests have their own stories about how Ganesha or Hanuman appeared to them, but only their own congregations hear the tales.

That’s probably the big takeaway from this topic: only Christianity has the infrastructure in place to widely proclaim everything that happens to anyone as a miracle and a vindication. By and large people of other religions just rejoice and get on with it.

M-M-M-Miiiiike Licona

Question from Violeta:
I am wondering if you have heard about Mike Licona? He is a Bible scholar who claims he has absolute proof that Jesus rose from the dead. He claims thousands of people saw him, and that group hallucinations of thousands is impossible. He debated Matt Dillahunty a few years ago and used those arguments. He is very highly respected in the Christian world. He also has rebuttals to all these atheist articles saying “Jesus never existed”. He claims there is tons of proof of his existence, and that he had to rise from the dead. What are your thoughts on this?

Answer by SmartLX:
I wasn’t familiar with Licona before your question, but that debate with Dillahunty is online. From it we can tell a few things:

– Licona has poor standards of evidence. Unsupported anecdotes count for him, for instance, while not convincing anyone new.
– Licona is perfectly content with a blatant argument from ignorance as his central theme: if there is no current natural explanation for an event (even a supposed event), he’s happy to not only posit but assert a supernatural cause.
– Licona only wants the idea that Jesus’ appearance to the large crowd after his death was real to be measured against the idea that it was an impossible mass hallucination. Two responses to this from me. Firstly, since I’ve been covering the “Miracle of the Sun” at Fátima a great deal in the last several months, I know that a phenomenon that only some people present even claimed to see can be claimed as a more universal experience after the fact. Secondly, we do not have accounts by the hundreds of people claimed to have seen Jesus, only one account that says they were there, and that account is subject to suspicion.

This is all very familiar, to me at least. If you search this site by keywords for any of Licona’s major arguments I think you’ll find they’re already covered. He has redefined “absolute proof” in order to claim he has it, when by the standards of others he has nothing of the sort.

I Think We’re Good on Near Death Experiences Now, Thanks

Question from Kamil:
Question about Howard Storm: some reasons not to believe, but other reasons it may be true.

1) he is supposedly dead, and in spirit form, yet he has nerves and can feel the cold floor or his hands making fists.

2) his experience takes place in the hospital room and the rest is in the hallway of the hospital. It is just a long dark road. He probably didn’t pay attention to how the hospital looked, so his brain had to fill in the gaps of the way it looked.

3) the demons mock his hospital gown. Why would his “soul” be wearing his hospital clothes?

4) These shadow looking demons are attacking him. Anyone could interpret this as anything. However, Storm assumes he is in hell, therefore he thinks of Jesus, and this makes his experience automatically religious.

The only things I don’t get are:

1) How could his experience be so detailed?
2) he talks about having infinite knowledge, and says everyone’s NDE is different to suit them and their beliefs.
3) He asks detailed questions about the USA economy and future wars and gets answers
4) he sees 80 new primary colours

Usually, I find accounts so detailed like this could be fabrications because the more detailed it is, the less likely it seems to be true. However, in this case, I think he seems genuine. I don’t think he lied about his whole experience. He did become a church reverend. It’s just that his account was so detailed. Is it possible he really believes he had the experience, but that he added stuff to it later to make his story more convincing? I just wonder, maybe he believes he saw demons, Jesus and all, but maybe he added bits about his detailed questions and answers?

Also, what do you think are the odds his story was real?

Answer by SmartLX:
Straight to your “don’t get” list:

1) The detail is unverifiable, in both the sense that we have only his word how detailed it was and the sense that the details themselves cannot be verified. Lots of people can write a detailed story. They’re called writers.
2) This flies in the face of the argument several people have brought here, that NDEs are more believable because they’re consistent. Regardless, it’s an explanation of a fact he would have known beforehand, namely that people’s NDEs do not always line up.
3) He gets answers, but how many have proved correct? If any have, what were the chances? Did he tell the story after any predictions came true, giving him the chance to retcon the predictions? My piece on prophecies may help you analyse this aspect of the story.
4) Another unverifiable claim. Think about this: if you hadn’t been taught as a child which were the primary colours, how would you determine it? How would you recognise a fourth colour as another primary if it showed up?

The event occurred in 1985, so even if it was a complete fabrication to begin with he might believe a lot of it now. I doubt it was a complete fabrication, so a kernel of belief formed in an extremely vulnerable moment can grow and extend to all kinds of ideas. The strength of his belief has many potential sources besides truth, so be careful about letting it inspire belief in you.

NDEs: When Hell Gets Repetitive

Question from Alexia:
Hellish NDE consistency, potential proof:

Here is Timothy LaFond’s depiction of hell after he was electrocuted and had a near death experience: “Besides the screaming of other people in torment, there were also demons. Yes, there really are demons! I could see their grotesque faces. They came up to me and taunted me with indescribable horror and fear — yelling in my face with such intense volume; things like: “We’ve got you now!” Laughing and sneering at me saying, “We fooled you! We got you now!” … followed by hideous, evil laughter. ” “I somehow managed to cry out to God during this time, pleading, “Oh God – help me!” Again, “God – help me!” “He heard my plea. The right hand of the Lord touched me. I felt His fingers and thumb on my shoulder and He pulled me out of hell. He set me free from not only from the torments of hell,”
[URL removed]

Now this testimony by Joe Hadwin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn-PKUPYCg4&t=1002s

also sees demons who say “I’ve got you now” 9:10 in the video

14:06 he cries out to God, and his hand comes and saves him.

These are only 2 of many similar cases. Evil demons mocking people, beating them up, then they call out to God and a hand rescues them, how is this similarity so possible? How can so many people hallucinate this? They also claim to speak telepathically to God always.
Doesn’t this prove hell somewhat?

Answer by SmartLX:
Sorry Alexia, the first link to Timothy LaFond’s testimony threw up malware red flags so I won’t share it. Folks can find it by putting “precious testimonies timothy lafond” into Google without quotes, at their own risk.

It seems that your only argument for the reality of Hell is the similarity between accounts. As I’ve written before, this is not a strong argument because of the other possible reasons for it:

“One, the standard NDE story is by now traditional and very well-known. If someone who’s at least familiar with it has an ordinary dream or hallucination during a life-threatening situation, it is likely to follow the same pattern as it’s what the victim expects on some level. If there is no memory or a fragmented memory of the period, the existence of this very specific expectation for the experience can shape a memory over time until it fits very well. And if someone just makes up an NDE story, they will deliberately follow the pattern to match the expectation of their audience.

“Two, people going through the physical and mental states associated with near or temporary “death” are likely to have similar physiological reasons to experience certain things, even if they’re not fully understood. The white light in the distance, for instance, is consistent with temporary tunnel vision caused by lack of blood or oxygen to the eyes, growing brighter when the supply returns. Scientific American went into this six years ago.”

Search this site for the keyword “nde”. There have been a flood of questions lately, so there’s a lot to read on the topic. I think you’ll find it informative as a whole.

From Hollywood to Hell: “I was on my knees and I was like, ‘God’, I was like…”

Question from Vlad:
I am currently battling with my fear of evil spirits/demonic beings, when I came across this video. It is about a former Victoria secret model who lived in LA, was into hanging out with the wrong crowds, non religious etc. One day, she experiences an episode.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jImC9ixn_70&t=436s

It’s only 7:05 to 13:00.

I just really want some opinions of atheists, this video has given me problems sleeping, because it seems so genuine, and I don’t think the girl is lying. She doesn’t mention any drugs, so it seems nothing could have caused her to have this episode. Please please please leave me your opinions, I need this!

Answer by SmartLX:
Sorry it took so long to get to this in the circumstances, Vlad.

I wouldn’t guarantee she’s not lying, even after she says all those times that she’s not (seriously though, the direct segue into the hard sell for her book doesn’t help her case), but I’m willing to accept that she might believe what she says. The important thing to remember is that people who aren’t lying aren’t necessarily right either.

The woman had a whopper of what you rightly call “an episode”. (The additional word “psychotic” comes to mind, though it may or may not apply.) Others thought so at the time, because she was eventually admitted to hospital, passed out and woke up on a white bed. We hear nothing about what the doctors told her about her physical or mental condition, what drugs she was on and what any drugs were for, etc. (Particularly important point: she doesn’t deny the influence of drugs, she just doesn’t mention them.) All this and it was also nine years ago, which is time enough to convince oneself that just about anything was real, especially if one’s faculties at the time were impaired.

This was, no one would argue, a well-rehearsed story if nothing else. Whatever impact it’s meant to have, it’s been refined to hit that mark squarely, and from what you wrote it sounds like it has. A story about going to Hell while possessed by a demon is going to trigger your imagination to conjure the worst possible images you can of these things, using your own brain against itself. Immerse yourself in something else before considering this again; you cannot reclaim your objectivity while you’re in the depths of this thing. Just try to climb out for a while.

Fátima again… (Fátimagain?)

Question from Jacob:
Hey. So I am gonna ask about Fatima again. Yes I know I talked about it In detail before but I haven’t talked about the 3rd secret much. I previously mentioned that Pope John Paul’s assassination attempt happened on the Fatima anniversary. Apparently on the same hour as well, what is the chance for that? I believe that the pope fulfilled the lady’s task for Russia in 1984 and 7 years later the Soviet union collapsed. I should probably also mention that Putin strongly favours the orthodox church that is also devoted to Mary.

Answer by SmartLX:
The assassination attempt was on the exact Fátima anniversary because the would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca was obsessed with Fátima. This was obvious to those who saw him in prison afterwards, and at the trial where he appealed to the Vatican to release more information about it. The timing was no coincidence, let alone divinely guided coincidence. It was more of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Of course Putin favours the Russian Orthodox Church, the most powerful denomination in Russia. Russia went largely Christian when Communism collapsed, as we’ve discussed, and any political leader who wants to appeal to the faithful will go through the majority church. There’s nothing surprising about this.