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Main Discussion

S

smcder

Guest
I like your chutzpah, but . . . you seem to have more confidence than even Richard Dawkins:

"That you cannot prove God’s nonexistence is accepted and trivial, if only in the sense that we can never absolutely prove the nonexistence of anything. What matters is not whether God is disprovable (he isn’t) but whether his existence is probable” (The God Delusion p. 54).

and I'm not sure about going from the claim that a hypothesis is untestable to a (T)heory is scientifically refutable . . . to your final conclusion . . . at least you need to show your work in between!
 
S

smcder

Guest
maybe I don't, but i feel like i need to emphasize one more time that I am not here to argue for or against the existence of God (I don't think that anything I've posted is predicated on the existence of God or even belief in God - I think maybe folks are seeing certain key words (like maybe "God" and reacting) but rather that I am interested in pursuing the very specific purposes that I have posted above . . . and my response to the last post is it's not good logic or good science - Dawkins is right, God can't be scientifically disproved . . .
 

Derek Wood

Skilled Investigator
Smcder the problem, is it not, that the existence of God and religion sensu lato, has extended beyond the Theory stage into the Law stage. This Law is immune to being overruled. We have created a very unfortunate belief system that has become self-aware. The idea has consumed us and restricts a great deal of the human population from taking retrogressive action and asking the most basic of scientific questions as to whether they can refute or support varying elements of Their Law. Highly unusual!
 
S

smcder

Guest
Hi Derek! I want to understand what you are saying, but I need help with making sense of most of it:

what do you mean by the "Law" in the broad sense (sensu lato)? How does a belief system become self-aware? What idea is it that has consumed us and restricted a great deal (but not all?) of the human population from taking retrogressive action . . . and what retrogressive action, specificially? (. . . and what definition of "retrogressive" are you using?)

from Merriam-Webster

: characterized by retrogression: as

a : going or directed backward

b : declining from a better to a worse state

c : passing from a higher to a lower level of organization<retrogressive evolution>

". . . and asking the most basic of scientific questions as to whether they can refute or support varying elements of Their Law. Highly unusual!"

what most basic of scientific questions ("the existence of God" maybe? and/or something else?) what elements of the law are refuted or supported . . . ? Why is the word "Law" capitalized?

And what specifically are you referring to as highly unusual?

At a guess, you seem to feel some sore of religious oppression, but I'm not sure - and I just think we're pretty much off course here, but if you can relate this to the questions we were looking at earlier in the thread, I will do my best to respond - otherwise, this maybe should be in a separate thread?
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
the medical data wasn't there until it was looked for - it started with a theory of what to look for - but I agree, we probably don't have that yet - we certainly don't have the wherewithal (access to technology, financing and will) to pursue it -but it is inspiring that one man was able to make this happen from a very unpopular position in his field . . . but anyway, to clarify, I'm talking about trying to assess the validity of the subjective experience apart from the objective reality - to go back to the mystics, validating whether or not someone truly had a mystical experience was very important to the Church for many reasons, theological and political - for example it might be used to determine Sainthood . . . even the most cynical of Bishops or Popes didn't want to get hood-winked by a facile tongue . . . so that part of it is a very old problem - i.e. trying to determine if someone was telling the truth when they claimed to have an experience of God (and yes, that's independent of the ability to proof there is a God! ;-)
In the absence of objective evidence for such experiences, there is only one possibility where the validity of the experience can be deemed certain, and that is to be the creator of the experience. So in the case of aliens, the aliens would know with certainty, and in the case of God, assuming that the said God was an objective entity capable of creating such an experience, then only God could be certain. The experiencer however cannot be certain as they may be misled, misinterpreting, or fabricating the experience themselves. Consequently we can't be certain either based only on what they relay to us. The best we can do it to classify, catalog, and study such experiences in the hope that something useful will come out of it.

Interestingly, in one particular version of God, there is a way that God becomes entirely self evident to the believer, can be verified rationally by a third party, and yet the God itself has no say in the matter. Such situations are those in which some particular objectively real thing has been deified. e.g. the Sun. This is why I've been saying it's so important to define what is really meant by the word "God" in the first place. A God is simply something that has been deified, and there are a lot of such things, including objectively real things that meet this criteria. For example for those who believe that the Sun is their God, it is obvious that for such people, their god really exists, and what's more, because we can see it exists, and recognize that it is a God to them, we would have to be willfully ignorant to deny that this particular God exists. This doesn't mean we're obliged to pledge allegiance to it. But to deny that their God exists is as supportable as denying the Queen of England exists. It is surprising how many people don't get this or skip over it altogether.

On the issue of mystical experiences. I've had a few, including one experience where I believed at the time that I had been in the presence of God. So I might be somewhat more qualified to comment on the idea you're presenting in the context of a mystical experience. I usually refer to this experience as an archetypal religious experience because it manifested itself in a manner consistent with the modus operandi found in the mythology. I don't bring it up very often, but in this instance it's fitting for the topic. Having been in that situation, at the time, I had no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I was in the presence of what some people have called God. Indeed, I went on for some time believing that there is a God, not necessarily the same character in all the biblical lore that has been interpreted as God, but the kind of God that is associated with omnipresence and undeniable love.

The experience was the singly most incredible thing I've experienced in my entire life. I don't talk a lot about it because I can't prove any of it. I wasn't given any super powers, nor was I told to go forth and spread the word to four corners of the Earth. Had I not come to realize what the word God really means, I'd still say I believe in God. Ironically, it was also this very experience that led me to my present place on the path toward what ever truths are waiting down the road. So my personal opinion is that mystical experiences do take place to perfectly normal people who are in certain situations and there are some common features. But is there any particular facet of these experiences that acts like an unmistakable marker of truth? I don't see how that's possible. Anyone could make up a story similar to mine and I wouldn't be able to tell if they were fabricating it or telling the truth.
 
S

smcder

Guest
ufology - if you understand this (I'm new to the forum and maybe it's from something I haven't seen yet . . . ) please help me out!
 

Derek Wood

Skilled Investigator
Hi Derek! I want to understand what you are saying, but I need help with making sense of most of it:

what do you mean by the "Law" in the broad sense (sensu lato)? How does a belief system become self-aware? What idea is it that has consumed us and restricted a great deal (but not all?) of the human population from taking retrogressive action . . . and what retrogressive action, specificially? (. . . and what definition of "retrogressive" are you using?)

from Merriam-Webster

: characterized by retrogression: as

a : going or directed backward

b : declining from a better to a worse state

c : passing from a higher to a lower level of organization<retrogressive evolution>

". . . and asking the most basic of scientific questions as to whether they can refute or support varying elements of Their Law. Highly unusual!"

what most basic of scientific questions ("the existence of God" maybe? and/or something else?) what elements of the law are refuted or supported . . . ? Why is the word "Law" capitalized?

And what specifically are you referring to as highly unusual?

At a guess, you seem to feel some sore of religious oppression, but I'm not sure - and I just think we're pretty much off course here, but if you can relate this to the questions we were looking at earlier in the thread, I will do my best to respond - otherwise, this maybe should be in a separate thread?

A scientific theory is sometimes granted the security of near certainty: ie a law. Eg The Law of Gravity. Religion as an idea to explain on the simple level, human origins, has bypassed all forms of formal objective testing and has become a law. A social law.
Sensu lato means "in the broadest sense".
Retrogressive, sorry meant retrospective.

A belief system becoming self aware: a figure of speach. An artificial construct (religion) becoming more powerful than the rational mind that created it, and preventing not only common sense free thinking approaches but also scientific testing of the premises in built into the assumptions on which the religion is based.
 
S

smcder

Guest
"In the absence of objective evidence for such experiences, there is only one possibility where the validity of the experience can be deemed certain, and that is to be the creator of the experience. So in the case of aliens, the aliens would know with certainty, and in the case of God, assuming that the said God was an objective entity capable of creating such an experience, then only God could be certain. The experiencer however cannot be certain as they may be misled, misinterpreting, or fabricating the experience themselves. Consequently we can't be certain either based only on what they relay to us. The best we can do it to classify, catalog, and study such experiences in the hope that something useful will come out of it."
Exactly! - God only knows! ;-) (note: I am using the phrase in a humorous fashion, don't read more into it folks! :)

"Interestingly, in one particular version of God, there is a way that God becomes entirely self evident to the believer, can be verified rationally by a third party, and yet the God itself has no say in the matter. Such situations are those in which some particular objectively real thing has been deified. e.g. the Sun. This is why I've been saying it's so important to define what is really meant by the word "God" in the first place. A God is simply something that has been deified, and there are a lot of such things, including objectively real things that meet this criteria. For example for those who believe that the Sun is their God, it is obvious that for such people, their god really exists, and what's more, because we can see it exists, and recognize that it is a God to them, we would have to be willfully ignorant to deny that this particular God exists. This doesn't mean we're obliged to pledge allegiance to it. But to deny that their God exists is as supportable as denying the Queen of England exists. It is surprising how many people don't get this or skip over it altogether."
wait . . . but you do deny the deification of it, right? So all you are doing is acknowledging the existence of the (non-deific) (S)sun . . . right? Which amounts to denying the existence of their God . . . (at least in practical terms for the Aztecs (didn't they worship the Sun? Either one would have gotten you sacrificed!

But I don't think your going to get this kind of definition of God in Plantinga's case and I kind of think you know that . . . ;-) and I'm not seeing how the exact definition of God is that important to using his logic for other purposes . . . I like your above points very much and that's what we're trying to sort out: what kind of validation can we provide for these experiences and does it even amount to anything . . . ? My point about defining Plantinga's God (the orthodox Protestant God) is that it is as well defined as any deity by the Christian literature - and I don't know how to add to that (nor do I feel compelled to) and I do recognize it's unsatisfactory - but remember, there is also a personal element for Plantinga, to him God is a person with whom he has a relationship - so I don't think you're going to get the definition you're looking for . . . but again, I don't think his logic hinges on the definition either and he as much as says so by saying he doesn't even have to provide reasons for belief in God . . . (and you may be forgetting the centrality of "belief" in Christianity - it is, for many theologians, more or less the point of the faith that the existence of God can't be proven) - his claim is that such belief is "properly warranted"
 
S

smcder

Guest
A few questions:

"So I might be somewhat more qualified to comment on the idea you're presenting in the context of a mystical experience."

- "more qualified" than who?

"Had I not come to realize what the word God really means, I'd still say I believe in God"
What does the word "God" really mean?

"Anyone could make up a story similar to mine and I wouldn't be able to tell if they were fabricating it or telling the truth simply from the words."
Can you? That's my question here . . . would a deep analysis of the words be able to tell a made experience from a real "experience" (I mean subjectively real . . . and yes, I realize that statement is the source of a lot of our problems here! But they are our problems - I'm struggling with you on this . . . !
 
S

smcder

Guest
A scientific theory is sometimes granted the security of near certainty: ie a law. Eg The Law of Gravity. Religion as an idea to explain on the simple level, human origins, has bypassed all forms of formal objective testing and has become a law. A social law.
Sensu lato means "in the broadest sense".
Retrogressive, sorry meant retrospective.

A belief system becoming self aware: a figure of speach. An artificial construct (religion) becoming more powerful than the rational mind that created it, and preventing not only common sense free thinking approaches but also scientific testing of the premises in built into the assumptions on which the religion is based.
Yes sir - I know what sensu lato means (and sensu stricto and sensu amplo (which, by the way, is how I like to take things . . . nice and easy! :)

So the rational mind created religion? If even the human mind sensu lato created religion how is it an artificial construct? Would it not be a natural construct?And I see lots of questioning of the assumptions of religion - Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris are often referred to as "The Four Horsemen" (of the New Atheism) - you may want to look into their works - or you could go back a bit and look at Bertrand Russell (Why I Am Not a Christian) I think that text is on the internet . . . or maybe Katherine Hepburn . . . Alan Turing . . . Warren Buffet . . . Bruce Lee . . . (I'm trying not to pick only scientists) or we can go back to Democritus, Epicurus, as far back as you want there is a rich history for atheism, if it is your belief, you are in good company! I don't buy that atheists are everywhere an oppressed minority (if that is what you are saying) speak up! (if you feel it is safe for you to do so) - free your own mind!

P.S. if you aren't familiar with the works of Robert Anton Wilson - check him out too . . .

Peace my friend!
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
A few questions:

"So I might be somewhat more qualified to comment on the idea you're presenting in the context of a mystical experience."

- "more qualified" than who?
Allow me to explain. Assuming that there is some facet of a genuine experience that can be recognized by those who inquire, logic suggests that the only way to acquire knowledge of such a facet is for someone to first have such an experience. If someone has such an experience and can find no evidence to support that claim, then we can conclude that someone can have such an experience and not have any way to prove it was real to anyone else.

So having had such an experience myself, I can say that based on my experience there was nothing about it that cannot be retold by anyone else who wants to tell a similar but untrue story. Consequently, compared to someone who has never had such an experience to make such a comparison, I can say I'm more qualified than they are to assess the truthfulness of that claim ( that there is some facet of a genuine experience that can be used to identify the truth of it ). Perhaps in some other cases there is some thing or another that can be used, but because it isn't a part of every experience, it cannot be relied on as a means for judging every claim.
"Had I not come to realize what the word God really means, I'd still say I believe in God"
What does the word "God" really mean?
The word "God" is a title ( noun ) used to designate the figurehead of a monotheistic religious belief systems, or any number of deities in polytheistic religious belief systems. So the word "God" is a title, like King or Queen, and indeed is frequently referred to as a King or owner of the people. Consequently there are criteria which any God must meet before being crowned, and the first is to be deified. Therefore a god is only something that has been successfully deified. Because of this, whether or not there is any universe creator or entity that went before the tribes in a pillar of fire by night and an pillar of fire by day is all irrelevant. Even if such entities do exist, does not make them Gods to those who have not devoted themselves to them in a religious manner. Ultimately then, a God is only a God so long as there are devotees who see it as such. Take away that belief, and it becomes just another entity. The Sun god becomes a star, the Christian God, assuming it exists independently of mind, and did go before the tribes in pillar of fire, becomes just another entity that was not comprehended as such by the people of the day.
"Anyone could make up a story similar to mine and I wouldn't be able to tell if they were fabricating it or telling the truth simply from the words."
Can you? That's my question here . . . would a deep analysis of the words be able to tell a made experience from a real "experience" (I mean subjectively real . . . and yes, I realize that statement is the source of a lot of our problems here! But they are our problems - I'm struggling with you on this . . . !
I think I've covered that above. Perhaps there is some facet of mystical experience that you and I don't know about that would allow us to tell a fabrication from the truth in some cases, but given my experience, I have sufficient reason to believe that certainly does not apply to all cases. Furthermore, I would say that if this criterion that can be described in words, then logically anyone capable of language can combine those words to make a similar claim, and therefore we simply cannot know without some sort of objective and verifiable evidence if the claims of others are or are not true.
 
S

smcder

Guest
The first part of your reply is discussed in Huxley's book: "The Perennial Philosophy" (I've got to find that book!). Ok on your definition of a god as anything that has been deified by humans - I thought you were looking for an objective definition: what qualities a being would have to have to be a "God"? (omniscience, omnipotence, had created at least one well order reality or spawned at least three independent cosmic systems with mathematical distinct physical constants . . . etc) -

Consequently there are criteria which any God must meet before being crowned, and the first is to be deified.

- what criteria must a god meet to be deified? or can anything be deified?

"Furthermore, I would say that if this criterion that can be described in words, then logically anyone capable of language can combine those words to make a similar claim, and therefore we simply cannot know without some sort of objective and verifiable evidence if the claims of others are or are not true." - agreed, but could someone write in such a way as to convince a computer that he or she was Shakespeare or could someone defeat a "lie scale" - on a personality test (say the MMPI) - if not, we still have something here to work with . . .
 
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S

smcder

Guest
On the issue of mystical experiences. I've had a few, including one experience where I believed at the time that I had been in the presence of God.

So you are no longer claiming to have had a mystical experience, correct?

Underhill defines mysticism as:

"Mysticism, according to its historical and psychological definitions, is the direct intuition or experience of God; and a mystic is a person who has, to a greater or lesser degree, such a direct experience—one whose religion and life are centred not merely on an accepted belief or practice, but on that which he regards as first-hand personal knowledge (E. Underhill, The Mystics of the Church)."
but what you are calling here a mystical experience was not, you now believe, an experience of being in the presence of a deity, higher power, higher intelligence or anything supernatural . . . so what do you now call this experience - what do you think happened to you?

So I might be somewhat more qualified to comment on the idea you're presenting in the context of a mystical experience. I usually refer to this experience as an archetypal religious experience because it manifested itself in a manner consistent with the modus operandi found in the mythology.

can you define archetypal as you use it here? The way Jung talks about archetypes (and I'm not sure I have ever fully grasped Jung's idea of archetypes) or something wired into the brain as either an epiphenomena or having some evolutionary purpose . . . or something else? What do you mean by the modus operandi found in the mythology? I'm just not familiar with these terms as you are using them here -

I don't bring it up very often, but in this instance it's fitting for the topic. Having been in that situation, at the time, I had no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I was in the presence of what some people have called God. Indeed, I went on for some time believing that there is a God, not necessarily the same character in all the biblical lore that has been interpreted as God, but the kind of God that is associated with omnipresence and undeniable love.
-so your definition of God at that time was a being/entity/force/essence that was omnipresent and consisted of undeniable love? And do you still believe in that definition of God or that you experienced some kind of being or force like that, but it's not God? And if not, what do you now believe it is/was?

The experience was the singly most incredible thing I've experienced in my entire life. I don't talk a lot about it because I can't prove any of it.

it sounds incredibly beautiful and not being able to prove it hasn't stopped anyone else from talking about these experiences! :) I'm really glad you shared this!

I wasn't given any super powers, nor was I told to go forth and spread the word to four corners of the Earth. Had I not come to realize what the word God really means, I'd still say I believe in God.

So you stopped believing in what you did believe in (omnipresent and undeniable love) directly because you found a new definition for the word God? This part is probably the most confusing to me . . .

Ironically, it was also this very experience that led me to my present place on the path toward what ever truths are waiting down the road. So my personal opinion is that mystical experiences do take place to perfectly normal people who are in certain situations and there are some common features. But is there any particular facet of these experiences that acts like an unmistakable marker of truth? I don't see how that's possible. Anyone could make up a story similar to mine and I wouldn't be able to tell if they were fabricating it or telling the truth.
What kind of "truth" then do you feel your experience had? It's not an experience you could prove or convey to someone else or be sure if someone described something similar that they had the same experience (on the other hand, if we talked about what's it like to be "in love" - would you feel confident by the way I talked that I had actually had the same or very similar experience that you did? If you were talking to a person that you were currently in love with would you be more certain they were experiencing the same thing or not?)

I hope I don't come across as nit-picky, but what you may take for granted in describing your own experience is very difficult to grasp from the outside (but I don't at all feel you are making this up!) - and I want to understand it - because the argument you have is that you had an experience that you attributed to God - (you had a belief in God directly because of this experience?) but then you had other experiences, including a new meaning for the word God or the true meaning of the word God and now you no longer believe in . . . what? So, that disbelief came from the other experiences but not from the earlier mystical experience, the direct effect of which was to bring you belief in some kind of "God"? is that at all correct? or am I hopelessly muddled??
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
The first part of your reply is discussed in Huxley's book: "The Perennial Philosophy" (I've got to find that book!). Ok on your definition of a god as anything that has been deified by humans - I thought you were looking for an objective definition: what qualities a being would have to have to be a "God"? (omniscience, omnipotence, had created at least one well order reality or spawned at least three independent cosmic systems with mathematical distinct physical constants . . . etc)
I don't think we can be fair by doing anything other than identifying what the word "God" means at it's most fundamental level before moving on to the consequential issues. Otherwise we're skipping the foundation of what we're talking about and that leaves everything afterward open to incoherency. Issues like, "omniscience, omnipotence, the ability to create at least one well order reality or spawn at least three independent cosmic systems with mathematical distinct physical constants, etc." are criteria by which some people would grant a being the title of God. For others however, such criteria are insufficient because they are no more than a show of power. Where is the goodness as opposed to the evil? You see, deification is a personal choice for the believer, and not something any being can simply claim. It is likewise with respect. True respect is earned, not demanded under threat of punishment for failing to kneel.
"Furthermore, I would say that if this criterion that can be described in words, then logically anyone capable of language can combine those words to make a similar claim, and therefore we simply cannot know without some sort of objective and verifiable evidence if the claims of others are or are not true." - agreed, but could someone write in such a way as to convince a computer that he or she was Shakespeare or could someone defeat a "lie scale" - on a personality test (say the MMPI) - if not, we still have something here to work with . . .
Again, we actually have a real baseline to work with when it comes to humans and any comparisons we might want to make. Not so with a lot of mystical phenomena. The closest we can get is determine whether or not the claim is internally consistent and then compare it to other similar claims for consistency with those.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
On the issue of mystical experiences. I've had a few, including one experience where I believed at the time that I had been in the presence of God.
So you are no longer claiming to have had a mystical experience, correct?
My experience was mystical, but I no longer believe it represented communication with God, though I'm sure that if had been someone else, and another type of conversation, that they would not have changed their view on that.
Underhill defines mysticism as:

"Mysticism, according to its historical and psychological definitions, is the direct intuition or experience of God; and a mystic is a person who has, to a greater or lesser degree, such a direct experience—one whose religion and life are centred not merely on an accepted belief or practice, but on that which he regards as first-hand personal knowledge (E. Underhill, The Mystics of the Church)."
but what you are calling here a mystical experience was not, you now believe, an experience of being in the presence of a deity, higher power, higher intelligence or anything supernatural . . . so what do you now call this experience - what do you think happened to you?
I was in the presence of what I believed at the time was a deity. I don't feel that way now. I don't know that it was of a "higher power" but it was seemingly able to do things beyond what we would consider normal. I don't know if it was more intelligent, but it did seem to exude truth within the parameters that I could understand.
So I might be somewhat more qualified to comment on the idea you're presenting in the context of a mystical experience. I usually refer to this experience as an archetypal religious experience because it manifested itself in a manner consistent with the modus operandi found in the mythology.

can you define archetypal as you use it here? The way Jung talks about archetypes (and I'm not sure I have ever fully grasped Jung's idea of archetypes) or something wired into the brain as either an epiphenomena or having some evolutionary purpose . . . or something else? What do you mean by the modus operandi found in the mythology? I'm just not familiar with these terms as you are using them here -
By archetypal I'm referring less to Jung ( those damned Jungians! ), and more to the typical dictionary version that means "typical of its kind" and to a "constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting or mythology" that may have Jungian overtones, without being specific to any particular Jungian archetype. By modus operandi, I mean a way of doing things that is associated with a particular person or thing.
I don't bring it up very often, but in this instance it's fitting for the topic. Having been in that situation, at the time, I had no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I was in the presence of what some people have called God. Indeed, I went on for some time believing that there is a God, not necessarily the same character in all the biblical lore that has been interpreted as God, but the kind of God that is associated with omnipresence and undeniable love.
-so your definition of God at that time was a being/entity/force/essence that was omnipresent and consisted of undeniable love? And do you still believe in that definition of God or that you experienced some kind of being or force like that, but it's not God? And if not, what do you now believe it is/was?
The definition of God is as I've already stated. If I were to choose to devote myself to a being as a deity, that experience was very powerful and seems to me a whole lot more worthy than a number of other candidates, including the main character in biblical mythology. Though I would think that if a person of that faith were to have an experience like mine they would have simply assumed they were in the presence of the same thing. What do I believe it was now? I don't know. I'd like to know more. I wish it would happen again so that I could do some catching up and get some more answers.
The experience was the singly most incredible thing I've experienced in my entire life. I don't talk a lot about it because I can't prove any of it.

it sounds incredibly beautiful and not being able to prove it hasn't stopped anyone else from talking about these experiences! :) I'm really glad you shared this!

I wasn't given any super powers, nor was I told to go forth and spread the word to four corners of the Earth. Had I not come to realize what the word God really means, I'd still say I believe in God.

So you stopped believing in what you did believe in (omnipresent and undeniable love) directly because you found a new definition for the word God? This part is probably the most confusing to me . . .
I still believe I experienced undeniable love and witnessed a kind of omnipresence, but let me elaborate here a bit. This omnipresence wasn't the kind that is everywhere in the universe in a general sense, like also on Mars and the next galaxy over simultaneously. Rather it seemed to permeate the area I was in as though was inside and outside everything at once. So one might say "everywhere" all at once, but within a defined range that seemed to be everything within my immediate range of perception. This wasn't very far because I was in a mountainous area outside in a forest. So if primitive people experienced this they would no doubt think something similar because it was everywhere to them ( in their subjective experience ). What I don't think is that whatever it was, was God ( for me personally ), though a friend of mine once said that it reminded him of what the indigenous people ( first nations ), called Manitou.
Ironically, it was also this very experience that led me to my present place on the path toward what ever truths are waiting down the road. So my personal opinion is that mystical experiences do take place to perfectly normal people who are in certain situations and there are some common features. But is there any particular facet of these experiences that acts like an unmistakable marker of truth? I don't see how that's possible. Anyone could make up a story similar to mine and I wouldn't be able to tell if they were fabricating it or telling the truth.
What kind of "truth" then do you feel your experience had? It's not an experience you could prove or convey to someone else or be sure if someone described something similar that they had the same experience (on the other hand, if we talked about what's it like to be "in love" - would you feel confident by the way I talked that I had actually had the same or very similar experience that you did? If you were talking to a person that you were currently in love with would you be more certain they were experiencing the same thing or not?)
The truth of my experience as I describe it is true to the best of my ability to describe it. What exactly it was I'm not certain. Perhaps it was some sort of alien mind to mind interface. Perhaps I spontaneously hallucinated the whole thing, however I've never heard of such a thing happening to a normal person. Perhaps somebody slipped something into my breakfast juice? Nobody else on the crew experienced anything unusual that day. I don't know the exact cause behind the perceptions. So I don't make any specific claims other than to having had the experience.
I hope I don't come across as nit-picky, but what you may take for granted in describing your own experience is very difficult to grasp from the outside (but I don't at all feel you are making this up!) - and I want to understand it - because the argument you have is that you had an experience that you attributed to God - (you had a belief in God directly because of this experience?) but then you had other experiences, including a new meaning for the word God or the true meaning of the word God and now you no longer believe in . . . what? So, that disbelief came from the other experiences but not from the earlier mystical experience, the direct effect of which was to bring you belief in some kind of "God"? is that at all correct? or am I hopelessly muddled??
You're not really muddled at all. I take it for granted that because I've got it sorted out ( in my own mind ) and it seems so simple to me now, that it should be easy for everyone else. Then I remember how hopelessly muddled I once was too. Once you get it you'll wonder why it took so long. I'll try to clarify by returning to the idea that the word God is a noun ( a title ). It designates a position, usually of some significant rank within a religious hierarchy according to the belief system associated with it. So it's like the word "King" or "President", and like there are more than one King or President in the world, there are also lots of Gods. The positions are held by various people or entities that have names.

So for example, the Biblical God's name is Jehova or Yahweh or something along those lines, and just like people of free will can choose to devote themselves to a particular King and country, they can also choose to devote themselves to any particular religious personage that holds the title of God. But there's also another option. One can also reserve judgement and remain a free agent until they identify which candidates for deification are truly worthy of the title. In this mode one might encounter any number of candidates, some more worthy than others, Therefore the experience of encountering the candidates doesn't automatically mean they get your vote. Whether the candidate for deification is a statue carved from obsidian in the shape of a falcon, or a universe maker, neither are your deities until you say so.

So in this particular state of affairs, all kinds of seemingly supernatural beings might exist, and one might even have an encounter with one ( such as what happened to me ), but unless people choose to deify them and worship them as Gods, they're simply universe makers, or storm bringers, or ground shakers, or whatever else they are. In the end therefore, a God cannot exist without someone to deify it or him or her. It is entirely dependent on the belief that some chosen thing is worthy of the title. After this it gets a bit more complex in that we have a bunch of competing candidates and their devotees doing a lot of squabbling in a sort of "My God is better than your God" fashion.
 
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smcder

Guest
Thank you for for answering and explaining your experience and thoughts about it in detail . . . very, very interesting!
 
S

smcder

Guest
At the top of the thread you ask:

"So the real question then becomes, how do we tell whether or not God exists? "

But does this question: "how do tell whether or not God exists?" make any sense - based on your definition of a God being anything that is deified? Anything that is deified is a God, so God exists. Also, can anything be deified? Or does it have to have certain qualities?

Whether the candidate for deification is a statue carved from obsidian in the shape of a falcon, or a universe maker, neither are your deities until you say so.

But can you literally deify a statue or is that making a fetish of it and it's not the statue, the piece of rock that is deified - but it stands in for something else that has certain deifiable qualities . . . ?

And . . . how is this definition related to free will? Lots of questions there - but to start with: what if a deity, a universe maker or ground shaker (I love that phrase!, makes me sing Pat Benatar in my head: Your a ground-shaker, love-taker . . . lol) could compel worship, didn't rely on the free will of the worshipper . . . or, what if a being engendered such a tremendous sense of awe by its presence . . . well, you see were all of that could go . . . so, I think it's a very interesting definition but there are problems still.

I was in the presence of what I believed at the time was a deity. I don't feel that way now. I don't know that it was of a "higher power" but it was seemingly able to do things beyond what we would consider normal. I don't know if it was more intelligent, but it did seem to exude truth within the parameters that I could understand.
Fascintating . . . so, do you now believe that this was something "outside" of yourself?
 
S

smcder

Guest
" Rather it seemed to permeate the area I was in as though was inside and outside everything at once. So one might say "everywhere" all at once, but within a defined range that seemed to be everything within my immediate range of perception. This wasn't very far because I was in a mountainous area outside in a forest. "

a strong geo-magnetic force?
 
S

smcder

Guest
"Furthermore, I would say that if this criterion that can be described in words, then logically anyone capable of language can combine those words to make a similar claim, and therefore we simply cannot know without some sort of objective and verifiable evidence if the claims of others are or are not true." - agreed, but could someone write in such a way as to convince a computer that he or she was Shakespeare or could someone defeat a "lie scale" - on a personality test (say the MMPI) - if not, we still have something here to work with . . .

"Again, we actually have a real baseline to work with when it comes to humans and any comparisons we might want to make. Not so with a lot of mystical phenomena."

I'm not following you here . . . we have a baseline when it comes to humans . . . a baseline of what? human characteristics . . . or experiences? We have lots of reports of mystical experiences and scholarly work analyzing those experiences and even categorizing them according to similar features of experiences . . . and of specific things persons can do to increase the chances of having a mystical experience (here, I guess I'm thinking more of practices or focusing on internal states or ideas . . . meditation) - so I'm not sure what other baselines we could expect to have (objectively) for mystical experiences . . . now, personality tests are normed and validated across the general population, but we have surveys and other instruments about mystical experiences and could construct better ones (well, someone probably could) - so we could get that baseline . . . or are you saying that mystical experience is a different sort of thing and not subject to quantification - is not merely a human subjective experience?

"The closest we can get is determine whether or not the claim is internally consistent and then compare it to other similar claims for consistency with those."

But I think that's doing a lot!
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
At the top of the thread you ask:

"So the real question then becomes, how do we tell whether or not God exists? "

But does this question: "how do tell whether or not God exists?" make any sense - based on your definition of a God being anything that is deified? Anything that is deified is a God, so God exists. Also, can anything be deified? Or does it have to have certain qualities?
That question of how do we tell was posed as rhetorical because we hadn't covered this ground yet. Now that we have, the answers are easier to see. BTW I'd like to point out that the way in which we're looking at what it means to be a God here is not based on something I invented personally. The word "God" is a noun ( title ) in virtually every dictionary you'll look it up in, and the word "deify", means to make somebody or something into a God in virtually every dictionary you'll look it up in. So it's not simply an opinion. It's based on impartial objective sources. Where people get bogged down is when they already believe in a particular God, then so far as they're concerned, their God is the only so called "true God".
Whether the candidate for deification is a statue carved from obsidian in the shape of a falcon, or a universe maker, neither are your deities until you say so.

But can you literally deify a statue or is that making a fetish of it and it's not the statue, the piece of rock that is deified - but it stands in for something else that has certain deifiable qualities . . . ?
Anything can be deified. It's all in the perspective of the believer. In our example of the Sun, it's just a giant ball of plasma, yet it has been worshipped as a God ( see Solar Deities in Wikipedia ). In the case of ufology we have Claude Vorhillon ( a.k.a. Raël ) who is the figurehead of the Raëlian Movement, a recognized religion in Canada with chapters in countries around the world.
And . . . how is this definition related to free will? Lots of questions there - but to start with: what if a deity, a universe maker or ground shaker (I love that phrase!, makes me sing Pat Benatar in my head: Your a ground-shaker, love-taker . . . lol) could compel worship, didn't rely on the free will of the worshipper . . . or, what if a being engendered such a tremendous sense of awe by its presence . . . well, you see were all of that could go . . . so, I think it's a very interesting definition but there are problems still.
In the event that a being takes possession of the title of God by force, whether that is by some sort of direct mind control, irresistible persuasion, or other means other than by the choice of those who have become devotees, doesn't speak to the truth of the being's Godhood in the minds of the devotees, it speaks to the nature of such a God and its right to hold such a title. So as a third party not yet affected by this God's power, you might recognize that power ≠ goodness and choose not to devote yourself to any God who would seize title by power alone.
I was in the presence of what I believed at the time was a deity. I don't feel that way now. I don't know that it was of a "higher power" but it was seemingly able to do things beyond what we would consider normal. I don't know if it was more intelligent, but it did seem to exude truth within the parameters that I could understand.
Fascintating . . . so, do you now believe that this was something "outside" of yourself?
There are two possible contexts to the question, so I'll answer both possibilities. The first involves the feeling of permeation I mentioned earlier, so in that sense I felt as though whatever it was, was everywhere permeating everything, including me, and therefore "inside" me as well as "outside" me. For example when the voice spoke it seemed to come from all around, like hearing actual sound and receiving it telepathically at the same time. The second is that the experience seemed to involve an external presence that I was immersed in, and not simply something manufactured by my mind, though I suppose that I can't completely rule out that possibility.

BTW, I've talked it over with someone who has a degree in psychology, and I've tried to find historical examples that might explain it. This type of single seemingly random experience doesn't fit any diagnosis for mental illness, or even so-called temporary insanity. There was no high stress impassioned circumstance. It was a beautiful summer morning and I wasn't sad or depressed or angry. I've heard of people accidentally ingesting hallucinogens like rye mold ( Ergot ), but that happened under completely different circumstances in the 1600s.

By comparison I was on a modern Canadian Pacific Railway work crew with an in-house professional chef who kept the kitchen spotless. So the chances of it being accidental are virtually nil. The only other reasonable possibility is that I was deliberately spiked that morning by someone on the crew. But we were stationed out in the middle of Roger's Pass, and I don't know where any of the crew would have gotten LSD from. Was it just some random spontaneous psychological manifestation of the divine? Maybe. But then why me? Why doesn't this happen to people all the time? In the mythology it's quite rare, and I've only heard of one other person in modern times who has had a similar experience ( not in any way induced by drugs or experimental devices ).
 


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