Editor's Note: Tanya Marie (“T.M.”) Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist and the Watkins University professor in the department of anthropology at Stanford University in Stanford, California. She is the author of "When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God."
By T.M. Luhrmann, Special to CNN
(CNN)—In the Bible, God spoke directly to Abraham. He spoke directly to Moses. He spoke directly to Job. But to your neighbor down the street?
Most people reading the ancient scriptures understand these accounts of hearing God’s voice as miracles that really did happen but no longer take place today, or maybe as folkloric flourishes to ancient stories. Even Christians who believe that miracles can be an everyday affair can hesitate when someone tells them they heard God speak audibly. There’s an old joke: When you talk to God, we call it prayer, but when God talks to you, we call it schizophrenia.
Except that usually it’s not.
Hearing a voice when alone, or seeing something no one else can see, is pretty common. At least one in 10 people will say they’ve had such an experience if you ask them bluntly. About four in 10 say they have unusual perceptual experiences between sleep and awareness if you interview them about their sleeping habits.
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And if you ask them in a way that allows them to admit they made a mistake, the rate climbs even higher. By contrast, schizophrenia, the most debilitating of all mental disorders, is pretty rare. Only about one in 100 people can be diagnosed with the disorder.
Moreover, the patterns are quite distinct. People with schizophrenia who hear voices hear them frequently. They often hear them throughout the day, sometimes like a rain of sound, or a relentless hammer. They hear not only sentences, but paragraphs: words upon words upon words. What the voices say is horrid—insults, sneers and contemptuous jibes. “Dirty. You’re dirty.” “Stupid slut.” “You should’ve gone under the bus, not into it.”
That was not what Abraham, Moses and Job experienced, even when God was at his most fierce.
For the last 10 years, I have been doing anthropological and psychological research among experientially oriented evangelicals, the sort of people who seek a personal relationship with God and who expect that God will talk back. For most of them, most of the time, God talks back in a quiet voice they hear inside their minds, or through images that come to mind during prayer. But many of them also reported sensory experiences of God. They say God touched their shoulder, or that he spoke up from the back seat and said, in a way they heard with their ears, that he loved them. Indeed, in 1999, Gallup reported that 23% of all Americans had heard a voice or seen a vision in response to prayer.
These experiences were brief: at the most, a few words or short sentences. They were rare. Those who reported them reported no more than a few of them, if that. These experiences were not distressing, although they were often disconcerting and always startling. On the contrary, these experiences often made people feel more intimate with God, and more deeply loved.
In fact, my research has found that these unusual sensory experiences are more common among those who pray in a way that uses the imagination—for example, when prayer involves talking to God in your mind. The unusual sensory experiences were not, in general, associated with mental illness (we checked).
They were more common among those who felt comfortable getting caught up in their imaginations. They were also more common among those who prayed for longer periods. Prayer involves paying attention to words and images in the mind, and giving them significance. There is something about the skilled practice of paying attention to the mind in this way that shifts—just a little bit—the way we judge what is real.
Yet even many of these Christians, who wanted so badly to have a back-and-forth relationship with God, were a little hesitant to talk about hearing God speak with their ears. For all the biblical examples of hearing God speak audibly, they doubt. Augustine reports that when he was in extremis, sobbing at the foot of that fig tree, he heard a voice say, “Take it and read.” He picked up the scripture and converted. When the Christians I know heard God speak audibly, it often flitted across their minds that they were crazy.
In his new book, "Hallucinations," the noted neurologist Oliver Sacks tells his own story about a hallucinatory experience that changed his life. He took a hearty dose of methamphetamines as a young doctor, and settled down with a 19th century book on migraines. He loved the book, with its detailed observation and its humanity. He wanted more. As he was casting around in his mind for someone who could write more that he could read, a loud internal voice told him “You silly bugger” that it was he. So he began to write. He never took drugs again.
Now, Sacks does not recommend that anyone take drugs like that. He thinks that what he did was dangerous and he thinks he was lucky to have survived.
What interests me, however, is that he allowed himself to trust the voice because the voice was good. There’s a distinction between voices associated with psychiatric illness (often bad) and those (often good) that are found in the so-called normal population. There’s another distinction between those who choose to listen to a voice, if the advice it gives is good, and those who do not. When people like Sacks hear a voice that gives them good advice, the experience can transform them.
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This is important, because often, when voices are discussed in the media or around the kitchen table, the voices are treated unequivocally as symptoms of madness. And of course, voice-hearing is associated with psychiatric illness.
But not all the time. In fact, not most of the time.
About a third of the people I interviewed carefully at the church where I did research reported an unusual sensory experience they associated with God. While they found these experiences startling, they also found them deeply reassuring.
Science cannot tell us whether God generated the voice that Abraham or Augustine heard. But it can tell us that many of these events are normal, part of the fabric of human perception. History tells us that those experiences enable people to choose paths they should choose, but for various reasons they hesitate to choose.
When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sat at his kitchen table, in the winter of 1956, terrified by the fear of what might happen to him and his family during the Montgomery bus boycott, he said he heard the voice of Jesus promising, “I will be with you.” He went forward.
Voices may form part of human suffering. They also may inspire human greatness.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of TM Luhrmann.
The word/concept "God" along with its denotation means to invoke. And it depends upon who one has invoked along with the voice they hear. But it is the connotations of the word and concept "God" that creates the problem for a many. The word "God along with the spiritual-psycho-social image it creates depends upon which of the world religions one claims. This concept "God," is a universal generic which most of the world religions utilized.
The word/concept "God"itself is not the name of a particular deity that's ascribed to many of the world religions. One must understand that the name of one's particular deity worshiped, they do not know the proper name.
Example: Acetaminophen is the generic name of the brand tylenol which several pharmaceutical companies make. But it is not Tylenol. Tylenol is made by whom? And if one understans that then the isuue becomes which is the true "God?"
Therefore, the cure for all of this "concept/God " upheval is for each world religion to utilize the proper name of their deity. And by doing this it will keep humans from killing, murdering and fighting each other. Thus it would be wonderful for all humans on planet earth in this day and age which is to allow the named god of each world religionto fight it out amongst themselves to see which and who or what is "God." It is time for human beings on planet earth stop fighting over such issue and let the gods fight it out. So that humans can love and live with each other in peace and harmony.
I say: Let the battle royal between the gods begin while we humans breakout the popcorn, hotdogs, and hamburgers and enjoy the 3D, high Def Drama along with the awesome sound. And for extra excitement let's throw the devil, demons, Satan and Lucifer into the mix, too. And lets the gods go after the devil, Satan and Lucifer and the demons first.
Have a great day my people and enjoy the battle royal.
Do you have ancestors that held picnics while watching Civil War troops slaughter each other? Sounds girly.
I believe my diety of choice exists, but sometimes I am not sure.
Isn't that always the way of it? Remember the story from the Gospels of the prince of Israel, born with purchased Roman citizeship, a wealthy man, walked off from everything he had to fullfill the 70 week prophesy of Daniel. In the final week even christ experianced seperation from God.
that just what happens when you have a higher or lower deity, the other worlds are sometimes hard t stay in contact with,.. luckily this realm has many deities to,.. i have never once questioned the Amaterasu existence because shes their when i look up, or Danu after all i drink her every day, or Gaia because shes all around us. but in truth their is times when my belief in Athena and Lilith wavers. its just hard for humans to perceive the other realms; it not are fault are senses cannot match the wavelengths, see is how i fell a kindred spirit let me give you some advice, work on your spiritual senses; her is ho
get an apple put it in front of you on the table, then close your eyes and try to in vision the apple in your head, until you can imagine every thing about it; every blush every mis-color every mishap.
Here's a little more practical advice: Consider the reasons why you believe. Consider the source material that convinced you to believe in the first place. If you find these things compelling enough, then continue to believe. If you still have questions, perhaps it's time to really, really think about why you believe what you do. If you are like me, you will realize that your belief was nothing more than cultural habit that was subconsciously ingrained in my from birth.
Yaza- Lilith is a succubus and it is probably in the best interest of your own survival to have some distance. That old screech owl is just another fallen angel before the tree of life, but she is the messenger of death. Also the spirit that comes upon a woman before she kills her lover.
Lilith is a Goddess of passion, and female sovereignty, and exist in the realm of cohabiting relationships. she is an ancient Canaan goddess. much like your Yahweh (a god of Death, War and Justice)
it was Yahweh who gave her a bad name
holy ghost (hatred)
enough of this evil god
oh and before you go one the Samyaza fallen angel thing שמיחזה was original the canaan goddess of Sagittarius; Reason and crafts
I find it hard to put boots-on-the-ground for verses like "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." and NOT come up with a lifestyle that looks a bit more like Jesus' style than I may be comfortable with: "Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.'" So for forty years I have tried it out – never saying "God told me" but leaving room for somebody I call God to speak to me – keeping one ear open to it. Might just be some inner unconscious but most times the thoughts are way too fresh or revealing of something I could not know to have that explanation.
Okay stop this isn't research. Its a personal point of view being backed up with pseudo-science to push a personal agenda. I would rather people leave the subject of God in their own home. When God gets dragged into the public square it seems God is used to justify some rather nasty behaviors in people.
God belongs in the public squarte and in our schools, The Klansman interpretation of "seperation of church and state" legislated from the bench by Chief Justice Black is the opposite of the First Amendment. For as we know from Genesis, the cross burner's god is a burned up stick.
What makes you think that the author is not credible? She is a college professor.
John like the Salem witch Trials......
Dream- The Salem witch trials rely on the same Helenized texts that the NIV are derived from, that I have opposed my entire adult life. The Salem with trials would have burned St. Luke at the stake for being Artemisia.
So you want Christians on some kinda 12 step program like they have for serial killers that haven't been caught yet?
A likelier explanation why miracles stopped happening is that they never happened in the first place. The ppl who "heard" God back in the days were probably nuts too.
BTW I hear voices in my head too, we atheists call it thinking, try it sometimes, it's nice.
Your belief system is just that your belief system. Now if you choose to believe in a tree, a Raspberry Pi, or LabDane mix, knock yourself out. But when your mama die from cancer, behind your wife laying up with the plumber and your child forged your last money, your beliefs will have to sustain you, so choose carefully.
"Hearing" God is ALWAYS crazy, period. Time and again its been disproved whether it was George Bush saying God spoke with him or that preacher that said that God told him the earth was going to end in 2012 ON TWO DIFFERENT DATES! Don't forget God told Pat Robertson that Mitt Romney was going to win. It's all crazy and to treat these nutbags kindly, or gently, or sympathetically is wrong, wrong wrong and just prolongs the agony the rest of us face.
Nothing has been disproved. Lack of evidence for a case does not make the case false. Basic Science.
So you believe in Santa, do you FloydZ? Your reasoning works equally well for belief in his existence. Then again, why waste time believing in something that has no evidence? Of course, if most people in a country believed in Santa, and wanted certain laws in place because of their belief in him, perhaps non-santa believers should speak up? But then again, you'd be right there letting us no that there's no good reason to disbelieve in Santa, right?
Lack of evidence can prove non-existence when one would expect to find evidence and it is not there.
A likelier explanation of why there aren't anymore miracles today is that miracles never happened. Those that claimed to hear God back in the day were probably crazy too.
BTW, I hear voices in my head too, we atheists call it thinking.
That same reason must apply to everybody that buys a lottery ticket – and loses. Winners never existed.
There is a better explanation than craziness. It's that one side of the brain can talk to, and create images for, the other side of the brain, as explained in Julian Jaynes' book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. It's a tremendously intriguing read. People are hearing a part of their own brain, just as real as if it were coming through the ears–and the same goes for visions. Many brains no longer do this, but some do. It explains phenomena like Mohammed and Joseph Smith.
BTW, did the 'voice in your head' tell you that all the non-atheists were all going to laugh at your dumb comment? I'm guessing that 'voice in your head' is coming from that same demon who says 'god is dead'. LOL
In my youth I traveled cross country and slept in some cemeteries for cheap. Dang atheists would always be whistlin' up a storm as they walked by. Now I dare not sleep there because I snore up a storm and the atheists would have the local SWAT goons blastin' in.
Do non-athiests laugh at the concept of thinking? Not terribly clever of them.
We are talking about the Abraham here who heard god tell him that he wanted him to murder his son with a knife, right? And that is so completely different from the kind of things that a schizophrenic with homicidal auditory hallucinations hears how, again?
Note that God told him to stop prior to killing Isaac..
God instructed Abraham to go up into the mountains and prepare an altar and then provided a bullock for the sacrafice.
Uhh...sure!!! However, Jehovah intervened in Abrahams' case for a reason.... now go back and read the scripture to find the answer.
Wis- Abraham had an apocolipse in Issac, as Ba'al requires your first born.
@John P. Tarver
"Wis- Abraham had an apocolipse in Issac, as Ba'al requires your first born."
Dude, first learn how to spell, next:
Are you out of your cotton picking mind? It was Abraham's faith and the covenant Jehovah made with him....which symbolized the sacrifice of Jehovah's only Son (for the salvation of the world). Praise the Lord!!!
Father Abraham had many sons
Many sons had Father Abraham
I am one of them and so are you
So let's all praise the Lord.
you had better enjoy it while it lasts Christians. Another 10 or 20 generations and the human race will look on your God and Jesus the same way as we look on Zeus and Thor and Ra (and santa claus and the tooth fairy) today. What a giggle!
And – as in the rest of History, another belief system will emerge.
Islam then, like Europe.
Do antichrists take a rest or are they being driven because they are short timers?
If people's dieties are fighting. Those people should also be fighting.
God spoke to G.W. Bush, told him to send a bunch of young Americans to Iraq to die. And then rewarded him for it with a big pension, good health care benefits and a better life than most of the vets will get. And before in 1960s God did not tell him to serve in Vietam, nor did God tell him his daughters should have been serving in Iraq.
Nice God (job) if you can get it.
Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.
Dis- It is identical to Jimmy Carter and originates in a work of fiction about an invasion of the middle east. Our nuclear armed F-106 aircraft were nearly deployed to Israel twice at the peak of the book's popularity under ford and then Carter. Inside the Methodist Church there is still a cult of said believers
This is unbelievable. And I can't believe it's a front page news story at CNN. Are they trying to "Normalize" schizophrenia? Do they WANT more Newtown Shootings? Someone should report this to The FBI.
This research area has been active for at least 10 or 15 years and if its shocking to you that's your fault for having your head in the sand at least that long. Most people who hear the occassional voice do not remotely qualify as schizophrenic...plain and simple.
Hep me gubmint. hep me gubmint! Another nutsoism convert.
I'm a Christian, not evangelical, and I remember clearly as a kid being in a very bad situation, falling, and knowing that I was in trouble, and as it was happening a voice directed me what to do to protect myself, I followed the directions, and came out of the situation awed because I knew I couldn't have thought of that myself. There was no hallucinating or daydreaming, but I sure needed help at the time. I think if people are attuned and open they can feel the presence of God in ways that they understand. God doesn't have favorites or a chosen few, but his blessing is for all, and if it's from God it is always good.
Although I personally suspect what you heard wasn't god I also don't think you were crazy. That's really the author's point too.
So many times in my stupid life, I have been directed to turn here, call this one, or ask that question and since my life is a continual flow of human blessings, I choose to believe that voice is my creator wanting nothing but the best for me.
Atheists are as angry and frightened that their faith that God doesn't exists is as weak as the Evangelicals that do think God exists. Boths sides are desperate for everyone else to believe their way – or no way.
They are weak in their on beliefs on both sides.
As long as they burn by their own free will it is fine by me. Spirtual poverty is it's own punnishment.
While I agree that some Atheists fit what you just described, most do not. I speak for myself when I say that I have many Christian friends. I don't agree with their views or beliefs, but I respect their right to worship as they see fit and don't belittle them in any way for doing so. Well, I do have issues with young earthers, even if one of my best friends believes the earth is only 4000 years old.
Like I feel about Chad, I am extremely glad that John Tarver is a christian. Their sick, disgusting beliefs are so much better suited to their god than the atheist's way of thinking. Some christians I would like to see give up their irrational stupidity, but not these two; they deserve it.
John Tarver is not a Christian, he is trolling. See some of his previous posts.
Dan- C-14 dating works to about 16,000 years and this indicates a stable matrix here on Earth for that period of time. There may be a mass extinction barrier at 16,000 years, but the Earth has been through several mass extinctions; referd to as days in the book of Genesis.
your a coward who can't face your own mortality without clinging to fairy tale make believe stories like an infant.
Evidence based logic has no faith component. Faith means to believe in something without evidence.
To believe in anything without evidence would leave one equally believing in the 6ft tall green monster in my closet for which there is no evidencce of existing either.
God is as likely to exist as the 6ft tall green monster in my closet, For a child to believe such nonsense is forgivable, but for an adult to cling to it in such an infantile manner is worthy of derision.
Dan, I won't dispute that. But the primary argument of Atheism for many in America particularly is that God doesn't exist because I said so! Its the same as Evangelicals on the other side. Desperation in their own lack of faith in their belief system. Because indeed, an Atheist must believe that God doesn't exist. There is no proof either way.
If I were to try to be an Agnostic, and say, “I just don’t know if there is a god,” I would feel just as silly as saying “I just don’t know if there is a Tooth Fairy.” It’s not so much that we Atheists have ‘faith’ in the lack of gods, but we do have faith that theists accept fallacies as proof, most likely out of fear. This may be the same reason Agnostics will not profess true Atheism (the fear of being wrong). In the literal sense of trusting in evidence, I’m okay with being a faithful Atheist, but my faith is nowhere near the amount of unjustifiable faith required to believe in magical spirits helping us with daily activities.
Moby, your disgust and derision of other's beliefs that don't align with yours remind me on many Evangelicals. You are just like them.
Floyd, I would disagree that it is the primary argument from Atheists. I adopt the position that many do, we find no credible evidence for the existence of a God. The burden of proof is on the one making the positive claim, and believers have not yet met their burden of proof. If they do, I will change my mind, as would many. But also keep in mind that if the supernatural is proven real, it still doesn't change the fact that holy texts contract themselves and each other hundreds of times over. There is still a long way to go to prove that one particular belief system reflects absolute truth.
You don't need "faith" to not believe god(s) exists anymore than you need "faith" to not believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, unicorns and leprechauns, since faith is by definition believing in something without evidence. There are unlimited number of things every person doesn't believe in because there isn't enough evidence to convince them, however, because of wish-fulfillment and/or cultural indoctrination, people will make an exception for religion.
God is an imaginary friend for adults.
John, although I know you're still trolling, I'll bite anyways. C-14 dating is only one of a couple dozen dating methods, and not everything has carbon. You are right about C-14 dating, but young earthers like to exclude the information about other dating methods, further misleading their followers.
Thank you, Floyd. I'd not want your approval based on the reasoning of your root post.
In the true sense of the word most atheists are agnostics in that we don't actually claim there is no god. I will argue that there is no definition of god proposed by man at this point that makes any sense. I will claim with near certainty that the god of Isreal does not exist, Since that is the only god CHristians DO believe in to them I am specifically an atheist.
Dan, the burden of proof is on the one that asserts a position. You assert that God does not exist. Provide proof.
Yet still Moby, you hold the same anger as the Evangelicals. That are disgusted by you and your kind as well. You are they.
Sure Floyd. Again, thank you.
C14 dating works back to about 50,000 years, maybe even 60,000 under the right conditions.
theists accept fallacies as proof
You still cannot prove that God is a fallacy......you start your argument from a position of no proof or data.
Floyd, you're moving the goalpost. Besides, I can't prove that a God doesn't exist. I don't think anyone can. As for the article, I'm not presuming that a God must exist in order for these voices to be of supernatural origin. To me, the two are not dependent on each other.
If God does exist I think he's or she's laughing at all of us. Or crying.
The two positions are not equal prospects
As Christian, I ask you why you associate Christianity with crazy people hearing voices? I'm a Christian and if I thought I actually heard God's voice, I'd check myself into a mental hospital. In my opinion, maybe less than 1% of people that call themselves Christian actually act or think like it and are either irrational, easily influenced suckers, or liars. It's rare to find a sane, rational person that's a Christian. The fact you associate a ridiculous thought about thinking you heard God to meaning someone's a normal Christian, says something. I pretty much figure someone's either crazy, or they just want to believe it so much they convince themselves, in which case they might just be stupid. I'm sure other people of other faiths hear voices of their god, too. I'm sure there are plenty of people that hear voices that have no faith. I've known of mentally ill people that when their symptoms became more intense, that's when they came to a faith-based conclusion. The fact it's so rare to see a normal person of faith is why so many people think everyone's crazy or dumb if they believe in God, and I don't blame them (and I say this as someone of faith). I've come to my beliefs based on what I feel to be reasonable, not made up crap. I also accept science and logic in my beliefs. As a Christian, if I had a nickel for every person that thinks their loved one automatically goes to Heaven and sprouts wings, or blames their good or bad fortune on God's plan, or quotes non existent bible verses or just blindly follows some crazy pastor, I'd be maybe the richest person in the world. Articles like this are ridiculous. I personally know several people with legitimate mental illness and some that I'd never have guessed that say they saw someone walk across a room and think it's normal. I'd run (not walk) to the nearest hospital if I saw or heard something that wasn't there, even if it looked real to me at the time. Maybe our brains are still evolving and this is just a glitch, but people can actually be logical, normal, sane and reasonable/rational people and believe in God, but it's just rare you see it.
I enjoyed and agree with your comments. Continue to let your light shine. We believers are commanded to live Matthew 28:16. Grace and Peace to you, my brother.
OOOOHHHH, she did her studies on Evangelicals. No wonder this article is retarded.
How many when to school and studied philosophy as their major, or Art History,..or Phys Ed, and now are working in government..big business and have power over the public...Is that a good thing????
Try looking up GRE score by undergrad major...philosophy majors are at the top.
ah and Hitler wanted to be an artist...but could not draw the human form....interesting...
HHHHmmm I can only sing and dance if I get hungry enough. They feed me to stop.
Chad, to re-post what I have said before, you’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:
The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.
The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.
The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.
Throwing the three together into one being effectively cubes its already dispositive implausibility.
We atheists tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. We can’t help but ask ourselves, “did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?”
The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” “God is outside the Universe” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.
The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, the Judeo-Christian god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?
We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.
We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”. Likewise, we know how all faiths evolve, morph and change over time and do not think we were lucky enough to have been born in the one generation that “got it right.”
We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other materials that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the pre Dark Ages Mediterranean.
Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away,” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more näive, timid minds among us.
We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.
“You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, or even a relevant point, because an inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu do not exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them. It is not even evidence for their existence. It is impossible to prove a negative in this context.
When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, water turning into wine, a talking snake, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.
It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “I believe Mao Zedong was a great man because The Little Red Book says so, and the reason I believe The Little Red Book is that it was written by Mao Zedong, who was a great man.” Do you even have the slightest idea of how your Bible was compiled over the centuries or who decided what to include and what to exclude and on what grounds? Can you even name one of hundred plus authors who contributed to it? One of the many people who decided what got in and what didn’t?
To be bluntly honest, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us still do.
So, before you respond and proudly proclaim you know the secrets to life, death, the origins of life on Earth and the origins of the Universe, simply because your parents or priest taught you some comforting stories from late Bronze Age Palestine as a child, you might like to reflect upon the overwhelming enormity of the claims you are about to make and the complete paucity of evidence that underwrites those claims.
Translation: 'I can't prove God doesn't exist but my faith in that is more relevant than someone who does believe God exists!"
FZ – that is a false equivalence, unless you feel that those who do not believe in Santa Claus suffer from the same flaw in logic because they cannot disprove his existence. See the fifth from bottom paragraph.
wow.....i like it
Colin, not really. You make an invalid argument. Here's why: Somewhere out there in space say 50 to 100 million light years away – a star exploded. You will never have evidence in your lifetime that the existence of that star explosion is real – but still – it exists.
Lack of proof does not prove non-existence.
Indeed, until now – you didn't even have proof of my existence. Yet I do.
So FZ, you believe in santa claus do you? If not, why not?
Santa Claus once did exist as St. Nicholas. I don't think it is impossible that there is a Santa Claus. He just doesn't really fly around the world and deliver presents, or else people wouldnt have to by presents and put from Santa on them.
You will one day, maybe sooner rather than later, bow to your creator and the creator of this universe. When God closes your eyes for good, you will stand face to face with the One who created ALL things, and have to give an account to why you rejected the FREE gift of salvation through the atoning blood of His one and only son. His name is Jesus and He died for you so that you can have life and have it abundantly. Only a fool does not believe that there is a God. Capital G!!
@Colin “The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us. The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us. The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.”
@Chad “why? And since when did “something not making sense to you” mean it isn’t real? That’s not a reason, it’s a fallacious argument from incredulity.
@Colin “We atheists tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. We can’t help but ask ourselves, “did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?””
@Chad “that argument is summarized as “If I were God, I would have done it differently”.
That you would have done something differently doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist. You don’t get to define the “right” way for God to operate. That’s not a reason, it’s a fallacious argument from incredulity.
@Colin “The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, the Judeo-Christian god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?”
@Chad “you aren’t crazy, just willfully ignoring the fact that:
1. the universe had a beginning (see Borde Guth Vilenkin theory)
2. All of the matter, and time itself, came into existence at that point. It DID NOT EXIST prior. That’s what BGV says.
4. we know that everything that began, must have a cause
5. that cause must be external to our universe, as it was the causal agent for its creation
6. this supports the theistic claim that the God of Israel created the universe, just think how gleefully atheists would point to scientific evidence of the universe having always existed as refuting the theistic claim that it had a beginning!
@Colin “We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.”
@Chad “neither do I”
@Colin “We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”. Likewise, we know how all faiths evolve, morph and change over time and do not think we were lucky enough to have been born in the one generation that “got it right.””
@Chad “so? The fact that that there are many fake elvis’s doesn’t mean there was never a real one. That is a terribly fallacious argument”
@Colin “We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews”
@Chad “the exodus, parting of the Red Sea, conquest of Canaan, resurrection of Jesus?
Nothing supernatural? You havent read it them.
@Colin “humans invent God because they fear death”, “we don’t need God for morality”
@Chad “these are just claims, what specific data do you offer in support of them?
@Colin “bible is mythology”
@Chad “you’ll have to do better than that, what specifically? No historical event recorded in the bible has EVER been proven to be false.
Colin – well said, very well said.
FZ – clearly you didn't read the paragraph about proving the non-existence of something to be impossible, and more importantly unnecessary. All things are presumed non-existent, all theories false, until proven otherwise. The burden of proof lies with the one making the claim. The star you mention in your hypothetical analogy is just that, a hypothetical star. It's an idea. We can come up with all sorts of ideas about what may or may not exist. Simply having the thought does not make that thing exist. So, no, that star does not exist anywhere outside of your mind until you can prove otherwise. Similarly, simply because you can come up with the concept of god, does not mean he exists in reality and onus in proving his existence lies with you, the one making the claim.
That was a marvelously comprehensive and well thought out post, Colin.
".......We atheists.........." You are a single idiot tryin' to belong. The "WEGOD" won't be there when you die all by yer lonesome.
Chad – the universe having a beginning and needing something external to lead to that beginning does NOT lead to a validation that the "God of Israel" created the universe, anymore than it leads to a validation of the argument that any of the myriad gods who have been described in human history created the universe. Whatever caused the universe to come into existence could be something hitherto undiscovered and unconceptualized. With respect to that specific point made by Colin, the answer to "how did the universe come into existence?" is "we don't know yet." You can't just arbitrarily insert god as an explanation for everything we don't have an answer to yet.
Chad, as usual your arguments all boil down to one thing: You want to believe you are right and you are willing to believe that the bible is true because you want it to be true.
Here's the sad fact: There is no proof of any of the supernatural events in the bible. There is no contemporary, non-biblical accounts of the existence of Jesus Christ. There is no rational reason to believe that your religion is any more true than any of the many, many other religions followed during the course of human existence.
@Stephen " the universe having a beginning and needing something external to lead to that beginning does NOT lead to a validation that the "God of Israel" created the universe"
@Chad "what I said was:
"this supports the theistic claim that the God of Israel created the universe, just think how gleefully atheists would point to scientific evidence of the universe having always existed as refuting the theistic claim that it had a beginning!"
@tallulah13 "Chad, as usual your arguments all boil down to one thing: You want to believe you are right and you are willing to believe that the bible is true because you want it to be true."
@Chad "actually, that is the atheistic reasoning, as is demonstrated over and over and over, the vast majority of atheists start with the conclusion that God does not exist. Looking at Colins list, it's clearly evident that most of the arguments are fallacious arguments from incredulity.
@tallulah13 "Here's the sad fact: There is no proof of any of the supernatural events in the bible."
@Chad "nonsense, how do you explain the empty tomb for example?
@tallulah13 There is no contemporary, non-biblical accounts of the existence of Jesus Christ.
as you have defined it, there are virtually no contemporary accounts of ANYONE from the first century :-)
did you find a reputable historian that denies that Jesus was a real historical figure yet?
What empty tomb are you talking about chad?
Since there is NO evidence that a god-of any sort-exists, hearing voices when no one is there is an indication of either a delusion or mental disease.
or you are hearing a sound and your mind is decoding it as words....We had and old wooden screen door that cricked if the wind blew and seemed to say Feed Me.....
Not really, and that's the point. Much like many people never experience lucid dreaming yet it still exists, just because you or I haven't experienced this fairly normal brain function doesn't make it insanity. Being brought into al lab, the same symptom triggered and then still refusing to accept it was biological may be a little dim, but even then it likely wouldn't qualify as mental illness. People experience a lot of sensations. Hot flashes aren't insanity. Tinnitius isn't insanity. Andd barring very strong evidence to the contrary, efficient explantations, including God, are not even insanity.
Said the man that ignored the loudspeaker in homeroom.
The air you breath is indeed proof that God lives and has mercy on you everyday. The makeup of your body is more proof. Each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made. God made us to have a relationship with Him through His son, Jesus Christ. Try to wrap your mind around that. If you would only give God a chance to show you your real purpose in life. Life if but a whisper, but a breath. He grieves over the one/many that perish without personally knowing Him.
hearing voices of a make believe deity is delusional. Most adults outgrow their imaginary friends and believing in the green monster in their closet, because these things, just like god, have no evidence of existing.
Weak minds cling to fictional delusions about what they wish were true, rather than exploring what is actually true.
There is no god and your all going to die, and most likely death will be exactly like the billions of years before you were born, oblivion. Now grow up and face reality, deal with it, your not going to some puffy cloud place with harp and wings.
You can't prove God doesn't exist either. Weak minds exist on both sides.
You can't prove the 6ft tall green monster in my closet doesn't exist.
Weak minds believe in what they wish were true instead of examining the evidence to determine what is real.
The null hypothesis is that god does not exist, Since there is no evidence of gods existence the null hypothesis holds as the logical position. To depart from this position is to delve into irrationaal insanity.
but Floyd, you can't prove that pink, flying elephants wearing tutus don't exist either. Should we all pray to them and listen intently for their trumpeting calls? Sheeesh!
better enjoy it while it lasts Christians. Another 10 or 20 generations and the human race will look on your God and Jesus the same way as we look on Zeus and Thor and Ra (and santa claus and the tooth fairy) today. What a giggle!
"The null hypothesis is that god does not exist, Since there is no evidence of gods existence the null hypothesis holds as the logical position. "
Actually this is fully reversable and identical. I'm going to bet accepting this makes you too uncomfortable, however. Humans don't like being that uncertain in their beliefs.
that's what Manannan MacLirr, yes a fairy said "some day your Christ will be like us"
For one to envision or daydream is a direct connection to one's psyche, the soul of impartation. Anyone can envision but alas, few dare to so do. As a child dares to daydream, they are instructed by teachers to abstain and get with the 'programing'! Just another brick in the programs of inst itutionalized forebodings cluttering away any and all child’s minds ever tightening the mind’s eye of its psychic connections of soulful impartations,,,, :-(
There is a time to daydream and a time for learning. Daydreams that teach can only be manifested upon those whose souled impartations are relevant of tutorial euphemisms. A child whose daydreams are not of life living commonalities are censored and made de-amplified and turned to being nonexistent except for the daydreamer’s soulful impartations. God knows all souled impartations within one's psychic endorsements.
Visual enlightenment via daydreaming is all from our earliest years before we knew any words. It is our being assimilated by wordage uses that our minds become wordage proprieties and we all become less acclimated to our psychic daydreaming days to the points we no longer are pruned with visual daydreams. Still, we all do daydream no matter one's ages yet most are held to dreaming of one's wants in the material realms. The spiritualized daydreams of anyone are nowadays of wilted spiritualisms never becoming a fruitful rationalism due relevancies of spiritless materialized matters
There are no gods. No god ever spoke to moses or anyone else. If you believe a god talks to you in your mind you're crazy and should be medicated immediately. If you believe the bible is sanctioned by an invisible all knowing all powerful perfect being then read this excerpt from it:
You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the LORD. Anyone who works on that day must be put to death.
I rest my case... religion is an infectious virus that plagues humanity. Reality is its disinfectant.
You are a fallen loser angel Bi'lial.
The 68th spirit in the Goetia, he is a mighty king and powerful. He was created next after Lucifer and is of his order. He appears in the form of a beautiful angel sitting in a chariot of fire and speaks with a comely voice. His office is to distribute preferments of senatorships and to cause favor of friends or foes. He bestows excellent familiars and governs 80 legions of spirits. Whoever summons him must have offerings of gifts or sacrifices or he will not give true answers to their demands, but even then with will not spend more than one hour on the truth unless constrained by divine power or his seal, to be worn as a lamin by the person who summons him. – The Lesser Key of Solomon
i'm Lucifer behold me in my true name שמיחזה ♥
There is no Dana..only Zool.
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