Why I believe in God

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Patrick Fowke
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Why I believe in God

Post by Patrick Fowke » Thu Dec 18, 2008 11:48 pm

Hello all,

Firstly, this post has been posted in good faith. I only write what I believe to be true. Not to cause offence or to challenge in a negative way.

I believe in God because I have had various metaphysical experiences that I believe were divine in origin. I am not a poet so I can't really evoke those experiences. All I can say is that they left me with a level of joy and peace beyond anything I could imagine the body being able to induce through physical stimulation. Suffice to say it was ecstatic. To borrow from Shakespeare it was something like:
'The clouds methought did open up and show riches ready to drop upon me that when I wak'd I cried to dream again'. (Tempest)
robdonn
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Post by robdonn » Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:16 am

That sounds like a lovely experience you've had. (Honestly, no sarcasm there.)

Although some atheists are intent on the total destruction of religious beliefs, most don't have a problem with someone's personal relationship with their god. What most Atheists do, and is at the forefront of our groups aims, is to challenge the influence that religions and religious people try to impose on public matters, such as laws, education and morality. When someone spends their life working on a theory that explains our history or our future and it is suddenly met on par in the public eye with the nonsensical ramblings of a hyped up religious leader, it is quite a slap in the face of our species' strive for knowledge.

Charles Darwin's theory of Natural Selection and his contributions to the theory of evolution are attacked and mauled by religious people to this day because it goes against their religious dogma, but it is the cause of so many medical breakthroughs that just couldn't have been achieved without his work. If religions had achieved their goals in discrediting his work, our species would not be in such good health today, our lifespans would be shorter and our quality of living would be far less. But instead of accepting it as fact, they continue to fight it. (Although the Catholic Church do, somewhat, accept it as true.)
Patrick Fowke
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:37 am

To Robdonn

"What most Atheists do, and is at the forefront of our groups aims, is to challenge the influence that religions and religious people try to impose on public matters, such as laws, education and morality"

I am with you on this. I think that dogmatism is not Christian. Unfortunately it was introduced, to an important degree, under the Emperor Constantine. But it was inspirational leaders such as Francis of Assisi who try to redress this (not by direct, confrontational action against the princes of the Church but by focusing on leading a life free of all worldly influence, living with and helping the poor and so on ... like Christ and the first apostles).

"Charles Darwin's theory of Natural Selection and his contributions to the theory of evolution"

- I believe in evolution (and I think I speak for millions of other believers). I admit there is a paradox about how God interweaves His will in evolution. I don't pretend to understand that. But the non-believer, also, has to deal with paradoxes i.e free will (if we are just material beings then how do we get to escape the predetermined laws of nature), where did all this stuff (time / space / matter) come from? From absolutely nothing (seems absurd). Or existed, infinetly, in some shape or form (seems, equally, absurd).

"but it is the cause of so many medical breakthroughs that just couldn't have been achieved without his work. If religions had achieved their goals in discrediting his work, our species would not be in such good health today, our lifespans would be shorter and our quality of living would be far less"

- don't forget, though, the contribution of (devout) Christians to medicine: in particular, Mendel (19th century Catholic priest), founder of genetics.
robdonn
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Post by robdonn » Fri Dec 19, 2008 1:20 am

Patrick Fowke wrote:But the non-believer, also, has to deal with paradoxes i.e free will (if we are just material beings then how do we get to escape the predetermined laws of nature), where did all this stuff (time / space / matter) come from? From absolutely nothing (seems absurd). Or existed, infinetly, in some shape or form (seems, equally, absurd).
I don't understand where the paradox comes into play here. There is nothing wrong with our thoughts and actions being contained within the predetermined laws of nature. Action A causes action B which cause action C and so on, this is how I see the universe working. Our minds are influenced by everything around them and also everything within them, they are still atoms arranged in a particular form that are subject to the laws of nature like everything else. Free Will, to me, is relative to our society. We do not perceive the true effects that cause our actions, we do not perceive the chemical reactions in our mind. What we see is a superficial reasoning of our actions. But this doesn't make them any less real to us.

A movie being played on a tv is real on (atleast) two levels to us. We see the movie as it is, a heartbreaking story of unrequited love (that being if you have a girlfriend who insists upon watching chick-flicks every evening) and it is also just photons striking the optical nerves in your eyes and the vibration of atoms resonating in your ear canals. Our minds take the latter and create the former. Just as it takes it's chemical reactions to environmental stimuli and creates what we call free will.

As for where the universe came from, we don't know yet. But that isn't a paradox. There are a few hypothesises but we know very little at the moment. As for its infinite or finite existence, absurdity is the name of the game. Describe the effects of a black hole to someone 200 years ago and I'm sure they'd find it absurd.
Patrick Fowke wrote:"but it is the cause of so many medical breakthroughs that just couldn't have been achieved without his work. If religions had achieved their goals in discrediting his work, our species would not be in such good health today, our lifespans would be shorter and our quality of living would be far less"

- don't forget, though, the contribution of (devout) Christians to medicine: in particular, Mendel (19th century Catholic priest), founder of genetics.
I would never dismiss the contributions to medical science by a devout anything as long as their contribution was positive.
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Re: Why I believe in God

Post by MichaelNugent » Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:16 am

Patrick Fowke wrote:I believe in God because I have had various metaphysical experiences that I believe were divine in origin. I am not a poet so I can't really evoke those experiences. All I can say is that they left me with a level of joy and peace beyond anything I could imagine the body being able to induce through physical stimulation. Suffice to say it was ecstatic.
Hi Patrick,

If I can slightly rearrange the sequencing of your comments into cause and effect, this is what I understand to be your reason for believing in a god:

(a) At various times, you have experienced a very intense sense of ecstasy and peace. (b) You cannot imagine that your body caused these experiences through physical stimulation. (c) Therefore you believe that something divine caused these experiences. (d) You believe that this divine cause of your ecstatically peaceful experiences is a god.

Here are two questions, so that I can understand your beliefs more fully.

1. Is it possible that there may be a natural cause for your ecstatically peaceful experiences, despite the fact that you do not understand, or cannot imagine, what that natural cause might be?

2. Do you also attribute other characteristics and abilities to whatever causes your ecstatically peaceful experiences? If so, what are they, and why do you attribute these characteristics and abilities to it?
Patrick Fowke
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Re: Why I believe in God

Post by Patrick Fowke » Fri Dec 19, 2008 10:10 am

Hi Michael
MichaelNugent wrote: Is it possible that there may be a natural cause for your ecstatically peaceful experiences, despite the fact that you do not understand, or cannot imagine, what that natural cause might be?
I am not an absolute theist (or is it theist absolutist ..). I strongly believe in God but not to the extent, I hope, that I am without critical faculty when it comes to experiences / ideas in general about the subject of God. Therefore I am open to the possibility that my experiences could have been material in origin (chemical reaction in the brain / body, whatever). But I, strongly, doubt it.
These experiences were beyond purely intellectual explanation (one would have to be a good poet to even try and even evoke the experiences). They were beyond what I would regard as emotional experiencs too. However there was something rational and emotional about them too. 'Rational' in that I experienced a train of thought that was more logical than I have ever experienced before. And 'emotional' in that the experience felt 'exciting', 'warm', 'moving' and so on.
Drifting .. try, will try and get back on course. The meat of the experience is just beyond my ability to communicate other than borrowing from Shakespeare (as quoted before): 'the clouds methought did open up and show riches ready to drop upon me that when I wak'd I cried to dream again.'
Some important points would like to add:
- there were various different, extraordinary things going on at the same time (rational / emotional - and other things that I just cannot put into words)
- I had various experiences - some quiet, others intense - that have carried on for years
- These experiences have been accompanied by extraordinary dreams.
And more.

That's the best I can do on that for the moment (and don't want to monopolize your time / attention - and give you chance to respond if you wish).
Last edited by Patrick Fowke on Fri Dec 19, 2008 10:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
Patrick Fowke
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Fri Dec 19, 2008 10:38 am

robdonn wrote:I don't understand where the paradox comes into play here. There is nothing wrong with our thoughts and actions being contained within the predetermined laws of nature. Action A causes action B which cause action C and so on ).
But who is the ultimate arbitrator of Action A - you or the laws of nature? If we are just natural (or material) beings, then like other matter we are suject to the laws of nature (or aren't we?). What is free will? Where does it reside? What is the relationship between free will and the laws of nature? Is free will something phsycial / material or metaphysical?
robdonn wrote: Our minds are influenced by everything around them and also everything within them, they are still atoms arranged in a particular form that are subject to the laws of nature like everything else.


But what do you mean, exactly, by "influenced"? At the end of the day you have the free will to accept or reject those influences. Therefore those "influences" don't enable you with free will.
robdonn wrote: Free Will, to me, is relative to our society. .
Again, like the influences of nature, you have the capacity to accept or reject the values of society.
robdonn wrote: As for where the universe came from, we don't know yet. But that isn't a paradox. There are a few hypothesises but we know very little at the moment. As for its infinite or finite existence, absurdity is the name of the game. Describe the effects of a black hole to someone 200 years ago and I'm sure they'd find it absurd.
The irony of modern science (don't want to pretend to be an expert on science - not) is that it is taking us outside the traditional model of science being focused on empirical evidence and rational explanations. In fact science has never been as clear-cut as this, for example, experimental science (i.e Faraday) is about whatever works. And theoretical science is not something new to the 20th century. But the 20th century is the century of quantum physics. And quantum physicists are throwing up ideas that are just utterly bizarre, to the point that the more they explore the cosmos, the more they come to understand just how much we really don't know, and just how non-rational (as opposed to irrational) the universe and cosmos really are. You mention black holes. It gets even more bizarre than that. Take string theory and multiple dimensions - multiple dimensions take us to an area of science where empirical evidence is completely off limits in terms of an absolute, final, scientific answer (and that's just string theory and multiple dimensions).
bipedalhumanoid
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Post by bipedalhumanoid » Fri Dec 19, 2008 10:52 am

Hi Patrick,

Are you aware that the kind of spiritual experience you speak of can be induced by neurologists by stimulating the temporal lobe?

There is a book on the topic (I haven't read it myself but others have recommended it to me) called "The God Part of the Brain" http://godpart.com/

These kinds of religious experiences are also linked to temporal lobe epilepsy. Such experiences have been caught on MRI scan. Neurologists, since 2006, have had a pretty good handle on how these types of spiritual experience come about.

Neurologists are also able to stimulate the sensation of out of body experience btw. Neurology is certainly progressing, if slowly.

Post Edit:
I just wanted to add that these experiences are not limited to people of any particular religion. There are Muslims, Hindus, Budhists, Seikhs, Christians et al who have claimed to have the same kind of experience. Each of them attribute the experience to whatever religion they happen to believe in. In some cases the experience is more specific than just a sense of euphoria and peace. Christians claim to have been visited by Jesus, Muslims claim to have been visited by Muhamad, Hindus claim to have been visited by Krishna or Vishnu (or any number of other Hindu gods) etc.
Patrick Fowke
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Fri Dec 19, 2008 11:30 am

Hi bipedalhumanoid
bipedalhumanoid wrote: Are you aware that the kind of spiritual experience you speak of can be induced by neurologists by stimulating the temporal lobe?
- "that kind" - I have only been able to describe about 1% (the only way I can express my inability to communicate what I believe to be a metaphysical experience) of the experience (experiences in fact).

- that leaves about 99% beyond the diagnosis of a neurological expert.

- even with the 1% that a neurological expert has to go, how can the neurological expert be certain that the "diagnosis" actually correlates with the "symptoms" described by the person who has had the experience? At the end of the day such an experience (experiences) is not a malady. In fact the person (I) feels completely different, physically, afterwards: refreshed, energized, relaxed, feels more healthy.

What exactly does the neurological expert base his / her diagnosis on (and how much of the diagnosis is based on theory?)

Don't forget that the best I could compare my experience was to the quote I gave by Shakespeare. To me it was something 99% more in the area of the poetic (or the metaphysical) than the epileptic / neurological (or physical). When poets evoke the metaphysical, is that something that can be put down to the neurological too? Is human "love" something that can be reduced to a neurological explanation?

Do you believe in the metaphysical at all (many non-believers do, in particular, Bhuddists, although without attributing divine origin to such experiences - nevertheless metaphysical as opposed to material). What is beauty in the natural world (where there is no functional reason for there to be such a thing). What is human wit, humour, personality, and so on?
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Post by bipedalhumanoid » Fri Dec 19, 2008 11:36 am

You may not realise this but you are begging the question here in a number of cases...
But who is the ultimate arbitrator of Action A - you or the laws of nature?
Who? This is a loaded question. Why should there be a "who"?
If we are just natural (or material) beings, then like other matter we are suject to the laws of nature (or aren't we?). What is free will? Where does it reside? What is the relationship between free will and the laws of nature? Is free will something phsycial / material or metaphysical?
All of these questions assume that free will exists. That's an unsubstantiated premise. You should consider the following possibilities...

1) Free will does not exist (the experience of free will could be an illusion)
2) Free will does exist but is a complex natural phenomenon

These are two positions held by determinists. The former is called "Incompatibilism" and the latter "Compatibilism".

Generally speaking compatibilists believe in a more restricted kind of free will than that which religious people seem to accept.

Consider the possibility that you are able to choose your actions but not your motivations... and your actions are motivated. In other words, you can chose what you do but you cannot choose what you WANT to do.

Your actions as a human being are determined by a large number of factors including environmental, experiential (which are also environmental) and genetic (which are also ultimately environmental). We don't need to invoke the concept of 'free will' to explain them.

The incompatibilist will point to studies that have shown that decisions are made by the subconscious brain before we even become conscious of the fact that we're making a decision. There are good arguments on either side, but in neither case do we need to invoke the supernatural to explain it.
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