My road to reason

sent in by Rob from the Netherlands

I was born and raised in Suriname (South America). My father was an inactive Catholic who experimented with different kinds of spirituality (or so he told me) and my mother was Lutherian. I have one brother who I grew up with (I have 2 more half sisters and a half brother, but I wasn't raised with them). We grew up as Catholics, went to church every Sunday but at home we weren't very active w.r.t. religion. We also went to Catholic primary and secondary schools. While in primary school (up to the age of 11) I accepted the gospel like hook, line and sinker. Still, it was during this time that the first act which would drive me away from Christianity occurred. At age 10 (1972) I got myself a kids book about astronomy and space travel. The sheer beauty of the Universe got a hold on me then and never again left me to this day. I remember most fondly that that book described Halley's comet and that it would return in 1986. I promised myself I would see it and I did :)

While growing up as a teenager I stopped believing in the creation myth, but I considered it a means to an end. In my opinion back then, if Mozes would have told the ancient Jews of evolution and the size of the Universe, he would be stoned to death. I still considered myself a Christian without actually considering what that meant. I was as dead a Catholic as my father was. My mother still went to the Lutherian church but religion wasn't really a topic of discussion at home. Aside from her Christianty she was (is) also a firm believer in astrology and loads of cultural based superstitions. I never really bought those, but as a young teen I did believe in astrology. If my mom said it's true it should be, shouldn't it? After I studied more astronomy as an older teen I disregarded astrology as anything viable. By the end of my teen years my parents went into a very ugly divorce and they are still not on speaking terms after appr. 25 years. I kinda flunked school in this period but I still managed to get into a bachelor-level study (4 years) to become a police lieutenant. This is the second event to drive my current opinion about Chritianity. The study included large amounts of penal law, and two of the most basic principles of penal law happen to be the principles of proportionality (punishments should match the crime) and "subsidiarity" (is that the correct English word? I.e. you cannot punish someone for someone else's crimes). In my opinion both are violated by Christianity.

During my police study I met my wife to be. She was (still is) a reformed Christian who came from a pretty conservative Christian family. After knowing her for four years I married her. We married in a reformed Christian church but we agreed to have our (then future) children to be baptised Catholic. The reason for that was that in those days there was IMO a pretty big quality gap between Catholic and non-Catholic schools and I didn't mind which Christian believe system they would be thought as long as they would get one. Still religion didn't play a big role in our lives, apart from the occasional church visits on Christmas or for baptism of my first son. One aspect of religion that I had very strong feelings about back then was that I refused every culture-religious act to be used on me or my family. For example, there was this blue stuff that was used in laundry for giving white clothes a "whiter" appeal. In (negro) culture-believes one should apply this stuff visibly on the forehead of babies to keep envy away. When my mother (ethnic mixed but mostly negro) wanted to apply this to my son I freaked out and I think she got the message regarding where I stood on the subject.

In 1990 I had to flee my home country for political reasons, leaving my pregnant wife and 1.5 year old child behind. I wouldn't see them again for 14 months. After short stays in French Guyana, the U.S. and Canada, I received a visa for the Netherlands and that's where I still am today. Many years passed and my considerations regrding Christianity didn't change. I was still the dead Catholic calling himself a Christian etc. What did change is that in the meantime my brother became a born-again Christian. At first he didn't know where he fitted in, but by now he found his homebase at the Baptist church. I don't really know what drove him, but it wasnt some life-changing event that might bring some people to hold on to Christianity. He slowly grew into it. By now he is a full blown reborn Baptist creationist. Though I personally think he deludes himself, I respect his opinions and I think he respects mine. He would like to talk about his religious convictions. This would make me start to think about the subject a little. I didn't really know the bible back then (I still don't actually) but it seemed clear to me that the creation myth was persented in the bible as a historical fact. Since this was in direct contradiction with what I knew of astronomy, I considered the bible wrong on that account and I started to wonder what else the bible was wrong about. I slowly started drifting away from what I used to believe regarding Christianity and I became something between a deist and an agnostic. I still considered it more likely than not that there should be some "driving force" that kept Nature and the universe from going haywire.

About a year ago I was apporached by a few "strongly reformed" Christians (in dutch "gereformeerden" which is a lot more fundie than the reformed Christians which is in dutch "hervormd"). These guys were passing out flyers and I started discussing Christianity with them. I laid out my argument why I considered myself an agnostic and stressed that I knew a bit (hobby-wise) about astronomy but little about evolution. Their arguments were of very mediocre quality and only capable of strengthening the belive of someone who was already convinced of Christianity, not for someone who isn't conviced at all. Still the word of one of the Christians present struck a nerve. He said quite literally: "You claim to know little to nothing of the evolution theory, still you defend it". The guy was right! I had to know more. It was the trigger to start digging on the internet. I discovered sites like TalkOrigins and the Secular Web. I also read much from the Skeptics Annotated Bible and a few articles from the Institute for Creation Research who IMO sometimes at least try to be a bit honest (see e.g. Danny Faulker's "The current state of creation astronomy"). Well, in high school I wasn't very interrested in Biology. During the Computer Science study that I once started I was confronted with elements of evolution in a seminar of Bioinformatics and in classes on Genetic Programming. But it wasn't until reading Chris Colby's "Introduction to Evolutionary Biology" (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-intro-to-biology.html) and something as simple as the april 2005 "post of the month" at talk.origins that I was really swept away with the beauty of evolution. A simple conclusion I came to is: if a chimp is a type of an ape, as is a gorilla and an orangutan, then so is man. The chimp has more genetic similariies with humans than it has with the orangutan. For me, this placed the position of humanity in a completely different scope. We are *not* special.

Like I said, I also stumbled upon the Skeptics Annotated Bible (http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/) and I learned things about the bible that I really didn't know, e.g. Numbers 31, 2 Kings 2:23-24 and Psalm 137:9 (why didn't Boney M finish the psalm in their song?). I must say I was and still am quite horrified by reading this. Take note that as I child I received quite an anti-islamic upbringing. I read personally the following verse from the Quran: "As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise." (Sura 5:38). I thought to myself, what terribly cruel religion will want to put something like this in their holy scripture? At least Christianity states: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7). I was unpleasantly surprised to read of the terrible cruelties in the holy scripture of the religion that I considered just and loving (sort of) for most of my life.

So currently I came to the conclusion that I have a few major hurdles with Christianity, hurdles that I doubt I will ever overcome. First and foremost are the violations of proportionality in the teaching of eternal damnation. Granted, a few Christians believe in annihilation of the damned and if this would be the case I would have a lot less of an issue with it, but a punishment that would last eternal, however light the punishment, is disproportional to whatever temporal sin someone would have commited. Secondly I have issues with the "omnimax" features that are attributed to the Christian God. An omniscient being who creates object of which it foreknows that those beings will act against some rule and punishes those beings for it, is not omnibenevolent. I read a nice discussion between two Philosophers (Dr. Bradley and Dr. Craigh) regarding the compatibility of human free will and devine foreknowledge, and I side with Dr. Bradley that they are not. Thirdly, the more I read about scientific explanations of natural processes that were formerly only explicable by devine intervention, the more I see the unlikeliness of the existence of a God. It seems humans are very eager to want to explain everything and where they fail to do so the invent this unprovable entity to fit the gaps. I find the world around me to make a lot more sense without a God than with one. Lastly there are these specific issues I have with Christianity, some of which I didn't know to exist previously. I already explained the cruelties in the bible, but there's also the many inconsitencies in the bible and the monotheistic nature of the devine trinity. This just doesn't make sense. I read a response on this in "Answering the Atheist" (at lookingintojesus.net) where they compared Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit to be distinct entities but all God to person A, B and C to be differen persons but all being human. This still makes no sense because we don't claim that persons A, B and C are "one human".

Where do I stand now? I would still consider myself an agnost but an atheistic one. I don't think that the existence of a God can be proven or disproven but I see no need for any God. My wife knows that I have lost my faith but still has many difficulties accepting it. She still hangs on to her faith and the fact that her father passed away last year seems to have a lot to do with that. Personally I don't mind that even if she would become a strong believer, as long as we respect each others position. She did request that I "do not influence" our children and I made that promise. If they once decide that the Christian doctrine is not where they are happy they will come to the same conclusion as I did. I think this road should be a personal one. My parents and brother know how I feel and especially my father, the former dead Catholic who is now very involved in the Catholic church, has great difficulties accepting my views. For my in-laws I am still in the closet. They are a lot more conservaive so coming out, especially to my mother-in-law might do more harm than good. They always knew that I did not hold conservative views and that is sufficient for the mean time.

I am very happy to have found this forum. I find that there are many more people that share my views and that strengthens me in it. One thing that caught my attention in this formun but also on iidb.org is that there are many people who were devout Christians and knew the Christian arguments inside and out and still fell out of it, accepting all consequences and social pressure that comes along with that (with Joe Holman's story being a stunning example) while the stories of devout atheists (people who know the arguments against religion) who fall into Christianity are very rare even though the consequences of that road are minimal. Thank you all for sharing your stories, they are very supporting.

35 comments:

WesleyG. said...

Good testimony Rob, I believe there is so much more to it all, (us and the universe), more than a God, a God is as far as the primitive human mind can fathom, I think there is something much more greater than a God controlling everything, what this thing is, is what the bible writers attempted to describe, but could not begin to, they could only coin this invisible force with human attributes, especially back in those days everyone had their own favorite god, so the bible writers tried to create their own god, this way they would look like they had some special gift or knowledge passed on to them and that they knew this god, and walked with this god, we hear the same shit from xtains, to this very day, just certain ones can talk to this god, of course it would have to be translated over 1600 times, like the bible, before anyone can understand it, since god cannot speak English.

I also think that it's animalistic fear of the thoughts of being alone and of the unknown. When we were chidren we were like little puppies, waiting for that warm body of mother to surround us and keep us safe and warm, but What if? What if mommy gets lost or we wonder away, or what if mommy, our protector, gets killed, where are we now? What will we do? How will we survive? Naturaly immediate fear sets in, from the moment our security leaves us, until our security comes back to comfort us. Now 10 years later or so, we need less of mommie's comfort, we start to examine the outside world, then we are forced or dragged into a church and we hear the foxes casting fear and doubt back into us, this time it is in the form of Hell and damnnation, and it's accepted and agreed on by adults, so it must be true, we're thinking, I mean after all, shouldn't they have already examined and studied the evidence? A big resounding No!!!

So now, our fear from childhood is reinstated by these fear mongers, preaching fear and eternal judgement by this primitive god that they too were coaxed by undue influence, without investigation.

The fear that if you wonder away too far from the security of jesus or god, it's all bullshit brought up through childhood fear, I know so many people now in their 60's, 70's and 80's on up, that still have this ingrained fear from their childhood. I had an aunt,76 just recently pass away from cancer, as far as I know, she never missed a day in church since she was a little girl, I do not know of any sin this woman ever commited, I often said that I commited more sins by the time I was 10 years, than this woman did her whole life time and I'm 55, now, but yet on her dieing days she requested a preacher to be by her side, why I do not know. I asked myself what could this preacher have possibly said that would have made her feel any better?....lol

Again, natural childhood fear and religion are mixed together to produce submission and domination, the people that wrote the bible knew this and saw how well it worked and is still being used today as a way to control and dominate masses of people, like mindless sheep looking for their shepard, that's the reason the bible mentions wondering sheep, flocks, shepards, religion is nothing more than mind control.

Welcome to freedom and reality. You should have your wife read this website:-)

freedy said...

"People who were devout christians and still fell out of it".
Your right, It takes an extreme amount of courage to escape
the stronghold of christianity.I
consider it an honor to know you and the others on this site.
Welcome!

J.T. Finally Free said...

Great Testimony Rob. You will find alott of good people on this website who have found their way out of this crazy tricky maze I like to call Christianity. It's been a few years since leaving and I'm just starting to find the real "me". Christianity is crazy and hypocritical filled with self righteous know it all Robots. We always enjoy their company on this website. Wink Wink!! LOL Welcome!!!

Alex said...

WesleyG, you mentioned that you believe there is so much more to it all, us and the universe. I would like to offer an opposing hypothesis. Suppose there isn't more, but, in fact, LESS? That would mean that we live our lives for no real purpose other than to reproduce. No other special meaning, nothing of the kind. But then, what of the soul? A lot of people question the existence of the soul, which, to me, is mind boggling, because the one and only thing I AM 100% sure of in this existence is that my soul exists. Can I prove it? No. I can only request you take my word for it. If you agree to do so, then the question arises... what of the soul? What is its purpose? Why is it here? Is it material or supernatural?

If it's material, then when I die, will my soul find a new "host" to attach itself to? Will it traverse into a parallel universe? Will it "ascend" to another reality?

If it's supernatural, then that's REALLY amazing because somehow, in my brain, there is a link between the supernatural and the natural, and it's the only such link that I'm sure exists. What if we were to uncover that link? Would that lead to the doorway into the supernatural?

Anyway, I'm just thinking aloud. It's 1147pm here and I'm tired and babbling. These are some of the thoughts that I've been trying to untangle recently.

Good night!

Nathan Thompson said...

I appreciated the attitude under which you expressed yourself in this testimony. I can tell that you aren't under the impression that you have everything figured out or that you are now far above Christians; but it's more that we're all on our own paths at our own pace. I think it's important to continue to respect people who have beliefs that no longer seem reasonable to us and to try to understand why they might continue to believe such things, rather than to just write them off as close minded and looney.

I'm Just Rick said...

Rob said : "I remember most fondly that that book described Halley's comet and that it would return in 1986. I promised myself I would see it and I did :)"

Ironic that science is able to predict and describe many things based on calculation and observation but the bible and other religious sources inspired by god always seems to get it wrong.

alex said : "I AM 100% sure of in this existence is that my soul exists. Can I prove it? No."

So how can you be 100% sure? I think it more likely that you've simply decided that you feel better in thinking that you have a soul so CHOOSE to not consider the probobility that they do not exist. This is the power of all religion - the ability to play to the followers likes/dislikes, needs/desires, and fears/ignorance so that the followers blindly accept what is spoonfed to them because it is what they WANT to hear.

WesleyG. said...

Thank you Alex for your comments, I think that I can prove that there is no soul. One reason people 2000 years ago wrote about the soul is because when they took the dead bodies (daily) to outside of town, called Sheol, nick named Hell and burned the bodies, they saw the smoke raising to the clouds (heaven to them) and said that their soul was rising to the Heavens.

Now having said that,

1. whenever anyone goes to sleep, the thoughts of a god and heaven, jesus, bible rhetoric, etc. these thoughts go away, and disappear.

2. when a person goes under anesthesia or is knocked unconscious, the thoughts of god, jesus, bible, etc. these thoughts go away, and disappear.

3. whenever the brain dies, thoughts of god, jesus, bible thoughts, all thoughts go away, and disappear.

So the only reason people think that they have a soul is because they have been told to think that they have a soul.

The secret here is our brains are told what to think, that is the reason so many people in America believe that christianity and god and jesus, a soul, heaven and hell is true, because this is what we've all been told to think.

The same applies to any religion Muslims, Jews, etc.

Jesus was told to think that he was from a god, so he did, and it cost him his life.

Not only that but, we've been told that politics is good for us, how come we do not believe in a hereafter life by being a democrat or a republican? because we have not been told that there is a promised hereafter with politics.

Our brains are like a sponge and it absorbs what it sees and has been told, that is the reason people seem to be like mimicking robots, we are told to believe the bible, had we been told to believe in the Koran, then the majority of Americans would be bowing to Allah 5 times a day and trying to look like Mohammad.

Our living brain is what stores this information whether it is valid or invalid, after death there is no more thoughts, thats it for eternity, you go to where you were before you were born, to nowhere. We were all happy and content billions of years before we were born and we'll all be happy and content after we die, no one has come back and filed a complaint yet.

Alex said...

WesleyG and Rick, it is my belief that many, perhaps even MOST people do not have a soul (possibly even ALL except for me, which I think is unlikely). This is neither good, nor bad, it just is. People are biological units created through abiogenesis (or whatever) and evolved through random mutation and natural selection. I absolutely believe that. I believe that the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that dinosaurs roamed the earth 350 million years ago and that this all happened naturally. I can't think of any reason why a person would NEED to have a soul, and mere consciousness does not equal a soul.

But then I have a problem. My soul exists. Why it exists, I don't know, but it's there. It is the ONE and ONLY thing I am 100% sure of. Everything else... my human body, the earth, they keyboard I'm typing on, could... COULD... be an illusion... a Matrix style virtual reality that I can't (or won't) escape. But my SOUL... that is the one piece of reality I can swear to. It's an absolutely bizarre position to be in. It leads to frustrating exchanges because Christians and other religious folk will tell me my soul is going to heaven or hell after death or some other such stuffs that people have made up through the centuries. When I speak with atheists, almost without exception they deny the existence of the soul, which doesn't help me either. To find an atheist who has a soul and claims to know it just as sure as I do, seems to be an incredible challenge.

boomSLANG said...

Regarding the existance of the "soul":

In his post, Wesley G. makes good points in 1 through 3. If I might add to this---the complete cessation of all "thought" is not only the more simple of all the fanciful religious explanations, it also makes the most logical sense in that "nothing" is more stable than "something". In other words, for some "thing" to exist infinitely, it's existance would eventually become *pointless---conversely, complete nothingness serves it's on purpose; it's more stable.

* One day planet Earth may be destroyed, taking all of humankind with it. There would be no more consciousness or "perception" of this thing we call the Universe. Yet, hypothetically, if the Universe keeps existing for an infinite amount of time, what purpose would it ultimately serve if no one's around to perceive it? Be careful if you attempt to answer with "logic"....for the laws of logic mean nothing unless there's "perception".



Also---just an observation, but I would argue that if any given person knows with "100%" certainty that something exists(in this case their "soul"), they wouldn't be asking so damned many questions about it. That strikes me as very contradictory. Furthermore, positing 100% certainty in the existance of something that presumably transcends this physical reality is a blatant contradiction, and points to NOTHING except subjective wishful thinking.

Jim Arvo said...

Alex said "...it is my belief that many, perhaps even MOST people do not have a soul (possibly even ALL except for me,..."

So, it seems you do not rule out Solipsism. I don't believe I've ever met an individual who considered Solipsism to be a legitimate possibility. Interesting.

Alex: "My soul exists. Why it exists, I don't know, but it's there. It is the ONE and ONLY thing I am 100% sure of.... But my SOUL... that is the one piece of reality I can swear to...."

As others have pointed out, that's a very peculiar statement that you're making. Your personal subjective conviction carries no weight in convincing others. While you may be 100% convinced, unless you can present some objective evidence for such a thing, others are being perfectly rational in doubting or even rejecting your claim. We all know people who are 100% convinced of ridiculous things, right?

Alex: "To find an atheist who has a soul and claims to know it just as sure as I do, seems to be an incredible challenge."

That would not surprise me in the least. In my experience, most people who call themselves atheists (like me) arrive at that position by learning to be skeptical, and recognizing that not everything that "feels" right is actually true. The "soul" in an excellent example, in my opinion. When I was very young I too was convinced that my "soul" would exist forever--I could not articulate why I believed this to be true, but I was certain of it. Absolutely certain. As I learned to examine beliefs more critically, I realized that my subjective sense of certainty had no logical basis, and that one's *belief*, no matter how strongly held, did not constitute any kind of evidence in itself. I also realized that it is impossible to imagine one's own non-existence, as there is absolutely no mechanism by which biological evolution could instill even the slightest awareness of such a circumstance in an organism; the reason, of course, is that there is no possibility for feedback of any kind, and hence, no selective pressure to favor such awareness. (Note that *fear* of death is entirely different!)

So, while I cannot absolutely rule out the existence of some immaterial aspect of our existence, I have absolutely no reason to believe there is such a thing. My inability to imagine my own non-existence says nothing at all about the physical world--but it does say something about the operation of my brain (and, I presume, the brains of others). Frankly, I find it to be an enormous stretch to assert that there is some nonphysical parallel of our brains. Through science we know quite well that memories, emotions, perceptions and the like arise from biochemical processes in our brains. How is it that ALL of these processes are ALSO carried out (at the same time?) in some other fashion in some other realm? To me, that is the ultimate infraction of Occam's razor--it asserts a completely invisible, untestable, unperceivable mirror image of something we already know to exist in the physical world. What is the basis for asserting this?

Alex said...

Sorry to have offended you, boomslang. That wasn't my intent. But I will pose to you that just because I know something exists, doesn't mean I know anything about it. For example, one might know that their car exists, but might not know the first thing about what it does or how to operate it, how to maintain it, how to take it apart, or how to put it back together. You could pose an encyclopedia's worth of questions about a car and still be sure it exists. It seems to ME, that your statement is completely baseless. Secondly, regarding your statement of blatant contradiction, I fail to see the conflict. Just because I'm aware of something outside of the physical realities (and I'm not saying this exists outside physical reality either, if you would read my first post), doesn't automatically mean it doesn't exist or that I can not perceive it with certainty. You are completely incapable of experiencing MY emotions, yet you would have no problems in acknowledging they likely exist. So do me a favor and don't patronize me.

Jim Lee said...

Plain good old common sense reveals to us that there are no God, Gods ,Goddesses, Angels, Demons, Devils, Satan, no human soul, no New Testament Jesus a la Greek trinty garbage, no answer to prayers no matter how much folk delude themselves by thinkinh otherwise. All religions are plain and simply no more than bullshit.

Alex said...

Jim Arvo, you bring up some very interesting points. I've not heard of "Solipsism" before and had to look it up in the dictionary. It's definition, "the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist," is intriguing. And perhaps I am suggesting I subscribe to that. Of course, I'd want to read into that further to see what its implications are. I'd be willing, at least for now, to put it in the realm of possibility but not probability.

You go on to state, "We all know people who are 100% convinced of ridiculous things, right?" And you are absolutely correct. Quite frankly, I can't blame others for being skeptical, even hostile, towards my assertions. But, at the same time, I should try to restate that I'm not asking they believe me, for that is irrelevant. I'm asking them that if they assume the soul does exist, then how would that fit into a reality without God and without the Bible and without any of the mythic storytelling that has transpired throughout the centuries. Granted... for them this would be only an exercise, but an exercise will do.

You made multiple additional statements, all of which were completely reasonable, and I can't offer a single shred of evidence to counter them. I doubt there is any doing so. But still, I keep searching for answers and keeping as open a mind as I can. I will offer one counter to a point you made, just in the interest of syncing understanding. You said. "How is it that ALL of these processes are ALSO carried out (at the same time?) in some other fashion in some other realm?" Interesting question. However, I would assert that it's likely that NONE of these processes are carried out in some other realm. Emotions, memories, the concept of time, pain, pleasure, even INTELLIGENCE... these are all HUMAN qualities. Who's to say that the soul possess any of these qualities at all? Then another question is introduced... what qualities DOES the soul possess?

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate the exchange :)

Alex

Ted said...

IMHO, if a soul exists, it is in collective thought, a combimation of electronic pulses bouncing around in the gray matter switching neurons and synapses.

I would also agree that after death, this soul which is selfconscious awareness of it's own existance dies and fades away quickly into complete nothingness.

The electronic pulses die and the heart which supplies fresh blood and oxygen to the brain and the brain and all thoughts quickly expire. A soul can only exist in subjective living brain thought.

Sarah said...

Rob,

Fascinating testimony. I had a similar experience. I read an astronomy book as a child. The book discussed the history of astronomy. It started by describing the creation myths of a few different cultures. This hit me like a ton of bricks.

I had naively always assumed that the garden of eden was the only one. It was the first time I realised that there were peoples who held completely different beliefs.

I also enjoy reading about science. The more I learn about science the more illogical religion seems. I read recently that a human and a fly are about 60% the same genetically. I was also reading recently about extremophiles, which are organisms that can live in extreme environments, such as extreme hot/cold, or crushing pressures in the oceans. I can't help but ask if God exists why did he create such organisms. What is their purpose? It just seems to me that there are a lot of things on this planet that are just here unnecessarily if you hold the view that a creator being made the world. They are understandable from a scientific point of view, but not from a religious point of view.

jurek said...

Hi there

Guys, please consider that while the word 'soul' makes a good metaphor with a huge careeer in pop music and poetry, the English languages offers quite a nice expression explianing its origin. We do nto have a soul, there is rather a 'sense of self' which works as a psychological 'immune system' that helps cognitive differentiation between the organism and its environment. Think about it!

boomSLANG said...

No, no, Alex...I'm not offended, really, I'm not. And at the risk of sounding patronizing, I might suggest, however, that you look into the difference between an "objecive"(universal) belief, and a "subjective"(personal) belief. Moreover, no one is denying the existance of a "car"; there are no websites where people debate the existance of a "car"; I doubt many people have never seen a "car"; no one will be rewarded or punished for their belief in a "car". So.... with all due respect, I think your analogy lacks relevance(fails). Again, you are talking about absolute certainty, as in, "100%" certainty in something that's not even detectable/observable with the physical senses. THAT is the contradiction, Alex. So in the future, please don't weasel word.....and remember, the only thing we have absolute certainty in is "change".

So, if you'd like to continue the debate---and you wanna stick with your car anaology? Fine. Okay, I would be willing to bet that you know where your "car" is parked this second, do you not? Okay then, where is your "soul" parked this minute? Seriously, I'm curious to know in what part of your physical body does your "soul" reside. Alex?..anybody??

Jim Arvo said...

Hi Alex,

Good catch! Just as I posted my previous reply to you, I noticed that I had made an unwarranted assumption, and you caught it. It is true that the "soul" (whatever that may be) need not necessarily echo every function of the brain. But then, that leads immediately to the next question: what WOULD such a thing consist in? If it does not carry with it our life-long memories, for example, in what sense can it be construed as being "us"? If it is not imbued with the capability of sensing its surroundings, how could we relate to it? Would it not be entirely alien to us?

Here is one other thing to ponder. Think about your certainty that such a thing exists (albeit, perhaps in a form that none of us can imagine or relate to with our biological brains). Where did that conviction come from? Does your brain "know" something that "you" do not? That is, is there some awareness of this "thing" that is somehow built-in to your biology, without your having to arrive at it through higher-level thinking? Or is this "thing" actually in control of your biology, and you are somehow feeling its self-awareness? Either way, there would have to be some connection between "it" and the physical world in which brains reside. Rene Descartes was fully aware of this problem, and postulated that the pineal gland at the base of the brain was where this communication between the physical and non-physical entities took place. (Descartes was, of course, the most famous if not the first "dualist".) But, to this day there is no objective evidence of any such interaction (you already knew that, I'm sure).

Have you ever read "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat" by Oliver Sacks? The entire book is actually an exploration of the right hemisphere of the brain, which is responsible for creating our internal sense of reality, including what is "us" and "not us". This is revealed, in large part, by what happens when the right hemisphere is damaged by trauma or disease. It's absolutely fascinating. One cannot escape the conclusion that what we see as plainly evident is often (always?) a manifestation of some brain process, and not necessarily a reflection of reality. This has several connections to the topic at hand. First, it calls into question the things that we feel are most "self-evident"; i.e. being completely self-evident is probably better evidence for the idea being *subjective* than *objective*. Second, it emphasizes how terribly odd the "soul" must be (if there is such a thing), as it is clearly the brain that creates our sense of the world, and who we are. I say this is "clear" because there is a wealth of objective evidence that these perceptions depend critically on a properly-functioning brain.

Anyway, it's all quite fascinating to think about, as it draws on biology (e.g. neurology), philosophy (e.g. epistemology), and theology.

Alex said...

boomslang said, "Moreover, no one is denying the existance of a "car"; there are no websites where people debate the existance of a "car"; I doubt many people have never seen a "car"; no one will be rewarded or punished for their belief in a "car". So.... with all due respect, I think your analogy lacks relevance(fails)." The point isn't wether or not anyone doubts a car exists. The point is that knowing a car exists doesn't necessarily mean the individual knows anything about it. As for the physical location of my soul in my body? I haven't a clue. I would postulate the soul is in the brain, but it could be anywhere. In theory, it could even be OUTSIDE the body for all I know. Or, it might not exist in physical space at all.

Jim Arvo,

You wrote, "If it does not carry with it our life-long memories, for example, in what sense can it be construed as being "us"? If it is not imbued with the capability of sensing its surroundings, how could we relate to it? Would it not be entirely alien to us?"

Actually, yes, I would say that it IS, entirely alien to us. Perhaps its a case that the soul is more complex than the human brain is capable of conceiving. Or, conversely, maybe the soul is actually nothing more than an entity, without feelings, without intelligence, without even perceptions! The only quality it has is the quality I can't communicate. Grrr! :)

"Where did that conviction come from?"

Interesting question. And I had to think about that for a long while. And as best I can remember, my CONVICTION came, oddly enough, when I started disbelieving in God. Everything that I was reading about the bible and about christianity and the behavior of the brain in how it seeks to explain everything, even when it escapes logic started me towards a much more material view of the world. But then I hit on, "Well what explains my soul?" I never asked that before because Christianity or any of the other religions would explain it. But since NONE of them can explain it to my satisfaction anymore, I'm left where I am today. I know my soul is there but I can't explain anything about it anymore. Does that make any sense?

"Does your brain "know" something that "you" do not?"

My brain is aware of the soul. It's aware of its completely separate and independent nature which means there IS a link of some kind. Outside of that, I don't think the soul has any control over the brain. My personality, my memories, my perceptions are all the result of my biological brain. It might be said that I have TWO consiousnesses of sorts. One that is the material, biological brain, and then the soul that's coming along for the ride.

I have not read the book that you mentioned by Oliver Sacks, but I just might have to put it on my reading list! I'm not sure it will provide any answers to my questions, but it certainly sounds like an interesting read.

Okay, now my head (brain?) hurts! Sorry this one took me so long to post, but it's caused me to do a lot of thinking!

Alex

Anonymous said...

1. whenever anyone goes to sleep, the thoughts of a god and heaven, jesus, bible rhetoric, etc. these thoughts go away, and disappear.

2. when a person goes under anesthesia or is knocked unconscious, the thoughts of god, jesus, bible, etc. these thoughts go away, and disappear.

3. whenever the brain dies, thoughts of god, jesus, bible thoughts, all thoughts go away, and disappear.



...and I guess the same would aplly to your system of faith ?


Dave.

Ted said...

To Christians.

If God is real to you and you absolutely have no doubt that a God exists.

Why do you need faith?

What use is faith when you already know in your mind that a God exist.

I would think that faith belongs to agnostics.

boomSLANG said...

In response to Alex' car analogy concerning his assertion that he has absolute knowledge of the existance of his "soul", I said:

"Moreover, no one is denying the existance of a 'car'; there are no websites where people debate the existance of a 'car'; I doubt there are many people who have never seen a 'car'; no one will be rewarded or punished for their belief in a 'car'. So....with all due respect, I think your analogy lacks relevance(fails)."

Alex said: "The point isn't wether or not anyone doubts a car exists. The point is that knowing a car exists doesn't necessarily mean the individual knows anything about it."

Again, more weasel wording and reverse logic. Please pay close attention: In order to know about; gather information about; ask questions about; inquire about; speculate about; and in this case, debate about any given "thing", it has to FIRST, be clearly and O-B-J-E-C-T-I-V-E-L-Y defined.(Notice the word "FIRST".) Yes, we have objective evidence that "cars" exist; yes, there are people who don't know jack shit about how cars are made. So what? The issue/conflict isn't about the knowledge, or lack of knowledge of said "thing".....the issue is about having OBJECTIVE evidence for the existance of the "thing" in question, BEFORE what is known about said thing even comes into despute/play. Notwithstanding, you are comparing the non-physical, with the physical.


Alex finishes with:

"I know my soul is there but I can't explain anything about it anymore. Does that make any sense?"

No, non-sensical beliefs don't make sense, unless of course, they're purely subjective beliefs. Funny how that works. lol. But honestly, each time you post it becomes more obvious that your belief IS totally subjective and points to NOTHING outside of your "head".

God 'less.

Alex said...

boomSLANG, as I've insisted several times now, it is not my objective here to prove to anyone I have a soul. As far as I know, it is impossible to provide evidence, much less proof, of the soul, so there's not point in trying. Since this is the direction you've repeatedly demonstrated you wish to proceed, I will consider our conversation over. Thank you for playing.

Alex

freeman said...

Alex,
I think what boomslang was asking was, since you said that you know 100% positive that you have a soul, how did you arrive at this knowledge?

How do you know that you have a soul??????

Alex said...

Freeman, the problem is, for the life of me, I can't articulate how I know I have a soul. I can't say how it was that I came to this realization... it's simply something I've always been aware of. At MOST, I can perhaps try to present a parallel.

Let's suppose we have a group of people, all of whom are color blind. Let's also suppose that there is no way possible to test for or prove the existence of colors. Now, one person comes along and for all his life he assumed that everyone could see colors. But then, through talking with this group of people, he learns that they're color blind. Well, now he states that he can see colors. The others ask him how he knows this and he proceeds to point to colors and say, "this is red, this is blue," etc etc. The others would ask, "But what IS red? what IS blue? We don't think colors exist, can you explain to us what colors are?" Well... how can you do it? how do you describe colors to someone who can't see colors? This is the quandary I'm in and as such, I've long since decided that there's no way possible to convince others that I see colors, and to move on from there.

Now, I must insist that this is not in any way meant to suggest that people who don't have a soul are in any way "handicapped" or any less of a person. People are people wether they have a soul or not. As I've stated before, I can't see that the soul serves any particular purpose... at least not in this physical universe. Think of it as an appendix. But now, all the questions I've previously posed surface... what purpose DOES a soul serve, what are its characteristics beyond which I am aware... and all that. And it's THOSE questions for which I'm searching for answers... or even just IDEAS. How did my soul get here? What happens to it after I die? I understand and know my CONSCIOUSNESS will go "poof" and along with it, probably all my memories, experiences, feeling, intelligence, all that. Everything that made me human will likely vanish when I die... but then what of my soul? Where does it go? Does it take anything with it? Does it take absolutely NOTHING with it? Because without the explanations that religion offers about God and the Heaves and all that stuffs, I no longer even have a hypothesis.

Alex

freeman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
freeman said...

angels=angles

freeman said...

Alex,
I do understand! My 11 yr old daughter tells me that she is visited every night by a unicorn! She tells me of the adventures that they go on. This is very real to her, therefore it must be true!

Alex said...

Enter mocking hostilities.

freeman said...

Alex,
Not entering hostilities. Just an example on how absurd you sound!

Do you believe in what John Smith said the gold tablets revealed?

Do you believe in the prophet Mohammads revelations?

If not, why not? These things were very real to them.

Alex said...

And as I've said, over and over and over again (are you daft?), I am not here to convince you or anyone I have a soul.

boomSLANG said...

Me: "Freeman! freeman!...HELP! I seem to have misplaced my discombobulator. Have you seen it?"

Freeman: "No, boomSLANG, I haven't seen your discombobulator---but come to think of it, I don't even know what a discombobulator IS.... so could you be more specific as to what I should be looking for?"

Me: "As a matter of fact, no Freeman, I can't be more specific.....that's because I don't even know what a discombobulator
is myself----I only know that I'm '100%' certain that I have one. And to top it off, I'm might be THE only person to have a discombobulator. Crazy stuff, huh?"

Freeman: "BoomSLANG, you sly devil, you! You need to lay off the pipe! Okay, s'then.... how are you even sure there is such a THING as a discombobulator?"

Me: "I know it.....because I KNOW it! Did you hear me?....I said I know IT! It's a feeling I have 'always' had....since birth."

Freeman: "Since birth?"

Me: "Well, okay, not exactly.....I read about it in an ancient text. That's where I first learned of the discombobulator."

Freeman: "Well, honestly boomSLANG, I think before you make the rounds on websites where there is no belief in such things, you should at the very least be able to provide evidence for the existance of your discombobulator---at least, if you want to be taken seriously."

Me: "What?...are you mocking me?"

...::wink::...

Alex said...

boomSLANG, you're just mad because I won't be your friend. :)

freeman said...

BoomSLANG,

If you say so, well then I have no reason to not believe you!

Anonymous said...

So atheists claim we should use reasons? Since when humans have used reason? Humans are the most unreasonable of living things. Animals used no reason but we can understand them. Humans we cannot. And one last comment for the atheist: scientists use reason. But some have used that reason to create nuclear weapons to destroy. Ask your hero Robert Oppenheimer, who created the atomic bomb? Or Einstein himself who wrote that letter to Roosevelt in 1939? And both were quite sceptics in religion. [Einstein at least regretted that letter years later] While you read "philosophy", I read history. It tells me truth of the stupidity of us humans. Atheism will not save humanity the less.

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