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Mar 26 2012

Gospel Disproof #43: The hallucination hypothesis

Over at the Evangelical Realism blog, we’ve just finished looking at William Lane Craig’s attempt to discredit the hypothesis that the postmortem appearances of Jesus were actually just hallucinations on the part of the disciples. He gave it his best shot, and used some of the best debating tactics he knows, but couldn’t quite pull it off. And yet for all that, the hallucination hypothesis does have a flaw: it’s overkill. Christians don’t need anywhere near that amount of psychological incentive to induce them to believe that they’re receiving some kind of special visitation from supernatural divinity.

For example, here’s our friend Mighty Timbo explaining how God shows up in real life today.

…God is present on the earth through his Holy Spirit. Because that’s not a visible manifestation I know that doesn’t satisfy the skeptic, but the works of the holy spirit have often been seen through the holy spirit that have often been unexplainable outside of the supernatural, however, many skeptics remain resolute in their rejection and still seek for ways to disregard what they see before them. That is their prerogative.

Notice how the “presence” of God boils down to ordinary superstition: you see something you don’t know how to explain, so you arbitrarily assign credit for it to God, even though you haven’t demonstrated any actual connection between God and the thing that stumped you, and probably can’t even give a coherent account of what that connection would be so that anyone could even look for it. The “supernatural” aspect of this “manifestation” turns out to be the thoroughly mundane and ordinary fact that people don’t understand a lot of what they experience. Human ignorance and fallibility just isn’t all that miraculous.

And yet, for Mighty Timbo and others, this is God showing up in real life. No physical manifestations or even hallucinations necessary. Ordinary ignorance and superstition are enough. And so is hearsay.

As far as other ways God shows himself, we regularly hear reports from people who claim they have seen Jesus Christ in a vision/dream/or that he appeared to them in some way. Many of these people are Muslims or of some other faith in a foreign country where the Gospel could not reach them.  I cannot personally vouch for the validity of such experiences except to say that of the testimonies that I have heard they haven’t contradicted the bible in any way and have led these men to become bible-believing Christians.

Again, though Timbo concedes that he cannot personally vouch for any of these reports being true, he still offers them up as apologetic evidence of “other ways God shows himself.” Their reports don’t contradict his interpretation of the Bible, and seem useful in converting people to Christianity, so he spreads the story whether it’s true or not. And that’s what the original Gospels are: stories that people spread even though they can’t personally vouch for whether or not they’re really true.

Modern studies show that between between 1/3 and 1/2 of people who have recently lost a loved one experience hallucinations of the deceased coming back to them in some way. Out of 12 disciples, that averages out to between 4 and 6 of them who would ordinarily be expected to have such experiences. That might sow the seed of the resurrection stories, but it’s not the real power behind the Gospel. The real power is ordinary people like Timbo, believing out of superstition, believing because they want to believe, sharing stories that promote their beliefs, whether or not they’re really true. That’s all it takes to explain the Gospels.

35 comments

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  1. 1
    SAWells

    The argument is even weaker than this, as these supposed “twelve disciples” are themselves not historical figures, but rather characters in the gospel stories. Fundamentally fictional.

    1. 1.1
      fredbloggs

      Indeed. Why even waste time discussing what probably mythical characters thought about almost certainly mythical events describing deinitely impossible happenings.

      Seems to be a waste of energy to me.

  2. 2
    This Is A Turing Test

    “…I know that doesn’t satisfy the skeptic, but the works of the holy spirit have often been seen through the holy spirit that have often been unexplainable outside of the supernatural…”
    If you really want to “satisfy” the skeptic, you’ll have to do better than a woo-ish, nonsensical, recursive sentence like this, that takes its conclusion for granted, and maybe give an actual, concrete example of such an “unexplainable” event.
    ” I cannot personally vouch for the validity of such experiences except to say that of the testimonies that I have heard they haven’t contradicted the bible in any way and have led these men to become bible-believing Christians.”
    And if the experiences had contradicted the bible, would you still have accepted them as proof of woo- or would you have rushed to skeptically attribute them, as we do yours, to perfectly natural causes? This is why we say, “when you understand why you reject other religions, you will see why we reject yours.”

  3. 3
    sailor1031

    Interesting that Mark, the earliest gospel, has no such stories. It simply ends with an empty tomb an a (presumed) angel who says “he’s not here”. The stories get progressively more impressive through Matthew, Luke and John but in none of these does the late JC appear to any other than a few disciples and mostly just to Mary and “the eleven”. It would lead one to think that there was a continual embroidering of a basic simple story which did not in fact have any magical appearances in it at all.

    1. 3.1
      Cosmic Teapot, not the Antichrist.

      Interesting that Mark, the earliest gospel, has no such stories.

      You need to look earlier than Mark. Paul wrote in his Epistles about the ressurected Jesus being seen, so this is presumably a very early tradition. If Jesus existed, then it may well be days after he was nailed to a cross.

      1. sailor1031

        A tradition maybe; but then why did Mark not write it down? If all sightings, mentioned only by Saul of Tarsus, were as authentic as Saul’s “vision”, then I still say it’s nothing more than a slowly accreting tradition with no evidence whatsoever.

      2. Cosmic Teapot, not the Antichrist.

        A tradition maybe; but then why did Mark not write it down?

        An interesting question, probably something to do with with why “Mark” wrote the Gospel in the first place. It’s a religious piece after all, not history.

      3. Aspect Sign

        You need to look earlier than Mark. Paul wrote in his Epistles

        And Paul gets you to days after how?

      4. Cosmic Teapot, not the Antichrist.

        Paul alone doesn’t. But if Jesus was crucified, and then people thought they had seen him, it is more likely this halucination occured nearer the time than later. Possibly within days.

      5. wholething

        Paul’s story is that Christ’s appearance to him was indistinguishable from a hallucination and the previous appearances to the others were just like what he saw. The gospel stories don’t agree with Paul. The combination betrays the myth-making.

      6. sailor1031

        For an interesting look at how such myths arise and how they persist I googled “angels of Mons”. Very instructive.

  4. 4
    Tim

    Hey Deacon-

    If you would like a coherent account of something miraculous that has a direct connection to God that has no other explanation I can provide you with one. (and easily many more)

    In her early 20′s my wife’s car was hit by a tractor trailer and she suffered a couple spinal breaks. For several years after she was unable to walk without a great deal of pain and the aid of two cains (and not for long at that). She suffered with a great deal of pain. The doctors had no better long term diagnosis for her, and certainly none that wouldn’t require a great deal of rehabilitation.

    She went to a church service and someone prayed for her back to be healed. She was instantly (and I mean instantly) able to walk, run, jump, you name it. Since that time there is no trace of injury – no pain. That’s a thoroughly, otherwise unexplainable instance, with a direct connection to God. Medical science has been unable to explain it to her.

    Now you can call that what you like, and I’m sure you think you can find your own way to rationalize that away, but at some point, so called “free thought” becomes a blind faith in and of itself – skepticism just for the sake of dis-belief.

    Also you said “Out of 12 disciples, that averages out to between 4 and 6 of them who would ordinarily be expected to have such experiences.” Ok, let’s say it was 6, what about the other 5 (judas was already dead). The account of the Gospels says not only that they saw him, but that they were all together when they did. Since nobody’s ever had a collective hallucination (because hallucinations are neuro-chemical reactions internal to the individual)what about those other 5 sitting in the same room at the same time?

    Forget the 12, what about the 500 people he appeared to at the same time? (1Corinthians 15:6) (Whether you believe in what paul said or not, it was a real letter and that was an extraordinary claim that anyone could simply check out. It would be pretty stupid to lie, especially about such a large number) So, did all 500 have a common hallucination? Even by your statistics only 100-250 of them should have and that in their own homes.

    The other thing I would challenge you with is that, though I am thrilled to have you go through my site, and in-fact encourage you to write a commentary on every one of my articles, you are doing the very thing I was attempting to avoid when I first contacted you.

    When I invited you to debate I told you that it was my desire for you to present your full case against Christianity (and likewise have a discourse) because both sides have a tendency to cherry pick quotes that they can easily refute and often misunderstand the position of the other side. You have done just that (both Cherry-picked and misunderstood).

    You challenged me to present my own case against another faith so you could demonstrate how my case against that faith proves my own faith wrong, yet rather providing such a response, you have cherry picked quotes on my site that you are able to respond to without taking them in the full context. (unless you did post a response to the Mormon case and I didn’t see it.)This shows me that as an “apologist” for the atheist faith you have to go looking for the arguments you believe you can win in order to save face rather than actually answering the ones placed in front of you.

    Again you, and anyone else reading this comment are welcome to examine my site at http://www.christian-apologetics.tk and provide whatever response you like to whatever articles you like. I encourage it and I welcome the examination and discussion of everyone.

    1. 4.1
      Cosmic Teapot, not the Antichrist.

      Forget the 12, what about the 500 people he appeared to at the same time? (1Corinthians 15:6) (Whether you believe in what paul said or not, it was a real letter and that was an extraordinary claim that anyone could simply check out.

      Corinth is in Greece. What are they supposed to do, take time off work and make the long journey to Jerusalem and back?

      1. sailor1031

        Perhaps in the telling and retelling and further retelling, people who had not been witnesses to anything anyway got confused between appearances of the late JC before his death (sermon on the mount, feeding 5000, etc etc) and reported, but not actual, appearances after his death. With some seventy years of oral “history” between the alleged reincarnation appearances and the account in John it would be easy for things to get just a little bit altered. In any case none of it is evidence.

    2. 4.2
      SteveS

      Tim,

      The problem with this response is that it makes your God look very, very capricious. Your wife was injured and she got better when she was prayed for in church. The doctors didn’t know how it happened, therefore God. This is half God-of-the Gaps and half special pleading. You are asking for us to believe in your god when way, way more people suffer than are healed in this world. How does God pick whom he heals? Is it random? Is it based on correct theology? Is it based on tithes? Who gets healed? Why do sick or injured children who are prayed over by devoutly religious parents so often die or suffer in pain? Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, for theirs is the Kingdom of God”, and his father allows them to go through so much suffering? Please excuse me if I don’t believe when children starve to death in Africa every day. Didn’t Jesus also say not to worry about what you would eat or what you would drink tomorrow for his father would provide? So much of the Bible is flawed that I cannot believe it. Jesus is not this perfect man-god character most of you Christians make him out to be. There is no way that this flawed document is the word of God. And if I don’t believe that, why would I give credence to any other claims Jesus was god or the Son of God?

      As for 500 witnesses, they could be an urban legend, but yes, mass hysteria and hallucination were also common during witch hunts. Notice how they were the 500 brethren in many translations. Not a single non-believe had Jesus appear to them? I find that shady. And was this all at the same time, or did it occur over a matter of days, weeks, or months?

      I hope you see why we can’t swallow your claims, even if you can. I’d rather go to hell that worship your God.

    3. 4.3
      mikespeir

      Well, Tim, I’m not calling you a liar, but I don’t know you’re not. What do I know about you? That you’re a human from Earth instead of some scalded splatter of protoplasm perched on a red-hot rock on Venus? Probably. If you’re a computer program, you’re a convincing one. I’ll assume you’re human. You say your name is Tim. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s Jack or Bill or Bob. Or Shirley. Or Young Suk. Maybe you’re a devoted Christian. Maybe you’re a patient at a mental hospital who’s found a way to sneak into the office and get on the Internet when the nurses aren’t looking. Maybe you’re just one of those weirdos I’ve run into from time to time over my 56 years who gets his jollies–a perverted sense of superiority–from conning people. It doesn’t matter the con. Any deceit will do.

      On the other hand, maybe what you say happened actually did happen. Maybe it happened for just the reasons and by just the agency you say it did. The problem is, I don’t have any reason to believe you. Which is more than a little odd. You see, I grew up in the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal fellowship that fervently teaches that the very kind of miracle you’re relating to us still happens in this day and age. And yet, for all the years I was in that movement I never saw anything close. In fact, I don’t think I even knew anyone who claimed to have seen such a thing themselves. Like always, it seems, the stories were second, third, fourth-hand-plus accounts–and wholly unverifiable. This is what Deacon Duncan is talking about when he complains that for all the talk, God never seems to show up in real life. God shows up a lot in stories, but not in real life.

      So, what reason do I have to believe you? Do you think I would find you more believable if you had lived 2000 years ago and had written down your story in a book? Why would I? You, at least, I can fairly assume to be a real, living human being, one with whom I am actually holding a discussion. What do I know for sure about Paul, or “Matthew,” or “Mark,” or “Luke,” or “John,” or Jesus? Even if I could have no doubt those gentlemen actually lived, what lends what they purportedly said or wrote any credibility? What’s compelling enough about the tales of Paul or Jesus or Tim that I should be obliged to turn my world upside down on account of them?

      And that’s just the problem, Tim. It’s not enough that people like you say, “We believe these crazy tales. Leave us alone about them.” No, you insist we also have to believe these crazy tales. You’ll aver we don’t have any legitimate excuse not to, despite them not gibing with anything in our own experience or even in the experiences of people we know–many of whom believe like you do.

      And that’s why your testimony as to this healing is falling on deaf ears here. It’s not that we’re hardhearted. Goodness knows I hope your wife is doing great, for whatever reason. It’s that we don’t have a stick of good evidence that what you’re telling us really happened at all for the reasons you say.

    4. 4.4
      kagekiri

      Okay, first off, if there were saints being resurrected and an earthquake and the sudden darkness, yet no contemporary sources mention any of this obviously provable stuff which should have been seen by thousands, you have to doubt the events of the crucifixion. Add in the excuse of the Pharisees, that Jesus’ body was removed by his disciples, makes absolutely no sense if other people were also miraculously freed from their tombs and resurrected for all to see and talk to just 3 days earlier. It’s inherently contradictory, at least one is an obvious lie. The resurrected saints were supposedly testifying in the streets; how stupid do you think the Pharisees were?

      Now, if we’re talking about healing, there have been other miraculous seeming circumstances that are not yet explained by science (the nervous system’s not fully understood yet, so it’s still easily possible that your wife’s healing was just natural and just previously unheard of; we didn’t even know the brain could heal and regenerate until very recently)…but why don’t you mention all the failures of prayer too?

      The friend who was kidnapped and found dead despite cries to God for help, the person who dies of cancer young despite having hundreds or even thousands of intercessors who have absolute faith in the Holy Spirit’s ability to heal, the family member who fades away as Alzheimer’s consumes their minds despite years of desperate prayer? I’ve experienced all of those instances. I can cite thousands, millions of prayers where God’s answer to prayer was silence and inaction leading to suffering or death.

      The power of the Holy Spirit should be stronger, should be easily demonstrated in person as the Bible predicts and promises, but I’ve never seen it despite years of believing it was real. The most I’ve felt was euphoria, thanks to Christianity’s inherent emotional manipulation. The healings are never miraculous, just lucky, and most who are not expected to recover, don’t. I’ve heard stories of instantaneous healing, of resurrections, but why don’t they happen here? God is camera shy?

      Instead we get excuses: Oh, God doesn’t work in the West because we don’t have enough faith; oh, God works better in third world countries without documentation because that’s where they need him most; oh, God doesn’t want you to test him; oh, it was God’s mysterious will; oh, God wanted them in heaven.

      No.

      God literally wrote on the wall of his People’s enemies in the Old Testament, stopped the sun from setting, routed entire armies, sent fire from the sky in an event specifically meant to test gods, diverted rivers and seas in open view of His people and their enemies. Now he doesn’t want to show up? Can’t show someone speaking tongues that spiritually translates to everyone’s languages? Can’t multiply food because someone has a phone camera? Scared of messing with free will, lest more people be saved from Hell too easily?

      God is fake or the Bible just doesn’t accurately describe him by saying he’s omnibenevolent. He’s shunning his children who are daily crying out for help; remember the lesson of how even a bad human father wouldn’t give his children snakes when they ask for bread?

      Apparently, that’s exactly what God does. They ask for healing, they almost always get death.

      I know I sound bitter: I am. I hate that this stupid religion manages to make all of those loopholes and ignore all of “God’s” failings, assuming everything is operator error, and if it isn’t we’re just unworthy. It’s not operator error, it’s not God not answering the phone for your own good: the intended recipient of your prayers simply isn’t there.

      1. mikespeir

        Ditto. Without matching eloquence.

      2. WMDKitty -- Survivor

        Hear, hear!

    5. 4.5
      Andrew G.

      I suppose you have the before and after x-rays?

      One of the problems with evaluating this sort of stuff is that pain is funny, and there are cases where it can persist even after the organic damage is otherwise healed. Ritual placebo (such as prayer) can be an effective treatment for psychogenic chronic pain or other psychogenic disabilities; this actually raises some interesting ethical questions about some forms of “alternative” medicine (specifically, is it ethical to deceive the patient about the nature and effectiveness of a procedure, when the procedure’s success is dependent on such deception?).

      This is why the gold standard (so far not achieved) for medical miracles remains the healing of amputated limbs; if you believe that prayer can heal, what reason do you have to believe that it can’t heal an amputee?

      1. jamesskaar

        cellular scaffold… the ‘miracle’. some experiments with dried pig bladder, one of the inner layers, made mostly of scaffold, might be an avenue to explore. it was discovered that salamanders grow new limbs because of a difference between them and us, they don’t scar, humans(and similar amnimuls) scar to keep out infections. it appears from what i’ve seen in a relatively reputable science show, that blocking the scar process may allow an entire new limb to grow in situ, and that cellular scaffolds may be the thing they grow on.
        if it does work, it may be one of the ancient healing methods also worked to regrow arms, of a person that hadn’t scarred. there might have been enough that this happened to, that it could become a neat trick, visiting a place a few times a year to drop off supplies, you know how people back then were with time, sometimes precise, sometimes waaaay off, even more with their stories, might have taken a year before the new arm or leg showed.
        might have happened then, but highly doubtful, there’d be some indication that using pig bladder on cuts was common enough to get used on someone with a missing limb. so… modern science may have found, through experimentation with really strange stuff, a way to regrow limbs. consider, the spinal cord, every other nerve in the body will regrow(afair 7″ a year), but not it, it scars.

    6. 4.6
      Michael B

      Tim,

      Your explanation boils down to, “I don’t personally know how to explain my wife’s ‘miraculous’ healing, therefore god.” I’m not buying it. There are any number of known mechanisms by which your wife could have been healed (beside the obvious one that you are making the whole thing up)… Here is one I’ll throw out as an example… phantom limb syndrome. After amputation, amputee’s frequently experience phantom “pain” emanating from the now missing limb. Currently, mirror therapy has been used to great success in “miraculously” eliminating pain, often after just one session. It turns out that there is some wiring in the brain causing the pain signals, and the pain has no immediate physical cause. Rewiring the brain (either through mirrors or through a “faith healing”) immediately and miraculously eliminates the pain. Something similar could easily have happened with your wife, with long-since-gone actual physical pain replaced by simple faulty wiring circuits. The faith healing session simply jolted her pain circuits back to normal. Ta-Da! Plausible physical explanation for your miraculous healing that has no need to rely on recourse of fairy-tale creatures.

    7. 4.7
      BecomingJulie

      So, your wife — whom you admit was undergoing medical treatment — got better. Quelle surprise.

      To attribute that to your God does an immense disservice not only to her body’s natural ability to recover from damage but also to the doctors, nurses, surgeons, consultants and orderlies involved, and the developers of any drugs she took — not to mention the taxpayers who ultimately picked up the bill.

      Riddle me this, Timbo: If your God is that great, then why did He let the car accident happen in the first place?

    8. 4.8
      had3

      Just a brief observation regarding the 500 witnesses. First, you made a math error when you sate that 125-250 would be the assumed number of witnesses. That number is only true if the total exposed population (those who would have a dream) is 500. If the total exposed population is 2000 and 25% have the dreams about the deceased, then one arrives at 500. You started with the 500 as the total exposed population.
      Secondly, you know how there are millions who claim to have attended Woodstock, and yet fewer than 1/2 million actually attended? That’s a phenomenon where people like to be included and share in the sense of belonging. So 500 saying they saw something isn’t the same as 500 actually seeing something.
      Lastly, was it 499, 500, 501… Is it rounding? Seems odd to stop exactly on 500, but I guess it has to stop at a given number unless god wanted all mankind to know…wonder why he didn’t?

  5. 5
    This Is A Turing Test

    Tim: I won’t presume to speak for Deacon, but I would like to note that you, like many believers, have again treated skepticism, as a method of thought requiring verifiable evidence to reach a conclusion, as a result of the process, rather than as a process itself. You are correct to the degree that anyone saying “I don’t care what you say, I don’t believe you” is an improper way to reach conclusions, because that assumes the conclusion, and disregards the need for evidence. This is not skepticism- this IS blind faith. You’re confusing your thought process for another. (And yes, I realize how close I am to saying “no true Scotsman”- so sue me.) What you label as “free-thought” faith is really only thought bounded by reality (which is vast enough to accommodate a LOT of thought), but unchecked by dogma; as opposed to blind faith, which is defined by, and limited to, doctrine not bound by reality.
    For example- your wife’s story. First, I’m very glad for her, regardless of how her outcome was reached. I’ve had the kind of back troubles you refer to, and I can only wince in sympathy (and empathy) at her pain. But, surely you must see that a little more information is required than “she suffered a couple spinal breaks” and “[t]he doctors had no better long term diagnosis” for us to leap to your conclusion that she was healed by prayer? This kind of anecdote is all well and good to reinforce your own faith; but, if you really mean it to be evidence to convince those who aren’t already believers, it will take a little more than personal testimony. You say it’s unexplainable- the most I would say is that it’s unexplained.
    Finally, a point about the testimony of the five hundred you cite in Paul’s letter. You say that couldn’t have been a lie, because “that was an extraordinary claim that anyone could simply check out.” I don’t understand this insistence on applying 21st century standards of what folks can and cannot know to the 1st century. I recently read “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel, and he did the same thing- insisting that people would not have allowed errors and exaggerations in the gospels to stand, because “living eyewitnesses” could have gainsaid them. As if these proto-gospels were being passed around, like newspapers, to be checked for accuracy by these “eyewitnesses” within their lifetimes. I don’t think it worked like that in 60 A.D. And a case in point- in August 2010, Glenn Beck had his “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, DC, and claimed attendance of between 300,000 and 650,000. It was actually probably only about 80,000-100,000 (which is still a pretty respectable number, I grant you). Michele Bachmann said this: “We’re not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here today. We were witnesses.” Sound familiar? Point is, there’s nothing unlikely about an interested “witness” inflating or even making up numbers to support a case, and Paul was certainly an interested witness (for something he didn’t actually see himself). A lot of folks will still stand by Bachmann’s estimate, and that is in the Age of Google- how likely is it that anyone 2000 years ago could really show Paul’s testimony (or anything in the Gospels, for that matter) as (charitably) exaggeration? Especially when the ones best in position to know the facts were the ones most interested in maintaining the fiction?

    1. 5.1
      wholething

      How widespread were Paul’s letters in the 1st century? Judea was destroyed in 70AD. There was such a small window for his letter to be fact-checked it would have been unlikely for anyone to have done it and been persuasive. By the time the letters were wide-spread, it would have been a couple of generations too late to verify or debunk them.

      1. Cosmic Teapot, not the Antichrist.

        How widespread were Paul’s letters in the 1st century?

        The letters were apparently collected together and disseminated early in the second century. Until that time they were probably in the hands of people in Turkey, Corinth and Rome.

        By the time the letters were wide-spread, it would have been a couple of generations too late to verify or debunk them.

        Spot on.

  6. 6
    jonathanh

    The problem with faith healing is that it never stands up to scrutiny. Sure, sometimes people are better after faith healing, but sometimes people are better after taking sugar pills. Just like the odd placebo healings aren’t evidence of the healing powers of sugar faith healing can’t count as evidence for God until it’s proven to work at miraculous rates or perform miraculous feats, like regrowing limbs.

    Faith healing stories always sound impressive until you realize that as with all “answered prayers” believers are counting the hits and discarding the misses. The evidence is in the fact that the first thing even Christians do when they get sick is turn to modern medicine, even people who believe in faith healing know that man is a better bet than God.

  7. 7
    Tony Hoffman

    God heals only those who could lie about their experiences. He is exceedingly (100%) indifferent to healing medical conditions that are objectively verifiable, like amputated limbs.

    I wonder what we should think about that.

  8. 8
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Tim @4:
    I’m sorry to hear that your wife was in a car accident, and I’m glad to hear that she’s recovered.

    Have you heard of the ‘post hoc fallacy’? If not then here:

    http://www.skepdic.com/faithhealing.html
    The post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this therefore because of this) fallacy is based upon the mistaken notion that simply because one thing happens after another, the first event was a cause of the second event.

    You didn’t mention anything about medical treatment or any medication. The closest you came was here:

    The doctors had no better long term diagnosis for her, and certainly none that wouldn’t require a great deal of rehabilitation.

    So she was diagnosed, but didn’t get any treatment? What did they do, bandage her up and send her along after a day? You don’t actually know if the faith healing worked. You’re assuming it did. How do you know her body didn’t naturally heal itself over time? How do you know that any medical treatments she received were effective and merely took time? How do you know it wasn’t a combination of medical treatments and the body’s natural healing ability? I doubt you’ve ruled all that out. You’re assuming that ‘she went to church and got better’. You may need to learn more about cause and effect, logical fallacies and a host of other topics before you try to diagnose how and why your wife was healed. Here’s a good site to start with:
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/medical3.htm

    By the way, anecdotes are not evidence.

    And this is mindboggling:

    This shows me that as an “apologist” for the atheist faith you have to go looking for the arguments you believe you can win in order to save face rather than actually answering the ones placed in front of you.

    I know theists have a hard time understanding the concept of non-belief. So in the interest of letting you know something you probably didn’t:
    ATHEISM IS NOT A RELIGION
    Perhaps you’re unclear what a religion is. Let me help. Here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion
    Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.[1] Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.


    This is a definition that is pretty darned broad (note there’s no direct reference to a creator deity). Yet atheism doesn’t fit the definition. There’s no narrative, no moral values (any moral values you find atheists having are not derived from atheism; for instance my moral values are derived from humanism), no sacred histories, no spirituality. I think there might be an atheist symbol somewhere (maybe a few), but if having a symbol means you’re a religion, then I guess Superman, the Jolly Green Giant, and the Pillsbury Dough Boy are examples of religious symbols.

    You can’t have faith in atheism.
    Atheism is “lack of belief in a higher power(s)”
    Faith is “belief without evidence”
    Given that there’s no proof of your god (or Thor, Odin, Zeus, the Egyptian Gods, the Mesopotamian Gods, the Native American gods, or any other gods), there is no reason to believe it is real. Evidence should be required before one believes in something (if not, then we may as well believe in the Cosmic Teapot, Sherlock Holmes, or jesus riding dinosaurs). The default position of non-belief that is atheism is a reflection of the lack of evidence for any supernatural creator. Atheism wouldn’t even exist if any god had supplied evidence of their existence.
    I hope all this helps. May your journey through life be positive, and hopefully one day you’ll be free of the evil influences of religious belief.

    1. 8.1
      This Is A Turing Test

      Tony: “And this is mindboggling: [and all that follows]”
      Exactly. Here’s the thing, though. Folks like Tim, who follow a particular mindset, like religion, cannot conceive of a different mindset. They wrap their lives around religion, therefore any other mindset, such as atheism, must be just a different form of religion. Same with their confusion regarding skepticism- since they would never dream of demanding evidence for their god, demanding evidence is not viable as a thought process, and must actually be the same blind faith that informs their own worldview. It is, quite literally, impossible for them to think any other way, or to even conceive of any other way of thought. This is the same thought process that allows creationists, for example, to blatantly force-fit evidence into their pre-determined conclusion (god); then innocently wonder why that’s considered bad science. After all, that’s good religion.

    2. 8.2
      mikespeir

      These defenses usually come in one of two guises, both of which are telling. First is the old “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship” dodge. Does the believer even suspect he’s actually admitting, “I realize religion isn’t a good thing, so I don’t subscribe to one”? Curiously, a century or so ago many Evangelical Christian teachers used “religion” as virtually synonymous with “Christianity.” Read Finney or Spurgeon or Moody, for instance. What happened in the meantime?

      The other is the opposite side of the same coin–a tu quoque assertion–and, not surprisingly, makes about the same statement: “Well, atheism is just a religion, too.” In other words, “I realize religion isn’t a good thing, but you’re no better!” Or, more piquantly put, “I can’t rise to your level, so I’ll drag you down to mine.”

  9. 9
    Azuma Hazuki

    Tim:

    It wasn’t Yahweh who healed your wife. It was actually Jizou (Ksitigarbita), one of the Bodhisattvas particularly known for acts of mercy; in fact, he is a “Bodhisattva of the Hells” and spends most of his time pulling souls out of Avici well before their sentence is up.

    You may ask, “why did he do it in a Christian setting?” The reason is that deep down Buddhism is less a religion than a metaphysics and a philosophy; the compassionate beings actually don’t care what religion you are, and usually don’t suggest that a person be deconverted. Since Christianity keeps many people in the Western world on the straight and narrow, he had no incentive to make you question your beliefs (i.e., it would cause more suffering for all concerned for you to be deconverted/have a crisis of faith than it does for you to continue to be deluded). She (and you) are the recipients of a gift. It’s not who you think it was who was the giver, is all.

    Please at least consider the possibility that you may be wrong.
    Only those who have something to prove are so obstinate.
    Everyone sees this eventually; i hope you do sooner than later.

  10. 10
    Azuma Hazuki

    Also, as an exercise to the reader, how much of the above was I serious about? The answer may surprise you, but there are clues in the text :)

    1. 10.1
      Eloi

      I have also been a believer in Jizou during my “alternatives to Christianity” phase. What a beautiful person, what a wonderful god. When my sister lost her baby, I felt her loss. Then I read about Jizou in a collection of tales and wept with joy and relief. Someone was taking care of her and loving her. So many gods are made in the images of humanity at it worst, Jizou represents humanity in its purest and most unadulterated goodness. Perhaps if Jizou was the true god over all others, there would be no reason for disbelief, sin, or hate. But he does not desire power. It is his shining example, rather, that we must believe in, and that will make this world a better place. The monster of the Bible can’t even be mentioned in comparison. Power, broether.

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