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Jan 10 2011

Authentic Supernatural Experience or Fail? You Be the Judge.

I am presenting this viewer mailer in his own words, unedited, and not even including my own rebuttals in order to avoid biasing any of you in some way to my opinions. I insert one clarification into a response I made that he includes in one of his replies, simply to make more clear what I see as a legitimate misunderstanding that arose at the end of the dialog. It is not offered as any sort of rebuttal to his claims, just a note to explain more precisely the position I was putting forward versus how it was misinterpreted by the correspondent.

His Letter 1:

Became a Christian 25 years ago (now an Atheist/Agnostic), did the whole gig from the born-again accepting Jesus to fully immersed water baptism. Bible studies, prayer, etc… Approx a year into this thing I was on the search for a church. My buddies and I decided to check out a church one night, never been there and this was in the days before they had rock concerts for worship. I’d say they had about 100 people that night.

Pastor was up talking (just a basic sermon) and at some point during the service a group of people at one end of the church (it was kind of U shaped) started laughing out loud, we were sitting in the middle of the church. It was almost like people were doing “the wave” like you see at sporting events, but with laughter. My buddies and I watched as it seemed to be moving closer to us with each set of folks laughing and almost acting drunk. Don’t know what it was, but the next I knew we were all hanging on to the pew in front of us to keep from falling down and laughing. It was wild. Absolutely hands down the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my life. Pastor said it was the presence of God.

I remember leaving the church and feeling like I was glowing or radiating. Couldn’t quit smiling, it was strange. I asked some friends we ran into shortly after leaving the church if they could see anything radiating or glowing off me. Sounds whacky, but I couldn’t figure it out.

At a high school reunion 10 years after that happened, I ran into one of my buddies that experienced it with me. I asked him if he remembered it and he confirmed that we’d all experienced it.

Not saying this validates anything, I’ve just never been able to reconcile it. I started doing research on these types of experiences and it “appears” others have had similar experiences where it wasn’t manufactured (Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, etc), more like a wind or spontaneous event that you can’t control.

My question is: Do you guys really believe that things like the Toronto Blessing, Kansas IHOP Smithton Outpouring and Lakeland Outpouring in Florida (using their names, not mine) are all manufactured by mind control? In other words, let’s say a person experiences something like I did (I’ve talked with others who’ve had similar experiences without the hype), would you give that any credence to something supernatural?

His Letter 2:



Thanks for getting back to me. Yep, I’ve definitely had those “laughter is contagious” episodes with friends and family. I’d write off my experience below to something like that if the backdrop might have been different (i.e. in a more intimate setting like one on one or with a small group) and if the experience was just about uncontrollable laughter. There really wasn’t a catalyst (e.g. someone eating something bad, pastor saying something funny, strange noise in church, etc.) other than laughter and noise breaking out at one end of the U shaped seating arrangement.

I guess the bigger factor was that the three other people in my group felt the same thing; they also had to hang on to the pew to keep upright when whatever this was appeared to make its way to us. It was like watching “the wave” at a sporting event and when it was our turn, we had no choice in the matter. It all happened very rapidly. It wasn’t like we started laughing and stayed laughing for several seconds causing us to lose our balance. It appeared to reach our section and we immediately felt euphoric while simultaneously having to hang on to something to keep from falling. When we talked about it afterwards, we all confirmed feeling something strong kind of pass through us that resulted in laughter and an incredible feeling.

I don’t buy into the manufactured hype in church services with rhythmic music and yelling. Something like that could easily lead people into a euphoric state of believing they are feeling a supernatural presence. I struggle with the rapidness in which this happened, that it appeared that everyone in the church experienced it, the euphoric feelings all of us confirmed afterwards and just the “strangeness” with which we all labeled the experience.

His Letter 3 (with only the segments of my reply he included in his letter):

>>Unless there was something wildly different about the experience than what you have expressed in your letters, it just seems extremely mundane to me. <<<

Well, let me kick it up a notch then. The validity of this experience has been bugging me for over 25 years; your responses fueled the fire a bit more so I continued my investigation. There were 5 of us (friends from high school – we were in college then) at that particular church service, so last night I jumped on FB and starting digging for names. Found a few people that I thought might know how to contact these guys and sent them private messages. I ended up with a possible phone number for one of the guys and left a message. Keep in mind; I haven’t talked with any of these guys since that event (over 25 yrs ago).

He calls back and after the shock of hearing from me after all these years, I ask if he remembers being in that specific church with me and the other guys 25 + years ago. He confirms it and then I ask if anything strange or unusual happened. He laughed and proceeded to tell a story similar to mine, although he described it more like excitement breaking out at one end of the church and moving around affecting everyone. He also verified a “euphoric feeling” that seemed to hit us all at the same time that made us unstable on our feet. He compared it a wind blowing through the church that seemed to make some people laugh, some people shout with excitement and a personal feeling better than any drug. Apparently, he and the other guys kept going back to the church (I only went once) for that very reason and would bring others to experience it. Said it would happen randomly. I asked if he knew how to get a hold of the other guys, and like me, he hadn’t talked with anyone for 25+ yrs. However, he did have the name of a town for one of them, so I took that.

After some Google searches, I was able to come up with a name and phone number. Called this guy and he was REALLY shocked to hear from me. It was an awkward conversation at first, as he was trying to figure out the motive for my phone call after all these years. I explained I was trying to verify something and asked if he remembered being in that specific church with all of us 25+ years ago. He verified it, so I asked if he remembered anything strange or unusual about that church or the service we were in. Silence. He asked why I wanted to know. Awkward. I told him I remembered something unusual happening, but couldn’t put my finger on it and wanted to know he if remembered anything. Without going into details, he also verified the experience and his version which was similar to both of ours.

In both cases, I allowed the person to tell me their version of the experience instead of telling mine first. I have two more guys to contact; we’ll see what they say. I’m not implying that this proves anything other than the experience appeared to be more than just a case of the “giggles” or “contagious laughter”. Both of the guys I talked with last night alluded to a euphoric or ecstatic feeling more than a laughing fit. They both confirmed it happened quickly and when it appeared to reach our section of the church, it was hard to keep our balance. They both went back to that church and said the same experience happened several times after that. Sorry for the long e-mail, it was just hard to let it go.

His Letter 4:



You bring up a valid point that individual people and groups of people experience laughter, excitement, and euphoria. Especially when at symphonies, ballets, operas, sporting events, movies, etc. You’ve pointed out that people experience uncontrollable laughter. I get all that, promise.

Here’s the dilemma in my mind. No instruments were being played to stir emotions, no one was singing, we weren’t watching a performance, and it happened rapidly (within a matter of seconds). I get laughing and not being able to stop, but this wasn’t about laughing uncontrollably. Laughter was involved, however, it was out of an overwhelming euphoric feeling rather than laughing because someone next to me was laughing.

Two of the guys verified independently that it appeared to be something we couldn’t see that caused those feelings and our momentary imbalance. They verified it happened rapidly, they had trouble keeping their balance, the feelings were indescribable, and nothing special was going on in the church other than the pastor talking up front. I have a meeting set up with another one of the guys who happens to live in the same city. Haven’t seen him for years and I’m curious to hear his recollection of that experience.

Honestly, I don’t have an agenda here. I’d like to think I am critical thinker, an atheist/agnostic and definitely not religious. Not sure where the word “miracle” came from, but the only thing I’m implying is that I couldn’t find a natural cause for this experience. Just seems strange that I thought it was caused by something I couldn’t see and the two other guys I’ve talked with independently verified the same thing without my prompting or leading questions. If it was a natural cause, you’d think at least one of us would bring that up.

You’ve made general sweeping statements that these kinds of things happen all the time to people and groups of people. I’ve never run across anyone in my lifetime who’s had an experience like this, in the setting I described, with independent verification from others who couldn’t figure out why it happened. Maybe I need to get out more often.

His Letter 5 (with the segments of my reply he included in his letter, as well as the clarification I mentioned earlier):

I get your point, you think a group of people got a case of the giggles, the people next to them caught it and so on. People laughed so hard they felt euphoric and some even ROLFed. Got it.

You’re too focused on the laughter, which makes sense, it’s the easiest explanation. The problem is, I mentioned other factors like a euphoric feeling and loss of balance. The euphoric feeling and loss of balance happened first, the laughter followed. The laughter was because of the euphoric feeling, not because someone next to us happened to be laughing. If the laughing came first, I’d concede your point. Besides, I’ve experienced contagious laughter and this wasn’t even close to that. In fact, I’ve never been a part of a contagious laughter situation in a large group that appeared to spread in a matter of seconds. without some type of stimulus (e.g. comedian)

>>>Feelings are NOT caused by external input.<<<

[The clarification I mentioned earlier: Physical response, such as vomiting or loss of balance, is not what people generally are discussing when they say “feelings”; “Feelings” are usually used to represent emotional responses, and that is precisely how I intended it to be used. I interpreted him to be using “euphoria” in the emotional context of feelings of happiness and exhilaration. While such emotional response is caused by physical brain activity, we generally do not conflate physical responses with emotional ones. So, when I say “emotional pain” you do not think of that as burning your had on a hot iron. And when I say “physical pain” you don’t confuse that with grief that accompanies the loss of a child. We generally differentiate the two even though they both require physical response. Emotional response is a function of brain feedback. Physical response can be induced by physical stimuli. I do get this. However, comparing a feeling of “euphoria” at a symphony with a feeling of riding a roller coaster is not, in my view, a reasonable comparison, for these reasons.]

You can’t be serious? I take it you’ve never been on a rollercoaster, jumped out of a plane, been drunk or had sex? Touched a flame? I get that once you touch the flame, you can’t feel the pain sensation until signals are sent from the brain, but c’mon.

Your belief is the laughter (or no external input) was the cause of the euphoric feeling and loss of balance. My story is, the euphoric feeling and loss of balance came first, then the laughter (similar to jumping out a plane, feeling the rush of free falling 200 mph towards the ground and then getting excited). Not much else to say. The two guys I talked with gave the same story, maybe I’m making this into a bigger deal than it really was.

###

That’s the last I’ve received so far. I don’t expect there to be more. But if he writes back I will direct him to this blog post where he can see if it’s the consensus of other skeptical thinkers that I’ve been unreasonable in rejecting his claims as he’s described them, or he’s been gullible for accepting them as anything but mundane.

98 comments

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  1. 1
    alargerview

    The term 'mass hysteria' comes to mind.I suppose it could be a miracle, if a paltry and unconvincing one.

  2. 2
    Ladies Only Weekend in Disney

    Releasing some sort of gas thru the A/C system? Thats what it sounds like to me. I'd go get a tox screening next time that happens.

  3. 3
    JT

    Also, keep in mind the fallacy of memory.I barely remember what I was doing 2 years ago, let alone 25 (Although, I was 3 at the time). My mother tells me a few anecdotes from her past. My response is usually the same – can you demonstrate that what you remember actually happened.For instance, she claims that once, she was trying to get away from a few males who were chasing after her, during the winter. She claims that someone (although no one was around) picked her up and threw her over the snow banking, and the males ran by, not knowing she was hiding there.I find it more likely that the memory morphed over time, like:1) I was under an adrenaline surge, which gave me a surprising amount of physical strength, and leaped over the banking.2) I was under an adrenaline surge, which gave me a surprising amount of physical strength, and leaped over the banking. It was so easy, it was as though someone threw me over.3) I leaped over the banking. It was so easy, it was as though someone threw me over.4) I leaped over the banking like someone threw me.5) Someone threw me over the banking. I didn't see who.6) The hand of God threw me over the banking.The problem is, without objective evidence to compare your experiences to, how do you know you've remembered it right? This is something like a 30-40 year old memory for her.

  4. 4
    JT

    She has a similar story about being "teleported" out of the way of a crashing car.She usually prefaces these conversations with "I used to be an atheist. I argue anyone down." No credibility points there.

  5. 5
    Kevin

    My best guess is that there was a stimuli that didn't make it into long term memory, but the reaction did. This is why stories from 25 years ago don't cut it as evidence, there is no way to validate what actually occurred because every reporting is affected by memory biases and that is the only thing being presented.Euphoria is such a vague term. I would probably use the term to denote a wide range of experiences varying from thinking about special relativity to adrenaline rushes. When an idea can evoke a response being described by someone listening to a stream of ideas, it seems likely that the response was from the speech even if the recipient denies its influence.

  6. 6
    utoad9

    Simply an experience confirming the old saying "laughter is contagious". Ever watch an episode of "The Carol Burnet Show",where Harvey Korman tries to fight off laughter,only to laugh hysterically. Before you knew it,Carol,Vickie and the entire audience was caught up. I know this was a comedy show,but I believe the same principles apply.Humans are very susceptible to mob mentality,whether laughter,violence,or beliefs. '

  7. 7
    Curt Cameron

    He seems to be stuck on the idea that you were focusing on the laughter first. I'm not sure what exactly you said, but I'd just explain that the feeling of euphoria in a large audience that's been primed is something that's pretty common, and the giggling/laughter could easily be a result of that.Once you get past that, I'm not sure I see his point for why it's so inexplicable. Does he think that the typical craziness you think of in a Pentecostal service is somehow mysterious? Is his experience really any different from that?

  8. 8
    Sparrowhawk

    The guy has a lot invested in his belief that this was a divine experience. Why he's coming to you about it I have no idea…If I were him I would fully expect the "dull atheist" to either say they can't explain it or feed me some stuff about science that I would just shrug off.I would just say to the guy…clearly you are convinced of your interpretation of this event and I think we both know you can't give me a convincing argument that isn't just personal experience or "I felt it", so…thanks for sharing and congratulations on your experience, but…this won't go anywhere.

  9. 9
    Meg

    He seems convinced that something supernatural had to have taken place. It is hard to look back on a memory and change your understanding of events, especially since this one seems to have been so important to him. I can imagine him replaying it over and over, the sweeping euphoria. He doesn't even need to change anything in his memory, just focus on certain elements and neglect others which he does not realize are relevant.If this were an act of God, why does it happen in only one church and only sometimes? The fact that it is in one location only would automatically make me think that it was manufactured. The frequency reminds me of a gamblers addiction. If it happened all the time or on a regular schedule, people would lose interest quickly. But by denying the experience, leaving people to hope for and anticipate the next wave of euphoria, that is a great way to keep seats (and coffers) filled. At political speaches, church gatherings, sports game you can often feel the gathering mood. No one person is starting it or leading it, it just catches. People often think that tv shows use laugh tracks when they have live audiences because watching at home, the show is not that funny and isolated audiences don't laugh as hard. The difference is in numbers. I would suspect some kind of airborne chemical agent if I had experienced that. I say this not merely out of anti-theism but because his description sounds like taking nitrous oxide (recreationally). The euphoria proceeded the laughter and I had little control over my body. Euphoria does not come out of nowhere. Orgasm or adrenal rushes, those are normal causes of euphoria. But euphoria when just sitting on a pew listening to some guy ramble about zombie Jesus, how can I not assume a hoax?

  10. 10
    PersonalFailure

    There's mass hysteria, memory conflation/loss, and there's also how the brain determines you are happy. People think you feel happy, then you smile or laugh. It's way more complex than that. The brain is constantly checking in with your face to see how you feel. If you're smiling, your brain assumes you are happy and you feel happy.Combine that with the fact that we are social animals and want to feel what the group feels, and you could have started laughing first due to the group's laughter, then felt the euphoria as your brain felt your laughter and said, "Well, okay then, I must be really happy."25 years later, it's an inexplicable event.

  11. 11
    mjschmidt

    I'd have to go with airborne agent as well. Suggest to him that if he truly believes it is a supernatural phenomenon, the church should contact the James Randi organization (yes, I know, there are some hoops through which to jump).

  12. 12
    March Hare

    I'm going for NOx through the A/C.Although the more mundane reasons are plausible too.PS. I saw a ghost (actually a toddler sitting in my room as large as life) 10 years ago. But I don't believe in ghosts and am sure it was an hallucination or waking dream (I had just woken up). There are almost always non-supernatural explanations if you just look for them.

  13. 13
    John K.

    I would only really take issue with the nature of the evidence, in that it is wholly anecdotal. To really convince skeptics, the event would have to be repeatable. Does this sort of thing happen at that church on a weekly basis? If so film or other evidence of a more reliable nature can be generated.Other than that, the unexplained does not require the supernatural. A bizarre and rarely seen phenomenon like that needs no magic. It is the common argument form ignorance, "I can not explain what happened, so I can apply my explanation until it is disproved."People laughing in sequence does not strike me as remarkable enough to discount every natural explanation. The euphoria he is describing has to be assumed for every other person in the church. The quick prompting of the preacher "that was the presence of God" also would lend to misinterpretation of the memory.That got longer than I meant it to be. No, I am not convinced of any supernatural occurrence.

  14. 14
    Comment1

    I remember when I was about 10 years old taking a test in silence at school. For some reason I felt laughter coming on. I looked up and tried to hold it in, but then I looked at someone else and realised she was in the same situation. Right at that moment it was like the whole class started laughing very softly for a moment. Then we went back to the test.THIS WAS A CATHOLIC SCHOOL!!!!It's fun when that stuff happens. Interesting and whatever, but mainly fun.

  15. 15
    minus

    Let's assume this guy is telling the truth. Something amazing happened; he experienced it and he has relayed it honestly. It sounds like a wonderful experience – I wish I had been there to share it. I see no reason to try to guess what happened based on our lack of information. Maybe, I missed something, but I do not see anything to indicate that this guy is drawing any conclusions about what caused the event. I also see no reason why we should. Let's just accept it, and enjoy it, as one of those amazing things that happen. There is much more in this world that we don't understand than there is that we do understand. I'm glad that he relayed the experience; he's trying to be honest and I don't think he deserves ridicule.

  16. 16
    Jacob

    This reminds me of the debut of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in 1913. Everyone in the audience rioted after listening to the radically new harmonies and discordance. Radio lab did an awesome podcast on the neurological responses to music.http://www.radiolab.org/2007/sep/24/

  17. 17
    JT

    @March HarePS. I saw a ghost (actually a toddler sitting in my room as large as life) 10 years ago. But I don't believe in ghosts and am sure it was an hallucination or waking dream (I had just woken up). There are almost always non-supernatural explanations if you just look for them.On two separate occasions, I woke up in middle of the night. In each case, I saw a large (like 1' across) spider squirming on my ceiling. It looked so lifelike.Then, after just a few seconds, like a cheap Star Trek effect, it just faded away.Apparently, I'm haunted by a gigantic ghost spider that has unfinished business in life – hopefully, not with me.

  18. 18
    Sean (quantheory)

    My one big HUGE problem with stories like this is that they have NOTHING to do with natural versus supernatural. If an unexplained event occurs, and no one on Earth can explain it scientifically, that is not evidence for something supernatural. Not even slightly. The aurora borealis looks like magic. Good stage magicians can do things that no one in the audience can explain. Evidence for the supernatural can't come from not understanding something, but instead must come from understanding it well enough to show that the natural order has well and truly been violated.As for my guess as to causes? (It's fun to speculate, even though I don't think any evidence for the supernatural has been presented at all.) There are all sorts of possible effects. US diplomats, before World War II, report the intense power of Nazi rallies. One even felt an incredibly strong urge to stand and salute: "Heil Hitler!". But although Hitler was charismatic, he was not the apparent "source" of this energy, nor did he possess mind control or hypnotic powers (that we know of). Rather, it seems that we have social mechanisms in our brain, which are designed to produce conformity, imitation, empathy, and generally to pick up the behaviors, values, and emotions of those around us, especially when close to them. When we are in crowds, those mechanisms are very highly stimulated. Everywhere we look, people are loudly expressing more or less the same emotions and attitudes. And in political or religious gatherings (as opposed to, say, concerts) social thoughts and behaviors are stimulated further by reference to shared moral values and identity, and the value of unity.If you see a wave of laughter in a crowd, and you're primed to agree with their joy, the hyperstimulation of the empathetic response is going to make you feel the same way as you perceive that they do. Especially if your brain can see how the wave spreads and has just enough time to figure out when it will reach you so that you can match the pattern.

  19. 19
    tracieh

    @Minus:>I do not see anything to indicate that this guy is drawing any conclusions about what caused the event.He first asked me:“Do you guys really believe that things like the Toronto Blessing, Kansas IHOP Smithton Outpouring and Lakeland Outpouring in Florida (using their names, not mine) are all manufactured by mind control? In other words, let’s say a person experiences something like I did (I’ve talked with others who’ve had similar experiences without the hype), would you give that any credence to something supernatural?”He says “would you give any credence to the supernatural”? Clearly from 5 e-mails later he continues to be dissatisfied that I have answered him “no,” and repeatedly explained why my answer is “no.” Nothing about the story provides evidence of the supernatural, in my opinion.It isn’t so much that he said “I think this is a supernatural event,” It’s that he’s not willing to accept a response from someone else who says they don’t think it IS a supernatural event. He is dissatisfied whenever I say there is no evidence of supernature at all in the story—he keeps on repeating it as though hearing it again will elicit a different response from me. What will satisfy him? I have to say the only thing will be if I tell him it seems supernatural to me…?

  20. 20
    tracieh

    Sean:>My one big HUGE problem with stories like this is that they have NOTHING to do with natural versus supernatural. If an unexplained event occurs, and no one on Earth can explain it scientifically, that is not evidence for something supernatural. Not even slightly.Exactly. Thank you.

  21. 21
    DavidCT

    The other commentaries have done a good job of covering the lack of reliability of memory and the contagion of laughters or other emotions in groups. I want to add my two cents on the problem of loss of balance. The e-mailer stated that the people were moving with a wavelike manner. This sort of motion could easily have been hard for his vision to interpret. This effect is created daily at Disney parks. One of the attractions in Florida was a number theaters with camera arrays that projected 360 degree displays. Rails are provided for the audience to hold onto. The sense of motion provided by visual images alone that it is nice to have the rails for reassurance and to keep one's balance.It is easy to fool our senses and human memory is unreliable. To trust in either without question is to guarantee eventual self deception.

  22. 22
    Rod Keller

    @Tracieh"It isn’t so much that he said “I think this is a supernatural event,” It’s that he’s not willing to accept a response from someone else who says they don’t think it IS a supernatural event. He is dissatisfied whenever I say there is no evidence of supernature at all in the story—he keeps on repeating it as though hearing it again will elicit a different response from me. What will satisfy him? I have to say the only thing will be if I tell him it seems supernatural to me…?"This seems like an assumption to me. It is really hard to contextualize his responses to you when you don't present your responses to him.Just because he does not accept your response, doesn't mean that he does so because he is in favor of a supernatural position. He may well be, but from the letters he wrote, there is no evidence of that.From what I gather, he seems to be re-explaining the experience because he feels you do not "get it". Maybe your paraphrasing of the event or explanations were just unsatisfactory to him, regardless of the stance he is taking. I can't really say for sure unless you show both sides, but perhaps he is just at an "I don't know what this was" position and is attempting to seek answers.Rather than anyone assuming what his stance is before he makes a statement of what it is, why don't you just ask him what he thinks it is, could be and his perceived likelihood of that belief?

  23. 23
    BeamStalk

    Seems like some mass hysteria. Now if it really did happen regularly at the same place, I would not rule out some gas being pumped into the church.

  24. 24
    OnceProudKnight

    My simple answer would be that "We don't know what caused the experience, we don't have enough evidence to call it supernatural. Realistically, phenomenon like that has been reported and documented as forms of "Mass Hysteria". Without tests being run at the time to see exactly what happened, we will never know. And asserting the cause without any data would just be an argument from ignorance, whether you assert it was God or you assert it was some kind of gas. The honest answer is we don't know."

  25. 25
    wvbishop

    Tracie,Great post! This person is obviously looking for confirmation that his experience was “supernatural”. In such a case (or state of mind), his over-analysis of memory will only create/perpetuate unreliable distortions. I cannot help but to think this person likely, perhaps subconsciously, lead the witnesses that he refers to in his letter to examine their own 25 year old memories. This guy needs to read some books on our understanding of brain function and tendency for distortion. I would suggest he start with “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)”. Also, great post by JT on how his mother may have conflated an obviously emotional experience. I’m no neuroscientist, but I imagine that a highly charged emotional state is ripe for increase memory/interpretation distortion.

  26. 26
    Dave

    "The term 'mass hysteria' comes to mind."Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!Sorry, had to.I organize dance events in clubs and I get people (and I have had them as well) tell me of similar experiences they have had. They will be astonished that they showed up, didn't expect to have fun, were sober the whole night and had a euphoria rush over them as they were dancing.We're social creatures. You spend a few hours in a room where people make you feel welcome and everyone is there with the same goal in mind and you feel really good.Now that happens in a church and you say God did it, and suddenly it's God. It was overwhelming and you weren't really able to process the event very well then you remember back on it fondly. And because you thought God did it then, you are now convinced of it because that is how you remember it.The same thing happens when one of my events goes off. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it really works it is like a chain reaction. People have a good time so more people have a good time and so on. Then people tell me it was the best night of their lives.But I suppose that would be Satan luring them away from God's path or something I'm sure.Dave

  27. 27
    tracieh

    @ Rob:Here are some examples of my statements:> I don't know what else to say. Unless there was something wildly different about the experience than what you have expressed in your letters, it just seems extremely mundane to me.> I don't doubt your story. I don't doubt your friends' stories. I'm saying that even if every word of it is true, it’s not impressive–in the least. Where is the miracle? Everything you describe is something that happens to people whether they are religious or not. I can't think of any person who doesn't laugh, get excited, feel euphoric. And I can't think of anyone who hasn't had experiences where they laughed with a group, got excited with a group, or felt euphoric with a group (esp at symphonies, ballets, operas).> You're not giving me a description of anything that defies the natural world or requires supernatural intervention.> Laughter is not supernatural–in any context.And here I’ll add that although I used “laughter,” euphoria, excitement (and as someone above noted, loss of balance in a moving/swaying crowd) is not unusual.How many times can I repeat to him that nothing in this story is supernatural? Why does he keep retelling it? I even provided him these links:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/14/AR2006121400643.htmlhttp://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/laugh.htmlThey discuss how things like laughter are produced in the brain and the effects they have on the body, and how such things are contagious between people.If I tell you a story about something that happened to me and say “I can’t figure out a natural explanation for this.” And I additionally ask you if you think it lends credence to the claims of supernature, I am quite clearly saying that this event strikes me as potential evidence of supernature–why else bring up supernature?If I say “I have this story, and I can’t find an natural explanation. My microwave won’t work, and I can’t find anything wrong with it—do you think this lends credence to the idea that gremlins exist?” Why am I bringing up gremlins? WHAT am I saying BUT that this event is making me think there might be such things as gremlins?And if you say “Well, you can’t find the problem, but sometimes stuff just malfunctions. Could be a faulty component that just doesn’t ‘look faulty’—short of replacing every component, you wouldn’t find the problem—but it’s certainly not impossible for a microwave to stop working and not have any easy-to-identify broken components—I mean even water damage could have ruined something, and after it dried, you can't see it?”And then I say “No, you’re getting too hung up on the water damage. I’m saying I looked at the microwave—took the back off, and I didn’t see any burns or any disconnected wires—how do you explain that if it’s a natural malfunction?”And you say, “I mean stuff breaks. It’s not always easy to see what’s wrong. It doesn’t mean gremlins.”I reply: “Ok, you’re not hearing me. I had my NEIGHBOR come over. He looked at it, too—and he said he didn’t see anything wrong with it, either? I even asked him again tonight if he remembered looking at it—he did. He said he didn’t see anything wrong with it, either.”I’m sorry, but at some point we have to get honest and admit you want me to say gremlins broke the microwave. I don’t need a neon sign to see that.

  28. 28
    Rod Keller

    @TraciehFirst, I'm Rod, not Rob.You are accusing this guy of using an argument from ignorance, where in his letters, he asked you once at the start if you thought it was something supernatural and didn't bring it up again.You however, are stating that if he keeps asking you what it is and explaining the situation and you don't understand why that he MUST mean that he thinks it is a supernatural experience. Sorry, but no. That is an argument from ignorance. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? I'm honestly not sure. Is it absolute? Hell no, and for you to assume it is is not logical. Just ask the guy.Obviously this guy thinks the experience is unique while you are constantly stating it is mundane. What if one of the previous bloggers was right and this was a gas released in the A/C system, causing an effect that is beyond a natural human reaction? If that were the case, it would not seem to mundane to him, would it? If you start out by downplaying his experience, he might have reason to try and restate it.I don't see any evidence of anything supernatural here myself, but I don't think you are being fair to this guy at all.

  29. 29
    Rod Keller

    @traciehI wrote a reply but I can't see it so I have to re-write it here… so if a duplicate shows up, sorry.My name is Rod, not Rob.You are stating that his argument is an argument from ignorance. That because he can't figure out what caused the experience, that it must be supernatural. I only see one instance of him stating that it was supernatural, and that instance it was a question. I think you are making an argument of ignorance stating that: If he is having to restate his experience, the it MUST mean that he thinks it a supernatural event. There is no evidence supporting that, only your assumption that this is what it is. I don't think it's fair to make that assumption. You should instead just ask him.Additionally, you are making replies back to him stating that the experience is mundane. What if one of the previous bloggers is correct and gas was released into the A/C causing this euphoric feeling? It may not give credence to a supernatural event, but it would make the experience less mundane and quite extraordinary. And if this was the case, he would be correct in trying to restate his opinion so that you don't think it is the same as an everyday event.I don't think there is any evidence in his story of this being supernatural, but I don't think you are being fair in your discussion with him.

  30. 30
    Alan

    How to have a religious experience in two easy steps.1. Have an experience.2. Call it religious.Why should there be a requirement for a "god" at all unless the writer is religious? The religious can only think in religious terms, not in any objective method.

  31. 31
    Daemon6

    I see several problems with the responses. First, he doesn't seem to imply at any point that he believed it was a supernatural event. On the contrary, it seems like he is trying to make sense of something that doesn't add up. He states that he is now an "atheist/agnostic" which, granted, could be an outright lie, but the context does not seem to point to that. Second, the assertion that it is necessarily a "mass hysteria" event strikes me as more than a little presumptuous. He seems reasonably articulate in his description and seems capable of making the distinction between a known and unknown occurrence. While I don't believe for a moment that this was anything but an unusual, but natural event, I do not believe that we have enough information to write it off as "mass hysteria. In this case I believe the only honest and reasonable response is "I don't know".I would also like to agree with Rod Keller is his statement that the immediate dismissal was unwarranted. His intent with his letter seemed more of an attempt to get a rational response rather than prove anything supernatural.

  32. 32
    JT

    @Daemon6While I don't believe for a moment that this was anything but an unusual, but natural event, I do not believe that we have enough information to write it off as "mass hysteria. In this case I believe the only honest and reasonable response is "I don't know".I don't see anyone "dismissing" it as mass hysteria. I see people considering answers to the question, "If it wasn't supernatural, what was it?" Even for those listing it as a possibility, they are still in the position of "we don't know".

  33. 33
    TheDon

    I used to be involved with Todd Bentley's church in Canada. I was on staff there, until the ass-hat decided to have an affair and leave his wife. Funny how the money starts to disappear when you do silly things like that.That type of experience he's talking about was very common there. I believe that this feeling comes from wanting to fit in. Everyone is doing it and if you don't join in, people will think you're not in the "spirit". Eventually, you convince yourself that you are feeling something.I remember some meetings at church; watching people being "drunk in the spirit". Every once in a while someone would look like they're sober up for half a moment, look around the room to see what happens, then enter in again. They're making sure that people can see them. They're making sure that people will accept them.I know. I've been there.

  34. 34
    Lukas

    Sounds a bit similar to an experience I had years ago, although mine was solitary. I was doing a meditation, same as many times before and after. However, this time, I was suddenly filled with a great feeling of euphoria. I felt incredibly happy, calm and relaxed for no apparent reason. My body felt so light that I actually checked to see if I had floated off the ground (I hadn't, in case you were wondering).At the time, I interpreted this within a religious framework, but I've since come to the conclusion that it was probably just some aberrant neurological phenomenon; possibly an unusual release of endorphins or something like that. It would match both my emotional state and the desensitization that led me to feel like I was floating.Your brain can do things you can't even imagine. I mean, literally, things that you are unable to imagine until it actually happens. I see no reason to attribute such events to any supernatural cause. If we don't know the cause, then we don't know the cause.RE: matching stories, I wonder; did they talk about it immediately after it happened? If they did, that could easily explain why they all give the same account: They've simply "gotten their stories straight" (which doesn't imply dishonesty, mind you, only that memory is not always a trustworthy source of information).If you're smiling, your brain assumes you are happy and you feel happy.Ding! Very important point, there. You can manipulate your emotional state to quite an extraordinary degree, if you really want to. Most people don't realize just how malleable we are because they never bother to try it out.A simple experiment is this: Laugh. Right now, just start laughing. Force yourself to laugh. Never mind the feeling, just go through the motions; pretend. Continue laughing for a minute or two. How do you feel now?This connects to another point, relevant to the whole area of religious experiences: It is possible to provoke an emotional reaction to imaginary stimuli. That is, if you can imagine a situation vividly enough, you will have the appropriate emotional response. It doesn't matter that you know it isn't real and it isn't a "fake" emotion. You really feel it. You can even push it to the point of having the relevant physical symptoms as well; laughter, tears, etc.My point with this is, just because you feel the presence of God, doesn't mean that God is actually present.

  35. 35
    ResCogitans

    Quite rightly, people have pointed out that our memory is extremely fallible, but as he verified it with other people independently there is no reason or need to assume his recollection is wrong.The situation and language used in a church has many parallels with those used by hypnotists to induce a level of trance. I think it much more likely that at some point there was a giggle fit in the church, and the pastor encouraged it and said it was the holy spirit etc. In future services those that were part of a previous giggle fit were more likely to have another one – there was some level of expectation that they would. The newcomers, being in a suggestive state, then get caught up in the mass hysteria.

  36. 36
    Gods_misled_children87110

    Often the most simple down to Earth logical explanation is the correct explanation. It is funny to joke Nitrous Oxide was pumped into the HVAC or it was a miracle of god but I doubt both.I'm a pessimistic person but I've had that can't stop smiling and feeling good at least a couple times in my life around beautiful people who were filled with elation. It sounds like one big collective 'spiritual orgasmic experience' they call the presense of god and all of us would probably love to feel that way everyday without having to take harsh drugs for it. Religion is the opiate of the masses.

  37. 37
    mikespeir

    There are only so many emotions in the human repertoire. Even if the Holy Spirit did exist, he would have to work with these emotions to get the results he wanted. But there would still be no reason these same emotions couldn't be triggered by other causes. And, if so, why bring an invisible, unprovable entity into the mix in an attempt to explain them? No matter whether the Holy Spirit exists, we'd still be justified in suspecting he doesn't.

  38. 38
    Derek

    I see it that this person simulated a rock/hip hop concert in his head while at church and somehow got caught up with the rest of the crowd. I think he was trying to be like everyone else and started to laugh to not feel left out…IMHO

  39. 39
    tracieh

    @Rod:First let me say I don't care. I have my thoughts about his motives. Clearly you don't see it. Fine. Next, though, let me respond to the following:>You are stating that his argument is an argument from ignorance. That because he can't figure out what caused the experience, that it must be supernatural. I only see one instance of him stating that it was supernatural, and that instance it was a question.Fine. One instance is all I need you to see.>I think you are making an argument of ignorance stating that: If he is having to restate his experience, the it MUST mean that he thinks it a supernatural event.No, I'm saying he's considering "supernature" due to his incapacity to know what it was. And that's unfounded and due to his ignorance about what actually caused the event. Supernature cannot be entered into possible causes until supernature is demonstrated to exist and to have some meaningful mechanism we understand. Otherwise, we're just saying "X did it via Y." How can we consider that as an explanation?>There is no evidence supporting that, only your assumption that this is what it is.Fine. My reasons are: He has not reason to broach supernature at all. What about the story gives "credence" to supernature? Nothing. And how would anyone know what gives credence to supernature, if we can't even identify what supernature is or how it functions? And I assure you, we can't, because there is no verification of its existence.Now, you don't think he intended this. Fine. We disagree.>Additionally, you are making replies back to him stating that the experience is mundane.Because it is.>What if one of the previous bloggers is correct and gas was released into the A/C causing this euphoric feeling?That would be mundane, as that gas causes that reaction. What would be supernatural about that? Laughing gas making people laugh is a mundane explanation.>It may not give credence to a supernatural event, but it would make the experience less mundane and quite extraordinary.No, it wouldn't be "less mundane"–it would be totally mundane. Unless you think there is something beyond nature about laughing gas making people laugh.>And if this was the case, he would be correct in trying to restate his opinion so that you don't think it is the same as an everyday event.No, it wouldn't. I did not say it was an "every day event"–ever. I said it was _mundane_. Please look up that word. The very FIRST entry at dictionary.com is:1. of or pertaining to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; worldly; earthly: mundane affairs.

  40. 40
    Excredulous

    In the first letter, he's pretty explicit that the laughter came first:…a group of people at one end of the church …started laughing out loud, we were sitting in the middle of the church. It was almost like people were doing “the wave” like you see at sporting events, but with laughter.By the fifth letter, presumably after some good explanations for the laughter, he's done a complete about-face:"The euphoric feeling and loss of balance happened first, the laughter followed. The laughter was because of the euphoric feeling, not because someone next to us happened to be laughing. If the laughing came first, I'd concede your point."The question that comes to mind for me is, why is he trying so hard to make this experience out to be so significant? Why change your story around when someone tries to help you make sense of it?

  41. 41
    Rod Keller

    @traciehYou *seem* to be responding to my criticism rather emotionally. (Though that's hard to say for sure in just text). I really hope that's not the case as this would make any exchange of ideas rather difficult.One issue we were having is our definitions of mundane. I was understanding it under its other definition "1. Lacking interest or excitement; dull." (First definition after googling). I don't care what order definitions are listed, so stating it comes first in dictionary.com doesn't seem relevant. The common usage among people around in my area is that one, perhaps the other meaning is more common in yours and this was a misconception. I have no issue with your usage of it, but it does beg to question what usage the letter writer thought it meant, because if he, like I, thought the usage of lacking interest he might have taken that to mean every day, which sparked his reiterations."Now, you don't think he intended this. Fine. We disagree."Incorrect. I don't know what he thinks. I also don't think you do. He MAY think it's supernatural, but yes, I fundamentally disagree with you that asking the question of whether it is supernatural on the first letter means that he must believe that is the case. He seems like someone who wants answers to me.No, I don't think asking if it is supernatural is a good or useful question, and I have no problem with you or anyone telling him that and explaining why and I have no idea how well you've done that in your letters so maybe his further responses were justified. I can't say.In the end, like I've said twice now, just ask the guy what he thinks. Or make a really convincing argument on why you think you are justified in assuming it, or provide evidence on why you think he assumes it (note that his initial question doesn't cut it for me) or just agree to disagree.

  42. 42
    Sean (quantheory)

    "You *seem* to be responding to my criticism rather emotionally."I know you probably didn't mean it this way, but this comes off in a very arrogantly superior tone. (In my experience it is almost always used against women too; Matt and Jeff use the same tone, but in our culture even when men's tones are criticized, somehow "emotional" is rarely the word used.) Tracie seems to be exasperated because something that seemed clear to her is not clear to you (a common reaction to a common situation in these conversations). It irritates me immensely that you would play the "you're getting too emotional for rational discourse" card over that.To be clear, I don't think that the guy was trying to prove the existence of a particular supernatural thing, but the first email sets the topic of the conversation explicitly as whether this event constitutes evidence for the supernatural. That's also what Tracie responded to. If the author changed topics to "Is this weird?" or "Can you explain this with certainty?" he did not make that clear and communicated poorly.

  43. 43
    Rod Keller

    @SeanIt was more a reply to:"First let me say I don't care. I have my thoughts about his motives. Clearly you don't see it."Which I thought may have sounded emotional. I'm not certain. Honestly her being female is not important, I'd take it the same way regardless of gender. I don't want to play a card, only stating that *if* the responses are emotional they may be defensive comments rather than rational ones. I think this happens with everyone sometimes. Me included.I agree, the guy seems to be communicating poorly. I might even agree with Tracie's responses had she posted what she wrote back to him, but as I can't see what she wrote, I refuse to instantly believe that this guy is just ignoring a perfectly phrased counter point in favor of a supernatural explanation.When I read his letters, they all seem to be "I get what your saying, this is how I feel it differs". Who knows what Tracie is saying about those differences. Maybe she is failing to incorporate them into her explanations. How the heck are we supposed to know when that is omitted?Look here at letter 5:"You're too focused on the laughter, which makes sense, it's the easiest explanation. The problem is, I mentioned other factors like a euphoric feeling and loss of balance."Just how focused was Tracie on the laughter? Was she providing an explanation about how the euphoria could come forth first, followed by laughter without a catalyst? Or was she failing to do so by focusing just on the laughter first? None of us know. Maybe she did provide him a good explanation for that and this guy is stubbornly ignoring it, or maybe Tracie's argument was unsatisfactory.And here's the last Tracie wrote on the subject:"But if he writes back I will direct him to this blog post where he can see if it’s the consensus of other skeptical thinkers that I’ve been unreasonable in rejecting his claims as he’s described them, or he’s been gullible for accepting them as anything but mundane. "First off, I'm not sure what she is rejecting completely. His details of the event, or his initial question of whether it seems supernatural? I'm hoping just the latter. But what I think is really unfair is saying that he's been gullible for accepting it as not mundane (using Tracie's definition of not supernatural) when there is no definite evidence that that is what he did. He obvious did consider it a possibility when he posed the question, but that does NOT mean that is his final stance. Perhaps he was just asking because the preacher said it was the work of god and now, as a skeptic, wanted a definite understanding of why it is not. If someone can demonstrate to me why that is even the most likely stance he is taking based on what he wrote, I'm open ears.

  44. 44
    Sean (quantheory)

    "Which I thought may have sounded emotional."My point was not to argue with you about how emotional Tracie was. In fact, it wasn't all that much about her; she can defend herself, and I haven't been offered the job. My point was that, in this context, it's quite arrogant for you to criticize Tracie for sounding emotional. This in effect amounts to an accusation that she can't keep her emotions in check, and it's sort of a classic dick move to make a grab at being more objective based on nothing more than being more emotionally flat than the other person. See: every time Spock labeled an expression of emotion or hope "illogical" and I wanted to strangle him for not understanding what that word meant."Honestly her being female is not important, I'd take it the same way regardless of gender."I wasn't trying to say that you were knowingly being sexist. Rather, I notice that application of this particular word is extremely lopsided, and related to stereotypically "hysterical" behavior. I therefore suspect that, even among people who aren't intending to criticize based on gender, it will only occur to them to make this specific statement when speaking with women, because of associations they have been primed with but have not consciously reflected upon. It seems that either that must be the case, or there must be a whole lot of extremely sexist people who just really believe that only women are being "emotional" when they show irritation. I also notice that there's this meme about being "emotional" (or in men, sometimes about being "angry") which tends to mean "if you are at all noticeably irritated or offended, your objectivity is critically compromised." This meme impedes discussion by providing a rationalization to discount opponents' statements prematurely.

  45. 45
    Sean (quantheory)

    As for what this guy thought, I'm inclined to think that he wasn't looking for what Tracie seems to think he was (an admission that the event seemed supernatural). I rather think it sounds like he was looking for validation his personal fascination with the event. That is, he seemed to want her to say that it was particularly interesting or puzzling, and was disappointed when she didn't ("maybe I'm making this into a bigger deal than it really was.").But I take issue when you said "I don't think you are being fair in your discussion with him." I think that Tracie's understanding of his statements was completely understandable given not only the first email setting the topic (and the fact that he was contacting TAE and not someone with specific psychological/sociological expertise), but also bits like this:"I'd like to think I am critical thinker, an atheist/agnostic and definitely not religious. Not sure where the word "miracle" came from, but the only thing I'm implying is that I couldn't find a natural cause for this experience. Just seems strange that I thought it was caused by something I couldn't see and the two other guys I've talked with independently verified the same thing without my prompting or leading questions. If it was a natural cause, you'd think at least one of us would bring that up."This is a classical persuasive technique; you emphasize your affinity with the listener's viewpoint, then you nudge things back towards your own point. I use this one all the time, and it works quite well for dodging criticism. But you can always see by the end where it's going, and this is no exception. He suspects that "If it were a natural cause", X would happen. He already said that X didn't happen, so, via modus tollens, it seems that he thinks that the cause wasn't natural. The only way that this could logically not follow from what he said, is if you note that suspicions, or thinking that something might be the case, are not logical operators, so they may mess with the meaning of the sentence in some non-standard way.It's really the fact that he's being too vague to pin down that saves him from an explicit statement that he's leaning towards a supernatural cause. Winnowing through his words, it's hard to see what his point could be when he uses the word "natural", if he's not asserting that supernatural causes still sound more plausible than natural ones, or at least that some objection related to the natural/supernatural divide has not been resolved in his mind.One last thing: you've left out a type of claim that Tracie could have been objecting to, which is the implicit one that there is something there in need of explanation. This is the entire thrust of his later emails, and it also seems to be something Tracie

  46. 46
    Sean (quantheory)

    er, something Tracie repeatedly denies.

  47. 47
    Rod Keller

    @SeanYeah, I suppose you are right, her emotional state doesn't dictate whether or not her argument was rational. I suppose what I would amend that to mean, is that I don't think it is helpful in responding to me in an emotional way. Starting of with "I don't care" just seemed defensive in an unhelpful way. I don't want to assume any superiority in rational thought, just a statement that that opening statement was not helpful in a discussion.I get your criticism of the usage of emotional being lopsided towards women, but that is a criticism of societies overall usage of the word which does not immediately apply to me. I'll let the statistics determine which gender is more emotional than the other and state my observations of it only when it arises.As to the writer, I think I see where you are coming from. A lot of it makes sense. You are right, he is contacting TAE which is a bit telling. In that snippit, he certainly does seem to be questioning the event being natural. I still don't think it's fair to call bad questioning defining statements though. I think you may be correct with:"at least that some objection related to the natural/supernatural divide has not been resolved in his mind."I think the appropriate thing to do with the data given is to approach it as if this was the case, but not to claim what his position is.I found this part odd, however:"Not sure where the word "miracle" came from"No where previously did the writer state it was a miracle, which means Tracie herself probably wrote that word. I'm very curious the context. I'd like to know if she implied that he thought it was a miracle without him stating that, or if it was just a general dismissal of it being a miracle. Context is just hard to find with one half of a discussion presented."One last thing: you've left out a type of claim that Tracie could have been objecting to, which is the implicit one that there is something there in need of explanation. This is the entire thrust of his later emails, and it also seems to be something Tracie repeatedly denies."That's possible, but is it important? Whether or not it *needs* an answer is up to the individual who regards its importance. The writer may need an answer while Tracie may not. So whats the difference? If you don't need an answer or don't want to talk about it, why have the discussion or even blog about it?

  48. 48
    Rod Keller

    I had a reply here and I'm not sure what happened to it. I guess I'll have try again another time.

  49. 49
    The Apostle of Apostasy

    As an atheist and a former pastor with a charismatic background, and as one who has experienced this "phenomenon" personally, I always found it to be very unimpressive, and more of a hysteria than anything that I would have labeled an actual work of God, even when I was a Christian.The problem with "holy laughter" and other goof-ball "miracles" is that they really don't hold up to Biblical criticism. If you view the works of God within the Bible as events that actually happened, even something like the speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost had a purpose other than giving the speaker a "warm fuzzy," which is all this phenomenon seems to do. If making people laugh is all the supposed omnipotent creator of the universe can come up with to make people believe, he has severely depleted his arsenal, and should maybe be referred to as the "om-impotent creator."

  50. 50
    optifaster

    Tracie's list of things she said in the email back and forth pretty much sum up my thoughts on the matter.Emotional responses for no specific reason when in a group of people all gathered to experience and worship a supernatural entity is not unusual. You get that sort of thing without the added element of a group of people wanting to experience the supernatural, and you get in all different religious groups.You get it reliably when you weaken their resolve with brainwashing techniques.You can also deliberately induce a crowd of people to do something they wouldn't do if it weren't induced.And while I think I saw some people arguing that it wasn't like a concert or a pub with friends… what it was was a group of people who believe in the supernatural gathered together to share that belief in a building designed to impress upon people the beauty and authority involved in their belief and help facilitate sharing their belief with each other and watching a man dressed in a uniform of authority on that belief talk loudly and perhaps passionately about the details involved in their belief… this group that apparently regularly experiences what they consider the presence of god.You can say it's not like listening to music all you like, but that sounds like a fair amount of emotional stimuli to me.

  51. 51
    Mark B

    I'm picturing God as Joe Pesci in Goodfellas:"Funny how? You mean I amuse you?"

  52. 52
    rrpostal

    I thought a very telling part in his letter(s) was when he remembered "…and then it was our turn". This suggested to me, much like the many myriad examples we have of people speaking in tongues, being drunk with the spirit, or even a typical hypnosis demonstration. They saw what everyone else in the rooom was doing and didn't want to be the wet towel on the event, so they "played along". Looking back, just like with the other events, this is often misremembered as involuntary. It could very well be that these "waves" happen regularly at this church. All the other members knew how to behave, but as an outsider (he did say he was new to this church, no?), it seemed spontaneous. The bottom line is that there is no way to know for sure, but it doesn't strike me as particularly amazing regardless.

  53. 53
    dc1983

    The emailer's initial question tells me he was wanting Tracie to recognize that what he says happened to him was not some form of manipulation:" Do you guys really believe that things like . . . [these] are all manufactured by mind control? . . . would you give that any credence to something supernatural? His later responses show he was hell bent on minimizing aspects of mind control. I think he wants to believe it was supernatural in nature.

  54. 54
    ernobius

    I don't think his experience should be diminished into something ordinary or just bad memory.It could easily be something exciting regarding the psychology of the masses. Something new and strange, like Milgram's results. But of course nothing supernatural. The garden is beautiful enough without the imaginary fairies :) But it's not a fail either.

  55. 55
    rrpostal

    I think it most probably was "something ordinary" or "just bad memory" or some other typical, well known psychological phenomenom. Of course we can't be sure. Not at all. But there is nothing about the story as told that suggests otherwise. I think that was Tracie's point. The Milgram experiment was documented and controlled, not a 25 year old memory of a one time event.

  56. 56
    Andy

    This same thing happened to me 20 years ago during a church service, but I was the only one it happened to. I had never heard of this happening to anyone when it happened to me. When it began, I didn't know what was going on with me. I thought I was crying, but as it continued I ended up in the floor laughing and it was a great feeling. I had no idea why I was laughing, all I knew is that it felt great. I am now an atheist, but I can't explain why this happened to me.

  57. 57
    Blast Radius

    It's an argument from ignorance. How do you get from "I had a feeling of euphoria" to via my critical reasoning faculties i have determined that "therefore god caused this feeling." Yea, I know it happened in a church but there is no way to make the connection unless you already assume there is a god and that god causes people to feel euphoria, before hand. Maybe, it was NO2, or Joker venom. You know, what's really interesting is that that's a pretty lame miracle to attribute to a god. If you believe there is a god, why would you assume that that is how he'd show himself to you? It's kind of like when both football teams pray to god to help them win the same game and then the winning team thanks god for allowing them to beat the other team by 2 points. You're right tracie, it's a truly mundane miracle. At least the guy wasn't a jerk and he wasn't a horrible typist. He might be a smart and nice person, he's just not being skeptical about this because it's a very special memory for him. Oh and one other thing, if that happened to me, I wouldn't wait 25 years to bring it up. I'd have gone back the next day, and I'd keep going back everyday. Why would you not go get some free euphoria if you're so sure it's real? why waste your time emailing someone about it? Am I the only one who thinks that's odd?

  58. 58
    optifaster

    @Blast Radius: That is quite odd. I went back to The Matrix in the cinema three times back in 1999 'cause of the feeling of euphoria at the end :P

  59. 59
    TroopDawg

    -"You're too focused on the laughter, which makes sense, it's the easiest explanation." He nailed it right on the head here. Too bad he didn't continue with this thought. Since it happened in church and not in a football stadium, it must be god.

  60. 60
    Raymond

    Human perceptions and memory are much more fallible than most people would like to think.That is the whole reason why an anecdote cannot be accepted as evidence of something on its own. An anecdote is the point at you start your investigation.The story being told here is old and may have been refined in the many retellings to various people over the years.The emailer tells us that he had a strong evangelical christian bias at the time. Also the explanation supplied at the time would fit with this bias.The only things we can say for sure are that the emailer (and perhaps some of his companions) are convinced that they had strange experience that they cannot explain.Argument from ignorance?

  61. 61
    MAtheist

    Q: Authentic Supernatural Experience or Fail?A: Fail.

  62. 62
    Mark B

    I just need to point this out:Biblical Miracle; Parting the Red Sea.Modern Miracle; Unexplained feeling of euphoria.I mean, c'mon.

  63. 63
    James

    When I was a believer I experienced similar thing at church revival meetings in tents. I don't think it was caused by God, even if I thought so at the time. I think people (including me) are extremely impressionable, and social pressure to conform is a huge part of that.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asch_conformity_experiments

  64. 64
    tracieh

    I came back to check in to see if I needed to reply to anything, but frankly, just starting from the bottom of the list and reading up–I think you all just about covered it.The only thing I wanted to add was that earlier the word "extraordinary" was used in a conventional way by a poster. I think it's important for people to know that in the skeptical community the word "extraordinary" has a very specific meaning that is not strictly conventional.When posting to atheist/skeptic forums, to avoid confusion, it's not wise to use "extraordinary" to mean simply rare or uncommon.The best thing to keep in mind is that saying "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."If we think of extraordinary as a rare event, I could say that I make turkey only once a year at Thanksgiving. But if I told you I did that–would you demand extraordinary evidence before you'd believe me? Clearly not.Likewise, how many people skydive as a hobby? And yet, if I said I have a friend who routinely skydives for a hobby–would anyone refuse to believe me on my mere claim? And yet, I don't have one friend who skydives, and I bet I'm not at all alone in that. It's a rare thing, and "extraordinary" if we're saying simply uncommon–but it doesn't require "extraordinary" evidence, so it is not what a skeptic would consider an "extraordinary" claim.Similarly, while I agree it is _unlikely_ the church pumped in gas to make anyone laugh (as it wouldn't be necessary–as people have pointed out in mass above, conformity is hardly a little understood phenomena), if it was reported they had, it would hardly be "extraordinary" in a skeptical sense.In fact, let's say at the time that as the group was leaving the church, someone found a couple of empty gas cans in the church dumpster. Wouldn't that be sufficient evidence to raise the level of belief in someone's head that maybe the church had gassed the crowd? The point is, if they _wanted_ to gas the crowd it would be a fairly simply procedure to do. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist or some sort of special knowledge to pull it off. I simply think it wouldn't be necessary, so why bother?So, bear in mind if you reach for the word "extraordinary" in dialogs on skeptic and atheist forums, that it's about making claims that actually seem to violate the prevailing information we have about the natural universe and reality. It's not about uncommon or statistically rare events.Thanks to all of you for your input.

  65. 65
    mikekoz68

    An event that happened 25 years ago cannot reliably be described by memory today, whatever did happen that day has probably been multiplied in severity many times over.That being said, if strange feelings did strike numerous people a plausable scientific explanation could be infrasound. Very low frequency sound waves that are inaudible to but very much affect humans could have been present.From wikipedia: "Infrasound has been known to cause feelings of awe or fear in humans. Since it is not consciously perceived, it can make people feel vaguely that supernatural events are taking place"Since this was 25 yrs ago I doubt that the church had a device to produce these waves, however they can occur naturally from seismic events and such. Might be worth looking in to

  66. 66
    McKertis

    About the last show, you praised that man with OOBE for the idea of cards, and later agreed with him that its bogus, but actually, if you studied the matter at all, most practicians will tell you straight away that its pointless to look at books and drawn images. It will either be random gibberish, or something different every time you take away your gaze and look at it again. For some reason it doesnt work on everything that way, for example, i may create an experience where i am looking at myself laying on the bed from outside, and while i cant read any books that i prepared and read many times, i CAN in fact read things like markings on my jeans. In excrutiating detail, down to the tiniest thread.Anyway, what i am saying is, looking at cards in OOBE is useless. What you do is ask someone to put some random item in a box, and put it somewhere you cant ordinarily reach. That always works.

  67. 67
    Blast Radius

    @ TracieI wasn't at all implying that I really thought the church actually did use gas. I merely tried to point out that god as an explanation is no more supported by evidence than any other of an infinite list of possible causes and then listed two of those causes. I think you knew what I meant but I just thought I should clear that up.And now that I really think about it, this story is even more underwhelming than how I originally saw it. I mean, let's grant the guy that he's not lying, and his memory is accurate. Even still, it's not like anything like this was ever mentioned or prophecized in the bible. Now, I'm sure someone will take this story and try from now on to say that god causes this phenomenon, but it doesn't seem like anyone was ever claiming that before it happened. So saying God caused this has as much explanatory power as the guy who calls in and says "look at the trees." You can't just point to a thing and assert that God caused it to be, and then conclude based on that unsubstantiated assertion that God exists. It's pure fail.

  68. 68
    Dan

    Tell him to look up Sahaja Yoga. You get many thousands of people experiencing self realisation in which they feel a cool breeze above their heads. Not just on the night, but from then on. They can also 'feel' others and their own vibrations and pick up which chakras are blocked and fix them. I experienced all these things myself and what he needs to recognise is that there are literally millions of experiences like this going on and all of them different and contradicting. In fact the only link, the only common factor in all this is that we all have human brains. I think that is where his investigation should go, not to focus on one grain of sand in an ocean of 'amazing experiences'. Cheers. Dan from The Skeptics Testament Podcast.

  69. 69
    RobK

    I happened to stumble across this blog, interesting discussion.Tracie? I didn't realize you were going to post my e-mails on a public blog, not a huge deal and knowing that up front wouldn't have changed my content. Yep, I'm the "supernatural or fail" guy. I've enjoyed reading through all of the input on this blog, several valid explanations.I honestly had no agenda or motive for telling my story to Tracie other than getting input from someone who was a fellow atheist. I've told the story to family members and close friends over the years, but never received a satisfactory answer as to what might've taken place.I managed to find a third who lives in the same city (I live in a big city) and we're hanging out tonight. Haven't seen or talked with him in decades and definitely haven't discussed this experience. I just asked if he remembered a church in X town and he replied, "Absolutely!” As with the other two guys, I want to ask what he remembers about that church in his own words with no leading questions from me. Not sure what his answers will do in terms of making this experience any clearer for me.Currently I'm thinking:a) don't know what caused itorb) science hasn't figured out yet why people experience things like that

  70. 70
    RobK

    EDIT: Just checked my e-mail and Tracie had invited me to check out this blog. I'd stumbled on it before the e-mail from her. Now tell me that isn't supernatural? ;) j/k

  71. 71
    optifaster

    Rob, I notice you're essentially ignoring the explanations and then saying that there aren't any.You could at least be honest and say that you reject those explanations because you just don't feel they fit instead of saying they don't exist.

  72. 72
    rrpostal

    I wanted to share my own 25 yr old church story. I went to mass a few times a year at best. Well on this particular day (oddly I don't even remember what the occasion was? Possibly christmas time). Early that morning I was watching some TV. It was before cable, so there weren't many choices. So, sadly, I watched "Mr Rogers' neighborhood" for a little while. On this particular day, Fred Rogers was talking about how they made candles. He said they use parafin wax in that great Fred Rogers way. Somehow it stuck in my mind all morning.Long story short, when I was sitting there in mass I looked over at the guy lighting and/ or dousing all the candles (Catholics are big on candles as well as people lighting and dousing them). Immediately my mind went back to Mr Rogers and his parafin wax. I honestly could not control myself and chortled to the point that my Mother had to take me outside. I actually got out of going the next time. To this day I laugh and say parafin wax at odd times and people look at me like I'm crazy. Maybe it's just that there was some left over "god goofiness(tm)" in the pews that seeped in to me when I wasn't paying attention. I mean, it can't possibly be explained any other way, can it? My Mom even remembers how much I was laughing, although she never understood why anyone would laugh at something so stupid.

  73. 73
    RobK

    @ optifaster >>>Rob, I notice you're essentially ignoring the explanations and then saying that there aren't any. You could at least be honest and say that you reject those explanations because you just don't feel they fit instead of saying they don't exist.<<< opti – There are too many explanations and idiosyncrasies in this blog to go one by one giving a reason why I might reject some of them. It doesn't mean I won't research the suggestions further or that some of the explanations couldn't be valid answers. Saying "I don't know" for now is okay with me. In the context of conversations about strange experiences, I've told (verbally) the story many times in the past 25 years and it hasn't changed, the components have always been the same. I'd never really run it by other atheists or skeptics before now. My e-mails to TAE were the first I'd ever written about it, which was difficult to put in words.No one had really challenged my story so the only explanation I could come up with when e-mailing TAE was calling it "supernatural". Tracie was the first person to challenge my story in any real way. The other folks I contacted after 25 yrs retold my story in their own words which makes it less likely to be a case of memory fallacy or embellishment. It's possible we're forgetting about an extra stimulus going on in the church as some have suggested. Whatever the cause, I've never had another experience like it again.

  74. 74
    optifaster

    @RobK – Firstly, we have no way of verifying if what you're saying is true or not about the story not changing nor about it being accurate any more than you can confirm that my great grandmother only had one arm and painted landscape pictures on dried leaves. But that's really a side issue.If it happened exactly as you mentioned, it's not evidence of the supernatural. Those are the arguments you're ignoring.

  75. 75
    JT

    The other folks I contacted after 25 yrs retold my story in their own words which makes it less likely to be a case of memory fallacy or embellishment. It's possible we're forgetting about an extra stimulus going on in the church as some have suggested. Whatever the cause, I've never had another experience like it again.The problem with that is that all these people could have had the same misinterpretation or inadequate information you did. If the mass laughter was an 'act' put on by the church (And it's not unprecedented), you all would have experienced the same thing.

  76. 76
    rrpostal

    @RobKMy problem with your story is that nothing in it seems amazing to me. Essentially it's a bunch of people laughing and feeling "euphoric" under slightly uncommon conditions. Well I feel euphoric whenever I laugh, so that isn't special regardless of which came first. I wish there was more laughter in church and the world in general. I consider laughter good and amazing at all times, but I don't see where this is demonstrably unnatural.The more I think about it, this becomes a story about "a feeling" you had one time, long ago.

  77. 77
    deepdowntraumahounds

    Laughter is contagious… and in a church there are likely to be a lot of hysterics anyway. I've been in churches where a person or people were hysterically laughing (usually a moment or two after hysterically crying) and I didn't get a "good feeling" from it… I thought it was creepy as hell. Like I was visiting a hospital for the mentally insane.

  78. 78
    Rod Keller

    He doesn't make the assertion that it was supernatural. No big surprise to me there.I think he holds a completely valid position. He doesn't know what caused it. He didn't say science *can't* explain it, only that he thinks science has not. Why do so many of you guys read more into what he says than what he does?@RobKThe supernatural explanation has no evidence for it. I wouldn't even consider it as a reasonable hypothesis myself since nothing in this world has ever been found to be supernatural and church laughter is probably not going to be the first.If I were you, I'd check out sociological studies or perhaps this gas hypothesis. I agree with you that if multiple people remember it without you prompting exactly what happened, memory issues wouldn't make sense.

  79. 79
    optifaster

    @Rod – Fair enough, I was probably reading too much into it.

  80. 80
    Houston Freethinker

    An omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, creator of the universe made his presence in this church known by making everyone laugh?Well, I'm convinced.Twenty-five year old memories FAIL.

  81. 81
    Ing

    On the laughter/euphoria. There was a town in Africa (sorry I can't narrow that down more) that was noted in studies of mass hysteria/emotional response because they had bouts of seemingly uncontrollable, extreme to the point of pain/incapacitation and apparently contagious laughter. THey were even able to track the event to what they thought was the patient zero of a school girl. I wish I could remember more of the story, it was on NPR so if you did a search of their archives for 'contagious laughter' or the like maybe you'll find it.

  82. 82
    Ing

    TanganyikiThat's where the euphoria 'epidemic' occurredhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanganyika_laughter_epidemic.

  83. 83
    ernobius

    @ Ing: at last someone who doesn't just say "fail" to something strange (which is of course not supernatural). Hopefully someone will soon do a research about things like this. Psychology still has got lots of fields to explore and I can't wait for the results :)

  84. 84
    Ing

    @EronbiusI did some research on laughter a while ago. It's actually different from what most people imagine.For one thing, it IS largely a social cue/interaction. People are FAR less likely to laugh aloud, even when finding something funny when alone then when they're with a group of people. Anyone who is a fan of MST3K probably has already seen this yourself. The movies (both bad ones and the ones riffed) ARE more enjoyable with a group. This is why comedians send in a 'warm up' act to open for the. Once people start laughing a little it's easier to get them to keep laughing and to escalate the laughter. If I recall they did do an experiment with a comedy act where in the trials they switched who was the head and who was the opener. The guy who was normally an opener but acted as the head in the trial was rated statistically funnier by the audience that say him after the other performer went on than when he started the show himself.Then there's nervous laughter which appears to be a social cue/response request. Someone nervous vocalizes a non-language request for assurance, someone who hears is compelled to join in even if not really awkward or nervous themselves as a social response.So yeah, other people having extreme emotional reactions can be contagious. Combine this with the research that shows that emotionally charged preaching/ranting causes people to down regulate their skeptical minds and lower their mental defenses it's not surprising that Pentecostal preachers are able to induce hysteria in even nominal or non-believers.Lewis Black tells a story about how he saw a cult leader who he and the people he was with swear that the guy started to have a glowing halo light for his head. They're sure it wasn't a divine experience because the guy was a sleazy sex cultist asshole, but the force of his charisma and fervor of his cult was enough to mess with even the nonbelievers. And he might've been using trickery to help things along. For even weirder mass hysteria/mental breaks check out "dancing plagues"

  85. 85
    ernobius

    @ Ing: I did check out the dancing mania. Amazing…I find it sad that not many commenters took the time to do a little research, or at least think about it. They just claimed that the idea is stupid and bad in a way that is reminiscent of the religious.I'd say to them: don't claim that the garden is beautiful because it has fairies, but don' stomp on the flowers either. Or in plain words: don't ever be dogmatic.

  86. 86
    Houston Freethinker

    Ing I actually laugh louder and harder when I am alone watching something funny on TV or listening to a comedy album. I fell a little self conscious laughing too crazy out in public.

  87. 87
    rrpostal

    @ernobious- you seem to think everyone just dismisses this event out of hand with nary a thought. I think most responses are pretty open minded. I think it, most likely, was a fairly pedestrian event. But I admit it could be the only time ever that this happened and it was a unique and amazingly interesting event the likes of which we should research and study. But I have no way of doing this with an old, singular anecdote. I don't know if it's a "laughing disease" outbreak or anything else. There is no way to know.

  88. 88
    ernobius

    @rrpostal:Maybe the problem is with me, but my conclusion wasn't really that the case was that anecdotal. Even though 25 years have passed, the guy, in my opinion, did enough research and checking so that we can't dismiss it like a tale from the Grimm brothers. And on the other hand, his case is not the first one regarding these pentecostal churches. But don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that these phenomena have anything to do with anything supernatural.Remember the story of a boy who was sent to the camp? It's not an old post in the blog. There was a part when he joined those Christians who were behaving strange, and he himself experienced pretty strong feelings. It was pointed out by a reader that it was quite reminiscent of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.So, what I want to say that it may be true that "There is no way to know" – for this very case. But I'd suggest some research in similar events. As I said, these things aren't gone, just looked over or dismissed as false. But the findings could be interesting.

  89. 89
    RobK

    Well, had dinner with the third person I thought was involved in this and they had no memory of being involved in the experience. They did have the contact info for the last person I was looking for though.Contacted the fourth person, no leading questions other than asking if they remembered a specific church in the town and anything strange happening. This person remembered the church and described having a few experiences of something "sweeping across" accompanied by a feeling of "euphoria". In his description, he said it was almost like you could see it happening, which was similar to mine, probably meaning you could see the effects. His word choice of "sweeping across" denotes a flow and rapidness which was similar to my description. Was this a case of contagious laughter? I don't think so, as I remember feeling the euphoria and then laughing about it. I've also experienced contagious laughter and this just didn't seem like one of those times. Could it have been gas pumped in by the church or a leak of some sort? That's possible, no way to find out at this point.Something science has yet to figure out? Definite possibility. Something we'll never know? Definite possibility.In any event, this sure has been a strange way to reconnect with old friends after 25+ years. If nothing else, I've rekindled some good friendships.

  90. 90
    Rod Keller

    You stated that the priest/guy on the podium (Can't remember what word you used) stated that it was the work of god or something to that effect.Why not politely but rigorously question him?

  91. 91
    RobK

    @Rod – One of the guys came through that town a few years back and said the building was empty. Even if I could track down the pastor, I'm guessing his opinion would be heavily biased.

  92. 92
    tracieh

    >Something science has yet to figure out? Definite possibility.People already posted links to research on human conformity. So, a crowd acting strangely in near unison is not unexplained.Also, the memory issue that everyone agrees what occurred is not evidence of the recollection being correct. It's evidence that if you discussed this event among yourselves after it happened, your stories were aligned at that point, and 25 years later you still agree to the story you decided on all those years ago. In order for the recollections to be meaningful, they'd have to be statements taken at the time of the event, and the people giving the statements would have to have been separated before they had a chance to discuss it among themselves–influencing one another into potentially making a single cohesive story out of what might have been several variant ones had the statements been taken separately.Other than group conformity–which is a common phenomena–and that the people who even remember it agree on what happened (that you all conformed, if those accounts weren't polluted by group discussions of the event immediately after it occurred)…what is left to 'explain'?

  93. 93
    Ing

    "Well, had dinner with the third person I thought was involved in this and they had no memory of being involved in the experience."Interesting that you naturally assume you were wrong about them being there, instead of another possibility. You seem damn determined to make this an unexplainable even, considering how you're throwing out outliers to your data and dismissing explanations without justification.

  94. 94
    tracieh

    Part 1 of 2:I want to add this final summary, even though it seems this thread is dead/dying:ACCOUNTING FOR BIASFirst of all the event takes place in a church with a preacher at the helm–who by his words gives away his Pentecostal leanings. This means it would not be too much of a stretch to assume some members of the audience might lean the same way, and that a Pentecostal response from the audience at some point might not be too out of the bounds of a reasonable expectation.The church provides environmental context. Let me explain what I mean by that. When I took anthropology they wanted to impress on us how easy it is to be biased by environmental factors when you're doing field research in a foreign culture. When you're reporting on a culture you're also new to, and living within, keeping objectivity is paramount–but not easy.In one exercise we were asked to read an account of a possession ceremony in Africa written by field researchers. And the following class would include a viewing of video footage shot of the ritual. I read the research notes and was stunned that the research team reported they had witnessed a levitation–a boy of about 12 levitated during the ceremony in a way they could not explain. Clearly this created a lot of anticipation for me, since I was going to see this on video the next class. Imagine my disappointment, then, when by the end of the video, no levitation took place. At no point did the boy's body ever clear the completely loose contact with the floor. And while he did some amazing contorting, I honestly couldn't call what I saw on that video footage "levitating."And yet the mere fact of the environment, the symbols, the cues, the expectations–led a team of field researchers to become so biased that their report was untrustworthy. But this is why it was a good exercise for them to use video–to keep them honest.Religion imagery is loaded with meaning. Even for a nonbeliever, I know what those symbols mean. Raised in religion, I still get freaked out by "The Exorcist"–even though I know it's fiction–because I understand the symbols and what they mean. Some people watch it and are not impacted. I get that. But the fact is, impacted or not, we know "the code"–we understand religious symbols and what they bring to our mental table, both consciously and unconsciously. Just being in a church is sufficient to create an environment of expectation–even of unbelievers.There seem to be three main elements to this "unexplained" event: Laughter, Exultation, and people Falling Down.LAUGHTERLaughter is contagious–but so are most other emotions that come with sounds. And I supplied links to research on this already. But here it is again, just in case:http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/2006/News/WTX034943.htmSo, group laughter is explained.

  95. 95
    tracieh

    Part 2 of 3 (thought it would only be 2):EXULTATIONInteresting estimates about how we get our information when we communicate with other people:http://www.businessballs.com/mehrabiancommunications.htm>7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.>38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).>55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.The reason we are so well tuned to communication with others is that we are a social species. Our survival capacity is increased the better we communicate. And most of our information from others comes to us in the form of what we see, not what is expressed to us in words. We're so amazingly good at picking up feelings from other people by just observing them, that we even have a specific common word for this ability: sympathy.Some people are so sympathetic they will cry at a movie where the events are fictional. Or they can't watch fictional violence, because they're too disturbed by it. But the reality is when social creatures see someone in pain, they feel that pain and it motivates them to want to alleviate the pain of the other person. And for whatever reason, the link above (in the Laughter section) demonstrates that the positive emotions seem to correlate more highly than the negative ones in transference capacity. Positive emotions would include the ones you described in your event–like feelings of exultation, exuberance, excitement, happiness, whatever.So group exultation is explained.Oh, but it felt like something pulling at you, right–like a force from outside yourself.Psychology and Religion, a decent book by Carl Jung I blogged about:http://atheistexperience.blogspot.com/2008/08/bridging-gap.htmlJung explains how the experience of subconscious is like someone or something "else" interacting with the conscious ego. The idea that people would describe something subconsciously generated, like sympathetic emotional reactions, as something acting on them, rather than a consciously motivated or driven event is hardly unusual. It's exactly how it "feels" to the person experiencing it. If we didn't know what dreams are today, via brain mapping, we might still think of them as divine messages from some nether realm."The Force" is explained.

  96. 96
    tracieh

    Part 3 of 3 (END):FALLING DOWNConformity research is mountainous. It goes from explaining that we will change our estimations of measurements when surrounded by only 2 or 3 others who give consistent but far different (and incorrect) estimates than we do, to showing that we will act against a standard without even knowing why–such as stand facing the back of an elevator if we enter and all the other passengers are facing the back.Conformity research really became important after WWII, when it became important to try and explain and understand how millions of people, who were seemingly decent folk, could have been converted to willing cogs in a massive torture and murder effort that systematically exterminated millions of their former friends and neighbors. The results of that research were surprising in that it shows it only takes about 3 people to raise the level of one subject's conformity greatly (over 1 or 2 others acting in a particular way or suggesting a particular reality).In addition to conformity via group pressure, authority can influence our willingness to conform–and that research is also well known, so I won't rehash it here. But a man at a pulpit with Pentecostal leanings cannot simply be discounted as an element of no consequence. There is a reason preachers are considered to be leaders and judged as being a person with the upper hand of authority when they behave inappropriately with parishioners. It's treated like a teacher-student or counselor-patient impropriety if a person comes forward saying they were taken advantage of. So, we can't just say here that the fact a preacher was leading the congregation in the evening's activities had no bearing on anything. Perhaps it didn't have bearing–but I'm not willing to hold that assumption, because authority and conformity are demonstrably linked and the event we're discussing is clearly one in the realm of conformity. So the question "was there an authority figure around?" Is a reasonable question to ask, because such a figure could signal greater levels of willingness to conform.Adopting uncommon behavior (Falling Down) in accordance with a group of 3 or more without questioning it, is explained.At the end of it all though, I just can't seem to bring myself to say that people will, without questioning, conform to turning to the back of an elevator, giving clearly wrong measurement estimates, and becoming accomplice to mass genocide and abuse–but "falling down" simply defies explanation. It just honestly seems like someone trying to make a group of people doing mundane things seem far more impressive than it actually is.-END-

  97. 97
    T

    I'm surprised nobody has pointed out that he claimed to have discussed the event with somone (a nebulous someone, nebulous as every other detail) at his "10 year reunion", then went on to claim more than once that he hadn't talked to any of these nebulous people in 25 years. The whole thing reeks of bullshite to me.

  98. 98
    RobK

    T – The person at the "10 year reunion" was one of my buddies who was there at the church. It was a passing awkward conversation of about less than a minute. So, you're correct, I had contact with one of three for about a minute at the 10 yr. The other two I hadn't talked with in 25 yrs. Not sure why you use the word "nebulous", they were just dudes I hung out with in high school.

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