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Why I am an atheist – Sara Mallory

I grew up in a nominally Christian home. My parents took us to a United church for a few years when I was very young. Every Sunday we were expected to put money in an envelope as a donation. I like to think that my parents stopped going to church because of the constant requirement for donations. After we stopped attending church we never really discussed religion. I never questioned it, I never knew there were other religions, and I never knew atheism was an option. I live in Canada and we don’t wear our religion on our sleeves for the most part, so I was never exposed to anything outside of that early childhood experience in church. I went to a Catholic highschool, mainly because it was close to my house and the uniform made dressing on a daily basis easy for me. I always felt silly attending the monthly masses and saying the lord’s prayer. It was like wearing an uncomfortable pair of pants. I felt awkward and ridiculous.

Enter the internet. This was back in the day when blogs were scarce and websites were hosted on geocities. It was through the internet that I discovered paganism. I thought this was the coolest religion ever. Everything about it appealed to me, the connection with nature, the “magic”, and all of the accessories. I bought lots of books (which I still own if anyone wants to buy them off me!), printed off lots of spells from websites, and bought various knickknacks. But yet again I felt awkward and ridiculous performing the various rites. I was so disappointed, I tried and tried for years to make it all work. I thought believing in something was the default position. Everyone (or so I thought) believed in something. Why couldn’t I?

Enter the internet yet again. Surprisingly I still believed that something was wrong with me up until quite recently. In my late 20s I joined a website called Ravelry. This website is mainly about knitting, but has forums for pretty much every topic. It was on this website that first encountered truly scary religious people. I was shocked at what some people believed. How could people be so hateful? But it was also through this website that I met the people that debated with these scary religious people, and it was through them that I discovered the Atheist and Agnostic Crafters group. For the first time in my life I discovered that it was OK to not be religious. You can imagine the relief I felt to discover I wasn’t abnormal.

So, for me, it was never about the science. I’ve always loved science and it never occurred to me that religion and science were related in anyway. It was simply discovering that it is OK to not be religious, and then take the next step from there to Atheism. It’s been a wonderful experience for me. I have gained an even greater fascination and appreciation of how wonderful the universe is.

Sara Mallory
Canada

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    I thought believing in something was the default position. Everyone (or so I thought) believed in something. Why couldn’t I?

    Many people believe that belief is the default. Sometimes, as Sara shows, it’s possible to realize there’s other options.

    Good essay, Sara. Thank you.

  2. louis14 says

    Thanks for the essay Sara. It’s a sad thing that childhood experiences can be narrowed so much that the very idea of not believing in a god wouldn’t even occur. On the other hand, its encouraging that the hateful attitudes of strongly religious people attract debate, and so can lead people such as yourself to realise that there’s a whole other world out there.

  3. Echidna says

    Thanks for the essay. I believe that atheism thrives through the ignorance, abuse and hatred on display by too many of the religious. The existence of atheists gives others permission to leave religion behind. And not a moment too soon.

  4. says

    Thank you for your post Sara, I never knew you could find scary religion on a knitting site. We had money envelopes in church, too. They looked like the envelopes the grownups used except child sized. The church made sure the envelope thing was a habit learned early.
    The Internet is the Devil’s mouthpiece! All that truth, all that inquiry. Devil words! Don’t listen! Wrap yourself in the death shroud of Jesus, and feel his living love.
    Allah Akbar!

  5. Meregrotta says

    The essay says Canada and the footer says US… inconsistancy? Late stage move? Do I require more coffee?

    well yes I do require more coffee…. but is that relevent to my reading skills?

  6. Samphire says

    Meregrotta, “inconsistancy” may only be spelt “inconsistancy ” if, sometimes, you spell it “inconsistency”. Otherwise, although such spelling habit would be consistent, it would be inconsistent with its recognised or habitual form of spelling.

  7. paulburnett says

    It’s sad that more innocent children don’t know that non-belief is even an option. If we do nothing else, we should at least make sure that they know that.

  8. says

    #7: It sure pays to keep seeking?

    You should know Christian fundamentalists like to talk about seeking, as in keep seeking god until you find it.

  9. says

    Like you, I first found out how nasty, evil and downright scary religionists can be when I found online discussion sites. I could not believe that people claiming to be of my faith were so vicious and sadistic. And again like you, I saw the nonbelievers who took these fanatics on, and saw that invariably, these people were much more rational and sane than the Xian nutcases. They were also much nicer. The hardcore Christers treated me like shit and threatened me with the “gasoline section” of hell, and wished upon me various gruesome deaths (dying in a fiery car crash and being decapitated by a passing train being a couple of the more memorable scenarios). The atheists and agnostics and pagans treated me with respect and friendship. It was this staggering dichotomy, coupled with research into the origins of Judaism and Christianity and my lifelong love of science, that led to my current atheism. Funny how religion so easily defeats itself. Thanks for the essay.

  10. redwood says

    Nice story, Sara. I’m also a non-scientist who likes science and who likes living without religion. I’ve been in Japan for most of my adult life and find that there’s virtually no religious presence here. Sure, there’s a Soka Gakkai family down the road and even some Jehovah’s Witnesses make an appearance once or twice a year, but there’s no sense of religion hovering in the background that I feel in the US, that casts its dark shadow on life. If I bring up religion, people are politely interested, like if I were telling then about monster trucks or food banks, things unheard of here.

  11. says

    Good story, Sara! It seems that your innate sensible nature appeared at an early age on the “stony ground” of religion.

    Some people think that the swift rise in the number of people who choose “No Religion” in the U.S. is due to the extreme and political face of popular Christianity & Mormonism there.

    It’s biographies like yours that should give us a little sympathy for the benighted of the world who have never heard of a non-religious person or an option not to believe—*much* commoner before the Internet.

  12. zugswang says

    Thanks for sharing, Sara!

    Ah, the double-edged sword of the internet. On one hand, it lets discriminated minorities find a support system that’s not visible in their community. On the other hand, it lets bigots and nutjobs find out “the voices” are in other peoples’ heads, as well.

  13. says

    I was so disappointed, I tried and tried for years to make it all work.

    Sounds like prayer.

    Of course as you get older you’re told that it’s all about praying that it be “God’s will” and that you’re supposed to pray that constant disappointment with prayer will “make you stronger” or some such bollocks. Trouble was, I always remembered the statements Jesus made about prayer that had been taught to me, and they were all about how prayer works and nothing about sucking it up.

    Not the biggest reason why I quit as a teen, but leaving it all behind certainly resolved that BS.

    Glen Davidson

  14. raven says

    Sara:

    It was on this website (Ravelry) that first encountered truly scary religious people. I was shocked…

    Echidna:

    I believe that atheism thrives through the ignorance, abuse and hatred on display by too many of the religious.

    That is what did it for me, also.

    The fundie version of xianity has nothing whatever in common with the moderate Protestantism of my ex-church. It’s an inversion, the opposite. Might as well call them separate religions although few people do so.

    We don’t have that many fundies on the coast and certainly not in the circles I inhabit. It took the internet to show that they made up about 1/3 of all US xians and were intent on taking over the USA and destroying it. With more than a little success so far.

  15. RFW says

    Theoretically, Christianity is the religion of love, and its believers practice loving kindness, charity, meekness, turning the other cheek and other similar virtues.

    What it’s become, in the US at least, is a vehicle for people’s inchoate hatred and unhappiness. Given scriptures that are easily twisted to support just about any position you care to take, and the fundie habit of cherry picking bibblical verses to support their own particular stew of nastiness, it’s become a mildewed travesty of the theory.

  16. DLC says

    I like these stories because they show everyone’s tale is a bit different, and because they give everyone a chance to tell their story. Thanks for sharing, Sara.

  17. razzlefrog says

    “Atheist and Agnostic Crafters”. I lol’d. I picured Richard Dawkins knitting a kitty sweater.

  18. Mainefan1 says

    I’m also a member of ravelry and of Atheist and Agnostic Crafters. I’ve heard our group described as one of the largest predominately female atheist groups on the web. It’s a wonderful place where I learn about what’s happening in the skeptical world, and where we can support each other! It’s great to see us spreading all over the web.

  19. says

    The Internet strikes again. Thank you, U.S. Pentagon, and your nuclear doomsday scenarios for creating the ARPANET!

    Sara wins for uniqueness. Atheist crafters? Very good.

  20. tushcloots says

    Sara

    I was so disappointed, I tried and tried for years to make it all work.

    Good thing, no?
    Myself, being so science oriented, I was into UFO’s and later biorhythms. In grade seven I had to debate against their existence, and when 16 I made a huge chart of biorhythm covering several months past and present of my life. Almost nothing predicted by the charts had anything to do with what my days were really like. I’d been conned!

    Probably the two main events that taught me critical thinking, and how to tell BS. If you have an innate need to ‘believe’ in something, and I agree that as people we desperately strive for some sort of security and constancy day to day, some comfort of predictability and sameness(?). (Frick, suddenly can’t find proper words…)

    A stable foundation! For me it was finding that there is a fundamental reality that stays the same everywhere, and moreso, that it holds up to any scrutiny and never falters. I am never, frickin ever, afraid of questions about what I think, nor the answers.

    I think those of us who have been through the mental gymnastics and nonsensical, arbitrary rationalizations trying to defend what we think and believe and discovered the pure freedom curiosity and discovery, and the ability to discern what is real – is one of the profound experiences in life.

    Sorry, I talks a lot.

    Sara, it seems your article rally resonates with me, and I thank you! I had similar early church exposure that just faded away. I notice that a few of us Canadians have.

  21. says

    I wonder how many Canadians find the United Church the gateway to atheism? For those not familiar with it the United Church formed in the early 20th Century out of several Protestant sects, including Methodists and Presbyterians. Today it is the second largest Christian denomination in Canada, next to the Catholics. It’s also very liberal, supporting things like same sex marriage. This liberalism has cost it a lot of its membership over the last couple of decades, as more conservative members have left. Conversely I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’ve lost members in the other direction, people who have been members because the church is so liberal, and eventually decide they don’t even believe the traditional elements of religion the church does hold to.

  22. Sara says

    Oooo I’m tickled that my story got posted! I thought it might at least be a long while since the response to the story request was so large. Thanks everyone for your great comments.

  23. Pteryxx says

    I’m also a member of ravelry and of Atheist and Agnostic Crafters. I’ve heard our group described as one of the largest predominately female atheist groups on the web.

    Really! Maybe knitting and other yarny things should have some introductory panels at atheist conferences. (What, I’m serious!)

  24. Who Knows? says

    I don’t get all the athiest testimonials. Does it really take that much to see the mythology in religions? Plus, this isn’t all that much different than someone standing up in front of the Church telling their how I was saved stories.

    Why don’t we just knock off.

  25. nessawarmath says

    AACers representing! :) Great story, Sara.

    And to Who Knows?, so many of us have grown up with the “their mythology is fake, our mythology is TRUTH!!11!!”, that we don’t know any other option until we read stories like these.

  26. Dori says

    Thank you Sara for opening your heart to all of us and saying the most painful experience you have been through. Why I think it’s the most painful? because believing in a religion is the heart of our lives, the meaning of our existence, the soul of our behaviours and the answer for our existence. When you belief in a religion, it should answer you every question you ask, it should take you to a relieve when you need, it should help you out to solve life’s problem. Religion is not about belief, religion is about life style and after-death life. You have to understand those concepts before heading to know which religion is the more realistic and should be followed. P.S. you seem not hasn’t been exposed to all religion in the world, so I advice you to go over all of them and understand the roots then choose which one to follow (small hint: Islam has explained all your questions in one book before more that 1400years ago) ..

  27. Janine Is Still An Asshole, OM, says

    Dori, godbotting is frowned upon here. Do not be surprised if you get less then a pleasant reception here. Do not whine when people start to pile up upon you.

  28. Markle says

    I don’t get all the athiest testimonials. Does it really take that much to see the mythology in religions?

    I would think so too, but some people are more gullible, I suppose. The reaction some people have to women getting preggers by an invisible sky man, a wooden boat that carries billions of species, a naked man and woman prancing about in a ecological utopia where predators don’t hunt prey, some magic dude getting nailed to a piece of wood secretly being some all-seeing Sauron is “oh okay, that is sort of reasonable, I guess.”

  29. Sara says

    Dori, I respect your right to have that opinion, but I can safely say that you are wrong. One of the things that bothers me about religion is that people just pick what they like the most. If religions were, in any regard, true then there wouldn’t be a need to choose one. Coming to the realization that I wasn’t some kind of freak for finding all religion silly and uncomfortable was one of the greatest things that could have ever happened to me. I’ve lived a lot of my life doing things just because “that is what people do”. I have no intentions of going back to that mode of living.

  30. says

    Dori, the heart of my life is my family, my friends, learning new things, and the simple joy of existing in this gigantic, fascinating universe. A 1400 year-old book written by people who understood less than I about the world they lived in would be a pitiful substitute for those things.

  31. raven says

    A 1400 year-old book written by people who understood less than I my cat about the world they lived in would be a pitiful substitute for those things.

    Fixed.

  32. Koshiba says

    AACers represent! I haven’t been on Ravelry as much as I used to, but AAC was my first real atheist community, and in fact how I found out about Pharyngula. Great place. =)

  33. Gord O'Mitey says

    Dori, @ # 30, this is for you & all the other superstitious bozos.

    The Christian’s Jehovah, that Almighty God,
    is a capricious and cantankerous clod;
    and, so far as I can tell,
    the Christian often is as well.
    Confused with dogma, the poor old fogey
    can’t fathom the nature of the Bible Bogey.

    Is it a father, his son, and a friggin’ ghost too?
    Well, it should be obvious that’s ridiculous woo.
    Christians claim their god, in its Empyrean lair,
    is omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent and fair,
    but, with the problem of theodicy,
    their dogma is Christian idiocy.

    The Jew’s Yahweh, that wrathful old jerk,
    set Jews strict rules on when to work,
    how to dress, and what to sup or sip,
    and giving baby boys the snip.
    Myths of Bronze Age, goat-herding nomads,
    metaphorically have them, by the gonads.

    The Moslem’s Allah, that fierce great djinn,
    demands under ‘Islam’, literally, ‘Submission’.
    Apostasy is treated just like a crime;
    they’ll threaten to kill you, to keep you in line,
    and if you dare draw Mohammad in a comic cartoon,
    there’ll be riots and killings from here to Khartoum.

    Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist,
    Zoroastrian, Baha’i, Mormon, and Scientologist,
    Confucianist, Shintoist, and Taoist too,
    Spiritualist, Wiccan, and the New Ager into woo.
    Yea, verily, those of each and every religion,
    are mired in the miasma of superstition.

    So, why should yours be the one true faith,
    in a magic, phantasmagorical wraith?
    Belief, without evidence, is just plain crazy,
    ignorant, stupid, or thoughtlessly lazy.
    Life derives no purpose, at a theistic god’s direction;
    when evolution happens, it’s due to Natural Selection.

  34. says

    Great essay, Sara. You’ve reinforced my belief that you indeed can reach people by offering alternative ideas and debating on the internet.

  35. llewelly says

    Wonderful story. It shows brilliantly how wrong PZ was to say that awful thing he said about knitters when Mark Mathis interviewed him.

  36. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, liar and scoundrel says

    Awesome story, Sara!

    Having spent enough time here, I’m not surprised that there are plenty of atheist crafters, but it’s very cool that’s what led you to being godless. Your story makes me smile. :)

    (Not a crafter, BTW, but I’m awed by the skills of the crafters I know.)

  37. Marella says

    Well that’s a killer, Sara found atheism via knitting, I love it!I’ve been a Ravelry member for a while but I didn’t know about the A&A group, so I just went and joined. I love all these stories, they are so unexpected. Thanks Sara.

    @What’s new, feel free to fuck off. Reading these blog entries is not compulsory.

  38. says

    Who knows? & Markle: why don’t the two of you fuck off, hey? You don’t like it, you don’t need to join in. Participation is not obligatory.

  39. says

    I love the knitting connection. I was horribly put off all that supposedly “girly” craft stuff by its enforcement at school. Maybe one day I will recover. Luckily for me, they didn’t teach cooking, so I was free to enjoy that!

  40. peterwhite says

    I find it interesting that Sara felt that believing in a religion was the default position. I must have had an easier time becoming an atheist because I never felt that believing was necessary or desirable.

    Finding atheism through knitting is just marvelous. It reminds me of the convergence we see in science. No matter where you start you end up at the same place through physical evidence and reasoned logic.

  41. tushcloots says

    @Dori

    When you belief in a religion, it should answer you every question you ask, it should take you to a relieve when you need, it should help you out to solve life’s problem.

    Personally, I find it answers 2 or 3 questions – perhaps – which I can answer anyways, and it raises untold thousands of questions.
    If by relief you mean a sense of peace and bliss, I takes drugs and drink for that(used to)and, anyways, the rest of us have mostly all learned that pretending and fantasizing does little to change reality. True optimism and hope and contentment are skills we learned through reflection and real life experience and we own them now, personally, and built on the foundation of understanding and competence (and mental health, generally!) through tangible actions and choice. We can continue to evaluate and find better solutions as the need arises.

    I hope I can relay the importance of this to you There is a paradigm (I hate that word) of difference to rote learning and obeying from sources outside yourself and recieving instructions that don’t change as new situations and events evolve in our lives vs thinking and solving problems for yourself.

    Biggest of all is that we learn how to solve problems on our own and don’t look to an archaic worldview that is painfully ill equipped to offer advice in our modern and complex world.

    ………

    Catch a dude a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a girl to fish and she’ll eat for a lifetime.

    Command a person what to do, and they’ll only do that every day. Teach a person how to think and question, and they’ll learn and grow for a lifetime.

  42. Rey Fox says

    Thank you Sara for opening your heart to all of us and saying the most painful experience you have been through.

    Presumptuous and condescending, aren’t you? Apparently you missed this part of Sara’s post regarding shedding her religion:

    It’s been a wonderful experience for me. I have gained an even greater fascination and appreciation of how wonderful the universe is.

    Doesn’t sound very painful to me. Sounds like the lifting of an unnecessary burden.

    When you belief in a religion, it should answer you every question you ask, it should take you to a relieve when you need, it should help you out to solve life’s problem.

    Should, but doesn’t.

    (small hint: Islam has explained all your questions in one book before more that 1400years ago)

    What questions did Sara mention in her post that you think Islam answers? And how can a 1400-year old book answer today’s questions?

  43. Hazuki says

    Dora:

    Seriously? Islam? Are you SERIOUSLY going to suggest the most fallible, falsifiable, violent, amoral, backwards, and provincial of the three Abrahamic religions as an antidote to anything?

    Christianity may be disgusting but at least the founder wasn’t a violent pedophile. At least he was almost on par with the leading moralists of the day. You can at least dial down Christianity’s and Judaism’s inherent violence by massively overplaying the elements of redemption and repair of the world (“tikkun olam”) respectively. Islam? No such posibility.

    I may not be able to read classical Arabic but I’ve read through an English Qur’an and was even more disgusted with it than by the Bible, which is a feat of work, let me tell you. And your supposedly invariant Qur’an has a very-different-looking prototype whose pages are being unearthed in Yemen as we speak.

    I will charitably assume you are simply ignorant of your religion’s massive gaping holes and monstrous practices, instead of a dishonest apologist who knows it full well and keeps pressing on anyway. If you are a woman, my disdain is tempered by pity, as Islam has crushed you and your sisters flat since its inception.

  44. says

    Comments like

    If you have an innate need to ‘believe’ in something, and I agree that as people we desperately strive for some sort of security and constancy day to day, some comfort of predictability and sameness(?).

    and

    Why I think it’s the most painful? because believing in a religion is the heart of our lives, the meaning of our existence, the soul of our behaviours and the answer for our existence.

    always puzzle me.

    Many of us have never felt any need for religion or belief in anything, and I think the feeling is entirely dependent on the cultural you grew up in. I seriously know very few Danes who have ever felt a craving for religion and/or belief (which are definitely not the same in Denmark – most members of the church don’t believe in god).

  45. mikee says

    Thank you, Sara for sharing.

    Despite the several naysayers who aren’t interested in these stories (and feel compelled to share it) I am very much enjoying each and every one of these stories. Some are different, some are very similar but they all add a new thread to the rich tapestry of atheism.

    It was interesting to see someone mention biorhythms and UFOS in their comments as I too went through a pseudoscience stage before finding it lacked substance.

    It is good to see other people happy in their lack of need for religion, and I look forward to seeing as many stories as PZ posts.

    Those who aren’t interested – It is not hard to avoid- just don’t open any of the posts entitled “Why I am an Atheist.

  46. Kirsten says

    I used to think the United Church was fairly tame in their beliefs, what with the acceptance of same sex marriage and the like. Until a few years when I was asked to pipe for a church ceremony. As a bagpiper, I often play for funerals, weddings, ceremonies, etc.. On this particular occasion, I was asked to play for the “Kirking of the Tartans” at a local United Church. Playing was no problem, but I had to sit at the front next to the organist through the entire service. I’m sure I visibly balked during the hymns, the lyrics of which went something like this (paraphrasing):

    Forgive us because we’re all evil sinners who can’t help ourselves. We’re natural born sinners, always doing bad things and we must be punished.

    I was like, “seriously? These people think we can’t help but do wrong? That believing in god is the only way we can redeem ourselves? Bollocks”

    I still play occasionally for church services, but I prefer to sit at the back where my eye-rolling won’t be noticed as much…

  47. tushcloots says

    Kristjan Wager says:
    31 October 2011 at 7:10 am

    Comments like

    If you have an innate need to ‘believe’ in something, and I agree that as people we desperately strive for some sort of security and constancy day to day, some comfort of predictability and sameness(?).
    [...]
    always puzzle me.

    Many of us have never felt any need for religion or belief in anything, and I think the feeling is entirely dependent on the cultural you grew up in. I seriously know very few Danes who have ever felt a craving for religion and/or belief (which are definitely not the same in Denmark – most members of the church don’t believe in god).

    I never did, either. I was not talking about belief. I was talking abut a sense of security, that the world makes sense, that we have a sense of being able to count on things.
    You only expect chaos? Gravity and laws of physics are arbitrary? That in your relationships you may be loved and valued one minute, and scorned or ignored the next? Or what?

    I said that healthy, critically thinking people learn to feel control over their lives through learning and insight – emotional maturity.
    Clear now?

  48. tushcloots says

    @Kirsten,
    Yes! How about the need to be washed in the blood of the sacrificial lamb. I always feel creeped out by that.
    The main theme of many hymns: I(we) are a useless evil piece of shit and something has die and spill blood in sacrafice.
    They lap it up ;)

  49. wcorvi says

    I never thought of that – why doesn’t Sunday School teach about ALL religions? And about atheism? Don’t they want to teach the controversy? Don’t they want to give ALL theories?

  50. Hazuki says

    @55

    They want to push only their own. In fairness, the teachers genuinely believe that what they’re teaching IS the only truth, and they don’t want their students to go to Hell where they’ll scream and cry and burn and thrash and howl and choke and agonize forever and ever, world without end, amen, courtesy of their loving God.

    No, I’m not bitter about my upbringing. Why do you ask? :/

    But in all seriousness, the teachers are generally good people, and acting on what they perceive as their students’ best interest. They’re just uninformed.

  51. Sara says

    Some people are surprised that I thought the default position was religion. I admit I’ve always wanted to fit in, and religion was just what everyone seemed to be doing. Since we don’t really discuss religion very openly in Canada (which I think is mostly a good thing) there wasn’t much opportunity to learn otherwise. School didn’t teach me much in the way of critical thinking and I trusted adults to tell me the truth.

    I just have to be thankful that I wasn’t surrounded by more overtly religious people because who knows where I’d be now? I really do owe the Atheist community for developing my skepticism and critical thinking skills. I came to it a little later in life, but at least I came to it eventually. And I’ll be passing that onto any children I may have, so that’s a bonus.

    I’ve also discovered that a lot of my friends and acquaintances are agnostics/atheists as well. The only thing I’d change about my journey is to make it a little shorter. I would have saved a butt load of money on books etc.

  52. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    religion is about life style and after-death life

    Religion is indeed all about lifestyle after death.

  53. Who Knows? says

    PZ Meyers sez:

    Who knows? & Markle: why don’t the two of you fuck off, hey?

    If joining in requires complete agreement with whatever the topic is, what’s the point of posting anything for discussion?

  54. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If joining in requires complete agreement with whatever the topic is, what’s the point of posting anything for discussion?

    PZ is going to post these daily for a while; his blog, his decision. If you have nothing constructive to say, like we shouldn’t do this, why say it at all? At the end of the day, it isn’t your blog. If you don’t like the testimonials, don’t read them. Your choice on being smart cricket.

  55. Predator Handshake says

    The bit about donations really struck a nerve with me as that was one of the earliest church things I remember having doubts about. My church had “faith promise pledges” in addition to the expected tithing that you would sign up for once a year if I recall correctly. My dad signed me up for $25 a month and just sort of expected me to get the money to pay for it from somewhere; I think it was his way of telling me it’s time to get a job.

    Well, I promptly ignored or forgot about it until the end of the year, when I started getting angry messages on our answering machine that I owed the church $300. Ours wasn’t a particularly big church; the people leaving these messages knew that I was a preteen and probably could have worked out that I hadn’t voluntarily signed up for it, but dammit, the Lord was gonna get his money one way or the other. I had to sit in an office with four angry men lecturing me about responsibility for about half an hour one Sunday and I think that was when I quit giving any money to the church.

  56. Who Knows? says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls, my contribution to the discussion was:

    1.) I don’t understand these things.
    2.) The mythology of religion is pretty obvious.
    3.) It seems really close to Christian testimonials.
    4.) I suggested we knock it off.

    It’s pretty obvious that this is PZ’s blog and he can and do whatever he wants with it. I already know it’s not my blog. Thank you for reminding me.

    That still doesn’t answer the question, Why does participation require agreement with the topic?

  57. Janine Is Still An Asshole, OM, says

    Yeah. It seems that Who Knows? is going to be worth paying attention to.

  58. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Why does participation require agreement with the topic?

    Your participation was not to comment on the topic of the thread, but rather the existence of the thread. That is PZ’s domain, and why he told you to buzz off. He has made it clear he will be posting these statements for a while, and if you don’t like the “why I am an atheist” posts, you don’t have to read them. If you can’t understand that, you should go back and learn basic logic.

  59. Janine Is Still An Asshole, OM, says

    Who Knows? Let me try to explain it to you. Despite a growing acknowledgement that atheists exist and are not ogres who will ransack your house and eat your babies, many people are hesitant to be open about their lack of belief. Be it because of the community they were born in, familial pressures, living in a country with an official religion or many other reasons. Many people do not feel safe enough to be open.

    This is one attempt to show the many ways that a person can leave their mental chains behind.

    When you get down to it, these stories are not for people like me. (I have been an out atheist for almost a quarter century.) It is for people who are looking for a way out.

    And, unlike a religious testimonial, there is no golden land where everything is alright as long as you believe in the right way. Most of us can not and will not play that game. This is just to show people that one can live and do well with being encumbered by religion.

  60. says

    Agreement is not required. Interest is. If you’re so unmoved by the topic that you feel compelled to tell me to stop posting on it, you’ve lost all point to the premise of participation. And in this particular topic, disagreement is silly: are you going to tell Sara Mallory that her feelings about religion or her personal history are invalid.

    Also, when I drop a loud, clangy, clattery hint that your concerns are noted and completely uninteresting and irrelevant, the sensible thing to do is drop it and not argue with me. Disagreement is fine, whining that you don’t want to comment on a subject while commenting on it is stupid, and annoying the blog dictator (ME) is beyond stupid.

  61. treefrog says

    I thought believing in something was the default position. Everyone (or so I thought) believed in something.

    People always assume you believe in their god.

    When I was a child, it came up in conversation with another child, who exclaimed (astounded), “You mean you don’t believe in anything?”

  62. kohldamunga says

    ***So, for me, it was never about the science. I’ve always loved science and it never occurred to me that religion and science were related in anyway. It was simply discovering that it is OK to not be religious, and then take the next step from there to Atheism. It’s been a wonderful experience for me. I have gained an even greater fascination and appreciation of how wonderful the universe is.***

    There is no link whatsoever between science and atheism. It is just a position that a person can take, like any other position. Science doesn’t require any ‘beliefs’ from a person. It just requires an open mind. Close your mind, and you have closed yourself to science and the entire universe, regardless of what beliefs you hold.

    But I guess the question that one could ask here is: What gives a human the capability to have the feelings of ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’? Who gave us these feelings and for what, when evolution is supposed to be a cold and blind process? If evolution is a cold and blind process, logic suggests, we should be looking at one cold,ugly,miserable and mechanical universe. When we don’t. So, where do these tender feelings of love, awe and wonder come from?

  63. KG says

    kuldamunga,

    blockquote><What gives a human the capability to have the feelings of ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’? Who gave us these feelings and for what, when evolution is supposed to be a cold and blind process?

    The first question is a reasonable one. There are at least two possible answers: that such feelings somehow aided the survival of our ancestors – perhaps by promoting group solidarity – and so were selected for; or that they are a by-product of features of the brain that were selected for. The fact that we don’t know the answer is unremarkable: there is a great deal we don’t know.

    The second question, however, in its question-begging assumption that these attributes are a gift from a person, reveals that you have already closed your mind, abandoned the search for real explanation, and and fallen back on pre-scientific anthropomorphism.

    If evolution is a cold and blind process, logic suggests, we should be looking at one cold,ugly,miserable and mechanical universe.

    No, it doesn’t. This again is pre-scientific thinking – believing that an effect must always resemble its cause.

    When we don’t. So, where do these tender feelings of love, awe and wonder come from?

    Love is a lot easier to account for than wonder. It comes from the fact that our female ancestors have been selected to care for their young for upwards of two hundred million years. We can be as certain as we can of anything that mother love was the evolutionary origin of all love on earth. In many of the more social species descended from those early mothers, it has been selectively advantageous for love to spread beyond the mother-young bond. In human beings and to a lesser extent in some other species, love is also shaped by culture – but the capacity for culture, as for love, is an evolved one.

  64. kohldamunga says

    The second question, however, in its question-begging assumption that these attributes are a gift from a person, reveals that you have already closed your mind, abandoned the search for real explanation, and and fallen back on pre-scientific anthropomorphism.

    I haven’t closed my mind to anything. Not even to a being who can give us these gifts. This is precisely why I can ask these questions in such a way. But this is not what I meant when I said “who gave us” these feelings. I wasn’t referring to any being of any kind. It is just a way of asking a question. If not this, then who or what? If not evolution then who or what? Something along these lines.

    No, it doesn’t. This again is pre-scientific thinking – believing that an effect must always resemble its cause.Love is a lot easier to account for than wonder. It comes from the fact that our female ancestors have been selected to care for their young for upwards of two hundred million years. We can be as certain as we can of anything that mother love was the evolutionary origin of all love on earth. In many of the more social species descended from those early mothers, it has been selectively advantageous for love to spread beyond the mother-young bond. In human beings and to a lesser extent in some other species, love is also shaped by culture – but the capacity for culture, as for love, is an evolved one.

    Pre-scientific thinking? OK. But don’t forget we also have “fear” in us, which sort of dominates our lives. Both “love” and “fear” are not ‘constants’. They are ‘variables’. Which is to say, a person full of love can turn into a fearful person in an instant. In the 24 hours a day, how many times a person would shift between love and fear? Plus, love is not a ‘standalone’ emotion, like any other emotion. Which is to say, it is, at any given time, mixed with other emotions, like anger, fear, joy and so on, which would determine the sort of effect it is going to create. Looks like it is much more complicated than picking out a emotion and then linking some causes and events with that emotion. Love caused this or that. But what is love? Where does love begin and where does it end? Does it have any boundaries?

  65. raven says

    So, where do these tender feelings of love, awe and wonder come from?

    Oh gee, this again.

    Safeway supermarket, aisle 2, right next to the frozen foods. Near “morality”. Just look for “feelings”, “wonder”, and “awe”. The store brands aren’t bad, FWIW.

    You do realize this is stupid even by theist standards. The gods are not putting feelings or thoughts into my head.

    They (supposedly) have better things to do like planting fossils to fool their believers so they can send them to hell to be tortured for eternity. Because the gods are our buddies and they love us.

  66. raven says

    If evolution is a cold and blind process, logic suggests, we should be looking at one cold,ugly,miserable and mechanical universe.

    Faulty logic to say the least. Evolution doesn’t say anything about what the universe should be like one way or the other.

    Things like cold, ugly, miserable, and mechanical are human value judgements, opinions.

    The universe is indifferent to us. It doesn’t care one bit one way or another. It just is what it is.

    What gives it and us meaning is us. Einstein and Darwin’s universe seems pretty neat to me.

  67. Ze Madmax says

    kohldamunga @ #71

    I haven’t closed my mind to anything. Not even to a being who can give us these gifts. This is precisely why I can ask these questions in such a way.

    But by asking questions “in such a way”, you are already presenting the idea of a “being who can give us these gifts” as a default. If anything, a truly neutral question would be something along the lines of “What is the source of these feelings…?”

    Also, regarding emotions and whatnot: keep in mind that just because humans experience certain emotions as positive/negative, it does not mean that an utilitarian view of said emotions would necessarily agree with that (very relative, anthropocentric) value judgement. Love is maintained because it has positive effects (e.g., encourages social cohesion). Fear is maintained because it has positive effects (e.g., encourages fleeing from potentially lethal hazards). Ultimately, “love”, “fear”, etc. are merely labels that we’ve assigned to chemical processes going on in the brain.

  68. Who Knows? says

    If you’re so unmoved by the topic that you feel compelled to tell me to stop posting on it, you’ve lost all point to the premise of participation.

    My interest is in the odd idea of a group of people who are free thinkers participating in a ritual of presenting a redemption story and the resulting group validation that go with these kinds of stories. Preaching to the choir and group validation are best left to religion and AA.

    Honestly, I did not intend to trivialize Sara’s, or any of the other guest’s experiences. I’m sorry for doing so.

    Janine Is Still An Asshole, thank you for the serious answer. I appreciate it. My personal opinion is the golden land is viewing the world rationally, logically and without the fear that religion brings.

  69. says

    My interest is in the odd idea of a group of people who are free thinkers participating in a ritual of presenting a redemption story and the resulting group validation that go with these kinds of stories. Preaching to the choir and group validation are best left to religion and AA.

    Yes, but as that’s not what’s going on, feel free to fuck off.

  70. raven says

    Also, regarding emotions and whatnot: keep in mind that just because humans experience certain emotions as positive/negative, it does not mean that an utilitarian view of said emotions would necessarily agree with that (very relative, anthropocentric) value judgement.

    There are occasionally people born that don’t feel pain, due to neural defects.

    They tend to die young. It’s not inevitable but they have to train themselves to pay attention and not hurt themselves.

    Not feeling fear in many situations is followed shortly thereafter by not feeling anything at all forever. It’s a useful survival instinct.

    BTW, humans are not the only ones that have emotions. My cats cycle through the same emotions as me on a daily basis. Even insects and other invertebrates have emotions

    This is predicted by evolution from a common ancestor. Hard to say what religions claim or predict, because the tens of thousands of religions and sects never, ever agree on anything. Xians used to claim that animals don’t have souls but lately some have been claiming the opposite. Hindus would say that that ant over there is the annoying neighbor that died last year.

  71. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Preaching to the choir and group validation are best left to religion and AA.

    And why should we care what a fool like you thinks? What part of shut the fuck up don’t you understand? Your opinion is irrelevant to us regulars, but all newbies seem to feel that they have the best wisdom in the world, and should be obeyed instantly. That rarely pans out, and you are following the typical progression. Try listening instead of pontificating.

  72. says

    I don’t get this “science has nothing to do with atheism” attitude. For me, atheism is all about having a rational/skeptical approach in general, how can the scientific method not be a part of that??

  73. kohldamunga says

    “Faulty logic to say the least. Evolution doesn’t say anything about what the universe should be like one way or the other.

    Things like cold, ugly, miserable, and mechanical are human value judgements, opinions.

    The universe is indifferent to us. It doesn’t care one bit one way or another. It just is what it is”.

    This universe is what it is? No one is arguing that. We all see the same universe. This is not a question of what we see. This is a question of how we see it. And how we see the universe depends on our internal state of mind. When a person suffers from depression, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, his universe slowly turns into a dark, sad and gloomy world. No feelings of joy, wonder and awe for him, because the universe is now a dark, cold and gloomy place for him. But if we are able to cure this person back to his natural state, the universe becomes full of joy, and wonder again. This is what happens when people take drugs. For a brief period of time, they escape from their usual dark universes to more happy universes. If a scientist firmly believes in the theory of evolution by natural selection, and then marvels at the ‘wonder of science’, that scientist is going to see a universe where every living creature was evolved through evolution by natural selection, and he’d be very surprised why others are not seeing what he is seeing! But when that scientist somehow becomes a depressed person, there is absolutely no wonder whatsoever left in the universe or in science!

    So, it turns out the universe is in no particular state. It’s all a matter of how we see the universe, which depends on our beliefs, our emotional state, and our state of mind. Do you agree?

    “What gives it and us meaning is us. Einstein and Darwin’s universe seems pretty neat to me.”

    Einstein’s and Darwin’s universes were unique to them, and only they knew how they experienced the universe. It is not possible to see the universe in a way they saw it. Just like you and I are experiencing the universe in our own ways. Every person experiences the universe in a unique way. At best, you can read their writings and then translate them into your version, as best as you can. Do you know anything about Darwin’s state of mind at any given time? I mean he could be a neglected child, and the saddest person on the planet when he proposed his theory.

  74. raven says

    Einstein’s and Darwin’s universes were unique to them, and only they knew how they experienced the universe. It is not possible to see the universe in a way they saw it.

    The universe of Einstein and Darwin is a poetic way of saying the real world, objective reality. What science has discovered over the last few centuries.

    What you are writing is a combination of mysticism and Solipsism. Solipsism says there is no reality and so we all just create our own universes.

    Few people consider it valid or a sign of a healthy mind.

  75. kohldamunga says

    The universe of Einstein and Darwin is a poetic way of saying the real world, objective reality. What science has discovered over the last few centuries.

    What you are writing is a combination of mysticism and Solipsism. Solipsism says there is no reality and so we all just create our own universes.

    Few people consider it valid or a sign of a healthy mind.

    Great. But you haven’t explained why what I am writing is a “combination of mysticism and Solipsism”.

    I am not saying there is no reality out there and each one of us just creates his own universe. I am talking about how we perceive what’s out there in the universe. Not what we perceive, but how we perceive it. And how we perceive depends on our state of mind, our emotions, our feelings, etc. How is this “Solipsism” or “Mysticism”?

  76. kohldamunga says

    I don’t get this “science has nothing to do with atheism” attitude. For me, atheism is all about having a rational/skeptical approach in general, how can the scientific method not be a part of that??

    One reason that I could think of is, there are many brilliant scientists out there who are not atheists. Some are even devout followers. They don’t need atheism to make friends with science. Atheism has nothing to do with science, and vice versa. Science has no position on God, even if some atheists would say that it does.

  77. julian says

    Science has no position on God, even if some atheists would say that it does.

    Technically, sure. But then that would be true of science and everything. What it has done is show that many of the miracles and claims made by religions the world over are impossible or false.

  78. says

    The fact that there are many scientists out there who are theists doesn’t make

    Atheism has nothing to do with science, and vice versa.

    true.

    The fact that atheism is connected to a scientific way of thinking, doesn’t mean that theists can’t be scientists too.

  79. Hazuki says

    It’s true that science has nothing directly to do with atheism or theism. But the science (and history, and archaeology, and text criticism, and so on…) can be used to disprove certain claims. And I would say nearly all the claims of the Abrahamic religions and many of the Dharmic and New Age ones have been disproven.

    There is a reason the “God of the Gaps” is popular now, as well as why most serious apologetics these days is presuppositionalist instead of evidentialist: the evidence is simply not there, or worse, opposed.

    So I think it’s disingenuous to act like science and other avenues of inquiry have nothing to do with it. All you can say is that you can’t make a deductive case for strong atheism.

  80. kohldamunga says

    The fact that there are many scientists out there who are theists doesn’t make

    Atheism has nothing to do with science, and vice versa.

    true.

    The fact that atheism is connected to a scientific way of thinking, doesn’t mean that theists can’t be scientists too.

    I wasn’t talking about those scientists who are ‘theists’. I was talking about those who are not ‘atheists’. Those who are not ‘atheists’ could be anything. Even nothing. As in a scientist who is so much immersed in science that he doesn’t even know what it means to be atheist or theist or even agnostic. But when you ask him about God, he simply replies: I think there is something out there. Some kind of force or power that is running the universe. I just have this feeling. I don’t know why! Does he need a philosophical label on him to be a better scientist? Of course not. He is doing fine as he is. In fact, attaching a label like ‘atheist’ or ‘theist’ would require some of his energy and effort towards maintaining that label. Which means he would now have to divide his resources between science and towards maintaining and justifying that label.

  81. julian says

    Which means he would now have to divide his resources between science and towards maintaining and justifying that label.

    ummmmmm….What?

    That’s gibberish.

    And who are these people who have to divide their time between their work and justifying a ‘label?’ Or these other dudes who have no life outside or before their work?

  82. says

    Huh? What’s your problem anyways? Scientists who are not theists? You know you CAN actually find the right label, philosophers have actually thought about these things.

    But when you ask him about God, he simply replies: I think there is something out there. Some kind of force or power that is running the universe. I just have this feeling. I don’t know why!

    That’s not atheism, that’s deism. Deists can be scientists too. Even if deism isn’t particularly rational either.

  83. kohldamunga says

    It’s true that science has nothing directly to do with atheism or theism. But the science (and history, and archaeology, and text criticism, and so on…) can be used to disprove certain claims. And I would say nearly all the claims of the Abrahamic religions and many of the Dharmic and New Age ones have been disproven.

    I thought only common sense was enough to disprove these claims. The fact that we have so many religions, and every one of these religions telling us about a different god and different rules and regulations, should be enough to tell us there is no truth behind these claims. But what does it say about the universe or God? We have people who use peyote and magic mushrooms to become ‘one with God’. We have people in India and Pakistan who use marijuana during dancing rituals at shrines. These people know nothing, or very little, about any Abrahamic gods, or any religions, or the philosophy of religions and God. Have we disproved their gods?

    There is a reason the “God of the Gaps” is popular now, as well as why most serious apologetics these days is presuppositionalist instead of evidentialist: the evidence is simply not there, or worse, opposed.

    What do you think happens when people experience a ‘oneness with the universe’ or go through NDEs? People going through these experiences is the evidence that there is much more going on in the universe than we can perceive during normal experiences.

    So I think it’s disingenuous to act like science and other avenues of inquiry have nothing to do with it. All you can say is that you can’t make a deductive case for strong atheism.

    I am not saying that. Science is a great avenue of inquiry. But science will forever continue to make more and more discoveries about the universe. We do not know what kind of discoveries await us in the future. Do you want the scientists 500 years in the future to make fun of our ‘over confidence’ in ‘science’? I don’t.

  84. kohldamunga says

    And who are these people who have to divide their time between their work and justifying a ‘label?’ Or these other dudes who have no life outside or before their work?

    I think it would be anyone who says I am this or I am that. Like, someone who says “I am an atheist.” Then defines goes on defining and defending being an atheist…. The author of this article, who must have spent a fair amount of her resources in writing this article … all this to defend and define her label of ‘atheist’. I am an atheist…

    I don’t know about those dudes who have no life outside or before thier work. Did I mention them?

  85. says

    I am not saying that. Science is a great avenue of inquiry. But science will forever continue to make more and more discoveries about the universe. We do not know what kind of discoveries await us in the future. Do you want the scientists 500 years in the future to make fun of our ‘over confidence’ in ‘science’? I don’t.

    This looks like the pantheistic variant of Pascal’s wager and fails for the same reason.

    Why would they make fun of us if based on the current scientific standards of today, there was absolutely no scientific evidence that there is “something” out there?

  86. kohldamunga says

    Why would they make fun of us if based on the current scientific standards of today, there was absolutely no scientific evidence that there is “something” out there?

    NDEs, LSD induced states, spiritual experiences are all evidence there is something very mysterious about us, about the universe. They would make fun of us because science currently has no explanation for these experiences, and some over-enthusiastic scientists are trying their best to hook them up with ‘brain damage’ or ‘abnormal functioning’ of the brain.

  87. says

    NDEs, LSD induced states, spiritual experiences are all evidence there is something very mysterious about us, about the universe.

    There’s nothing mysterious about those. One book you should read, esp. regarding NDEs, is

    Paranormality. Why we see what isn’t there by Richard Wiseman

    Sigh. Why do wooists always think that their favourite type of woo is not explainable by science…

  88. kohldamunga says

    There’s nothing mysterious about those. One book you should read, esp. regarding NDEs, is

    Paranormality. Why we see what isn’t there by Richard Wiseman

    Sigh. Why do wooists always think that their favourite type of woo is not explainable by science…

    I think I will go for Dr Raymond Moody’s books, who is widely considered a pioneer in the field of NDEs. Sam Harris is also making some sense lately on his website. ‘The Mystery of Consciousness’ in two parts looks like a promising start towards new horizons.

  89. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    What do you think happens when people experience a ‘oneness with the universe’ or go through NDEs?
    People going through these experiences is the evidence that there is much more going on in the universe than we can perceive during normal experiences.

    No it definitely isn’t.

    It is evidence that there is much more going on in our brains than we perceive during normal experiences. You just want it to be something “special”, and therefore you ignore the fact that there is a much simpler explanation that does not involve postulating unseen spiritual forces or whatever. In fact, it would be surprising if the brain didn’t produce strange experiences when outside the normal modus operandi. The perceived ‘oneness with the universe’ is a nice effect which neurologists understand – I am no expert, but in a nutshell, certain functions of the brain, which in normal everyday life help you to classify experiences as internal and external, are lifted because parts of the brain do not perform.

    These things are no more hinting towards some fundamental spiritual going ons of the universe than then fact that when I kick my refrigerator, it starts making strange noises for 30 seconds. Ooh, that must be Rama Krishna channeling through the cooling pump there.

  90. KG says

    Oh dear, it’s another NDE moron.

    NDEs, LSD induced states, spiritual experiences are all evidence there is something very mysterious about us, about the universe. They would make fun of us because science currently has no explanation for these experiences, and some over-enthusiastic scientists are trying their best to hook them up with ‘brain damage’ or ‘abnormal functioning’ of the brain.

    No, they’re really not. They are interesting capacities of the brain, and we don’t know whether they were selected for or are an evolutionary by-product: the brain, quite obviously, did not evolve in order that our ancestors could read, drive automobiles or play ping-pong, yet it can enable us to do all these things – such a complex organ will inevitably have non-functional capabilities. Such experiences tell us nothing at all about the nature of reality in general; we know that our perceptions and intuitions frequently mislead us – particularly when our brain chemistry is disrupted – so the “insights” gained by trippers or NDE-ers are wholly unreliable. The fact is that NDEs are highly culturally determined, and some of their common components, such as the “tunnel” and the “light”, have plausible physiological explanations in the brain’s response to oxygen deprivation. Drug and “spiritual” experiences are similarly culturally shaped: there is AFAIK nothing whatever to indicate that they give genuine access to normally cryptic features of reality. If you have any real evidence to the contrary, pray produce it.

    Incidentally, w.r.t. at least one of your categories of “evidence”, I do have some personal experience to draw on – I know what it feels like to think you’ve grasped some deep insight into the oneness of everything.

  91. kohldamunga says

    The perceived ‘oneness with the universe’ is a nice effect which neurologists understand

    Which neurologists understand this effect? Any references?

  92. KG says

    But this is not what I meant when I said “who gave us” these feelings. I wasn’t referring to any being of any kind. It is just a way of asking a question. – kholdamunga@71

    That’s simply disingenuous: it’s quite clearly a way of asking a question that presumes what the answer must be – it is, in the original sense, begging the question.

  93. says

    I think I will go for Dr Raymond Moody’s books, who is widely considered a pioneer in the field of NDEs.

    Because I’ll trust the word of a kook who claims to have lived nine lives.

  94. KG says

    I think I will go for Dr Raymond Moody’s books, who is widely considered a pioneer in the field of NDEs. – kohldamunga

    *Guffaw*

  95. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    But Nerd, the other day when I got up from my sofa too quickly, I saw the stars! A little galaxy of fireflies was hovering around me, it was like spiritual dark matter streaming through all of us. Explain that with your science!

  96. kohldamunga says

    NDEs are scientifically explained. There is nothing non-physical/spiritual about them.

    I think it explains nothing about the actual ‘experiences’, because it looks like they are just too busy trying to determine the ‘physical causes’ here. What sort of effects can it have on a person’s life? Change someone’s life completely? Can it really be ‘abnormal functioning’ of the brain that can have such profound effects on a person’s life, one way or the other? This is what I meant when I said about future generations making fun of us.

    This looks a bit tricky…

    Near-death experiences are often thought of as mystical phenomena, but research is now revealing scientific explanations for virtually all of their common features.

    Who said anything about such “mystical” experiences having no physical roots in the body? Or no ‘scientific’ explanations?

  97. KG says

    To expand a little on my guffaw: Moody is a good example of the fact that you do find highly intelligent and qualified cranks: he has a PhD and an MD. The fact that he takes hypnotic regression to “past lives” seriously is enough to tell us he’s a crank, when the unreliability of testimony from hypnotised subjects is well-established. Trust in such testimony led in the 1980s to many innocent people being accused of abusing their children on the basis of “recovered memories” produced in therapy, often under hypnosis – see for example the work of Paul R. McHugh.

  98. KG says

    Can it really be ‘abnormal functioning’ of the brain that can have such profound effects on a person’s life, one way or the other? – kohldamunga

    Yes. Why not?

  99. KG says

    You see, kholdamunga@105, there’s that pre-scientific thinking of yours again – the intuitively attractive, but quite mistaken idea that the effect must resemble the cause.

  100. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    What sort of effects can it have on a person’s life?

    Irrelevant to being explained. Nothing but brain chemistry, lack of oxygen, and false memories. The brain fooling itself. Any life changes are not part of anything.

  101. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    “mystical” is self-delusion and bullshitting yourself. Anybody with half a brain understands that. It doesn’t exist.

  102. kohldamunga says

    Yes. Why not?

    It can be. But how would the brain create such fantastic effects when it is functioning abnormally? What happens when the heart functions abnormally, or any other organ of the body functions abnormally? Maybe ‘higher functioning’ sounds much logical here.

    Plus, maybe what is now called ‘abnormal functioning’ will be called ‘higher functioning’ in 100 years from now. You must have read how some over-zealous surgeons were performing very crude surgeries some 100 years ago? in 100 years from now, all of our ‘marvelous’ technology would look very crude to those people. It is all logical. That’s the way it has happened, and that’s the way it will happen.

  103. says

    You seem to have a very poor understanding of history. Look up what people said around 100 years ago about our time. They were talking about jet packs, flying cars, and public transport to colonies on the moon and so forth. So where’s my flying car??

  104. kohldamunga says

    You seem to have a very poor understanding of history. Look up what people said around 100 years ago about our time. They were talking about jet packs, flying cars, and public transport to colonies on the moon and so forth. So where’s my flying car??

    Are you talking about Jules Verne?

  105. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Maybe ‘higher functioning’ sounds much logical here.

    Nope, sounds stupid like everything you say–without evidence.

    It is all logical.

    Nothing you say is logical. All warped by your idiotic mysticism bullshit.

  106. says

    Jules Verne, lol. You do know he was a science fiction writer?

    It’s actually quite complicated, because some of the predictions turned out to be ok, some quite far off. Here are some

    http://www.cracked.com/article/18364_6-insanely-awesome-things-1900s-thought-wed-have-by-now/

    But the important thing is that all predictions were coloured by the cultural conventions of the time. So for instance, futurologists until the 1940s (some even later) would have a hard time imagining women in any other role than house wives.

  107. KG says

    But how would the brain create such fantastic effects when it is functioning abnormally? – kohldamunga

    The fact that “mystical” states can be produced using specific chemicals indicates quite clearly that the answer to your question (many of the details of which are not yet known) lies in the disciplines of neurophysiology and neurochemistry. However, quite a lot is known about the mode of action of LSD and other drugs which alter the behaviour of neurotransmitters (see for example here). In general terms, that’s how such effects are created, but with LSD as with all psychoactive drugs, set and setting influence both the emotional tone and the content of the experience. I agree with you that more research is needed (it’s held back by the difficulty of getting a licence to work with what are mostly substances it’s normally illegal to possess). But there is no reason whatever to expect such research to throw any light on the nature of the world as a whole.

  108. kohldamunga says

    Jules Verne, lol. You do know he was a science fiction writer?

    It’s actually quite complicated, because some of the predictions turned out to be ok, some quite far off. Here are some

    http://www.cracked.com/article/18364_6-insanely-awesome-things-1900s-thought-wed-have-by-now/

    But the important thing is that all predictions were coloured by the cultural conventions of the time. So for instance, futurologists until the 1940s (some even later) would have a hard time imagining women in any other role than house wives.

    Strictly speaking, I am not making any predictions about how events will unfold, as in predicting that people will live up to 200 years, we will have cars running on air, and so on. My point was, considering the rate at which the technology is advancing now, the technology will have advanced tremendously in 100 years from now. And so will our understanding of everything around us.

    That article refers to some people doing some research on the brain regarding NDEs. Their methods, their techniques, and everything else will look very crude and primitive in 100 years from now.

  109. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Their methods, their techniques, and everything else will look very crude and primitive in 100 years from now.

    Compared to your methods of utter and total bullshit? I don’t think so Tim. Also NDE can effect a person since oxygen deprivation can kill some brain cells. All explained by science, no dualism, mysticism or spiritualism needed. Hiding behind vagaries is for losers like you.

  110. KG says

    That article refers to some people doing some research on the brain regarding NDEs. Their methods, their techniques, and everything else will look very crude and primitive in 100 years from now. – kohldamunga

    That may be so or it may not. Quite likely, our descendants will be struggling for survival in a world devastated by climate change andor nuclear war. Whatever, it’s no excuse for mush-brained dribble of the kind you’ve been producing.

  111. kohldamunga says

    That may be so or it may not. Quite likely, our descendants will be struggling for survival in a world devastated by climate change andor nuclear war.

    Highly likely. But also quite unlikely. I am envisioning the latter. The Quite Unlikely future.

  112. KG says

    Highly likely. But also quite unlikely. I am envisioning the latter. The Quite Unlikely future. – kohldamunga

    WTF is that supposed to mean? Are you actually unable to write coherently?

  113. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    kohldamunga,

    Oh dear dog, you are hopeless.

    Sure, the current methods will look primitive in 100 years, but good science has the tendency to remain good science. Eratosthenes’ measurement of the diameter of the earth dating 2200 years ago is very crude by today’s standards, but is still good science. You are the fictitious critic who tries to tell him that the earth is shaped like a horse’s saddle, and that it’s true because future scientists will laugh about his crude experiment.

  114. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Highly likely. But also quite unlikely. I am envisioning the latter. The Quite Unlikely future.

    Typical mindless babbling of the inane and insane mystic. Word puree.

  115. Mattir says

    _

    My interest is in the odd idea of a group of people who are free thinkers participating in a ritual of presenting a redemption story and the resulting group validation that go with these kinds of stories. Preaching to the choir and group validation are best left to religion and AA.

    Amazingly enough, some of us are interested in the experiences of other people and in how people make meaning out of their experiences. And even more amazingly, most of us appear able to read these “why I am an atheist” stories without hearing a demand for conformity of belief or action. Somehow I imagine that the folks who whine about the “group validation” aspect of these stories are also ones who believe that discussion of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, etc. have no place in the world of organized atheism.

    Stories in AA are supposed to be people sharing their “experience, strength, and hope.” Each AA story, like each “why I am an atheist” story, is unique: some stories I identify with and in which I find useful guidance for my own life situation, other stories I find interesting but not applicable to my personal circumstances, and still others I find boring, disturbing, or silly.

    Then there’s this nice AA aphorism: take what you need and leave the rest. I recommend this path for those who find this series of posts boring, disturbing, or silly. That’s why PZ is considerate enough to tag his posts…

  116. says

    I’ve had this identical conversation so many times…

    I used to have this sort of conversation all the time, but after a few moves and other assorted life changes, I find that I am no longer hanging out with stoners.

  117. kohldamunga says

    kohldamunga,

    Oh dear dog, you are hopeless.

    Sure, the current methods will look primitive in 100 years, but good science has the tendency to remain good science. Eratosthenes’ measurement of the diameter of the earth dating 2200 years ago is very crude by today’s standards, but is still good science. You are the fictitious critic who tries to tell him that the earth is shaped like a horse’s saddle, and that it’s true because future scientists will laugh about his crude experiment.

    I am not talking about measuring the earth here. I am talking about studying the causes of NDEs here. We know very little about NDEs now, but in 100 years from now, we’ll know a lot more than we do know. We’ll have much better understanding of the brain.

    What you have given is a totally unrelated example. Science is a very vast field of study, and earth sciences are very different from medical sciences. Just in case you didn’t notice. You should have given the example of surgeons doing something like this…

    On Valentine’s Day, 1974, British doctors destroyed a chunk of Derek Wright Hutchinson’s hypothalamus without his consent. “I was strapped down and my eyes were taped open,” remembers Hutchinson, now aged 60, of the neurosurgery called a hypothalomotomy, first developed in the 1950s to curb aggressive behaviour. Surgeons drilled two holes into his forehead, then sent a wire with an electrical tip deep into his brain. Before destroying the specific target, the surgeon test-stimulated his brain with five to 10 volts of electricity. “They’d say, ‘Are you frightened? Angry?’ I yelled, ‘Stop it, or I’ll kill you.” But I couldn’t move. Then they thermocoagulated my hypothalamus. I felt as if I were in a coffin. I felt heat all over my body as if I were being burned alive. Oh, pal, I can’t find the words. I have to find the words.”

    In 100 years … no in 30 years from now, those ‘scientists’ who are trying to hook up NDEs with brain damage may look something like the above … logic suggests.

  118. kohldamunga says

    My interest is in the odd idea of a group of people who are free thinkers participating in a ritual of presenting a redemption story and the resulting group validation that go with these kinds of stories. Preaching to the choir and group validation are best left to religion and AA.

    Actually, it does look this way. Look at me, I was a victim before. Now, I am a rebel. I have been saved! Now let’s destroy science in the name atheism.

  119. KG says

    kohldamunga,

    Still continuing with your purblind idiocy I see. Here’s a very recent review of research on NDEs There is nothing paranormal about near-death
    experiences: how neuroscience can explain seeing
    bright lights, meeting the dead, or being convinced
    you are one of them
    . Your anecdote about an operation in 1974 is completely irrelevant, serving only to spit venom at the medical profession. I assume you never go to a medic or use any of the products of scientific medicine when you’re ill, because if this were not so, you’d be a stinking hypocrite.

  120. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This kohldamunga person is just about as incoherent as kenny.

    And Shiloh…

  121. Janine Is Still An Asshole, OM, says

    Just as long as that infestation stays in SB, I will be pleased. Damn but that pissant pisses me off.

  122. kohldamunga says

    kohldamunga,

    Still continuing with your purblind idiocy I see. Here’s a very recent review of research on NDEs There is nothing paranormal about near-death
    experiences: how neuroscience can explain seeing
    bright lights, meeting the dead, or being convinced
    you are one of them. Your anecdote about an operation in 1974 is completely irrelevant, serving only to spit venom at the medical profession. I assume you never go to a medic or use any of the products of scientific medicine when you’re ill, because if this were not so, you’d be a stinking hypocrite.

    Of course I use “scientific medicines” when I have to, and I go to doctors as well when the occasion calls for it. Why shouldn’t I? What has this got to do with what I said before? Just because I am using “scientific medicines” … does it mean I am not allowed to criticse science? Science is not a religion. Maybe for you it is. Not for me. It is not above criticism.

  123. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    What has this got to do with what I said before?

    You prefer woo explanations to science.

    does it mean I am not allowed to criticse science? Science is not a religion. Maybe for you it is. Not for me. It is not above criticism.

    Those most critical of science are we scientists. We challenge the prevailing theories every time we work. You just make inane noises and ignore reality. That is why you are getting nowhere here. You have no valid criticism of science, but only your desire for mysticism, which is refuted soundly by science. Ergo, you must devalue science, which comes out as inane and irrelevant critism. Run along and find another blog to infest. You have nothing cogent to say here other than “good-bye”.

  124. kohldamunga says

    You prefer woo explanations to science.

    No I don’t. It’s you who is saying this. Like a religious fanatic. We all know science is all about skepticism. This is precisely why I can criticise it. But you seem to be confusing ‘skepticism’ with ‘dogmatism’, since you appear to be quite ‘dogmatic’ about what you call ‘science’. This is why you don’t like people criticizing it.

    Those most critical of science are we scientists. We challenge the prevailing theories every time we work. You just make inane noises and ignore reality. That is why you are getting nowhere here. You have no valid criticism of science, but only your desire for mysticism, which is refuted soundly by science. Ergo, you must devalue science, which comes out as inane and irrelevant critism. Run along and find another blog to infest. You have nothing cogent to say here other than “good-bye”.

    Has anyone sort of ‘authorised’ you to define what science is, and who is ‘authorised’ to criticise science? As I said before, science is not a religion, even if you seem to think it is. I see science from a completely different viewpoint than yours. Yours is dogmatic and very narrow minded. Mine is taking a skeptical approach, with an open mind.

  125. kohldamunga says

    When I say criticizing ‘science’, I mean ‘criticizing’ only a small part of science — the part of science that has taken the appearance of a cult during the last few decades. The members only club of science, where people are required to make pledges of faithful obedience in order to gain entry into the club.