Open thread for AETV #905: Matt and Tracie

Viewer calls. Sleep paralysis. James Joyce’s quote: “There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being.”


  1. Gelfamat says

    This is absurd. There is no need to condemn this act as a part of the atheist community., it had no more to do with atheism than it had to do with lack of belief in Santa Clause. Condemning this act as an atheist makes it look like we have some reason to condemn it. Please think about these things so you don’t end up giving atheists a bad name. Ridiculous.

  2. Yonadav says

    Tracie recommended and I “obey” 🙂
    Anyone here knows of relevant forums or groups that may help (my call is at 54:20)?
    Thank you, have a great week!

  3. fullyladenswallow says

    I’ve experienced sleep paralysis only once. Actually, it was more of a nap paralysis. I dozed off (laying on the couch) one afternoon watching the TV, while my wife was doing something in the kitchen. I may have experienced a short dream sequence (can’t really remember) but then feeling the need to get up and not have any of my musculature respond- not so much as an eyelid! The odd thing was that I could still hear the commercial playing on the TV and my wife using the cooking utensils in the kitchen. At this point I started to panic a bit thinking, “is this what it’s like to die of a heart attack? I’m really trapped in here (my body), but can’t even yell for someone to come and shake me.” It’s possible that I might have hallucinated (dreamed) the TV and sounds coming from the kitchen but given the circumstances, I guess one would have to ask which scenario would be more likely- i.e. “is it live or is it Memorex?”
    I guess Tracie would have had another option to help determined the lawnmower noise, and that would be to ask her neighbors if they heard anything themselves the other night.
    One thing I have noticed about my dream states is that, how strongly ambient sounds get incorporated into them, even voices on the radio- “Micheal from Mountains” starts playing and there will be Joni or Judy there in front of me singing away or there will be a news commentary on NPR and I’ll be sitting in the broadcasting booth with Bob Edwards. I was thrown for a few minutes one time when I fell asleep and then heard someone repeatedly say “hel..lo” to me from somewhere in the room. Opened my eyes, glanced around, nothing to see. Dozed off again…. “hel–lo……Hel—lo”. Woke again to see no one, but then heard the “Hel-lo” . I finally realized that I was the one saying “hello”, or more specifically my windpipe. It seemed I had a wee bit of phlegm resonating the “hel” on inhale and then the “lo” on exhale. Wished I could have recorded it, cause it was as least as clear as if a parrot had spoken it. I live in a rural area and it’s extremely quiet here at night. Might have missed it altogether elsewhere. What are the chances of that happening again I wonder?

  4. Narf says

    @1 – fullyladenswallow
    I’ve experienced the opposite end of that malfunction. Going to sleep … going to sleep … going to sleep … *JERK*

    “What the hell was that?”

    I think that that’s also related to the motor-inhibitors doing screwed up stuff, while you’re drifting off to sleep, as sleep paralysis is a malfunction on the other end.

  5. Last Embryo Standing says

    That happens to me a lot. It’s like the switch that turns off the impulses to the muscles experiences a voltage arc when the connection is broken. Bad electrical analogy, I know, but that’s what it feels like.

  6. Narf says

    It doesn’t happen to me very often, but it happens to my girlfriend all the time. I get kicked, usually … and then a few dozen more times throughout the night.

  7. fullyladenswallow says

    @narf/Last Embryo

    Yes, had the “jerk-awake” happen a few times, also clonked myself in the head once while grabbing and yanking the leg of the nightstand while dreaming of grabbing someone’s lapel or neck in response to a threatening gesture. Or will send the cat flying, dreaming that a giant mosquito is chowing down on my left arm. Doesn’t seem to take take much outside stimulus does it?

  8. Last Embryo Standing says

    I can see where someone could have one of these semi-conscious experiences for the first time, and if they consult with the wrong person about it, they could end up entertaining the possibility of demonic possession. I was as pleased as Tracie and Matt were when the caller said their first web search turned up an explanation of sleep paralysis.

  9. Andres Villarreal says

    Sleep paralysis is a subject I am passionate about because I have also had it, probably twice. In that time our family’s permanent worry was the thieves entering our home. And I woke up in the middle of the night because of clear, loud footstep noises on the roof. I knew that I had to run and wake everybody up and call the police, but I could not move a muscle. Then I tried to shout for help and I only could make some soft gurgling noises. I knew that everything I was feeling was real. I could even see my room, because I had my eyes open. Finally I got somehow out of the situation and got to sleep again. But what was real and what was a dream? Thinking back on the experience I cannot really know if I had my eyes open, if I heard real noises, like a cat that roamed our rooftops at the time, or if I dreamed the whole thing, just as other very realistic dreams I have had. Because of other people relating their experiences I believe I was more awake than asleep and that sounds were real but I interpreted them the wrong way. Nothing seemed to be missing the next day, so I am leaning towards the cat hypothesis, but a total auditive hallucination is possible. In conclusion, nothing can be concluded. I can easily imagine how I could have had an alien abduction experience or a god appearing right in front of me if I had had those inclinations. The whole thing was real enough to me to declare that a real thief entered my home through my rooftop, but was somehow stopped from stealing anything we could determine. But of course, it did not happen.

  10. says

    Wow, what an amazing opening speech by Matt D.
    If only the vapid blowhards of the world – both outside of the atheist community and inside of it – could shut up and spend two seconds thinking about an issue. Matt’s thinking is so clear and nuanced – increasingly rare characteristics among people who style themselves as intellectuals – that if the thinking of others was even half as clear as his, the world would be a drastically better place.
    For the record, the Matt and Tracie team is the best hosting duo by a lot.

  11. PeachyPieTX says

    First I wanted to commend Matt on the opening segment about the killings, as I had a very visceral reaction the moment I heard the news reports about some “atheist going on a murderous rampage”… Knowing that it would make the rounds and possibly gain traction in the theist crowd.

    Regarding Tracie’s bit about sleep paralysis, the best example I have was one day, years ago, I was jarred awake (late) for work.. Running late, brush teeth, comb hair, dress, and get in car after clinging to the stair rail for dear life on my way downstairs… I lived just 5 miles from work, and I noticed right away my limbs weren’t working right… I took side roads bc I didn’t trust my driving ability, but on the way to the office I had to sorta fling my arm over steering wheel to hold it, and pray my legs would cooperate with the pedals in my truck. I made it to work ok, but it took about 20 mins for my body to catch up to my mind. It was a very disconcerting feeling to have full mental capacity, but a body objecting to every action you’re trying to make it do.

    Best way I can think to describe it is like your body is still drunk from last night, but your brain is at 100% … It’s FRUSTRATING!!!

  12. says

    I suffer from sleep paralysis on an uncomfortably regular basis. It happens enough for me to know it’s a kind of “normal” thing to happen. Every time it happens though, I terrifies me, despite me knowing that I’m safe.

    Sometimes I hallucinate with it. Usually auditory, and rarely more than buzzing. The first time it happened there were loud noises, like a helicopter, and flashing lights from my window. I’m certain this is the basis for alien encounter testimonies.

    Fortunately, my wife has learned the signs; rapid breathing, stifled moans. She will wake me when she knows I’m “trapped”.

    IT doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to, and I’ve learned that it happens most when I’m over tired. Seems my body is more eager to sleep than my mind.

    It’s so good to see people talk about it without dressing it up with mysticism and astral projection shenanigans. Thank you Tracie but reminding me I’m not a freak 🙂 I appreciate a lucid dream as much as anyone, but frankly, I’d rather a good nights rest!

  13. Fred S says

    Great speech by Matt at the beginning. Interesting also that he disagreed (mostly) with PZ Myers’ take on this issue, which was another chance for him (Myers) to continue his attacks on “dictionary atheists”. And very reassuring to me that Matt attacked Rebecca Watson’s views (although not mentioning her by name), which had been another opportunity for her to have a dig at Dawkins and Harris.

  14. says

    God isn’t special. One big reason why we don’t include God when researching evolution is because there’s no evidence to support it.

    We also don’t include janitors, ghosts or aliens mucking around with our research either, for the same reason.

  15. Narf says

    @9 – Chris Grimes

    IT doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to, and I’ve learned that it happens most when I’m over tired. Seems my body is more eager to sleep than my mind.

    Huh. I can relate to that last part. With the OCD, my mind is whirling around in circles, pretty much up to the instant that I actually lose consciousness. “Racing thoughts” is one of the side characteristics that pretty much anyone with the genetic version of OCD has, apparently.

    I’ve never experienced sleep paralysis, though. I wonder if that’s something that might be added in, when I’m older.

  16. Narf says

    @10 – Jasper
    Errrrrr, was that in response to anything? It looks like a response, but I’m not seeing anything on here that it fits together with.

  17. says

    I feel for anyone who suffers from sleep paralysis as it’s something I’ve experienced a good few times myself.

    It doesn’t matter how many times, either – there’s always the panic response which goes with it.

    I can’t specifically remember any auditory or visual hallucinations which accompanied any of times it’s happened. But the feeling of being trapped and helpless could easily lead someone to believe they’d been abducted, or that a demon had visited them.

    …seems legit…

  18. Abraham Van Helsing says

    I’ve had purely auditory dreams/hallucinations upon waking, without the paralysis. A tone, a knocking at the door, a voice calling to me – these happened within the last couple of years. I don’t totally trust anything I hear until I’m out of bed and fully awake.

  19. Narf says

    I don’t totally trust anything I hear until I’m out of bed and fully awake.

    … and have at least 16 ounces of coffee in my system.

  20. Narf says

    @13 – Jasper
    Ah. I haven’t listened to the show, yet. I’ll have to get to that later tonight.

  21. edmond says

    Sleep paralysis can actually be shaken off pretty easy. Your brain “disconnects” from your body so that you aren’t running and jumping in your bed while you dream about those activities. But it remains connected to your autonomous functions, like breathing and heartbeat, so that you don’t die. The result of this limited connection is, when you find yourself conscious but unable to move, you will actually still be able to consciously control your breathing. Take control of your breathing and change the tempo. Increase the pace to rapid breathing. Slow down and take giant, deep breaths. Go back and forth. This will bring you more towards fully awake, “shaking off” the remaining connection to sleep. You’ll find you can regain control of your limbs and body much quicker.

    The only trouble is actually remembering to do this while you’re in the paralysis state. It can be disconcerting, even panic-inducing, not to mention happening when you’re only half awake, and stopping to think of specific steps to take may not be the first thing to occur to you. But, I’ve had it happen a handful of times and this always seems to work. It just takes a little practice for these steps to come to mind while you’re in that state.

  22. Gelgamar says

    Nice to see Matt back in action. Despite Russell absolutely bizarre “condemnation” of the shootings, which had NOTHING to do with atheism, the Atheist Community of Austin has handled this deftly. Glasser’s post was harmful because it indicated that atheists need to condemn acts by atheists… As if there is a causal link. The very thing Lynnea argued against last week.

  23. parasiteboy says

    I like that TAE talks quite a bit about how it should be OK to say that we don’t know, but the conversation about sleep paralysis was hyper-skeptical.

    Tracie mentioned that she knows she has sleep paralysis often and those episodes include auditory hallucinations. The episode occurred in the middle of the night and included a lawn mower sound and kids laughing, IIRC. She also seems to know something about the physical, biochemical mechanisms behind the paralysis and hallucinations. Also as fullyladenswallow@1 points out you can investigate it further by asking neighbors if they heard or were the ones that ran a lawnmower. But even without this, the most likely explanation is that she had another episode of sleep paralysis because she has had these episodes before and the likelihood of having a lawnmower running in the middle of the night is low, and the likelihood of having a lawnmower running AND having kids out and laughing at night is even more remote.

  24. jacobfromlost says

    Edmond: “The result of this limited connection is, when you find yourself conscious but unable to move, you will actually still be able to consciously control your breathing.”

    Me: I’ve had sleep paralysis twice and the most disturbing element was being UNABLE to control my breathing. I felt like I was suffocating. (I had actually read about sleep paralysis before these episodes so suspected at the time that was what it was. I simply did what Tracie suggested: try to relax, which seemed to work.)

    The literature I’m aware of includes the inability to control your breathing. People have reported beings (incubus, etc) trying to strangle them, sit on their chests, etc, throughout history, as the inability to control your breathing is a physiological element of sleep paralysis. Even the Wikipedia page says, “A similar process may explain the experience of the incubus presence, with slight variations, in which the evil presence is perceived by the subject to be attempting to suffocate them, either by pressing heavily on the chest or by strangulation.[10]” It also says, “A neurological explanation hold that this results from a combination of the threat vigilance activation system and the muscle paralysis associated with sleep paralysis that removes voluntary control of breathing.[10] ”

    There is nothing (I can find, anyway) about controlling your breathing to shake off an instance of sleep paralysis. The good thing, though, is that ISP (isolated sleep paralysis) is what most of us ever have, and it usually only lasts 1 minute and occurs about once in someone’s entire lifetime. RISP, or recurrent isolated sleep paralysis, may occur more often and last longer (even as long as an hour).

    Also, from thesleepparalysisproject: “Due to the paralysis that naturally occurs during REM sleep the contribution of throat muscles to breathing are reduced. As a result of all this, it is impossible for a person to voluntarily control their breathing during REM. // Usually this is unnoticeable when asleep, but a sleep paralysis sufferer becomes consciously aware whilst remaining in a state of REM-induced paralysis. Efforts to take voluntary control of breathing are unsuccessful, and the struggle for breath may manifest in a feeling of breathlessness and lead to panic. In addition to this, paralysis in the muscles of our upper airways may contribute to feelings of choking and suffocation.”

  25. says

    RE: This comment above: ” I knew that everything I was feeling was real. I could even see my room, because I had my eyes open.”

    I used to believe I had my eyes open as well, until later in life I realized my mother had this as well. I figured out what it was, but it wasn’t until years later I put it together with my mother’s experience of “those dreams”–where she would describe watching helplessly (unable to move) as a burglar or assailant entered her bedroom window and stood over her armed with a knife. She believed she was watching this. However, she was able to moan loudly and audibly when she was having these frightening experiences, and so my brother and I had times we simply watched her and did not “wake her up.”

    Her eyes were *never* open.

    I can’t say that no one ever opens their eyes in this state. What I can say is that once I recalled watching my mother’s situation beside the bed, I realized that my assumption that my eyes were open because I could plainly “see” the bedroom might simply be the experience of dreaming/hallucinating the room I was in due to a very good brain map of it, built over years. The perception of “I see the room” cannot be assumed as confirmation your eyes are open, in this state.

  26. Narf says

    @24 – Gelgamar
    There’s logic and then there’s public relations, man. The two are rarely related. Besides, the show was mentioned in the media coverage. There’s your link.

  27. Narf says

    @5 – bawdygeorge
    Yeah, I guess I’ve just gotten used to it. I’m bipolar and obsessive-compulsive. I’ve long since accepted that my mind does some fucked up stuff.

  28. Narf says

    @1 – Gelfamat
    You’re welcome to express that belief, but I think almost everyone here disagrees with you. Same as what I said to the similarly named Gelgamar. In the realm of public relations, it can be an important thing to make a declaration, “I utterly disagree with what you did, and I disassociate myself with you or anyone else who does anything similar.”

    If you think that the fundie Christians won’t try to make a stink over this, I don’t know what sort of world you’re living in. It can’t hurt to be able to point to a message of condemnation from pretty much every notable atheist group out there, except perhaps the Black Atheists of Atlanta.

  29. Curt Cameron says

    I’d like to say that Tracie is my most favoritest host. If Matt ever retires from his role as being the most frequent host, I’d love to see Tracie take that over.

    Matt briefly mentioned during the show that Beth has been wanting to avoid the “worldview” word, and I agree 100%. It’s usually used in an equivocating way by apologists just so they can dismiss your arguments. There are two ways that it could be used: as one’s starting axioms or suppositions, or as the conclusion you’ve reached about the role of a god in the world. My atheism is the conclusion that I’ve reached after looking at the evidence – don’t dismiss this by saying it’s my “worldview” and implying that it’s the position I start from.

    Anyone know if that’s Beth’s objection as well?

  30. Narf says

    @31 – Curt
    Based upon things she’s said before, I think she might have been going at it from the perspective of the pure definition of atheism.  Atheism is a rejection of a claim.  That’s it.

    Worldview implies a hell of a lot more than that.  Secular Humanism is a worldview.  Atheism is not.  I would even go so far as to say that skepticism is not a worldview, either.  It’s just a process or a set of standards.  You could develop a worldview by running your contemplation of the world through that process, though.

  31. Monocle Smile says

    @Curt Cameron
    I’ve been thinking about this a lot, too. I object more strongly to the term “belief system.” I don’t think it’s best to have a “belief system.” I argue that “belief methods” are superior. This is because from a thousand-foot view, what we believe isn’t a tenth as important as the method we employ to acquire those beliefs. This might be slightly controversial, but I think it’s more critical that we have a robust process of determining what’s reasonable to believe than that what we believe is actually true.

  32. Martin Zeichner says

    Wonderful show. Tracie and Matt have a great rapport.

    On the caller who described the pastor’s rather bizarre made up tenet about “how heaven works”. i.e. “You don’t get to be with your spouse you have to be with your family”.

    It struck me that pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, etc. probably regard themselves as “wise people”. So that when lay people come to them with questions, they would lose face, they would lose credibility as “the wise person of the village” if they didn’t have an answer to any question. At least some of them might say anything in order to avoid saying “I don’t know”. So they might come up with some bizarre statement and expect that people would defer to them. And people would defer to them. Thus reinforcing the “wise person’s” sense of entitlement. The pastor in the story might have been the originator of the bizarre statement or might be repeating what he had heard from someone else. The caller’s description, and then Tracie’s comment, sounds something like this scenario.

    I am not a biblical scholar but I could see it happening that the prejudices of some village elder gets enshrined into a holy scripture by just such a mechanism.

    Does this make sense?

  33. Narf says

    @Martin Zeichner

    I am not a biblical scholar but I could see it happening that the prejudices of some village elder gets enshrined into a holy scripture by just such a mechanism.
    Does this make sense?

    Sounds more or less in keeping with Christian debate tactics, among other things.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s true.  Any admission of ignorance is weakness.  If you sound confident that you know, when the other admits to not knowing that particular detail, you win, even if your claim is completely unevidenced.

    Theology in a nutshell.

  34. favog says

    Count me in as another who dislikes the word “worldview”. It seems to me sometimes that some theist once took one day of an introductory epistemology class, learned that it’s a tricky subject, and ran to the rest of the congregation to tell everyone that when they start to lose an argument, they can just start attacking the idea that an argument can be won. One of the first flags that this is about to happen is that they start to use “worldview” to level the playing field and claim everything is just opinion, and all opinions are of equal value.

  35. frankgturner says

    @Narf # 35 and @ Yonadav #2

    It doesn’t matter if it’s true. Any admission of ignorance is weakness. If you sound confident that you know, when the other admits to not knowing that particular detail, you win, even if your claim is completely unevidenced.
    Theology in a nutshell.

    I would call it politics in a nutshell, which I have come to believe is what theology really is, a disguised form of politics which is about manipulating opinions and emotions when you don’t have evidence to back up your claim. And unfortunately many humans (I won’t say the whole world as i don’t know how much of a “worldview” it is) value emotional thinking, putting faith before facts instead of the other way around. You don’t know how often I have wished we could turn off human emotion and just leave if off permanently for some people.
    When someone puts on an air of confidence, I am immediately suspicious and think that others should be too. Not only do I think that others commit the argument from authority, but I agree with Solomon Asch about how people are pressured by authorities as to why the fallacy is so effective. I personally learned to be at least a little suspicious of authority even before knowing about the Asch experiments.
    You should read about him Yonadav. In many ways, you are in the Solomon Asch experiments. (FYI, Tracie and Matt have mentioned these experiments before on previous shows).

  36. Ethan Myerson says

    Regarding secular Judaism (final caller): I’ve identified as a Jewish atheist for most of my adult life. I still feel ties to the Jewish community, I still relish my Jewish identity, but I don’t believe any of the “magical” bits of the religion. I think the notion of prayer is silly, I don’t believe there are any gods, the fables that make up the literature range from the spurious to the preposterous.

    But I feel a kinship with other Jews, even those who are observant (though, to be frank, I feel more of a kinship with those who are not). It’s like being a New Yorker. I haven’t lived in the Empire State in decades, but I still feel more that I am a displaced New Yorker, than I am an Arizonan (where I’ve lived for 15 years, where I met my wife, where my kids have lived their whole life). It’s about cultural identity.

    This leads me to a notion that I’ve pondered for a while. My 10-year-old son was born on a St. Patrick’s Day. All his life, he’s associated himself with the symbology of shamrocks and leprechauns, and later with Celtic music and imagery. He feels like he’s Irish to some degree. That’s probably not true in any genetic sense (there’s no Irish heritage on my side of the family, and there-could-be-but-who-the-hell-knows on my wife’s side). I can positively state that my son has never been to Ireland. But, ultimately, does that matter? Can he claim an Irish identity if he wants? (Assuming that he’s not making legal claims based on that, as could be the case with other population identities, such as Native American / First Peoples). If one can “convert” to Judaism or Catholicism, why not “convert” to some other cultural identity? If my wife’s great grandfather was from a French family, say, but was himself born in Ireland, would that then give my son some Irish heritage? What if this hypothetical great grandfather lived in Ireland for the first 10 years of his life? The first 5? The first 6 months?

    I guess what I’m asking is whether all of cultural identity couldn’t just be self-selected. Other than possible legal ramifications as mentioned above, doesn’t it only have meaning to the individual?

    Forgive me my off-topic and undercaffienated musings.

  37. Callinectes says

    I’ve had sleep paralysis twice. the first time was… I’m going to say exhilarating, but also alarming and not in the least bit comfortable. It was during my second year at university, and I had not been sleeping very well in the night. So much so that during the day I decided to steal a short nap before a lesson. So I climbed the the very top floor of the math department, where there was only one door that nobody used, and laid down. Consciousness being what it is, I have no idea how long I was there or whether I actually slept at all, but all of a sudden I was awake, feeling quite distressed in a way I couldn’t quite describe, and there was a loud buzzing or whooshing sound in my ears. Really, really loud, impossible to ignore. I soon realised that I couldn’t move. It wasn’t like I was struggling inside my own body, it was more like the desire to move would not translate into an actual attempt. But the most vivid part of the experience was the face. A terrible face looming above me. Eyes of fire, horrible grin, horns maybe. All flaming. And it laughed. I cannot possibly describe the laugh in any real way, only that it was terrible, and terrifying, and inescapably evil.

    As you might imagine, this made me feel quite stressed out. I desperately cast around in my mind for answers, explanation, a solution, anything I could do to account for it and resolve the situation. I managed to calm myself down by some small degree by sheer force of will and examine what was going down. I noticed that the face was just the facial features. I couldn’t tell you weather they were just floating there disembodying or what, that particular detail was not even conceptually rendered. But I could see the ceiling behind it fully, without any part of it obscured by the apparition in the way. And despite the incredible loudness wooshing and laughing, I could still hear the sounds in the building and out the window. A dim thought drifted through my mind that these were all hallmarks of my own dreams. Suddenly the memory of the sleep paralysis wiki page which I had first read only weeks before came unbidden to my mind, and all the symptoms lined up. Such a diagnosis came as something of a relief, though it did nothing to dispel the apparition, which continued to loom and cackle while I tolerated it with some apprehension, waiting for it to go away. I was still stressed and uncomfortable, but the initial terror ebbed away. I can say that the thought that I was experiencing something supernatural never once crossed my mind, which leaves me satisfied that I really don’t think that way at all any more, but it may be because I was simply overwhelmed with terror and confusion to be able to mentally express any conclusion at all before the Wiki page in my head came to my rescue.

    I have no idea how long I lay there with my hallucinatory visitor above me, but eventually it did pass, and I shakily got to my feet and went downstairs, no longer in the mood to nap. A short while ago I happened to describe the event to a Christian friend of mine, and he worriedly said that it sounded like a demonic visitation. I was quite surprised to hear those words said aloud by anyone, but in retrospect not surprised by the interpretation, which I expect it quite common. I assured my friend that I was on top of things. Googling “demonic visitation” actually brings up a host of accounts just like mine.

    More recently I had a second episode, in which I awoke in the night with difficulty breathing and unable to move. In the darkness I saw a hideous naked imp sitting on my chest. This imp, in fact. Immediately recognising both the imp and my present situation, I angrily thought at it, “fuck off!” and went back to sleep.

  38. David Hench says

    Been out walking in the chilled air … best hobby there is. Great Joyce quote – I share a birthday with him. The quote seems to be saying that religion is anti-human, anti-life. Which is exactly where the standard of morality is for the humanist: What is pro-life versus what is anti-life. That is the moral standard that religion has first ceded to god, and then imagined, blindly and fallaciously, that there can be no other standard.

    Have had some experience both personally and academically with sleep paralysis. It’s nothing paranormal in the least, of course, though it sounds strange to the uninitiated. It’s the same chemical phenomenon that normally keeps the voluntary muscles paralyzed during dreams, so that if you are running in the dream you don’t get out of bed and go running while asleep. It’s covered in Psych 101 but I forget the chemical or chemicals.
    It’s been years but I used to have it semi-regularly. For me it wasn’t fearful, but frustrating. You couldn’t get out of bed or turn to look at the clock – nothing. You’d lie there and try to will something to move, recognizing dully that you’ve “been here” before … but nothing voluntary would move. No trouble for breathing with me. Not scary. One time back when I was having it I had an auditory thing of a voice over and intercom that went on and on, and just like Tracie, was racking my brains trying to figure out if it was real or not. Never “knew.”

    As to being influenced by the experience’s content, I’d offer this:
    Whether or not there is a lawnmower running is not central to one’s world view. Whether or not god exists IS central to one’s world view. Therefore, it’s easy to not “marry” the lawnmower experience while very difficult to unwed such religious experiences. This seems verified in Tracie’s self-reported accounts that she released the lawnmower thing in minutes, whereas the religious experiences took decades. We marry our religion for security; not so with the lawnmower.
    Loved Tracie’s point about not going over to the neighbor’s the next day to ask why he was mowing the yard in the middle of the night. That was the highlight of the show for me. And the application of critical thinking to the whole thing, so utterly and appallingly lacked in so many mindsets, as always, takes us to a sounder interpretation.

    Rule number one of emotions: when something is perceived as threatening us, rationality is the first thing that goes out the window … unless we train and retrain ourselves on this issue.

  39. kudlak says

    Sleep paralysis was so common in my native Newfoundland that they even had a cultural name for it: The Old Hag. Your eyes are open, there is a huge feeling of dread, and a feeling that “something” is in the room with you. I’ve experienced it a couple of times, and if it hadn’t been for this cultural understanding of it, I may have convinced myself that I was abducted by aliens, seeing ghosts, visited by fairies, or having some kind of religious experience.

  40. says

    Sleep Paralysis is basically when you are aware that you are awake while sleeping , it is a precursor to a OBE, or after OBE has happened it is basically when your soul is re-entering you physical body, a transition back to the physical plane from the non physical plane.

    This will be hard for atheist to understand because they can’t find physical proof that it is real, nor will they ever. Your senses are extremely sensitive and you will hear thing from both the Physical and non physical planes at the same time. Believe it or dont it is your choice, but it is not a hallucination it is real.

  41. Kenny says

    From what Tracy describes, I had a similar experience when I was young, but it wasn’t an auditory hallucination, rather a visual one.

    I could see my room, but I couldn’t move, which freaked me out.

    Then, something which I can only describe as a ‘demon’ seems to stand next to my bed, and came closer and closer to me ( like going inside me ) , which increased my panic until I woke up.

    I remember waking up and fearing that I was somehow possessed by a demon or something. Really scary.

  42. says

    I have both auditory and visual hallucinations when I have sleep paralysis episodes. I also tend to have recurring dreams, and not just dreams that recur every night or every week but dreams that recur right after I finish them as if I’m stuck in a loop. My most common dreams are nightmares and they can get pretty weird. So far, whenever I’ve experienced sleep paralysis I’ve also been stuck in one of those nightmare loops. It’s usually tied to my lucid dreaming, where I’m aware that I’m dreaming while I’m having a nightmare and I wake myself up from it. Except, my brain hasn’t quite caught up yet. It can be kinda disturbing, but I think it’s less disturbing than it might be if I didn’t realize what was really happening while it was going on.

  43. Narf says

    @44 – Wooby Wooh

    Sleep Paralysis is basically when you are aware that you are awake while sleeping , it is a precursor to a OBE, or after OBE has happened it is basically when your soul is re-entering you physical body, a transition back to the physical plane from the non physical plane.

    This will be hard for atheist to understand because they can’t find physical proof that it is real, nor will they ever.

    Heh, seriously? Dude, we do not need physical evidence to believe that out-of-body experiences are real. What we need is experimental evidence. I don’t think you particularly understand what science is.

    Okay, so you have someone who claims that they can travel out of body. So you come up with ways of testing that they’re actually travelling out of body to where they say they are. The problem is that every … single … time that someone has been tested in a properly controlled test to see if they’re actually doing what they claim they are, they fail. The only support for OBE’s is the most worthless anecdotal evidence and poorly controlled experiments in which con artists were able to game the system.

    This indicates to us, if you have an even vaguely rational worldview, that the thing being tested is bullshit.

  44. Narf says

    @41 – Jared

    The Mormon church has a pretty strong belief in families living together in heaven. It is taught from a young age on.

    Err, and we should give a damn what Mormon teaching says … why exactly? You haven’t made an actual point here.

    I think whoever is doing approvals just approved a drive-by Mormon spammer.

  45. Jared says

    The point is one of the callers pointed out that he was taught by a conservative christian priest that families can live forever and the panel did not know of any thiest that teaches that. I was just educating them that mormons believe that heavily. I am not a drive by mormon spammer, just an excommunicated one who was brainwashed with that bs for 18 years. Just because I have never commented here until now does not mean that you should insult me. I have been listening to the show for years but never felt the need to comment until now.

    Thanks for making me feel welcome jerkoff.

  46. Yonadav says

    @frankgturner, @Ethan Myerson, @Ari Mandel Thank you for your comments, I will certainly look into it. Thank you for your support

  47. Monocle Smile says

    I get what you were saying. Sorry about the rough treatment. You were pointing out that there are conflicts in heaven beliefs between different Christian sects, and it becomes a very deep divide, especially from groups like Mormons.

  48. Jared says

    And the thing is that belief just scratches the surface of what the mormons believe happens in the after life. Families living together forever is the most sane part of their belief.

  49. Narf says

    @49 – Jared
    Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. I thought that was a bit of a drive-by, as happens sometimes. We have a YouTube-video/Bible-verse sprayer going nuts over in the Pascal’s Wager post, right now.

    You didn’t connect it to anything. I didn’t recognize your name, so I thought we picked up another one, somehow. It wasn’t intended as an insult, just a guess at what was going on.

    Was the caller a Mormon or something? You’d think that non-Mormons wouldn’t talk about that sort of thing. There’s always Uncle Jed, who’s gonna wind up in hell, with all the boozin’ and the floozies, plus the one child that the mother is worried about straying from the faith, because he hasn’t been speaking in tongues lately.

    I’ve vaguely heard about Mormons treating the afterlife more as a family thing, but I don’t have much exposure, except for the occasional kids on bikes. We didn’t get many Mormons in Chicago, and it’s mostly Southern Baptists and Pentecostals, down here.

  50. Narf says

    @52 – Jared
    I know a little bit about Kolob, yeah. I haven’t actually read the book, just commentaries on it. Sounds too painful to work through, and I don’t have the motivation, like I did with the Bible.

    Something about getting to give birth to spirit babies, for all time. Sounds great, doesn’t it, ladies?

  51. Jared says

    Michael from Phonex. About 46 minutes into the show. He was talking to a conservative christian priest who believed that and Matt and Tracy didn’t know of any other christian beliefs that believe in families living forever in the afterlife.

  52. paradoxes says

    Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Being? What quantifies truth? Can there be truth without knowledge? By the way I’m an agnostic.

  53. Narf says

    @57 – paradoxes

    Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Being?

    In the technical sense, you can construct a logical proof for the existence of something, but that won’t ‘prove’ the existence of that thing, in the colloquial sense. I suspect that you’re using the more colloquial sense of the word ‘prove‘, rather than the mathematical or logical sense of the word.

    The vast majority of logical proofs for the existence of a god aren’t even structurally valid. In those cases, you’re dead in the water before you even get to the premises. The very small number of theistic arguments that are structurally valid fail on the soundness of their premises. If that wasn’t the case, I would be a theist, not an atheist.

    The majority of arguments for the existence of a god are both invalid and unsound, to the point that a 7 or 8 year-old version of me would — and did — find them unconvincing.

    Deductive reasoning doesn’t really stand alone, in that respect. The soundness of an argument’s premises have to be determined through examination outside of an argument. The best method that we’ve devised so far for determining the soundness of logical premises is the scientific method. The two disciplines of logic and science walk hand-in-hand, until we can discover a better method for determining the truth of propositions than the scientific method.

    What quantifies truth?

    Truth is a very squishy term, particularly when you’re talking to a theist. They equivocate like mad, often between two steps of the same argument.

    My usual working definition has something to do with reality. There is no capital-t Truth, how Christians often seem to use the word. They often seem to treat it as something outside of reality, imposing itself upon reality, the same way that they speak of the laws of physics as being prescriptive laws, dictating how reality works, rather than the descriptive laws that they actually are, allowing us to try to get our feeble little meat-minds wrapped around these huge concepts.

    Truth is simply a characteristic of a claim about reality. It a claim about reality correctly describes reality, then that claim is true, at least within the scope of the claim.

    Can there be truth without knowledge?

    Not within the scope of the definition that I usually use. There is reality, doing what reality does. There can be no evaluation of the truth of a claim, in the absence of a claim. Without a conscious mind to experience sensory impressions of reality and gather observational data, there can be no being to make a claim.

    You see the difficulties responding to the questions presented as starkly as you did? One the one hand, I appreciate you not encumbering your questions with unstated assumptions, as we always have happen with most theists. A question asked by a theist is often unanswerable, because they’ve loaded in preliminary assumptions that are completely unwarranted. “Have you stopped beating your wife?” is a classic example, which typifies the leading questions that theists often ask.

    We need a bit more back and forth for you to narrow down exactly what you mean by the questions, though. Your questions are a little too open for me to give you a precise answer and be sure that I’m addressing what you’re asking. You’ll have to evaluate how well I addressed what you were getting at with your questions and elaborate.

    By the way I’m an agnostic.

    Gnosticism/agnosticism is just a modifier upon your base position in regards to a claim. Are you an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist?

    Theism and atheism make up a true dichotomy, in the way that atheism is defined by actual atheists. If you accept that a god exists, then you’re a theist. If you don’t actively accept that a god exists, then you’re an atheist as described by the term, whether you embrace that label or not.

    Even Huxleyan agnostics fit within the atheist label, as it’s used by the ‘atheist community’. It’s just a matter of what you feel is most important to emphasize, when you choose which labels to use, when describing yourself to a particular person or group. When talking to a theist, the most important characteristic is the atheist part. “I’m not like you. I don’t buy what you’re selling. I’m an atheist.”

  54. frankgturner says

    @paradox # 57
    Something that I had an idea of for many years but could not put into words until having watching TAE and heard it from Matt Dillahunty is this, words have meaning by consensus. I would like for words to have well defined dictionary meanings, but given all of the sub meanings and sub assumptions, that would require a dictionary filled with billions upon billions of words just to accommodate every sub assumption being built into each word. I don’t know if our brains could handle it.
    What I have also learned is that one group may have a different consensus than another (something I knew but became capable of putting into words). Theists use a different definition for the words agnostic and atheist than atheists do. Agnostic, in the strictest sense, is to “not know.” You may have been a theist for years but had doubts. In the absence of proof which you realized that you did not have, you probably did believe in a god given that you thought there might be proof. That would have made you an agnostic theist even if you were not aware of it. That is sort of like accepting guilt of god’s existence in the absence of proof (depending on what you accepted as proof, many theists accept things as proof that would not really stand as proof in science or in a court room).
    You might be acknowledging your doubts now and coming to a true “I don’t know and in the absence of proof i neither accept or reject, neither guilt of god’s existence or proof of his innocence of existence in the absence of proof.” At that point, based on the way atheists define the word (in general), you are an atheist. Had you accepted the existence of god in the absence of proof but acknowledge doubts, you would still be a theist, just an agnostic one (that might be where you are, I don’t know unless you tell us).
    When you consider that in the absence of proof you claim that god is innocent of existing (where most atheists on this board), that is what most theists define as atheist. It is hard to tell as some theists come from the belief (faulty I think) that everyone “knows” that there is a god and some just deny it or are against it. That is what atheists would define as “anti-theist.”
    At the base definition of the word, “agnostic” means just “not knowing” and “atheist” just means “not god,” put simply. “Anti-theist” is “against god” which is where some theist are in their belief. My next post might clear up why based on an analysis of how you are using the word “truth.”

  55. frankgturner says

    @paradox #57 and Narf # 58 to some extent
    Narf here has a good understanding about how things can be prescriptive and descriptive, which is built into something i talk about with regard to truth.
    To me there is a difference between philosophical truth (I have no better term for this) which is generally considered to be good advice, and factual correctness. When I say “truth” this incorporates both philosophical truth and factual correctness. Let me give some examples of the difference between the two.
    The earth’s diameter is 12,724 km, on earth objects fall at approximately 9.80665 meters per second squared, blood is a bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells. All of these things are true in that they are classified by well defined terms that can be observed and measured and demonstrated through observation. They are factually correct.
    The tortoise and the hare story demonstrates that a slow and steady pace is better than sprinting in a marathon, you should do unto others as you wish them to do unto you, if you repeat a lie big enough over and over again people may start to believe you. These are all philosophically true and generally good advice, but are not necessarily “factually correct.” You can observe them to some extent via soft science (psychology studies), but there are vague undefined terms within them.
    To me, the word “truth” as others use it incorporates both of these principles, “good advice” and “factual correctness.” However, much all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, I consider all “factual correctness” to be “truth” but NOT all truth to be factual correctness.
    Many a theist that I have met over the years can’t seem to make that distinction when it comes to scripture, being able to see the works as good advice and having philosophically useful value UNLESS they can be determined to be factually correct. This was always odd to me as I saw morality and good advice in things like the story of Adam and Eve yet was pretty certain that it never occurred.
    And of course one of the reasons that the factual correctness occurs when defining things that we can demonstrate and observe is because we defined those things BASED ON our observations (as Narf gets at in # 58). We define a meter as the speed of light in a vacuum over 1/299,792,458 seconds . These are descriptive things that we define, not prescriptive things that are being imposed upon us. We neither know IF such things are being imposed upon us by something outside our reality (as we have no descriptive knowledge of things outside of our reality) or if there even IS something outside of our reality to impose them upon us.
    So when you ask

    Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Being?

    , my question to you is, how do we define a “Supernatural Being”?

  56. Narf says

    @59 – fgt

    You may have been a theist for years but had doubts. In the absence of proof which you realized that you did not have, you probably did believe in a god given that you thought there might be proof. That would have made you an agnostic theist even if you were not aware of it.

    Agnostic theists always puzzle me. It’s like belief based upon really shitty arguments.

    “Okay, so I’ve accepted that a god exists, because of the cosmological argument (which doesn’t lead to a god), the teleological argument (which is based upon slight-of-hand and half-a-dozen logical fallacies), and my fear of death and nonexistence. But this holy book is crap … and this one was written by a known con-artist (I’m looking at you, Mormons) … and this one makes people fly planes into buildings … and these people believe in many gods, which I totally can’t get behind. So, I’m just going to ask myself what I would want a goddess to be like, and somehow make myself believe in her.”

    At least the fundamentalists abandon any kind of discernment and critical thinking and submerge themselves into an authoritative mindset. I can’t respect them any more than I do the wishy-washy agnostic theists, but at least they aren’t as silly.

  57. Narf says

    I meant to add there, a certain type of agnostic theist, which I’ve encountered a few times. I left out that important qualifier, somehow.

  58. Narf says

    … you should do unto others as you wish them to do unto you …

    I like Matt’s version better — wherever he got it from. Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. A masochist running around, gleefully applying the Golden Rule, could be unpleasant.

  59. Narf says

    my question to you is, how do we define a “Supernatural Being”?

    That’s the other big problem, yes. I’ve never heard a definition of supernatural which is useful. The practical definition used by almost every theist and every Christian apologist is “You’re not allowed to test this, and I’m going to claim that it’s beyond every ability to test … until I think that something I misread supports my supernatural belief, at which point I will go running around waving my absolute proof for everything I believe in, in everyone’s face.”

  60. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Narf #63:

    I like Matt’s version better – wherever he got it from. Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.

    Karl Popper wrote in “The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2”:

    the golden rule is a good standard which can perhaps even be improved by doing unto others, wherever possible, as they would be done by

    Some folks call it the Platinum Rule.

  61. says

    I love U guys! I’m from Lima, Perú here there are so many people who belive in god but i know some day they will open their eyes and realize that they had better things to do in life than waste in religious.
    Well i’m here to tell you like previously I love you all, and never stop. <3 I know you have to much to do there but it woul be great if you came, i just saying… hahaha keep spreading love and care for people in your country because i think being atheist is that. Love, respect and care for each other. Love U, chau!

  62. Abbie Boxman says

    It’s been a while, but the guy who called, talking about cultural Judaism, might be helped by
    Obviously, he’s out now, but started out as a conservative rabbi. Even if he can’t help, he may know someone else you could talk to.

  63. Narf says

    @69 – Abbie Boxman
    Jeeze, what did the guy do, go through a transition something like what Matt went through? When you say he was a conservative rabbi, you mean that he was one of those extreme orthodox ones who won’t drive a car on Saturday and stuff like that? Full-on acceptance of the holy scriptures and young-Earth creationist?

  64. Funslinger says

    @48 – Narf

    Quote from Jared:
    “The Mormon church has a pretty strong belief in families living together in heaven. It is taught from a young age on.”

    Quote from Narf:
    “Err, and we should give a damn what Mormon teaching says … why exactly? You haven’t made an actual point here.
    I think whoever is doing approvals just approved a drive-by Mormon spammer.”

    Damn, dude. Are you always this rude? His post makes perfect since in context. It appears to be a suggestion in response to @34 – Martin that postulates the pastor’s religion.

  65. Narf says

    Read my following message on the subject. He looked like one of the many religious spammers we get on here, on certain subjects, judging from his initial message.