Religion & Counter-Revolution

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Tue Jan 2 16:58:16 MST 2001

On Tue, 02 Jan 2001 22:35:10 +0100 Jurriaan Bendien
<j.bendien at> writes:
> Charles wrote:
> >  My presumption is that atheism is the scientific approach.
> There is nothing more "scientific" about atheism than about theism.
> Neither
> can be proved "scientifically", both are metaphycal statements. If
> anything
> the most scientific position is agnosticism, i.e. "we don't know".

I would disagree.  I very much doubt that there are many
scientists who would describe themselves as as being
agnostic about the existence of Zeus, or Thor or the Invisible
Pink Unicorn for that matter.  While, scientists might freely
admit that they cannot disprove the existence of any of
these entities, they would invoke Occam's Razor to argue
that the default position concerning the existence of any
of these things is to posit their non-existence until there
evidence comes in to convince us otherwise.  In other
words the burden of proof is on the person who posits
that any of these things exists, not on the person who
disbelieves in their existence.

> In my opinion, Feuerbach's intuition was quite good: God is a
> projection of
> people. Marx concludes that people are the "supreme beings" for
> people, and
> that there is no supernatural supreme being.

Precisely, to the extent that we are convinced that Feuerbach
was successful in explaining the anthropology of religious
belief and experience, then to that extent, we will be less
inclined to regard such experiences as demonstrating
the existence of a supernatural realm outside of nature
and humanity.

>But this doesn't mean
> that
> spiritual experience is not valid, or that God doesn't exist.

If you mean to say that one cannot absolutely disprove the
existence of all coenceivable gods, then I would agree.
I would contend that that existence of God as a being
who is alleged to be omnipotent, omniscient,
and good can be disproved because it is not logically
possible for a being to possess all three sets of attributes
at the same (the Problem of Evil).  In other words, it is my
contention that God so conceived, can no more exist than
can round squares.  In both instances we are dealing
with concepts that are logically inconsistent, hence, incoherent.
On the other hand, I freely admit, that other conceptions
of God are possible (i.e. William James' "finite" God)
and these conceptions may not be logically incoherent.
Here, I would argue that beings so conceived are
logically possible, there is no compelling evidence
for their existence.

> would
> indeed appear to exist, namely in the form of certain attributes of
> the
> unconscious or subconscious mind which are universally shared by
> human
> beings, and which find all sorts of different forms of expression
> throughout history.

It sounds like that you are advancing a Jungian
position here.  Please clarify.

>When somebody feels a sense of God or a divine
> or
> mystical experience the point is not to rubbish it but to find out
> what it
> means.

I would draw a distinction between evaluating
whether such experiences are cognitive or not,
and evaluating such experiences in terms of
their moral, esthetic, psychological, and sociological
value.  I am skeptical concerning the cognitive
value of mystical experiences, but I have little
doubt concerning their moral, esthetic, and
psychological value.

I am likewise skeptical concerning whether
so-called near-death experiences can really
tell us anything about the existence of an
afterlife, but there is some strong evidence,
that many people who have such experiences
are are often profoundly effected by them for
the better.  It  should be noted that some
people who have had such experiences,
have managed to be remain skeptical
concerning their cognitive value.  Probably,
the best known case here, was the British
logical empiricist philosopher, A. J. Ayer
who about a year before he died for good in 1989,
had a near-death experience when he choked
while eating.  Reportedly, his heart stopped beating
for several minutes, and when he was revived
he recounted a most peculiar (in his opinion)
experience.  Upon reflection, he concluded that
his experience could not be taken as establishing
the existence of an afterlife.  On the other hand,
it appears that the experience did have a major
psychological impact on him.  And the people
who were closest to him reported that there
was a most definite change in his character
for the better, during the final year of his
life (See Ben Rogers' biography of A.J. Ayer).

>And when you unpack what it means, it is usually a quite
> normal and
> reasonable human experience.
> When I was a kid, something like "trance" was something for
> hypnotists or
> indian mystics. But these days it is commonly known that a trance is
> an
> ordinary, everyday, garden-variety human experience, and there is
> nothing
> mystical about it.

I quite agree.  But this would seem to contradict what you
said previously concerning how such experiences might
tell us something about God.

Jim F.

> Cheers
>   J.

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