Is J. Neil Schulman justified (logically) in believing in God?


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George: inherent in the Thomast and other such positions is the notion that God does not evolve or change, isn't that right? In other words, God can change his mind.

God, a perfect being, does not change because any change would necessarily be change to a less perfect state of being. When you are perfect there is no place to go but down.

Whether this means that God cannot change his mind -- well, this depends on which theologian you read. There are numerous biblical stories about God changing his mind after people repent, but, as I recall, most of these appear in the Old Testament where (as you pointed out) Jehovah is portrayed in anthropomorphic terms.

In more abstract conceptions in which God is said not to exist in time at all, the notion of God changing his mind doesn't make much sense. But that is the point of pushing God completely into the realm of the unknowable.

Ghs

God changes his mind. God experiments and sometimes the experiments don't work out the way he expected. God learns. God has never claimed to be perfect and does not accept the idea of a static perfect state. To God perfect is not an adjective or adverb but a verb. God does not seek to achieve the perfect. God seeks to achieve the good.

Edited by J. Neil Schulman
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Ghs: So you're saying the effects on a young Rascal's Wanker negate the effect of Pascal's Wager?

J. Neil wrote: "Because when I wanted to find out whether God was real, I managed to come up with a protocol to do it that succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. What you need to ask yourself, George H. Smith, is why I succeeded where you have failed. Of course you'll just reply I haven't. How can you be certain without running my experiment for yourself?"

THe utility of anybody's doing any scientific experimentation presupposes the possibility of investigation of the world, i.e., presupposes the self-evident fact that things have a specific nature that can be investigated--that things are what they are and that my awareness is awareness of reality (and that any principles of directing that awareness must be based on reality).

The law of identity, what Aristotle formulated as the law of non-contradiction, is an axiom, an inescapable foundation of thought, not a dogma. A dogma is a formulation or creed hewn to in unreasonable disregard of any evidence that might contradict it. But there is no possibility that any feature of reality might contradict the fact that the features of reality are what they are.

If I accept this fact consistently, what reason do I have to suppose that there is a particular entity who does have an inexplicable ability to alter the nature of things not by some wondrous unknown alchemic machinery (which would mean simply that God is a space alien with better tech), but by the mere working of his will?

According to Neil's memoir, his transformation into God, or God's self-depositing into Neil, was accomplished via no detectable causal process explicable in terms of the evident and observable nature of things. The antecedent short-term experiences and longer-term philosophical rethinking described in the memoir DO help to explain the experience as some kind of vivid dream or other event of human consciousness. But these prequels do nothing to either explain or even render intelligible the proposition either that there is a God to begin with or that God and Neil were as one during the several-hour period described. Neil's God is more limited in various ways than the omniscient, omnipotent type of God; but if Neil's God had no power to subvert or ignore the nature of things, he would not be a god at all. Yet God even in Neil's conception is still regarded as somehow above and beyond the natural world, and regardless of any inconvenient rules that might arbitrarily limit his arbitrary power.

For a person conscious of his limited time and resources, spending time and resources on ANY activity requires some possibility of a pay-off; even aside from the issue of judging the extent of a likelihood of success, there has to be at a minimum a metaphysical possibility that a thing could happen to begin with.

What I mean is that if I were to investigate a boulder and learn from observation and experimentation--for example, by being hit by one--that it has certain properties of mass and density, I would have no reason whatever given my acceptance that entities are only what they are (not also something else the incompatible properties of which could allegedly also be experienced at any moment) to then entertain and investigate a claim that the boulder also and secretly or potentially has the properties of lasagna or styrofoam. (Of course rock has the potential to become rock dust, but this potential nature is consistent with its actual nature.) What sensible geologist with the goal of understanding the stuff that mantles are made of could be tempted to commence an inquiry into the possible lasagna feature of a boulder "just to be sure," as if such claims could be on a par with an erroneous theory of tectonic plates? Would the geologist, if a practical and reasonable sort of person, be tempted to do the investigation into whether rocks are also lasagna if a vivid dream that such were possible were reported to him? Would he at least be tempted if he experienced such a dream himself (and would it in the latter case be reasonable for him to accept as "proven" by his own direct sensory perception what the revelation of his dream implies)?

Yet claims about psychic spoon-bending powers, dream-powered teleporation, multi-dimensional rabbits popping out of multi-dimensional hats and/or being transfigured into a downsized version of the Christian God--who needn't, this time, die on the cross--are exactly of this unbelievable character with respect to what they require the prospective investigator to accept about identity and causality. The claims about the gods are more plausible than the proposition about the rock and the lasagna to many people for a wide range of cultural and psychological reasons--but not for any logical ones.

Despite his own imaginative theological innovations, many of these cultural factors, mediated in part by the apologias and story-telling of C.S. Lewis, have clearly helped shape Neil's understanding of his experience. For example, Neil would not have learned during his revelation that there was no need to die on the cross "this time" had there been no other time that an incarnate God had died on the cross according to the dominant religious mythology of the West.

Brad Linaweaver wrote: "...you Objectivist people..."

Oh dear.

God has a specific nature and identity. He is an existent and an entity, just like you and I are. He is a thing and an entity of the same kind that you and I are with one difference: he is unmade (first, original, everlasting) and we were (we have a beginning that starts with our having been part of him, then being placed into bounded continua so our wills can be independent of his).

None of this violates any of Aristotle's axioms.

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God changes his mind. God experiments and sometimes the experiments don't work out the way he expected. God learns. God has never claimed to be perfect and does not accept the idea of a static perfect state. To God perfect is not an adjective or adverb but a verb. God does not seek to achieve the perfect. God seeks to achieve the good.

Thanks for clearing this up. Nothing like knowing someone who has a direct line to God.

Tell me, Neil, do you still talk to God? Or did he tell you everything you will ever need to know in your earlier encounters?

From the Introduction to your book:

“So why should I believe this fat, bearded, long-haired slob?” you might be asking yourself right about now. “Why should I take this guy seriously when he tells me that, while he was still an atheist, God started whispering to him, and one February day in 1997, God merged with him for the better part of a day and let him see the world through God’s own eyes?”

I’ll understand if you decide to put this book back on the bookstore shelf right now. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t believe somebody who said that, either. (My italics.)

Get the picture, Neil?

Ghs

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God changes his mind. God experiments and sometimes the experiments don't work out the way he expected. God learns. God has never claimed to be perfect and does not accept the idea of a static perfect state. To God perfect is not an adjective or adverb but a verb. God does not seek to achieve the perfect. God seeks to achieve the good.

Thanks for clearing this up. Nothing like knowing someone who has a direct line to God.

Tell me, Neil, do you still talk to God? Or did he tell you everything you will ever need to know in your earlier encounters?

From the Introduction to your book:

“So why should I believe this fat, bearded, long-haired slob?” you might be asking yourself right about now. “Why should I take this guy seriously when he tells me that, while he was still an atheist, God started whispering to him, and one February day in 1997, God merged with him for the better part of a day and let him see the world through God’s own eyes?”

I’ll understand if you decide to put this book back on the bookstore shelf right now. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t believe somebody who said that, either. (My italics.)

Get the picture, Neil?

Ghs

I know what I wrote, George. I came into this discussion knowing that. Why, then, would I bother writing on this subject to someone I know is utterly skeptical of what I have to say on the subject?

Hmmm. Could it be that I have some sort of belief, based on my knowing you, that there is a part of you more interested in determining the truth for himself -- if a means of making such a determination is being suggested by someone who used to be as skeptical for the same reasons -- rather than remain smugly certain about an important fact of reality thay may just be false to fact?

Edited by J. Neil Schulman
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God changes his mind. God experiments and sometimes the experiments don't work out the way he expected. God learns. God has never claimed to be perfect and does not accept the idea of a static perfect state. To God perfect is not an adjective or adverb but a verb. God does not seek to achieve the perfect. God seeks to achieve the good.

Thanks for clearing this up. Nothing like knowing someone who has a direct line to God.

Ghs

I'm here for you, George. :-)

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From the Introduction to your book:

“So why should I believe this fat, bearded, long-haired slob?” you might be asking yourself right about now. “Why should I take this guy seriously when he tells me that, while he was still an atheist, God started whispering to him, and one February day in 1997, God merged with him for the better part of a day and let him see the world through God’s own eyes?”

I’ll understand if you decide to put this book back on the bookstore shelf right now. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t believe somebody who said that, either. (My italics.)

Get the picture, Neil?

Ghs

I know what I wrote, George. I came into this discussion knowing that. Why, then, would I bother writing on this subject to someone I know is utterly skeptical of what I have to say on the subject?

What you said, in effect, was that you wouldn't believe your own story if you were in my shoes. And I don't. I don't even regard it as remotely credible.

Hmmm. Could it be that I have some sort of belief, based on my knowing you, that there is a part of you more interested in determining the truth for himself -- if a means of making such a determination is being suggested by someone who used to be as skeptical for the same reasons -- rather than remain smugly certain about an important fact of reality thay may just be false to fact?

I did determine the truth for myself. And if you want to see someone who is "smugly certain," look in a mirror. Smugly certain people seem uncommonly fond of berets.

Former atheists who have had religious experiences are fairly common. So what?

Ghs

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Tell me, Neil, do you still talk to God? Or did he tell you everything you will ever need to know in your earlier encounters?

Ghs

I still talk to God. I don't know how much info I haven't yet accessed was downloaded from previous encounters. I don't know how much of what I consider flashes of inspiration are from him. I have established authentication protocols to prevent imposters from passing me toxic disinformation. I try to be scrupulous in not claiming my own ideas as God's; I'm not always successful. I don't have an appointment on a calendar for a next meet up.

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I'm here for you, George. :-)

I'll keep that in mind should I ever get bilked by a "psychic" charlatan. Then you can reassure me that I happened to catch him on a bad day when he couldn't "get it up," and that I should try again.

Ghs

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From the Introduction to your book:

“So why should I believe this fat, bearded, long-haired slob?” you might be asking yourself right about now. “Why should I take this guy seriously when he tells me that, while he was still an atheist, God started whispering to him, and one February day in 1997, God merged with him for the better part of a day and let him see the world through God’s own eyes?”

I’ll understand if you decide to put this book back on the bookstore shelf right now. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t believe somebody who said that, either. (My italics.)

Get the picture, Neil?

Ghs

I know what I wrote, George. I came into this discussion knowing that. Why, then, would I bother writing on this subject to someone I know is utterly skeptical of what I have to say on the subject?

What you said, in effect, was that you wouldn't believe your own story if you were in my shoes. And I don't. I don't even regard it as remotely credible.

Hmmm. Could it be that I have some sort of belief, based on my knowing you, that there is a part of you more interested in determining the truth for himself -- if a means of making such a determination is being suggested by someone who used to be as skeptical for the same reasons -- rather than remain smugly certain about an important fact of reality thay may just be false to fact?

I did determine the truth for myself. And if you want to see someone who is "smugly certain," look in a mirror. Smugly certain people seem uncommonly fond of berets.

Former atheists who have had religious experiences are fairly common. So what?

Ghs

Well, my smugness was unjustified in at least one respect. I thought better of you. My mistake.

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Tell me, Neil, do you still talk to God? Or did he tell you everything you will ever need to know in your earlier encounters?

Ghs

I still talk to God. I don't know how much info I haven't yet accessed was downloaded from previous encounters. I don't know how much of what I consider flashes of inspiration are from him. I have established authentication protocols to prevent impostors from passing me toxic disinformation. I try to be scrupulous in not claiming my own ideas as God's; I'm not always successful. I don't have an appointment on a calendar for a next meet up.

What "impostors" might those be? Are there fake wannabe gods running around out there?

Have you considered this possibility? Maybe God, like John Edward, has bad days when he cannot perform like a god should, so he fakes it. Maybe the "toxic disinformation" you sometimes get is from God when he can't get it up.

"Authentication protocols," my ass.

Ghs

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Well, my smugness was unjustified in at least one respect. I thought better of you. My mistake.

If you thought I would take seriously any loony story that you happened to tell, then, yes, you were badly mistaken.

Ghs

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I'm here for you, George. :-)

I'll keep that in mind should I ever get bilked by a "psychic" charlatan. Then you can reassure me that I happened to catch him on a bad day when he couldn't "get it up," and that I should try again.

Ghs

The only person I have ever suggested that you have faith in is yourself.

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Well, my smugness was unjustified in at least one respect. I thought better of you. My mistake.

If you thought I would take seriously any loony story that you happened to tell, then, yes, you were badly mistaken.

Ghs

I've received awards, praise from people you claim to respect, and fat checks for telling stories, George, both true and made up. I can survive your lack of appreciation.

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Tell me, Neil, do you still talk to God? Or did he tell you everything you will ever need to know in your earlier encounters?

Ghs

I still talk to God. I don't know how much info I haven't yet accessed was downloaded from previous encounters. I don't know how much of what I consider flashes of inspiration are from him. I have established authentication protocols to prevent impostors from passing me toxic disinformation. I try to be scrupulous in not claiming my own ideas as God's; I'm not always successful. I don't have an appointment on a calendar for a next meet up.

What "impostors" might those be? Are there fake wannabe gods running around out there?

Have you considered this possibility? Maybe God, like John Edward, has bad days when he cannot perform like a god should, so he fakes it. Maybe the "toxic disinformation" you sometimes get is from God when he can't get it up.

"Authentication protocols," my ass.

Ghs

Yes indeed, you ass. You've just lost a friend.

Edited by J. Neil Schulman
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I'm here for you, George. :-)

I'll keep that in mind should I ever get bilked by a "psychic" charlatan. Then you can reassure me that I happened to catch him on a bad day when he couldn't "get it up," and that I should try again.

Ghs

The only person I have ever suggested that you have faith in is yourself.

Is there no limit to your arrogance, Swami Schulman?

Ghs

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Tell me, Neil, do you still talk to God? Or did he tell you everything you will ever need to know in your earlier encounters?

Ghs

I still talk to God. I don't know how much info I haven't yet accessed was downloaded from previous encounters. I don't know how much of what I consider flashes of inspiration are from him. I have established authentication protocols to prevent impostors from passing me toxic disinformation. I try to be scrupulous in not claiming my own ideas as God's; I'm not always successful. I don't have an appointment on a calendar for a next meet up.

What "impostors" might those be? Are there fake wannabe gods running around out there?

Have you considered this possibility? Maybe God, like John Edward, has bad days when he cannot perform like a god should, so he fakes it. Maybe the "toxic disinformation" you sometimes get is from God when he can't get it up.

"Authentication protocols," my ass.

Ghs

Yes indeed, you ass. You've just lost a friend.

Perhaps you should review the numerous insults that you have directed at me on this thread. Most of them were far worse than my comment above.

If you can't take it then don't dish it out, my erstwhile friend. Didn't God tell you that much?

Ghs

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I've received awards, praise from people you claim to respect, and fat checks for telling stories, George, both true and made up. I can survive your lack of appreciation.

I've never denied your ability to tell a good story. It's your inability to separate fact from fiction and fantasy that I have a problem with.

Ghs

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PDS said: "If I am right, there is some very interesting ground for psychological inquiry here, and Neil's (unintentional, one presumes) choice/experience of this [i.e., Genesis] version of God, rather than the Conqueror-God of Isiah, or the largely silent God of Esther and the lesser books, or, for that matter, the Wagering-Whirlwind God of Job. Honestly, I do think most people would prefer a Genesis God to those random alternatives I mentioned above. Not surprisingly, given Neil's background, the Genesis God is more or less a libertarian."

Well, unless you are going to argue that God's character changes within the Book of Genesis as well, what you seem to be saying here doesn't quite work. The story of Noah comes very early on in Genesis, and reveals God as a vicious mass-murderer.

Edited by Starbuckle
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PDS said: "If I am right, there is some very interesting ground for psychological inquiry here, and Neil's (unintentional, one presumes) choice/experience of this [i.e., Genesis] version of God, rather than the Conqueror-God of Isiah, or the largely silent God of Esther and the lesser books, or, for that matter, the Wagering-Whirlwind God of Job. Honestly, I do think most people would prefer a Genesis God to those random alternatives I mentioned above. Not surprisingly, given Neil's background, the Genesis God is more or less a libertarian."

Well, unless you are going to argue that God's character changes within the Book of Genesis as well, what you seem to be arguing here doesn't quite work. The story of Noah comes very early on in Genesis, and reveals God as a vicious mass-murderer.

A world killing Flood wasn't enough either. There was Sodom and Gommorah too. When Yaweh was young and feisty He had some temper.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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PDS said: "If I am right, there is some very interesting ground for psychological inquiry here, and Neil's (unintentional, one presumes) choice/experience of this [i.e., Genesis] version of God, rather than the Conqueror-God of Isiah, or the largely silent God of Esther and the lesser books, or, for that matter, the Wagering-Whirlwind God of Job. Honestly, I do think most people would prefer a Genesis God to those random alternatives I mentioned above. Not surprisingly, given Neil's background, the Genesis God is more or less a libertarian."

Well, unless you are going to argue that God's character changes within the Book of Genesis as well, what you seem to be saying here doesn't quite work. The story of Noah comes very early on in Genesis, and reveals God as a vicious mass-murderer.

There's not much doubt that God's personality changes within Genesis. Perhaps I should have referred to the Garden of Eden God (the one who whistles as he walks, etc.), rather than the Genesis God.

Btw: why be such an asshole, douche-bag, non-grownup and/or swine about this?

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I already gave you links to Bill Dear's documentary. I know you haven't watched it because if you had you wouldn't have to ask me about luminol tests. So instead of having the intellectual curiosity to watch the documentary you continue to sneer at me in ignorance after an offer of proof.

You gave a link to a sensationalist trailer and in order to view the documentary, one would have to pay. Why should I pay if you can easily provide here the info I need by answering some simple questions about the knife?

Here they are:

What type of knife was it?

Who said it matched the forensic wounds?

Was there any blood found on the knife?

If yes, could it be established whose blood it was?

It wasn't a cooking knife -- which you would have known if you gave a shit.

I wrote about Jason Simpson's cooking knives being brought into play, and of course they were:

"In May 1996, in a deposition taken for the wrongful death trial, Jason testified he left the restaurant between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and drove home to his apartment, where he watched TV until 3 a.m.

He said he carried his set of expensive chef's knives home that night.

Two respected British forensics specialists, Terry Merston and Peter Harpur, examined pictures of the victims and told Mr. Dear that rather than a stiletto like O.J. Simpson owned, the murder weapon was more likely one or two ultra-sharp Forschner knives — those used by most professional chefs. "

http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=004hNE

you continue to sneer at me in ignorance

The ignorance blame is on those alleging that Simpson could not have committed the murders despite the mountain of forensic evidence linking him to the slayings.

... after an offer of proof.

Proof of what please?

Edited by Xray
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Why do you suppose that God, if he exists, would have Objectivist values?

I don't suppose; I met the dude and he does.

Why does he? Why wouldn't he -- those values are objectively right, aren't they?

According to the founder Ayn Rand, yes. What is also objectively right in the founder's mind is the statement "No supernatural dimension exists". So if your God has "Objectivist values", he has to accept that he doesn't exist. :)

Trying to serve a believer's cake on an Objectivist platter makes no sense, Neil. For there is no bridge from Objectivism to the belief in a god. None whatsoever.

Edited by Xray
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I would not go public with my experience (except, possibly, for telling a few friends) until I had developed a plausible version of the Argument from Religious Experience.

Do you think there is such a thing? I am seriously questioning it at this point. Unless one has seen it for one's self, would NT-type personalities such as we tend to be here ever really be able to believe based on others' experiences?

I would also comb the literature on religious experiences in search of common elements, instead of assuming that reported experiences that differ from mine are bogus.

What would these similarities prove? We already know that religious experiences are not unanimously alike. If I were surrounded by people, 95 percent of whom repeated seeing almost exactly the same thing that I did not see, I would conclude that I lacked some faculty -- that I was in a sense color-blind. But in the absence of a large number of people seeing the same thing, what conclusions could we justifiably draw even if there were some similarities? And how many similarities would justify which conclusions? Sigh -- some of these questions are rhetorical, I suppose, although if you have interesting answers, please give them! :-)

I'm just interested in what's really out there, if anything -- I don't have any vested interest in the argument coming out either way.

Judith

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