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


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Ghs: So you're saying the effects on a young Rascal's Wanker negate the effect of Pascal's Wager?

You've just lost a friend.

That is really sad. There was no need for you to push away the fellow you used to respect, no need for you to insist that 'respecting your truth' be a condition of a relationship.

I wonder if there is anything in this long thread that made you consider you may possibly have been mistaken about your interpretation of events. Is it even remotely possible that you did not actually meld with a spirit, Neil?

Knowing before you joined the discussion that the likely outcome would result in you isolated, upset, angry, without support and subject to derision and insult, would you have done or said anything differently?

There is a good to excellent chance you can salvage some of the respect once accorded you. It would involve you refraining from attacking other people's characters and putting the spiritual questions aside.

You are hurting yourself, Neil. You are damaging your relationships. Insisting that you cannot be mistaken is interpreted as arrogance, as My Way Or The Highway, an imperious demand that others accede to your views.

There is no positive payoff for you, as far as I can see.

As the Voice told you in 1988, your demands were unwelcome and dangerous. You place conditions on the Spirit, unreasonable conditions on him, and you court Death and annilation of all that you treasure . . .

You asked, "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?"

It is a good question, but you would do better to ask this of yourself.

I think most folk here see you as a very talented man who has gone astray, and that most people here would like to help you understand that nothing you can say or do can force people to your will. What you seek is not presently possible, and only frustration can result.

I have had a brief email exchange with your friend and interviewer Brad. He cares about you. He wants you to be happy and healthy and productive and to move on to new achievements.

But you are stuck between your demands and the reality of the situation.

If your intervention here can be seen as an experiment, then you do understand that the experiment failed. Using all the means at your disposal, you have come up empty.

++++++++++++++

I note that Neil has said goodbye to OL and this discussion five times already. But my screen shows he is still here reading the thread right now.

Why? If he doesn't want to be a pinata, why doesn't he just move on and stop troubling himself?

Edited by william.scherk
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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?

What is this 'NT-type' personality?

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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?

What is this 'NT-type' personality?

The "intuitive, thinking" personality type in the Myers-Briggs personality profile. There's a discussion of the profile on OL here:

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=2798

Judith

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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, on the other hand, would go public in whatever form God tells me to. That is, once he’s met my non-negotiable condition, the winning lottery ticket worth mega multi millions. Once the funds are in the bank, I’ll be doing whatever the big man in the sky (or wherever he comes from, puffs of sulfurous smoke are not ruled out) said at the time he gave me the winning numbers. Hear that, God??!!

sign_from_god.jpg

Edited by Ninth Doctor
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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've never seen a valid form of the Argument from Religious Experience.

There are really two questions here:

1) Could any kind of personal experience (i.e., an experience not accessible to or verifiable by others) ever convince a rational atheist of the existence of God? I can think of some fantastic scenarios where the answer to this question would be Yes.

2) Is the testimony of a person who claims to have had a personal religious experience ever rationally sufficient to persuade atheists of the existence of God?

This is where the Argument from Religious Experience comes into play, and here I would say No -- unless the testimony is accompanied by a "sign," such as the ability to perform miracles, predict the future with otherwise impossible accuracy, and so forth.

The reasons for this negative conclusion should be fairly obvious. They were stated by Hobbes and Locke and were later encapsulated in Hume's famous argument against belief in historical miracles. The easiest way for me to explain this is to quote a section from Why Atheism? I apologize for the length of this passage, but, if I do say so myself, it is one of the better accounts of this classic argument.

III

David Hume

Which cognitive discipline played the greatest historical role in undermining Christian orthodoxy? We might suppose that science or philosophy is the best answer to this question, but I would choose history over all other candidates. Christianity, after all, is a revealed religion, one that revolves around the Bible – and this means that it is principally a historical religion. A special revelation from God is a unique historical event, one that occurred at a specific place and time. And unless we receive a personal revelation immediately from God, we must rely on the historical accounts of other people, such as those found in the Bible.

This distinction between personal revelation and historical revelation was crucial to Hobbes, Hume and other critics of Christian dogma. (By “dogma,” in this context, I mean a revealed truth that, because it comes from an omniscient and non-deceitful God, is accepted as infallibly certain.) These critics generally agreed that if a person believes he has received a personal revelation from God, there may little we can do to change his mind. But they also pointed out that the situation changes dramatically when this person reports his experience to others with the hope of winning their assent. A person may feel compelled to accept whatever (he believes) God has revealed to him, but others -– those to whom he reports his experience -– are in a radically different position. For they are receiving a report, not directly from an infallible God, but indirectly from a fallible human being who, like themselves, is easily deceived and frequently errs.

When Protestants broke free from the authority of the Catholic Church, they were left in a somewhat embarrassing position in regard to the veracity of miracles. Neither side wished to cast doubt on biblical miracles (especially those attributed to Jesus), because the ability to perform miracles was widely regarded as the sign of a divine messenger; this was the fundamental criterion that distinguished the authentic prophet from his fake counterpart. And without this criterion, without the ability to identify true emissaries from God, the entire scheme of biblical revelation – and therefore Christianity itself – would quickly collapse, since there would be no basis for assuming that the biblical writers were anything other than deluded and foolish men.

Many different people with many different beliefs have claimed to be divine messengers, and, since not all of their contradictory messages can be true, the believer must find a way to separate his favorites from the pack. Every Christian theologian, Catholic and Protestant alike, understood this, so no theologian could dispense with miracles altogether. The veracity of miracles therefore involved far more than whether God can, or does, intervene in the natural course of events. What was at stake here was the very foundation of Christianity itself.

Protestants, however, faced a serious dilemma. For many centuries, from the beginning of the Christian era to the Protestant Reformation, Catholics had reported thousands of miracles performed by popes, saints, bishops, priests, and even Catholic laypersons. Indeed, if we believe the accounts of the Church Father and medieval theologians, miracles – including the resurrection of dead people -- were commonplace occurrences, which had sometimes been witnessed by dozens (or even hundreds) of people.

It is understandable why Protestants found these reports disturbing. If the pope was the Antichrist, and if the Catholic Church was a tool of Satan, then why would God have favored Catholics with an abundance of miracles? Something was clearly amiss: Catholics were evil and deluded heretics who did not enjoy God’s favor, so their alleged miracles could no be accepted at face value. And thus did Protestants repudiate Catholic miracles as mere superstition. They were nothing more than pious frauds that had been foisted upon the ignorant masses by mendacious and oppressive clerics.

It seems inevitable, owing to the inner logic of ideas, that the critical focus brought to on Catholic miracles would eventually be applied to all historical miracles, including those which were dear to Protestants. And this is exactly what we find in the famous critique of David Hume.

According to Hume, although experience teaches us that some things are true, it also teaches us that our judgment is fallible, that we often commit errors when reasoning about matters of fact. This latter is evident when we rely, as we often must, on the testimony of other people as a source of information that we cannot verify for ourselves. Such testimony often turns out to be misleading, distorted, or downright false; and the testimonies of different people, or of the same person at different times, often conflict with one another.

Why, then, do we grant any credibility at all to second-hand testimony? This is clearly not owing to any necessary relationship between testimony and truth; if this were so, no testimony would ever be false, and testimonies would never conflict. Hume maintains that our confidence in testimony is based on experience:

“Were not the memory tenacious to a certain degree; had not men commonly an inclination to truth and a principle of probity; were they not sensible to shame, when detected in a falsehood: Where not these, I say, discovered by
experience
to be qualities, inherent in human nature, we should never repose the least confidence in human testimony. A man delirious, or noted for falsehood and villainy, has no manner of authority with us.”

How much credibility we grant to a particular testimony – whether we dismiss it out of hand, view it as doubtful or probable to some degree, or accept it as a sufficient proof -- depends on a number of factors. We are hesitant, for example, when witnesses contradict each other, or when they are of doubtful character, or when they appear to be promoting their own interests. In addition, our confidence diminishes as the reported event becomes more unusual and unlikely to have occurred. In this case, we have conflicting sets of experience that must be weighed against each other. We believe, on the one hand, that second-hand testimony is often reliable, while believing, on the other hand, that some events are highly unlikely (given our past experience) or impossible (given our knowledge of natural laws).

We must often judge historical accounts on a case-by-case basis. The historian, for example, must assess documents that give different accounts of the same event, or she must evaluate the credibility of a particular witness, or she must sift the probable from the improbable in one report. Many such problems confront us in our daily lives as well. We hear an unsavory rumor about a friend that conflicts with our own experience of his moral character, or someone in whom we have confidence claims to have witnessed an improbable event, or an authority (a doctor, scientist, etc.) tells us something that conflicts with the testimony of other authorities. In these and similar cases, we must weigh the probability of one experience against the probability of another experience and arrive at the best judgment we can.

As Hume points out, however, we are not obliged to consider the particular merits, the specific pros and cons, of every testimony that we come across. There are certain kinds of testimony that we should reject out of hand, without further consideration, because they report events that are impossible. And this brings us to Hume’s celebrated critique of miracles.

“A miracle,” says Hume, “is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.” Hume is here referring to historical miracles, i.e., to reports of miraculous events that we receive from other people. His argument is a deceptively simple one. If a person claims to have witnessed a miracle, i.e., if he testifies to the violation of a natural law, then how am I to evaluate his account? Here, as in other conflicts pertaining to matters of fact, I should weigh one probability against the other. So I ask myself, Which is more probable – that what the witness says is false, or that nature did indeed take a vacation from its normal course?

I have experienced many cases of being told something that is false, but I have never witnessed a violation of natural law. Thus, in evaluating the comparative probability of these events – a falsehood versus a miracle – I should decide in favor of the former. Upon being told of a miraculous event, I should always conclude that the “witness” has conveyed a falsehood. In Hume’s words:

“There must… be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle….”

Suppose someone tells me that he saw a dead man brought back to life. Here I should consider “whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened.” There is no real contest in this case, because the possibility of resurrecting the dead conflicts with all of my previous experience, whereas I know of innumerable instances where people have related falsehoods. I therefore conclude that “no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish…”

This argument is more radical than it may appear at first glance, because it establishes, not merely that I should reject this or that testimony as false, but that I should dismiss the entire class of miraculous reports as utterly devoid of credibility. Recall what I said about credibility in Chapter One:

“To say that a proposition is credible is to say not that it is justified but that it is worthy of being justified. A credible proposition is one that we regard as worthy of further consideration. Without credibility a proposition will simply pass through our consciousness without stopping long enough to be examined.”

Rather than focus on this or that particular report, Hume’s critique (“an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusions”) undermines the credibility of historical miracles in general. Whereas many freethinkers had attacked the miracles of Christianity by debunking the biblical accounts one at a time, Hume maintains that this kind of piecemeal criticism is unnecessary, because it mistakenly implies that particular reports should be taken seriously. A report merits close examination only if it is credible, i.e., only if it is attended with some degree of probability. But the probably is nil that any reported miracle is true, so, given this lack of credibility, we may dismiss all reports on principle, without bothering to investigate the details of specific claims.

This was an important strategic innovation in the battle against Christian dogma, because it removed biblical controversies from the realm of theologians, historians and other “experts,” who would often flaunt their credentials in an effort to silence their freethinking opponents (who were often self-educated). Moreover, given the innumerable “accounts of miracles and prodigies [to] be found in all history, sacred and profane,” even the most meticulous critic will find himself overwhelmed. Theologians will demand that he refute one piece of “evidence” after another; and when this proves impossible -- whether from lack of time, lack of interest, or for some other reason – the theologian will proclaim victory, because some of his arguments have remained unanswered.

Hume’s critique, as I said, was designed to deal with this kind of strategic problem. It is “a decisive argument…which must at least silence the most arrogant bigotry and superstition, and free us from their impertinent solicitations.” The freethinker, in other words, needn’t become a biblical scholar in order to justify his rejection of Christian beliefs. He need only apply the ordinary canons of philosophical criticism to the entire class of historical miracles, including those reported in the Bible. Then, after finding that such reports lack credibility, he can move on to more important matters.

Ghs

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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.

No, but there is in the other direction.

--Brant

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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.

I don't think similarities in reported religious experiences would prove anything, but if I were convinced in the authenticity of my own religious experience, I would search for common elements for my own edification.

Why? The answer to this question would depend on the nature of my experience. Suppose I had experienced what Neil reports, and under the same conditions of great emotional and physical stress. Here I frankly cannot imagine that I would regard my experience as anything except delusional. Neil's god strikes me as a deity one would find on sale at Walmart. If I did believe that I had experienced something real, I would probably regard the being to whom I spoke not as God but as a low-level bureaucrat in the divine hierarchy, e.g., an angel. It is even more likely that I would interpret my experience as a communication with some kind of alien being from another planet, and this would stimulate my interest in reports of UFOs and alien abductions, not in other reports of religious experiences.

Only if I had a more traditional religious experience would I undertake a careful investigation of other reports. This, as I said, would be for my own edification. My ego is not big enough to suppose that God would pick me, and me alone. out of all the humans who have ever existed (Neil apparently doesn't share this reservation), or that he told me absolutely everything that he wanted people to know, so I would search for those elements that I found to be common in such experiences in the hope of learning more. The fact that such experiences have often been described in terms of the religious imagery and symbolism of conventional religions (e.g., images of the Virgin Mary for Catholics and Jesus for Protestants) would not bother me per se. On the contrary, I would expect nothing different; I would expect others to assimilate their experiences in concepts familiar to them.

Ghs

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GHS wrote: "1) Could any kind of personal experience (i.e., an experience not accessible to or verifiable by others) ever convince a rational atheist of the existence of God? I can think of some fantastic scenarios where the answer to this question would be Yes."

What would an example be, if the concept of God is of an entity outside the natural order and able to contradict it? (J. Neil stipulates that his God is not of this type, but given his claims about this God and what it can allegedly do, I don't believe it.)

Edited by Starbuckle
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GHS wrote: "1) Could any kind of personal experience (i.e., an experience not accessible to or verifiable by others) ever convince a rational atheist of the existence of God? I can think of some fantastic scenarios where the answer to this question would be Yes."

What would an example be, if the concept of God is of an entity outside the natural order and able to contradict it? (J. Neil stipulates that his God is not of this type, but given his claims about this God and what it can allegedly do, I don't believe it.)

Rather than cook up some scenarios, suffice it to say that I think John Denver's character in "Oh, God," having experienced the events he did, was quite rational to believe that he was dealing with God. This trailer doesn't present all the relevant data, but it gives some indication.

<object width="560" height="340"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tTU00m5MB0?fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param'>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tTU00m5MB0?fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tTU00m5MB0?fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="560" height="340"></embed></object>

As for Neil's god, it is in fact "supernatural" by any conventional understanding of this word. That fact that a supernatural realm may have its own "natural" laws does not alter the fact that our distinction between "natural" and "supernatural" is based on our understanding of natural laws. Granted, a "miracle" would not be a miracle to God -- it would merely be an exercise of God's "natural" powers -- but it would be a miracle for us nonetheless. All reports of mystical experiences are essentially reports of miracles, i.e., supernatural events that are "above," i.e., that transcend, our knowledge of natural causation.

Btw, I would not put all paranormal claims in the same category as supernatural claims. Some paranormal claims, such as "mind reading," might be explicable in natural terms. I would not say the same of other paranormal claims, however, such as talking to the dead or foreseeing the future.

Ghs

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I note that Neil has said goodbye to OL and this discussion five times already. But my screen shows he is still here reading the thread right now.

Why? If he doesn't want to be a pinata, why doesn't he just move on and stop troubling himself?

Here is a key passage from the Introduction to Neil's book (my italics):

On February 18, 1997, starting at about noon, God merged into my mind for the rest of the day. During that experience I left a phone message for my sister that she should call me because I had a revelation that would change the world.

Neil's belief that he chatted with God is not enough for him. He also believes that he should or will "change the world." This grand project doesn't seem to be going well so far. Indeed, as far as I can tell, Neil's interviewer and close friend, Brad Linaweaver, is still an agnostic, so he wasn't persuaded by Neil's story, either.

In an episode of "Smallville," Lex Luthor says to Clark, “Clark, you can’t save the world. All you’ll end up with is a Messiah complex and a lot of enemies.” :rolleyes:

Ghs

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From all of the exchanges in this thread, it appears to me that, in addition to writing entertaining novels, Neil is quite a character and, I am sure, would be a fascinating conversationalist (I hope this does not come across as condescending). However, his argument in advocating for his "conversations with God" boil down to the usual last (and final) stand of all fideists (using Martin Gardner's term): "Take my word for it."

Religionists usually follow up with a challenge to "prove that I did not have conversations with God." I find it astonishing that people fall for this, but many apparently do. It certainly worked for Joseph Smith, whose baseless testimony is taken as literally the gospel by millions of professing Mormons. But to me, people using this type of facile argument are either 1) delusional and/or hallucinating, or 2) scoundrels who use the faith racket as a tool to attain personal wealth and power. There may be other alternative explanations, such as an inability to adequately explain to others what he or she was experiencing.

For someone who says that he was (is?) a rationalist and atheist, the resort to faith is a disheartening argument. From the points he has presented here, I saw no explanation of his God encounters that would impress anyone that doesn't already believe in God, or doesn't take a personal (and unverifiable) testimony as proof.

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I don't see what the big fucking deal is with this. Oh, and Happy BD, Jerry, if I am not mistaken.

Anyway, the thing here is that people that have some kind of mystical experience or whatever the fuck you Godforsaken bastards like calling them these days, they tend to become excited little monkeys, you know? All levels/All Quadrants; they get a glance at it and then the next thing you know they do something more or less akin to drunken dialing.

It is an embarrassing, yet cute thing to behold. So, of course you Godless bastards are going to go in there and italicize it. Shit, for that matter I am a Godlike bastard and I would've done the same thing.

William James wrote this whole thing to death in what, 1904 and even provided case studies. It is not a problem. Well, actually it is a problem when you start calling up people (esp. relatives) and tell them that you have finally got something that is going to shift the fucker off-axis. Something like that. Maybe removing the fluoride from the water for everyone. Who knows, you are seeing the Eye of God and worse yet, you have technology to help you.

I liked it better when you just smoked dope. Back then it was harder to share and you just sat around and looked at your lava lamp.

But those were the old days and this is now.

I digress, but maybe lay off him for that. We've all been there.

Also, this whole "religionists" thing is stinky. Why not just go for it and call them niggers or something?

rde

Godless Bastard

Edited by Rich Engle
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From all of the exchanges in this thread, it appears to me that, in addition to writing entertaining novels, Neil is quite a character and, I am sure, would be a fascinating conversationalist (I hope this does not come across as condescending). However, his argument in advocating for his "conversations with God" boil down to the usual last (and final) stand of all fideists (using Martin Gardner's term): "Take my word for it."

Religionists usually follow up with a challenge to "prove that I did not have conversations with God." I find it astonishing that people fall for this, but many apparently do. It certainly worked for Joseph Smith, whose baseless testimony is taken as literally the gospel by millions of professing Mormons. But to me, people using this type of facile argument are either 1) delusional and/or hallucinating, or 2) scoundrels who use the faith racket as a tool to attain personal wealth and power. There may be other alternative explanations, such as an inability to adequately explain to others what he or she was experiencing.

For someone who says that he was (is?) a rationalist and atheist, the resort to faith is a disheartening argument. From the points he has presented here, I saw no explanation of his God encounters that would impress anyone that doesn't already believe in God, or doesn't take a personal (and unverifiable) testimony as proof.

I quit this forum because of precisely this sort of lying.

I have better luck communicating with the dead than with the brain dead, so for the brain dead here needing a clear statement, let me make this a catechism:

I do not regard faith as the basis to accept any fact as true.

I do not expect anyone to accept the reality of what I reported on faith.

I did expect people who have read Thomas S. Szasz not to be so quick as to play doctor and start issuing diagnoses of psychosis for no better reason that someone reported events outside their dogma of what is possible. Churches and totalitarian dictatorships have reality police protecting their official cosmologies, everything from God wants you to blow up the World Trade Center to global warming to weapons of mass destruction. Not libertarians.

But after I stated in this discussion dozens of times my rejection of faith as the basis for expecting a rational examination of my experiences and what I decided about them, to have to read a lie about what I wrote, is fucking putrid.

Edited by J. Neil Schulman
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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.

I don't think similarities in reported religious experiences would prove anything, but if I were convinced in the authenticity of my own religious experience, I would search for common elements for my own edification.

Why? The answer to this question would depend on the nature of my experience. Suppose I had experienced what Neil reports, and under the same conditions of great emotional and physical stress. Here I frankly cannot imagine that I would regard my experience as anything except delusional. Neil's god strikes me as a deity one would find on sale at Walmart. If I did believe that I had experienced something real, I would probably regard the being to whom I spoke not as God but as a low-level bureaucrat in the divine hierarchy, e.g., an angel. It is even more likely that I would interpret my experience as a communication with some kind of alien being from another planet, and this would stimulate my interest in reports of UFOs and alien abductions, not in other reports of religious experiences.

Only if I had a more traditional religious experience would I undertake a careful investigation of other reports. This, as I said, would be for my own edification. My ego is not big enough to suppose that God would pick me, and me alone. out of all the humans who have ever existed (Neil apparently doesn't share this reservation), or that he told me absolutely everything that he wanted people to know, so I would search for those elements that I found to be common in such experiences in the hope of learning more. The fact that such experiences have often been described in terms of the religious imagery and symbolism of conventional religions (e.g., images of the Virgin Mary for Catholics and Jesus for Protestants) would not bother me per se. On the contrary, I would expect nothing different; I would expect others to assimilate their experiences in concepts familiar to them.

Ghs

George, you're a fucking liar. Here's the Schulman Challenge: show me where I ever wrote that God picked me and me alone.

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George, you're a fucking liar. Here's the Schulman Challenge: show me where I ever wrote that God picked me and me alone.

I said that I didn't think God would pick me and me alone, and that you apparently didn't have this reservation about yourself. I wasn't aware that you also ruled this out as a possibility. Why do you rule it out? And whom else did God pick in addition to you?

Welcome back to OL. Long time no see.

Ghs

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I said that you didn't seem to share my reservation that God would pick me and me alone.

Well, you can be reserved all you want about being picked, George, but I am afraid that happened a long time ago. :)

As to the purpose of said-picking, you are, and will likely remain, as usual, on your own with that one. I mean, you can always go argue with the motherfucker, but you know how that rolls: if you even twitch funny, the next thing you know, you will be Phil's web-mistress. And that would not be a good thing. At least for you.

rde

So much for the whole "God takes his favorites first" dealio.

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George, you're a fucking liar. Here's the Schulman Challenge: show me where I ever wrote that God picked me and me alone.

I said that I didn't think God would pick me and me alone, and that you apparently didn't have this reservation about yourself. I wasn't aware that you also ruled this out as a possibility. Why do you rule it out? And whom else did God pick in addition to you?

Welcome back to OL. Long time no see.

Ghs

I accept your apparent apology.

I don't know who else God picked. He didn't tell me. But I did write I suspected Avery Corman, author of the novel Oh God.

Regarding my ego. I don't doubt that my experience of God was real. I do sometimes contemplate the possibility that I've failed.

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I quit this forum because of precisely this sort of lying.

I have better luck communicating with the dead than with the brain dead, so for the brain dead here needing a clear statement, let me make this a catechism:

I do not regard faith as the basis to accept any fact as true.

I do not expect anyone to accept the reality of what I reported on faith.

You have said this repeatedly, but you have given no other reason why people should accept the reality of what you say. We have to take your word for the veracity of your experiences, period. So why do you get so hostile when people don't take your word, i.e., accept your testimony on faith, given your insistence that you don't expect them to?

I did expect people who have read Thomas S. Szasz not to be so quick as to play doctor and start issuing diagnoses of psychosis for no better reason that someone reported events outside their dogma of what is possible.

You are the one who described your extreme psychological conditions before your encounters with God, even going to far as to describe yourself as a "wreck" before your first encounter. It is scarcely dogmatic to doubt the testimony of someone in that frame of mind, especially when they involve paranormal and/or supernaturalistic claims.

Churches and totalitarian dictatorships have reality police protecting their official cosmologies, everything from God wants you to blow up the World Trade Center to global warming to weapons of mass destruction. Not libertarians.

What do Neil Schulman's God and his defense of part-time charlatans like John Edward have to do with libertarianism? I assume you don't share the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Pentecostals, Muslims, and many others. Does this mean that you have somehow restricted the boundaries of libertarianism to an "official cosmology"?

I hope I have misunderstood what you meant to say here, because if you meant what I think you meant, your understanding of libertarianism is sadly deficient. Libertarianism has neither a reality police nor an official cosmology. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a theory of metaphysics.

But after I stated in this discussion dozens of times my rejection of faith as the basis for expecting a rational examination of my experiences and what I decided about them, to have to read a lie about what I wrote, is fucking putrid.

How do you expect people to rationally examine your experiences unless you give a rational defense of them? Thus far you have not done this; describing how intense and real they seemed to you does not constitute an argument. Your arguments, should you ever present them, are the only things that can be rationally examined. There is no way we can examine your experiences per se, rationally or otherwise.

Ghs

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I said that I didn't think God would pick me and me alone, and that you apparently didn't have this reservation about yourself. I wasn't aware that you also ruled this out as a possibility. Why do you rule it out? And whom else did God pick in addition to you?

Welcome back to OL. Long time no see.

Ghs

I accept your apparent apology.

My "apology" was apparent only to you. I pointed out that you misrepresented what I had written, while calling me a "fucking liar" in the process.

I don't know who else God picked. He didn't tell me. But I did write I suspected Avery Corman, author of the novel Oh God.

Okay, you "suspect" that God has talked to one other person in the history of humankind. Thanks for clearing that up.

Regarding my ego. I don't doubt that my experience of God was real. I do sometimes contemplate the possibility that I've failed.

How can you be so dogmatic as to doubt the reality of your experience? Why have you closed your mind in this manner?

And failed at what? You said yourself (in the Intro to your book) that you would not have believed your own story if you had not had the experiences you did. And since you see yourself as the gold standard in such matters, why would you expect anyone who has not had similar experiences to believe you?

Of course, you also said something about changing the world. How you expected to do this when, by your own admission, even the pre-religious experience Neil would not have believed the post-religious experience Neil is anyone's guess.

You should have discussed this dilemma with God before publishing your Introduction. If he is a competent editor, he would have advised you to delete the part about not believing your own story.

Ghs

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I said that you didn't seem to share my reservation that God would pick me and me alone.

Well, you can be reserved all you want about being picked, George, but I am afraid that happened a long time ago. :)

As to the purpose of said-picking, you are, and will likely remain, as usual, on your own with that one. I mean, you can always go argue with the motherfucker, but you know how that rolls: if you even twitch funny, the next thing you know, you will be Phil's web-mistress. And that would not be a good thing. At least for you.

rde

So much for the whole "God takes his favorites first" dealio.

Your posts were more coherent before you quit OL.

Ghs

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I quit this forum because of precisely this sort of lying.

I have better luck communicating with the dead than with the brain dead, so for the brain dead here needing a clear statement, let me make this a catechism:

I do not regard faith as the basis to accept any fact as true.

I do not expect anyone to accept the reality of what I reported on faith.

You have said this repeatedly, but you have given no other reason why people should accept the reality of what you say. We have to take your word for the veracity of your experiences, period. So why do you get so hostile when people don't take your word, i.e., accept your testimony on faith, given your insistence that you don't expect them to?

I did expect people who have read Thomas S. Szasz not to be so quick as to play doctor and start issuing diagnoses of psychosis for no better reason that someone reported events outside their dogma of what is possible.

You are the one who described your extreme psychological conditions before your encounters with God, even going to far as to describe yourself as a "wreck" before your first encounter. It is scarcely dogmatic to doubt the testimony of someone in that frame of mind, especially when they involve paranormal and/or supernaturalistic claims.

Churches and totalitarian dictatorships have reality police protecting their official cosmologies, everything from God wants you to blow up the World Trade Center to global warming to weapons of mass destruction. Not libertarians.

What do Neil Schulman's God and his defense of part-time charlatans like John Edward have to do with libertarianism? I assume you don't share the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Pentecostals, Muslims, and many others. Does this mean that you have somehow restricted the boundaries of libertarianism to an "official cosmology"?

I hope I have misunderstood what you meant to say here, because if you meant what I think you meant, your understanding of libertarianism is sadly deficient. Libertarianism has neither a reality police nor an official cosmology. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a theory of metaphysics.

But after I stated in this discussion dozens of times my rejection of faith as the basis for expecting a rational examination of my experiences and what I decided about them, to have to read a lie about what I wrote, is fucking putrid.

How do you expect people to rationally examine your experiences unless you give a rational defense of them? Thus far you have not done this; describing how intense and real they seemed to you does not constitute an argument. Your arguments, should you ever present them, are the only things that can be rationally examined. There is no way we can examine your experiences per se, rationally or otherwise.

Ghs

I do not regard faith as the basis to accept any fact as true.

I do not expect anyone to accept the reality of what I reported on faith.

You have said this repeatedly, but you have given no other reason why people should accept the reality of what you say. We have to take your word for the veracity of your experiences, period. So why do you get so hostile when people don't take your word, i.e., accept your testimony on faith, given your insistence that you don't expect them to?

I have said why -- repetitiously to the point of boredom and frustration. I have documented my experience to the best of my ability. The purpose of that was to be an honest reporter. I have presented a definition of God within a cosmology that neither fails to satisfy Aristotle's axioms adopted by Rand, and a cosmology that is in line with current scientific paradigms about multiple "universes." What makes the God I shared a mind with the God rather than an angel or extraterrestrial is that unlike other conscious beings who have a beginning, he doesn't -- he's an unconditional existent like existence, itself, and precedes all other conscious beings, which he spun out of himself as independent minds with free will -- "free spirits."

Now, what I say happened to me is a story. What I say I think I learned from and of God during what I say happened to me are additional stories.

Why should George H. Smith or anyone else regard any of what I have to say as reflecting reality in any way, rather than being fictional creations from the mind of novelist J. Neil Schulman?

Why would I expect that you could?

I state my premises.

Do not accept my account on faith. That is a rationalist/objectivist position.

Do not suspend your rational faculties but accept this as a challenge to re-examine your previous conclusions, as I did. That is a suggestion not for faith but for rational open-mindedness.

Here are the axioms I'm using. They're Aristotle's and Rand's.

Here is the cosmology, epistemology, and ontology I'm using. I do not regard anything that exists as "supernatural" in the sense that human reason can not grasp it. I do not regard anything that exists as violating natural law; I merely suggest new contexts to interpret pre-scientific understandings of phenomena that once comprehended are seen as natural.

Here are the premises I'm using: there is more than one single "bounded universe." Existence contains multiple continua. Time and consciousness are both more complex than the simplistic idea that we live in a body decayed by time and when the body and brain dies we die with it.

Here are my recommended techniques to increase cognitive sensitivity that I believe can be used by others who wish to run the same experiment I ran and see if similar results can be replicated. Lock yourself alone into a room and try speaking to God, as an open invitation to respond. It's like getting on a ham radio and calling CQ. Either there's someone who exists who can answer or there isn't. If there is, you'll have a positive answer. If there isn't, you're entitled to conclude that there's something unreasonable about my story.

Now. You're free to say, "Neil, that's very nice and all, but it's not compelling enough for me to take up your experimental challenge." That would be a minimally respectful response.

But before I even posted for the first time here you decided to ridicule and sneer at my accounts of my experience. You've called me insane because I no longer accept my former Godless worldview. For an old friend who knows me as scrupulously accurate in trying to represent my experience, that's just fucking rude.

In your lengthy quote from Why Atheism? you contrast personal revelation with historical revelation.

What I'm suggesting to you and the others here is not that you take my account on faith. That would contradict my own demand to rely on reason. What I'm suggesting to you and the others here is that you need not rely on the revelations either of historical figures, as filtered through religion and scripture, nor even rely on the veracity of an old atheist friend who says he had experiences that overcame his George-H.-Smith-arguments reinforced atheism.

All you have to do is consider the possibility that your old atheist buddy didn't suffer a psychotic break with reality but discovered that reality was of a different nature than his previous understanding allowed for.

Then instead of using scholarship to determine the truth of Neil's stories, you conduct an Experiment in Consciousness to see if you can replicate something akin to the event for yourself. Or not. Only if it's actually important, after spending a lifetime writing on the subject, to find out.

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J. Neil Schulman referred to his assumption of "a cosmology that is in line with current scientific paradigms about multiple 'universes.'"

What is the scientific evidence that there are multiple universes or more than one "bounded universe"?

This premise, so far from being a self-evident axiom of thought on a par with existence and identity, seems to me merely a borrowing from the tropes of fantasy writing--the kind of unsupported premise which science fiction deploys liberally despite the division of speculative fiction into roughly separate "science fiction" and "fantasy." ("Star Trek" constantly deployed the rule-bounded magic of fantasy writing: the cardboard aliens who can freeze or miniature the Enteprise and its inhabitants, the miracle-wielding meta-continuous Q, the limitless confections of the holo-rec-room, etc.) In the absence of any evidence and even any intelligible conception of these multiple universes or multiple bounded continuums, the assertion serves the purpose of a back-door means of violating the law of identity without admitting it as a violation.

By this method, whenenever a metaphysical assertion sounds like a violation of the law of identity, one can simply tack on the footnote, "But it's not a violation of the law of identity, because this is the sort of thing multiple continuums and the nature of God, etc., enable." Presumably, then, if God has the power to temporarily turn moon rock into green cheese in such a way as is perceptible only by those who have experienced God and/or are sufficiently gullible, that claim of miraculous-seeming but invisible transmogrification would have nothing to do with a violation of the law of identity, however much it may challenge the (dogmatic) rationalist's paradigm in other ways. Although such moon-to-cheese alchemy may be beyond the stipulated powers of the stipulated God-nature, how is Neil's transformation into God any different with respect to the ability of an entity to act in ways contrary to its nature? And there's this doubleplusgood feature of the transformation that it not only accomplishes the impossible, it does so invisibly.

Neil became God for several hours. What was the causal process?

Neil has not substantiated the stipulated characteristics of God: for example, that God is everlasting, unlike all other complex entities in the universe; that, unlike all other entities with the faculty of awareness, his consciousness did not need to arise out of neuronic activity (or some comparable biological cause); that God is able to splinter off humanity from his being; that God has a cloak of invisibility that makes him indetectable to skeptical human beings even when he is right on top of them (though human beings have found means of detecting everything from baryons to black holes); etc.

We are advised that Neil learned such attributes of God from the report God allegedly made to him; but these purported characteristics are supremely elusive and routinely violative of the nature of things. If God can by no detectable or inferrable causal agency turn the moon into green cheese, water into wine, Neil into God himself, God can change anything into anything without any means or process--albeit perhaps only in a way that cannot possibly be detected. But a universe in which things acts naturally, i.e., consistently with what they are, except when they invisibly and undetectably don't...is a universe that resembles a universe without gods or supernature or multi-continuums in every respect.

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J. Neil Schulman referred to his assumption of "a cosmology that is in line with current scientific paradigms about multiple 'universes.'"

What is the scientific evidence that there are multiple universes or more than one "bounded universe"?

There is not a scintilla of empirical evidence for alternative universes. Alternate universes (associated with multiple quantum states) are mathematical constructs . It is possible (mathematically) for there to be more than one cosmos yet all have the same underlying physical laws. This follows logically from the indeterminism of quantum states. Each observable is identified with a Hermite Operator (a kind of matrix) that has multiple eigen vectors (eigen states) each with an eigen value which when squared is the probability of its associated eigen state being realized when an observation (interaction with a physical system) causes a collapse or reduction of the indeterminate state to a single state. This is the import of the famous Schoedinger's Cat conundrum.

See http://en.wikipedia...._interpretation

and

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_state

There have been many science fiction stories (and even some television sci fi series) based on this mathematical possibility and some physicists have taken this possibility quite seriously --- for example David Deutzch and Hugh Evertt. The television series -Sliders- was constructed on the premis that multiple worlds exist and are reached from branching points common to several of the possible worlds. However there is no empirical evidence for this possibility being actual, and the entire premise is quite unfalsifiable, when makes it science fiction, rather than science.

Ayn Rand's -Atlas Shrugged- can be read as an alternate universe story - a possible world (if you forget aboutGalt's electrical generator which violates the laws of thermodynamics). All such stories are base on a What If ... ; an event that logically could have happened, but actually did not. The existence of What If points in reality constitutes a denial of determinate causality. There would have to be prior conditions of the world from which more than one following condition or state could have followed without violating any physical laws. Objectivists (so I understand) believe that all physical effects in the world are metaphysically necessary, a manifestation of the Principle of Identity. If the physical world is what it is then at any given state only one state could follow from it in time. (Of course this collides with the principle of Free Will, if you assume the human organism is a physical entity including the operation of the brain). The denial of quantum determining parameters, so-called Hidden Variable, leads to the possibility of alternate world lines from a point of observation (interaction of a physical observer with a quantum system with multiple quantum states), but by the nature of things no such alternative has ever, or could ever be observed. Everett and Deutsch are not deluded, but their position on the matter is highly implausible.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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