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


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And Jesus saves at the Banco Espírito Santo in Portugal. They gave him a toaster when he opened his account. You know, for his loaves. :-)

The one established 1755, in the wake of bank failures caused by the Lisbon earthquake? It's all for the best in this best of all possible worlds, well, at least it let Candide escape certain death…

http://en.wikipedia....sbon_earthquake

Oh, and welcome to OL!

It's fascinating to read this link. Kant was a seismologist? Yep. It's not to study history by studying philosophy, it seems, but to study history to really study philosophy. And too much liberal arts education is conjecture, not factual, as in the professor's opinions, which you have to learn and regurgitate in a cosmetically acceptable way to get your grade.

--Brant

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

To someone like me who has led a,... err, comparatively unexciting life, the exchanges in this thread sound like some of the deeply profound thoughts that I have heard from others on occasions such as New Year's celebrations and similar events where "spirits" were plentiful :huh: (this is not a criticism).

Despite ample opportunities, I have not been the recipient of any visitations from otherworldly entities: spirits (other than the liquid kind), gods, demons, or even from UFOs :o:rolleyes::wacko: . These are yet other areas where my education has been sorely lacking.

However, since many of you have been so blessed, I was wondering :blush: if, in your next conversation with paranormal and/or extraterrestrial entities, you could suggest that they come on over to visit me? ;) I am evidently not high on their "to do" list, but you could appeal to their sense of altruistic aide to the unfortunate as a reason to stop by. :)

Much appreciated! Thanks!

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It's fascinating to read this link. Kant was a seismologist? Yep.

The Lisbon earthquake was a big deal for the subject of theodicy, since it happened when a lot of people were in church, and the churches were deathtraps.

Kant was working not long after Newton, back when scientists were called “natural philosophers”, so philosophy wasn’t a liberal arts department, yet. It's strange how much he knew about anthropology and geography, having never traveled.

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It's fascinating to read this link. Kant was a seismologist? Yep.

The Lisbon earthquake was a big deal for the subject of theodicy, since it happened when a lot of people were in church, and the churches were deathtraps.

Kant was working not long after Newton, back when scientists were called "natural philosophers", so philosophy wasn't a liberal arts department, yet. It's strange how much he knew about anthropology and geography, having never traveled.

Perhaps a lot of data from the outside came to Koenisburg.

Take Alexandria as a city type. Because of decree by Ptolemy every ship that came to Alexandria carry books had to present those books to the Library to be copied. As a result many of the Library scholars who did not travel much learned a great deal about the world although it was second hand knowledge.

Koenisburge was that way. It was a busy commercial center.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Since Gary York's interview with me, the full text of my book I Met God -- God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith -- has been posted beginning at http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/2009/12/i-met-god-god-without-religion-scripture-or-faith/.

That might act as an adequate "follow-up question."

But if you have any, I'm here.

To start off with the questions already posed:

"For example, WHY did God (allegedly) threaten to kill Schulman?"

The threat was withdrawn when I agreed to stop setting terms to God for my continued living.

Mr. Schulman,

Here is my list of questions. TIA for your reply.

1) WHY exactly did God threaten to kill you?

2) And how precisely did that threat manifest itself?

3) Did God speak to you?

4) If yes, what words did you hear? Was it "I'm going to kill you?"

5) You sad God put his hand on your heart. Did you feel intense pressure on your chest?

6) Or was it a general feeling of possibly being "annihilated"?

7) What exactly had you been doing in the hours before the experience? Were you awakened from sleep when you had the experience?

8) Had you ingested any mood/mind altering substances before the experience?

9) Did you have experience with meditation and certain breathing techniques?

[quoting Starbuckle] "(and why didn't Schulman call the police to report Him)?" (end quote)

I called paramedics. And if I had called the police to report that God was threatening me, I risked being committed for psychiatric observation. Given that likely outcome, making the call would have been crazy. :-)

10) What did you tell the paramedics?

11) Could they find any medical symptoms?

[quoting Starbuckle] "But my main question here is whether accepting the existence of God or accepting that he had had a "psychotic break" with reality were really Schulman's only reasonable alternatives when he experienced whatever it was that he experienced. Does a strong feeling that God (whatever his nature is said to be) is communicating with you constitute evidence for a God? Or does it mean only that you are experiencing something that you can't yet explain?" (end quote)

It wasn't a feeling, any more than having a conversation is "feeling." It was a full cognitive experience in which tons of perceptual and conceptual information was passed.

12) In what form was the information passed? Did it involve language, i. e. did you hear a voice speaking to you?

And I've spent over 13 years now examining the experience -- as well as both earlier and later ones -- testing it against the rest of my life experiences, and entering into discussions with others who want to challenge it. That appears to me a rational way of dealing with an extraordinary experience and set of perceptions.

ITA about the "rational" bit.

You speak about an experience you have had.

It is impossible to prove to others that you have had the experience (as it is imposible to prove to others what one has dreamed, one can only tell them about it).

It is also impossible for others to find out whether what you tell us really happened. Again, only you will know if this is the case.

So in order to enter into a discussion, one has to make the basic decision whether to believe you or not. I've decided to believe your story.

My gut feeling lets the scales lean more to that side. Again, it is a personal feeling only.

Believing your story does not imply that I also believe it was a god who contacted you, but I believe you did not make the story up, and really did have an experience where you had the feeling of entering into contact with a god figure.

Now when we speak of "rationality" in this context, the first thought which enters my mind is how strongly Ayn Rand rejected any and kind of faith as irrational.

Excerpt from your interview with Gary York: http://www.pulpless.com/jneil/glp_imetaynrand.html

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Interestingly, my disagreements with Objectivism as a formal philosophy are fairly minimal, partly because Rand never developed Objectivism into a full philosophical system. I find what she wrote to be true in its own context, but her context was too provincial and time-bound to encompass the possibility of an afterlife. Her dismissal of paranormal experience as sources of data about the real world negates the possibility of learning about additional continua beyond our conventional sensory experience, which is limited to local knowledge gained from our own bodily existence.

If I have more of a problem, it's not so much with Objectivism, per se, but with the cultish behavior of her admirers, who in their worship of Atlas Shrugged mirror Evangelical Christians' worship of the Bible. I also have a problem with Objectivist-influenced atheists who raise skepticism to the level of religious dogma.

But isn't the problem actually with Objectivism per se when you consider the premises on which this philosophy is based? For Objectivism is an explicitly atheistic philosophy. Atheism is one of the pillars Objectivism rests on.

Imo the gulf between Objectivism and any form of religious faith is so enormous that it is unbridgeable.

Rand was clear as a bell in her rejection of religious faith as irrational, so much in fact that she even presented what she cannot know as if she knew it, for she said "no supernatural dimension exists".

Trying to marry the premises of Objectivism with the premises of any faith in transcendence is as impossible as if one tried to marry the premises of Objectivism with those of Marxism.

Suppose there is a god and Ayn Rand got to know the god in an 'afterlife', she would have had to admit that the premises of her philosophy had been false, plain and simple. Rand would be the first to know the dramatic implication of that, since it was she herself who stressed time and again the importance of checking premises.

Imo it is impossible to save a philosophy whose founder has to realize that one of its root premises is false.

Excerpt from another interview you gave: http://www.pulpless.com/jneil/glp_imetaynrand.html

Maybe a year later [around 1980?] I [N. Schulman] phoned her [A. Rand] again. I don't know what set her off, but this phone call didn't last long. It ended with her telling me, "I despise all libertarians." Then after a pause, "Including you."

Those are the last words I ever heard from Ayn Rand.

Well. Those are the last words I heard from Ayn Rand while she was alive on earth. I've since run into Ayn Rand on the other side, in one of my dream-state crossings to the afterlife. She was a whole lot friendlier.

Next time you meet Ayn Rand "on the other side", if you would please ask her about the 'premise' thing. TIA. ;)

Edited by Xray
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GHS wrote: "While a very young and very devout Christian, I would occasionally awake during the middle of the night and see Jesus standing next to my bed. Complete with halo and a white robe, he looked exactly like a standard painting I had seen countless times. I remember wondering when Jesus posed for the portrait and who painted it."

Did these visions at the time contribute to a feeling of absolute conviction that your religious faith was justified, even though in retrospect you can think of other reasons for your experience?

The "visions" (I didn't have very many of them) didn't strike me as unusual at the time. I was so young that I had not yet drawn a distinction between the natural and the supernatural. Radio programs used to report sightings of Santa Claus and his reindeer on Christmas Eve; and, like most children my age, I took those reports at face value. Moreover, when I opened my presents on Christmas morning, I vaguely noticed that the tags that read "From Santa" were written in the same hand as presents from my parents, but this suspicious bit of counter-evidence didn't disturb my belief in Santa.

Critical reasoning requires intellectual labor, and people are not inclined to labor unless they expect to benefit from it. Traditional beliefs are comfortable, and unless a person learns to value truth for its own sake, he will have no motive to subject his beliefs to critical examination.

Unlike Rand and others who report being atheists at a very early age, I had to explicitly reason my way out of a belief system that had been part of my psychological make-up for longer than I could remember. When one accepts a supernaturalist worldview, "miraculous" events can become fairly routine and even be witnessed by many people at the same time. Consider this account from the Wiki article on "Our Lady of Fatima."

As early as July 1917 it was claimed that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on 13 October, so that all would believe. What transpired became known as "Miracle of the Sun". A crowd believed to be approximately 70,000 in number,[6] including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria. The incessant rain had finally ceased and a thin layer of clouds cloaked the silver disc of the sun such that witnesses later said it could be looked upon without hurting the eyes.[citation needed] Lúcia, moved by what she said was an interior impulse, called out to the crowd to look at the sun. Witnesses later spoke of the sun appearing to change colors and rotate like a wheel. Not everyone saw the same things, and witnesses gave widely varying descriptions of the "sun's dance". The phenomenon is claimed to have been witnessed by most people in the crowd as well as people many miles away. [7] While the crowd was staring at the sun, Lucia, Francesco, and Jacinta said later they were seeing lovely images of the Holy Family, Our Lady of Sorrows with Jesus Christ, and then Our Lady of Mount Carmel. They said they saw Saint Joseph and Jesus bless the people.[8]

Columnist Avelino de Almeida of O Século (Portugal's most influential newspaper, which was pro-government in policy and avowedly anti-clerical),[2] reported the following: "Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - the sun 'danced' according to the typical expression of the people."[9] Eye specialist Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, writing for the newspaper Ordem reported "The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceeding fast and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat".[10] The special reporter for the 17 October 1917 edition of the Lisbon daily, O Dia, reported the following, "...the silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy purple light was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds...The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands...people wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they."[11]

No movement or other phenomenon of the sun was registered by scientists at the time.[2] According to contemporary reports from poet Afonso Lopes Vieira and schoolteacher Delfina Lopes with her students and other witnesses in the town of Alburita, the solar phenomenon were visible from up to forty kilometers away. Despite these assertions, not all witnesses reported seeing the sun "dance". Some people only saw the radiant colors, and others, including some believers, saw nothing at all.[12][13]

Since no scientifically verifiable physical cause can be adduced to support the phenomenon of the sun, various explanations have been advanced to explain the descriptions given by numerous witnesses. A leading conjecture is a mass hallucination possibly stimulated by the religious fervor of the crowds expectantly waiting for a predicted sign. Another conjecture is a possible visual artifact caused by looking at the sun for a prolonged period. As noted by Professor Auguste Meessen of the Institute of Physics, Catholic University of Leuven, looking directly at the Sun can cause phosphene visual artifacts and temporary partial blindness. He has proposed that the reported observations were optical effects caused by prolonged staring at the sun. Meessen contends that retinal after-images produced after brief periods of sun gazing are a likely cause of the observed dancing effects. Similarly Meessen states that the colour changes witnessed were most likely caused by the bleaching of photosensitive retinal cells.[14] Meessen observes that sun miracles have been witnessed in many places where religiously charged pilgrims have been encouraged to stare at the sun. He cites the apparitions at Heroldsbach, Germany (1949) as an example, where exactly the same optical effects as at Fatima were witnessed by more than 10,000 people.[14] There is, however, no agreement regarding the most-likely physical cause for such a visual phenomenon. A mass hallucination is more typically found among small groups rather than 70,000 people. Visual artifacts are commonly reported among large groups witnessing solar eclipses without eye protection, but these reports bear no resemblance to the descriptions at Fatima. The alleged apparition at Heroldsbach Franconia was investigated by the Catholic Church and was not approved.

Ghs

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Jneil, thanks for joining this discussion. I haven't read your longer exposition yet but will try to do so soon.

Thanks! :-)

God could not answer my question about why the consciousness of the universe as a whole, if it could be said to be conscious, would be so hard to perceive that it would require a special experience to do so. As individuals we have no direct awareness of any awareness but our own, but we have no trouble inferring consciousness in other human beings and animals.

I think lots of people have direct awareness of other's awareness, except that when it first occurs in childhood children are usually told it's unreal and they are taught to screen it out rather than learn how to enhance and develop it as a cognitive tool. I think the same thing happens with dreams -- we're taught to regard them as always unreal so most people never make an effort to remember or examine them, or to pursue lucid dreaming in which extraordinary perception becomes trainable.

If the consciousness permeating the universe as a whole is so very different from our own awareness (weaker than it? more furtive than it?) that it cannot be detected except under very special circumstances, can it really be said to be consciousness?

I don't think it is different from our own. I think it's what our own cognitive abilities can be trained into.

Why would its manifestations not be readily observable by those who lack the same extraordinary experiences that you and others have reported?

Limitations on sensory abilities is quite common. Lots of people have no sense of smell, or are tone deaf, or color blind; some people are myopic. I had 40/20 eyesight into my 40's; my father had perfect pitch. Part of it may be genetic differences; but I think a lot of it is that even people with high sensitive potential for what's considered extraordinary cognition are conditioned out of it.

Do you know/have any opinion about James's book on religious experiences? Here's a passage that I happened upon more or less at random but which seems relevant in which James compares conversion to psychological maturation. Is anything detailed below have parallels in your own experience? (I added a couple paragraph breaks that are not in the text.)

"Formed associations of ideas and habits are usually factors of retardation in such changes of equilibrium. New information, however acquired, plays an accelerating part in the changes; and the slow mutation of our instincts and propensities, under the 'unimaginable touch of time' has an enormous influence. Moreover, all these influences may work subconsciously or half unconsciously. And when you get a Subject in whom the subconscious life -- of which I must speak more fully soon -- is largely developed, and in whom motives habitually ripen in silence, you get a case of which you can never give a full account, and in which, both to the Subject and the onlookers, there may appear an element of marvel. Emotional occasions, especially violent ones, are extremely potent in precipitating mental rearrangements. The sudden and explosive ways in which love, jealousy, guilt, fear, remorse, or anger can seize upon one are known to everybody. Hope, happiness, security, resolve, emotions characteristic of conversion, can be equally explosive. And emotions that come in this explosive way seldom leave things as they found them.

"Jouffroy is an example: 'Down this slope it was that my intelligence had glided, and little by little it had got far from its first faith. But this melancholy revolution had not taken place in the broad daylight of my consciousness; too many scruples, too many guides and sacred affections had made it dreadful to me, so that I was far from avowing to myself the progress it had made. It had gone on in silence, by an involuntary elaboration of which I was not the accomplice; and although I had in reality long ceased to be a Christian, yet, in the innocence of my intention, I should have shuddered to suspect it, and thought it calumny had I been accused of such a falling away.' Then follows Jouffroy's account of his counter-conversion, quoted above on p. 173. One hardly needs examples; but for love, see p. 176, note, for fear, p. 161; for remorse, see Othello after the murder; for anger see Lear after Cordelia's first speech to him; for resolve, see p. 175 (J. Foster case).

"Here is a pathological case in which guilt was the feeling that suddenly exploded: 'One night I was seized on entering bed with a rigor, such as Swedenborg describes as coming over him with a sense of holiness, but over me with a sense of guilt. During that whole night I lay under the influnce of the rigor, and from its inception I felt that I was under the curse of God. I have never done one act of duty in my life -- sins against God and man beginning as far as my memory goes back -- a wildcat in human shape.'

"In his recent work on the Psychology of Religion, Professor Starbuck of California has shown by a statistical inquiry how closely parallel in its manifestations the ordinary 'conversion' which occurs in young people brought up in evangelical circles is to that growth into a larger spiritual life which is a normal phase of adolescence in every class of human beings. The age is the same, falling usually between fourteen and seventeen. The symptoms are the same, -- sense of incompleteness and imperfection; brooding, depression, morbid introspection, and sense of sin; anxiety about the hereafter; distress over doubts, and the like. And the result is the same -- a happy relief and objectivity, as the confidence in self gets greater through the adjustment of the faculties to the wider outlook. In spontaneous religious awakening, apart from revivalistic examples, and in the ordinary storm and stress and moulting-time of adolescence, we also may meet with mystical experiences, astonishing the subjects by their suddenness, just as in revivalistic conversion. The analogy, in fact, is complete; and Starbuck's conclusion as to these ordinary youthful conversions would seem to be the only sound one: Conversion is in its essence a normal adolescent phenomenon, incidental to the passage from the child's small universe to the wider intellectual and spiritual life of maturity.

Yeah, well, the experiences that ended my atheism were in my 30's.

" 'Theology,' says Dr. Starbuck, 'takes the adolescent tendencies and builds upon them; it sees that the essential thing in adolescent growth is bringing the person out of childhood into the new life of maturity and personal insight. It accordingly brings those means to bear which will intensify the normal tendencies. It shortens up the period of duration of storm and stress.' The conversion phenomena of 'conviction of sin' last, by this investigator's statistics, about one fifth as long as the periods of adolescent storm and stress phenomena of which he also got statistics, but they are very much more intense. Bodily accompaniments, loss of sleep and appetite, for example, are much more frequent in them. 'The essential distinction appears to be that conversion intensifies but shortens the period by bringing the person to a definite crisis.' "

http://bit.ly/gQ4vh5 [a Virginia.edu etext site]

###

I can only speak to my own experiences, but they don't appear to match up with those described above.

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GHS wrote: "My most extraordinary inner experience had nothing to do with God or religion. I have been candid about my drug use before, both on OL and other forums, so there is nothing revelatory about this story, except the details."

I am very surprised. Do you discuss the reasons for your drug use somewhere in the forums? Can you provide a link?

I can't recall if I have discussed that aspect or not. In any case, I am pushing a difficult deadline, and now is not a good time for me to be taking an unpleasant stroll down memory lane.

Although drugs contributed greatly to the crisis that set the context for my story, they were not a factor in the experience itself; i.e., it's not as if I did more drugs and felt better as a result. The remarkable physical and psychological changes that swept over me in a matter of seconds were more dramatic than any drug I had ever taken, and I have little doubt that my experience was the same as those Christians who have described the transformative experience of being "saved." Indeed, had I been religiously-minded to begin with, I would probably have attributed the cause of my experience to a supernatural agency.

With one exception that occurred in my early teens, I have never had a cathartic experience -- and this is essentially what we are dealing with here -- that was so intense. Granted, there were some memorable orgasms, and I may even have shouted "Oh, God!" during some of them, but I don't know if they count. :lol:

George, just for the record, my own experiences have had nothing to do with ingestion of mind, consciousness, or mood altering chemicals. One of them may have been triggered by a natural physiological condition involving hyperketosis and dehydration -- conditions traditionally present in "40 days in the desert" or in the thin air of Mount Sinai.

While a very young and very devout Christian, I would occasionally awake during the middle of the night and see Jesus standing next to my bed. Complete with halo and a white robe, he looked exactly like a standard painting I had seen countless times. I remember wondering when Jesus posed for the portrait and who painted it. :huh:

Ghs

Psychics often report -- and I can reify from my own experiences -- that a lot of extraordinary communication is the triggering of stored memories. Repetitions of these triggerings create associations which become a symbolic "vocabulary" so that eventually you can plug them into a context.

And this should not be surprising, since memory and sensory triggers can be duplicated by small electrical charges to various parts of the brain.

So, your seeing Jesus as portrayed in a painting you'd seen countless times would be precisely how someone attempting to communicate with you through extraordinary cognition might start the conversation.

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To someone like me who has led a,... err, comparatively unexciting life, the exchanges in this thread sound like some of the deeply profound thoughts that I have heard from others on occasions such as New Year's celebrations and similar events where "spirits" were plentiful :huh: (this is not a criticism).

Despite ample opportunities, I have not been the recipient of any visitations from otherworldly entities: spirits (other than the liquid kind), gods, demons, or even from UFOs :o:rolleyes::wacko: . These are yet other areas where my education has been sorely lacking.

However, since many of you have been so blessed, I was wondering :blush: if, in your next conversation with paranormal and/or extraterrestrial entities, you could suggest that they come on over to visit me? ;) I am evidently not high on their "to do" list, but you could appeal to their sense of altruistic aide to the unfortunate as a reason to stop by. :)

Much appreciated! Thanks!

If you're actually interested, stay off the booze and other chemicals that interfere with alpha states and REM sleep, which is when enhanced perception is possible. The moments just before you fall asleep can be a good place to start. Also, as an exercise, get into a completely and utterly blacked-out room, close your eyes, and imagine a screen of blinding sunlight coming from around the back of your head into your view. This can often act as a projection screen to see things photons hitting your retina can't trigger in your brain.

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I was an atheist from age 5 (when I first thought about it) through age 30. Then I started having higher intensity episodes of an ongoing series of extraordinary experiences. I hung on to my atheist worldview until experience forced me out of it.

Are my experiences convincing evidence to anyone but me? No. But the paradigms I've come up with do tend to refute some of the more common arguments against the possible existence of God and -- most interestingly, to me -- answer a bunch of questions that no religious scripture or tradition has ever been able to tackle. I'm sure you've read the Bible pretty much cover to cover. Find me where scripture tells us why God decided to create anything or anyone else in the first place. It's not there. But if I can present what Korzybski asked for -- an extensional definition of the word "God" -- and this definition tends to match up with some of the traditional usages of the word "God" -- isn't that useful?

I first read the Bible cover to cover while I was a sophomore in high school. It had a lot to do with starting me down the path to atheism. It was with good reason that for centuries the Catholic Church only permitted clerics to read the Bible, except with special permission.

I'm afraid I don't know what you mean by "an extensional definition" of "God."

As for your remarks about premonitions, out of body experiences, etc., I remain a resolute skeptic about such matters. This skepticism goes back well before my O'ist days to when I took up magic and studied it for nearly seven years. You will not find a more skeptical bunch than magicians, e.g., Houdini and, more recently, Randi. This skepticism comes from having witnessed, time and again, how easily people can be misled, whether by others or by themselves, and reach erroneous conclusions about events that seem patently obvious. Many attempts have been made to test paranormal claims under controlled conditions, but none that I know of has ever succeeded.

The workings of the subconscious, especially in highly intelligent and complex people, can bring about extraordinary experiences, including some valid insights. I have always been very interested in mystics -- not in the Randian sense, of course, but in the more accurate sense of people who believe they have directly experienced "God" or some transcendent reality. I find such people interesting because they tend to be very introspective, not because I agree with their conclusions. Of course, the classic work in this field is The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James. It is a fascinating read.

Ghs

George, Korzybski used "extensional" the way Rand would have said "ostensive."

What stage magicians can duplicate is utterly beside the point unless you're accusing me of attempting to promulgate deliberate fraud.

I won't debate whether my experiences were real. I conclude for what I consider good and sufficient reason they were as real as anything else I've experienced. Nobody has to believe me, but I'm not going to be talked out of it. It would be like demanding Winston Smith lie about the number of fingers being held up. I stand by what I experienced and share them with those who are interested in the possibility that what I took out of these experiences has utility to someone other than me.

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Since Gary York's interview with me, the full text of my book I Met God -- God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith -- has been posted beginning at http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/2009/12/i-met-god-god-without-religion-scripture-or-faith/.

That might act as an adequate "follow-up question."

But if you have any, I'm here.

To start off with the questions already posed:

"For example, WHY did God (allegedly) threaten to kill Schulman?"

The threat was withdrawn when I agreed to stop setting terms to God for my continued living.

Mr. Schulman,

Here is my list of questions. TIA for your reply.

1) WHY exactly did God threaten to kill you?

2) And how precisely did that threat manifest itself?

3) Did God speak to you?

4) If yes, what words did you hear? Was it "I'm going to kill you?"

5) You sad God put his hand on your heart. Did you feel intense pressure on your chest?

6) Or was it a general feeling of possibly being "annihilated"?

7) What exactly had you been doing in the hours before the experience? Were you awakened from sleep when you had the experience?

8) Had you ingested any mood/mind altering substances before the experience?

9) Did you have experience with meditation and certain breathing techniques?

[quoting Starbuckle] "(and why didn't Schulman call the police to report Him)?" (end quote)

I called paramedics. And if I had called the police to report that God was threatening me, I risked being committed for psychiatric observation. Given that likely outcome, making the call would have been crazy. :-)

10) What did you tell the paramedics?

11) Could they find any medical symptoms?

[quoting Starbuckle] "But my main question here is whether accepting the existence of God or accepting that he had had a "psychotic break" with reality were really Schulman's only reasonable alternatives when he experienced whatever it was that he experienced. Does a strong feeling that God (whatever his nature is said to be) is communicating with you constitute evidence for a God? Or does it mean only that you are experiencing something that you can't yet explain?" (end quote)

It wasn't a feeling, any more than having a conversation is "feeling." It was a full cognitive experience in which tons of perceptual and conceptual information was passed.

12) In what form was the information passed? Did it involve language, i. e. did you hear a voice speaking to you?

And I've spent over 13 years now examining the experience -- as well as both earlier and later ones -- testing it against the rest of my life experiences, and entering into discussions with others who want to challenge it. That appears to me a rational way of dealing with an extraordinary experience and set of perceptions.

ITA about the "rational" bit.

You speak about an experience you have had.

It is impossible to prove to others that you have had the experience (as it is imposible to prove to others what one has dreamed, one can only tell them about it).

It is also impossible for others to find out whether what you tell us really happened. Again, only you will know if this is the case.

So in order to enter into a discussion, one has to make the basic decision whether to believe you or not. I've decided to believe your story.

My gut feeling lets the scales lean more to that side. Again, it is a personal feeling only.

Believing your story does not imply that I also believe it was a god who contacted you, but I believe you did not make the story up, and really did have an experience where you had the feeling of entering into contact with a god figure.

Now when we speak of "rationality" in this context, the first thought which enters my mind is how strongly Ayn Rand rejected any and kind of faith as irrational.

Excerpt from your interview with Gary York: http://www.pulpless.com/jneil/glp_imetaynrand.html

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Interestingly, my disagreements with Objectivism as a formal philosophy are fairly minimal, partly because Rand never developed Objectivism into a full philosophical system. I find what she wrote to be true in its own context, but her context was too provincial and time-bound to encompass the possibility of an afterlife. Her dismissal of paranormal experience as sources of data about the real world negates the possibility of learning about additional continua beyond our conventional sensory experience, which is limited to local knowledge gained from our own bodily existence.

If I have more of a problem, it's not so much with Objectivism, per se, but with the cultish behavior of her admirers, who in their worship of Atlas Shrugged mirror Evangelical Christians' worship of the Bible. I also have a problem with Objectivist-influenced atheists who raise skepticism to the level of religious dogma.

But isn't the problem actually with Objectivism per se when you consider the premises on which this philosophy is based? For Objectivism is an explicitly atheistic philosophy. Atheism is one of the pillars Objectivism rests on.

Imo the gulf between Objectivism and any form of religious faith is so enormous that it is unbridgeable.

Rand was clear as a bell in her rejection of religious faith as irrational, so much in fact that she even presented what she cannot know as if she knew it, for she said "no supernatural dimension exists".

Trying to marry the premises of Objectivism with the premises of any faith in transcendence is as impossible as if one tried to marry the premises of Objectivism with those of Marxism.

Suppose there is a god and Ayn Rand got to know the god in an 'afterlife', she would have had to admit that the premises of her philosophy had been false, plain and simple. Rand would be the first to know the dramatic implication of that, since it was she herself who stressed time and again the importance of checking premises.

Imo it is impossible to save a philosophy whose founder has to realize that one of its root premises is false.

Excerpt from another interview you gave: http://www.pulpless.com/jneil/glp_imetaynrand.html

Maybe a year later [around 1980?] I [N. Schulman] phoned her [A. Rand] again. I don't know what set her off, but this phone call didn't last long. It ended with her telling me, "I despise all libertarians." Then after a pause, "Including you."

Those are the last words I ever heard from Ayn Rand.

Well. Those are the last words I heard from Ayn Rand while she was alive on earth. I've since run into Ayn Rand on the other side, in one of my dream-state crossings to the afterlife. She was a whole lot friendlier.

Next time you meet Ayn Rand "on the other side", if you would please ask her about the 'premise' thing. TIA. ;)

To Xray:

J. Neil Schulman: Since Gary York's interview with me, the full text of my book I Met God -- God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith -- has been posted beginning at http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/2009/12/i-met-god-god-without-religion-scripture-or-faith/.

That might act as an adequate "follow-up question."

But if you have any, I'm here.

To start off with the questions already posed:

"For example, WHY did God (allegedly) threaten to kill Schulman?"

"The threat was withdrawn when I agreed to stop setting terms to God for my continued living."

Mr. Schulman,

Here is my list of questions. TIA for your reply.

1) WHY exactly did God threaten to kill you?

I was making living my life conditional on demands I was making through prayers and attempts at psychic control. God wanted me to stop doing that, and telling me "I can take you now" was his way of shaking me loose from my demands.

(quote)

2) And how precisely did that threat manifest itself?

3) Did God speak to you?

4) If yes, what words did you hear? Was it "I'm going to kill you?"

5) You sad God put his hand on your heart. Did you feel intense pressure on your chest?

6) Or was it a general feeling of possibly being "annihilated"?

7) What exactly had you been doing in the hours before the experience? Were you awakened from sleep when you had the experience?

8) Had you ingested any mood/mind altering substances before the experience?

9) Did you have experience with meditation and certain breathing techniques?

(/quote)

Forgive me if my answer is "Read the book." I went to the trouble of documenting all these answers in detail there and since it's already published for free on the web and I've linked it, I really don't see the utility of reprinting the material in this forum, clogging it with pasted in text.

(quote)

quoting Starbuckle: "(and why didn't Schulman call the police to report Him)?"

"I called paramedics. And if I had called the police to report that God was threatening me, I risked being committed for psychiatric observation. Given that likely outcome, making the call would have been crazy. :-)"

10) What did you tell the paramedics?

11) Could they find any medical symptoms? (/quote)

No. They said I was perfectly health.

(quote)

quoting Starbuckle "But my main question here is whether accepting the existence of God or accepting that he had had a "psychotic break" with reality were really Schulman's only reasonable alternatives when he experienced whatever it was that he experienced. Does a strong feeling that God (whatever his nature is said to be) is communicating with you constitute evidence for a God? Or does it mean only that you are experiencing something that you can't yet explain?"

It wasn't a feeling, any more than having a conversation is "feeling." It was a full cognitive experience in which tons of perceptual and conceptual information was passed.

12) In what form was the information passed? Did it involve language, i. e. did you hear a voice speaking to you? (/quote)

Part of it was an enhancement of my cognitive abilities so I could perceive things in extraordinary ways. Part of it sounded an awful lot like a conversation, except that it was all inside my head in my own voice.

(quote)And I've spent over 13 years now examining the experience -- as well as both earlier and later ones -- testing it against the rest of my life experiences, and entering into discussions with others who want to challenge it. That appears to me a rational way of dealing with an extraordinary experience and set of perceptions.

ITA about the "rational" bit.

You speak about an experience you have had.

It is impossible to prove to others that you have had the experience (as it is imposible to prove to others what one has dreamed, one can only tell them about it).

It is also impossible for others to find out whether what you tell us really happened. Again, only you will know if this is the case.

So in order to enter into a discussion, one has to make the basic decision whether to believe you or not. I've decided to believe your story.

My gut feeling lets the scales lean more to that side. Again, it is a personal feeling only.

Believing your story does not imply that I also believe it was a god who contacted you, but I believe you did not make the story up, and really did have an experience where you had the feeling of entering into contact with a god figure.(/quote)

If I can quote John Denver in the movie Oh God!, "Well he thinks he's God ... and I'm in no position to argue!"

(quote)Now when we speak of "rationality" in this context, the first thought which enters my mind is how strongly Ayn Rand rejected any and kind of faith as irrational.

Excerpt from your interview with Gary York: http://www.pulpless.com/jneil/glp_imetaynrand.html

"J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Interestingly, my disagreements with Objectivism as a formal philosophy are fairly minimal, partly because Rand never developed Objectivism into a full philosophical system. I find what she wrote to be true in its own context, but her context was too provincial and time-bound to encompass the possibility of an afterlife. Her dismissal of paranormal experience as sources of data about the real world negates the possibility of learning about additional continua beyond our conventional sensory experience, which is limited to local knowledge gained from our own bodily existence.

"If I have more of a problem, it's not so much with Objectivism, per se, but with the cultish behavior of her admirers, who in their worship of Atlas Shrugged mirror Evangelical Christians' worship of the Bible. I also have a problem with Objectivist-influenced atheists who raise skepticism to the level of religious dogma.(/quote)

But isn't the problem actually with Objectivism per se when you consider the premises on which this philosophy is based? For Objectivism is an explicitly atheistic philosophy. Atheism is one of the pillars Objectivism rests on."

Imo the gulf between Objectivism and any form of religious faith is so enormous that it is unbridgeable.

Rand was clear as a bell in her rejection of religious faith as irrational, so much in fact that she even presented what she cannot know as if she knew it, for she said "no supernatural dimension exists".

(/quote)

Rand's objections were taking things on faith without proof -- but she well knew that things axiomatic don't require proof since they are the foundation for offers of proof. That's the reason the subtitle of my book "I Met God" is "God without religion, scripture, or faith."

As for supernatural dimensions -- the word supernatural is daunting, particularly when indistinguishable from paradigms in modern physics like multiple continua and a "brane" with 11 dimensions.

(quote)

Trying to marry the premises of Objectivism with the premises of any faith in transcendence is as impossible as if one tried to marry the premises of Objectivism with those of Marxism.(/quote)

I agree. But I'm not an advocate of taking anything on mere faith.

(quote)Suppose there is a god and Ayn Rand got to know the god in an 'afterlife', she would have had to admit that the premises of her philosophy had been false, plain and simple. Rand would be the first to know the dramatic implication of that, since it was she herself who stressed time and again the importance of checking premises.

Imo it is impossible to save a philosophy whose founder has to realize that one of its root premises is false.

Excerpt from another interview you gave: http://www.pulpless.com/jneil/glp_imetaynrand.html

(quote)Maybe a year later [around 1980?] I [N. Schulman] phoned her [A. Rand] again. I don't know what set her off, but this phone call didn't last long. It ended with her telling me, "I despise all libertarians." Then after a pause, "Including you."

Those are the last words I ever heard from Ayn Rand.

Well. Those are the last words I heard from Ayn Rand while she was alive on earth. I've since run into Ayn Rand on the other side, in one of my dream-state crossings to the afterlife. She was a whole lot friendlier.

Next time you meet Ayn Rand "on the other side", if you would please ask her about the 'premise' thing. TIA. ;)

(/quote)

I'm afraid "I am only an egg" in these matters, to quote Heinlein's Valentine Michael Smith. I have a hard time initiating any of these phenomena, and limited control to navigate to particular destinations. In fact, I've woken myself up from more than one lucid dream by working too hard at attempting control.

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What stage magicians can duplicate is utterly beside the point unless you're accusing me of attempting to promulgate deliberate fraud.

I wasn't accusing you of that at all. Nor was my point about what magicians can duplicate. Magicians are students of human credulity, in effect. This is how they make their living, so they know from experience that things are often not what they seem. This doesn't mean that they regard all reports of paranormal experience as fraudulent. Some are fraudulent and some are sincere, but this is a distinction without a difference in this context.

Here is an interesting discussion between magician James Randi and Richard Dawkins.

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Ghs

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Perhaps pantheism can bridge the gap. Make God reality itself, in all its manifestations.

--Brant

anyway, I don't like "atheist" as any kind of word at all

Then why call it God?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Perhaps pantheism can bridge the gap. Make God reality itself, in all its manifestations.

--Brant

anyway, I don't like "atheist" as any kind of word at all

Then why call it God?

To undercut religion. I respect reality, I don't worship it. The religionists worship God, which is silly. I'd not say I believed in God, I'd just say I was a pantheist.

--Brant

cutting the legs out from under

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Perhaps pantheism can bridge the gap. Make God reality itself, in all its manifestations.

--Brant

anyway, I don't like "atheist" as any kind of word at all

Then why call it God?

To undercut religion. I respect reality, I don't worship it. The religionists worship God, which is silly. I'd not say I believed in God, I'd just say I was a pantheist.

--Brant

cutting the legs out from under

It's interesting that in one respect my experiences match up with ones described in the Bible. When I met God he was completely uninterested in being worshiped. I don't recall God demanding worship in conversations with Abraham, Noah, or Moses. The story of the demand for the sacrifice of Isaac has always struck me that God was hoping that Abraham would tell him to go fuck himself, but when Abraham appeared lacking in the moral integrity to do so, the story as I interpret it would mean that God had so far failed to cultivate a being with an independent mind ... and he had more work to do. Perhaps some indication of that moral advancement and independence of mind is when Abraham later on argues with God about the annihilation of two cities. Abraham didn't win that argument but at least he argued that time.

Later on, Moses not only argues with God, who wants to commit mass killing, but wins the argument and talks God out of it ... and remarkably Exodus 32:14 uses the phrase "And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people."

The reason I'm bringing this up is that the Bible describes God as having a fully human personality, which was my experience as well, for what it's worth. The difference is the text of the Bible is written by authors anonymous and long gone, and I'm right here right now, writing under my own name.

I've only met one God as far as I know. If there are more, apparently I'm of no interest to them.

Edited by J. Neil Schulman
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I just feel Blessed. And as far as use of that term, say, go on about it as much as you wish. This kind of state, or, maybe you might want to call it a state that one thinks is possible--it is acquirable.

Um -- how? Other than to do what Ken Wilber suggests and dedicate my life to intense meditation for the next twenty or thirty years, with no guarantee that I'll live that long and no guarantee that I'll have any sort of transcendent experiences even if I do that...

I'm inclined to think that those who have done research on temporal lobe epilepsy and its relationship to religious experiences may be on the right track. Some people's brains may be more likely hard-wired for these kinds of experiences than those of others, and if you ain't got it, you ain't gonna have a religious experience no matter how much time you spend in the lotus position.

I'd LOVE to have a transcendent experience.

Judith

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I'd LOVE to have a transcendent experience.

.

Judith

I had one. It did not increase my income that much. In fact it did not increase my income at all.

Unless transcendental experiences are reproducible at will they are not all that useful

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Perhaps pantheism can bridge the gap. Make God reality itself, in all its manifestations.

--Brant

anyway, I don't like "atheist" as any kind of word at all

Then why call it God?

To undercut religion. I respect reality, I don't worship it. The religionists worship God, which is silly. I'd not say I believed in God, I'd just say I was a pantheist.

--Brant

cutting the legs out from under

It's interesting that in one respect my experiences match up with ones described in the Bible. When I met God he was completely uninterested in being worshiped. I don't recall God demanding worship in conversations with Abraham, Noah, or Moses. The story of the demand for the sacrifice of Isaac has always struck me that God was hoping that Abraham would tell him to go fuck himself, but when Abraham appeared lacking in the moral integrity to do so, the story as I interpret it would mean that God had so far failed to cultivate a being with an independent mind ... and he had more work to do. Perhaps some indication of that moral advancement and independence of mind is when Abraham later on argues with God about the annihilation of two cities. Abraham didn't win that argument but at least he argued that time.

Later on, Moses not only argues with God, who wants to commit mass killing, but wins the argument and talks God out of it ... and remarkably Exodus 32:14 uses the phrase "And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people."

The reason I'm bringing this up is that the Bible describes God as having a fully human personality, which was my experience as well, for what it's worth. The difference is the text of the Bible is written by authors anonymous and long gone, and I'm right here right now, writing under my own name.

I've only met one God as far as I know. If there are more, apparently I'm of no interest to them.

I think this kind of thing is merely justifying and re-enforcing patriarchy in an agriculture-based tribal society carried forward in time by custom and inertia as much as by any social and psychological need or necessity.

--Brant

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I've only met one God as far as I know. If there are more, apparently I'm of no interest to them.

Didn't the Epicureans believe that the gods, if they exist at all, did not have much (if any) interest in Man?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I've only met one God as far as I know. If there are more, apparently I'm of no interest to them.

Didn't the Epicureans believe that the gods, if they exist at all, did not have much (if any) interest in Man?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens," which means "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain." (Talbot, in: The Maid of Orleans)

Friedrich Schiller

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Let's not forget that God can change. This is the explicit premise of Carl Jung's Answer to Job, and the implicit premise of Jack Miles' God: A Biography, both of which are extraordinary reads. There is also biblical warrant for this, although those verses make many Christians very unhappy. Some of the problems that typically arise when talking about "God" are a product of our assumption that the God who challenged Abraham is the "same" God--in every respect--as described by Mr. Schulman, or, more signficantly, who decided that Jesus was necessary.

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Let's not forget that God can change. This is the explicit premise of Carl Jung's Answer to Job, and the implicit premise of Jack Miles' God: A Biography, both of which are extraordinary reads. There is also biblical warrant for this, although those verses make many Christians very unhappy. Some of the problems that typically arise when talking about "God" are a product of our assumption that the God who challenged Abraham is the "same" God--in every respect--as described by Mr. Schulman, or, more signficantly, who decided that Jesus was necessary.

I think that God having a learning curve is perhaps the most important character trait one can glean from reading the Bible. It not only means that God is capable of making mistakes and learning from them -- which makes God very human -- but it also means that God's type of consciousness is not categorically different from our own, which strongly suggests that being God-like in cognitive powers is what we get to be also if we work at it long enough.

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