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


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Atheism is not a premise of Objectivism. Objectivism has no negative premises for the same reason you cannot prove a negative. Atheism is consequent to the lack of evidence for a Supreme Being. Anecdotal evidence might be good for suggesting a line of inquiry into certain phenomena, real or alleged to be real.

--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?

WSS wrote: "...Neil says that atheism is not in any way a premise of the philosophy, and that to so assert is a lie."

First, let me point out parenthetically and uselessly that a lie and a misunderstanding are not the same thing.

Atheism is an absence of belief in gods. Rand's metaphysics starts with "existence exists," rejecting any primacy of consciousness. The working out of the implications of the axioms implies rejection of theism, since theism (including Neil's theism) in various ways violates the principles of identity and causality. If there were a widespread belief in a species of sentient Martians, but no evidence whatever that they exist, you might have a doctrine of a-Martianism, but it would only be an application of a rationalist world view and of reason, not a basic premise of that rationalist philosophy.

Neil intimates in one of his recent posts that I mischaracterized his act of faith by calling it an act of faith. He explains: "But both prior and subsequent events gave me benchmarks for testing the experience as real or unreal; and a long period of my attempting to negate it as real, and failing to do so, finally convinced me it was real. Having satisfied myself that it's real, I reject and -- frankly, I'm insulted by -- the charge that it requires an act of faith for me to decide an event which I've thoroughly tested against my Objectivist-inclusive premises was real."

I hope I have been clear in indicating that I think Neil's experience was real; I don't think it was or could have been an experience of God, however.

The "testing against Objectivist premises" stuff is so much nonsense. We know from the memoir, and certainly from this thread, that Neil's professed Objectivist-style rationalism has crumpled in certain key respects, both theoretically and in practice. Consider, for example, his unargued-for claims that the God who body-occupied him is "everlasting," that human beings are splinters or offshoots of God created by him, that maybe there are multiple universes which explain apparent miracles/paranormalities, etc. What is the evidence for any of this? What was the "testing"? That he has had experiences that he takes to be excursions into the paranormal?

All these declarations are arbitrary and even insulting. I'm insulted by them. I've never been so insulted. The evidence is elusive. I've tried to pin Neil down about the evidence, any evidence, for the multiple universes that his theology relies upon and gotten nowhere. Assuming that the God-being that Neil "perceived" announced a laundry list of theistic tenets about his nature and the nature of humanity, fish and everything, that announcement itself constitutes no evidence whatever.

If Neil-God has a specific identity and took over Neil's body by some means or other, what was the means of the takeover? Or is God a purely "spiritual" entity, with no matter-energy as a perceptible substrate? Is he the queen of the human hive-mind--a hive-mind, however, with no subspace radio receivers needed to link the hive-units?

Neil says that participants in this discussion (or some of us) are "dogmatic cultists." He writes: "I have found more dogmatic cultists in this discussion than people with scientific curiosity. I certainly have found few I regard as an Objectivist in the school of Ayn Rand and the Brandens. They never regarded the existence of God as impossible and atheism as a primary tenet of Objectivism. Their atheism never went further than demanding that faith not be the basis for concluding the existence of God, and that God not be undefinable or unknowable, and that the supernatural not contradict the natural or known laws of existence and identity, and that if extrasensory perception existed concepts built from it would not contradict knowledge gained from the other senses."

Well, what is the definition of a "dogmatic cultist"? What is the "cult," here? What is the "dogma"? What are the manifestations of the dogmatic cultism? Polemics?

If the only way to avoid the charge of "dogmatic cultist" is to accept as possible every kind of claim whatever, including claims about recalcitrantly undetectable entities with attributes that are in fact impossible (however vehemently "reported" to be possible by persons in a physical-trauma-induced nontrance state), then "dogmatism" and "cultism" are pretty much wiped out as useful concepts. In that case, the only epistemological alternatives become: blanket skepticism and/or limitless credulity on the one hand, and "dogmatic cultism" on the other.

Neil's recollection of Ayn Rand's perspective is faulty. When did Rand ever suggest or imply that a realm of the "supernatural" might be metaphysically possible so long as it did not contradict the law of identity? (Any entity limited to a specific nature and specific means of acting would be just another part of the natural order, not somehow above or beyond it; but Neil wants to have his miracles and eat them too.) And when did Ayn Rand ever suggest or imply that "extrasensory" perception, if it existed, must not contradict knowledge agained from "other" senses? Rand would not have framed the issues in the way Neil suggests, and certainly never did in any of her published work. In any case, it is a little strange that Neil charges his interlocutors with "dogmatic cultism" and then intimates that they are inadequately cultistic insofar as they fail to fall fully into line with his fictional rendition of Rand's views.

Only a physical means can make possible given perceptions of the world--some sort of physical process of gathering sensory data and conveying that data to our awareness. If there were a sixth sense, it too would have to involve physical means of making the outer world accessible to our awareness. We are able to sense the locations of parts of our bodies in space without benefit of touch, sound, sight, smell or taste; but our means of sensing relative limb position, whether or not it involves what we can call a "sixth sense," is not _extra_sensory.

The psychics and their ilk yabble about accomplishing various feats of cognition or physical manipulation without benefit of any actual means of interacting with the world, any means of knowing or manipulating. They allegedly "pre-cognize" future events without any physical means of being aware of those events or of any indirect but definite evidence of those events. They allegedly bend spoons by gentle stroking of them and beaming deep thoughts at them. It is mental power alone--sheer consciousness or awareness as such--which is supposed to accomplish these dynamic and astonishing effects.

Such claims are regularly and effectively debunked by superhero James Randi and others with good reason; the claims presuppose that entities don't act in accordance with their identities; but of course entities always do. (There once was a guy named Yoda, claimed he could life spaceships out of swamps by sheer mind power--the Force, he called it--and he even put on a very persuasive demonstration. Turned out that the whole spectacle was nothing but special effects.)

The same unmediated "mental power" is the implied means by which God tenanted Neil and by which Neil "met" God. (By Neil's own account, no physical takeover was observed by the other guy in the room when Neil became God-suffused.) God is an entity without any specific identity that can be known by the perceptual means that are the only means (in conjunction with tools and thinking) available to human beings engaging in scientific inquiry about the world. Neil "reports" that his God, unlike some other Gods, can't do certain things, and proposes that these inabilities separate him from the admittedly impossible God who is supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent. But although Neil-God is not all-powerful, what Neil-God can do, he can do limitlessly, and without necessity of causal process. For example, Neil-God is "everlasting," without any beginning. He is or possesses a consciousness that did not arise by any physical means; it was just always there.

What is the evidence for this fantastic assertion?

Edited by Starbuckle
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Rand's metaphysics starts with "existence exists," rejecting any primacy of consciousness.

False dichotomy, since there is no reason to negate that that which Exists has always had the attribute of consciousness. The assumption that consciousness arrived later to the party is nothing more than an unproved hypothesis, and on this assertion I'm perfectly entitled to demand compelling proof. Since life has never been created in a lab out of non-life, and human-level self-consciousness has never been duplicated in a lab, the assertion that consciousness is a product of evolution rests where it was when first offered well over a century ago: untested and unproved.

By the way, Rand, herself, denied accepting evolution as a proved theory.

The working out of the implications of the axioms implies rejection of theism, since theism (including Neil's theism) in various ways violates the principles of identity and causality.

Now you're claiming for yourself omniscience regarding identity and causality? That's what is required to assert one particular view as the only possibly true one.

The "testing against Objectivist premises" stuff is so much nonsense. We know from the memoir, and certainly from this thread, that Neil's professed Objectivist-style rationalism has crumpled in certain key respects, both theoretically and in practice. Consider, for example, his unargued-for claims that the God who body-occupied him is "everlasting," that human beings are splinters or offshoots of God created by him, that maybe there are multiple universes which explain apparent miracles/paranormalities, etc. What is the evidence for any of this?

See my Message 537

Posted 31 December 2010 - 10:38 AM

Astronomers Find First Evidence Of Other Universes

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26132/?ref=rss

and also

http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-scientists-evidence-universes.html

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While I don't think it matters how many universes there are--we've got our hands full with this one--but if non-existence doesn't (actually) exist then existence must be infinite within itself--that is, it's inescapable.

--Brant

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Consider, for example [ . . . ] that maybe there are multiple universes which explain apparent miracles/paranormalities, etc. What is the evidence for any of this?

See my Message 537

Posted 31 December 2010 - 10:38 AM

Astronomers Find First Evidence Of Other Universes

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26132/?ref=rss

and also

http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-scientists-evidence-universes.html

For those who haven't followed the original links, the evidence is quite interesting, but the jury is, as they say, still out. Before we can accept this stuff as a warrant for Neil's exuberant certainty about a god that operates in multiple universes, we should probably wait for him to explain the evidence and how it offers support for his theories about god, and how god operates between and among the varied universes. It's quite a stretch between the one and the other, of course -- and of course the two papers say nothing about Starbuckle's question to the reality of "apparent miracles/paranormalities."

Beyond that, as one might expect, the headlines don't tell the whole story . . . here's a couple of paragraphs from the Physics.org story:

In the most recent study on pre-Big Bang science posted at arXiv.org, a team of researchers from the UK, Canada, and the US, Stephen M. Feeney, et al, have revealed that they have discovered four statistically unlikely circular patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The researchers think that these marks could be “bruises” that our universe has incurred from being bumped four times by other universes. If they turn out to be correct, it would be the first evidence that universes other than ours do exist.

[ . . . ]

Still, the scientists acknowledge that it is rather easy to find a variety of statistically unlikely properties in a large dataset like the CMB. The researchers emphasize that more work is needed to confirm this claim, which could come in short time from the Planck satellite, which has a resolution three times better than that of WMAP [ (where the current data comes from), as well as an order of magnitude greater sensitivity. Nevertheless, they hope that the search for bubble collisions could provide some insight into the history of our universe, whether or not the collisions turn out to be real.

[ . . . ]

This is the second study in the past month that has used CMB data to search for what could have occurred before the Big Bang. In the first study, Roger Penrose and Vahe Gurzadyan found concentric circles with lower-than-average temperature variation in the CMB, which could be evidence for a cyclic cosmology in which Big Bangs occur over and over.

Not to burst Neil's bubble, but the 'evidence' is as yet only an intriguing finding, subject to confirmation/falsification by imagery from the Planck satellite -- and of course, subject to some rigourous critical evaluations, which have proliferated in the physic community.

One reasonably accessible story in the New York Times puts the paper highlighted by Neil and the earlier Penrose/Gurzadyan paper into perspective. I suggest a gander at that precis to those who want some familiarity with the kinds of 'evidence' Neil is quick to accept.

I do thank Neil for coming back to this thread, and for enduring the backstage communication with me. Neil, I suggest you put up a separate thread to introduce the book by Donald D Hoffman that you recommended to me. It would allow us to discuss a sort of 'universal consciousness' that doesn't entail god concepts.

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Neil,

1) Ketosis/dehydration induced 'vision quests' have been happening for millenia.

2) People would believe you in a heartbeat if you offered even a shred of a profound insight into a previously intractable problem or mystery. If you mind melded with the Almighty, where's the insight?

3) You a science-fiction author that financially profits from fiction.

Seriously, rationally, what should we conclude??

Bob

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It is in an interesting phenomenon that the debunkers of myths are often blamed by the believers.

Here's another fraudster exposed: the religious guru Sai Baba, who his believers think has the superatural power to e. g. materialize "holy ash" in his hands, which he then strews on the believers' heads. But the primitive trick Sai Baba uses is crushing a little pill filled with ash between his fingers.

This and other tricks of the liar Sai Baba exposed here:

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=Yblhsr1O4IQ

Not my hero, Baba!

--Brant

sob

Together with the videos debunking the fraudster, there was a (now closed) blog.

Interesting to observe that, instead of thanking the debunkers, some believers attacked them, asking for the videos to be removed because they insulted their belief .

So instead of being ashamed of their own gullibility and outraged at the fraudster who insulted their intelligence by using incredibly primitive tricks to suggest he can materialize "holy ash" from his hand or a "golden lingam" from his mouth, they want to kill the messenger istead.

Classic case of a sacrificium intellectus to keep the faith. In the conflict between reason and faith, it is reason which has to go because in the mind of these believers, faith is considered to be the higher value.

I can't understand why Neil S. Schulman is so critical of someone like James Randi, an another unmasker of fraudsters, like e. g. Uri Geller.

To me, J. Randi is the epitome of a rational man in is approach to these things, therefore shouldn't Neil - who says of himself that he has not abandoned rational thinking - be grateful for individuals like Randi whose rational faculties enable them to expose such trickery?

Moreover, the substantive points in my post are obviously unaffected by dropping the word "trance" in favor of some other word to label Neil's temporarily abnormal state of consciousness. So lamenting my deployment of that word seems diversionary.

I agree. It is strictly speaking, not really a question of terminology. What often happens in discusions of this type is that participans of both parties land in some linguistic sideshow where the meanings of various terms are beig vigourously debated, while the core of the issue gets lost in it all.

I'm asking myself what we could do to avoid such sideshows this time.

In order to establish a common epistemological denominator for all participants, I'll start with some simple statements which imo can be regarded as true by all participants.

A: There exist individuals who claim to have had an encounter with a god.

B: These claimed encounters encounters with a god are either

1) real

2) not real

As for 2) not real: there exist two possiblites:

2') the indvidual lied, i. e. made up a story knowing it to be false.

2'') the individual was, for whatever reason, deluded.

2'') comprises all kinds of delusions, and whether one calls them psychotic breaks, hallucinations, figments, etc. is a secondary issue.

So my question to Neil is: do you agree that that all claimed god encounters fall in one of these sections:

1) real encounter

2) not-real encounter:

2') made-up story 2'') delusion

Where would you place, going by your gut feeling, Joan of Arc's claimed god encounter?

Edited by Xray
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Neil writes, "Now you're claiming for yourself omniscience regarding identity and causality? That's what is required to assert one particular view as the only possibly true one."

Huh? I don't have any "one particular view" of what the nature of an entity must be; except that whatever its nature is, it is constrained by that nature. Everybody who understands that to exist is to be something is thereby "omniscient" about the fact that everything that exists must be what it is, not also something else.

Theism has historically always been an announcer of miracles; gods hurl the thunder bolts, Christs turn water into wine or bread into fish or fish into beefsteak, etc. Neil states that the miracles he reports aren't miracles. But the events he describes violate the identities of things just like the miracles of yore. What's the difference, except that he perpentually appends unverifiable "maybes" about unperceivable causal processes to his reports of miracles in order to endow his miracles with a gloss of pseudo-naturalistic respectability?

I don't think I need to add anything to Scherk's observations about the post by Neil in which Neil points to a couple of papers whose authors point to some anamolous data and say "maybe this is evidence of other universes," except to note that this is more of the maybe+maybe+maybe piling-up methodology that GHS dispatched above in a penultimate post.

Maybe Jesus had a water-to-wine converter. Maybe he had access to a molecular-rearranger machine. Molecules are just atoms, and atoms are just neutrons, protons and elections. Maybe the Jesus doppelganger in the more technologically advanced society of Earth-N in one of the other universes loaned the Earth-1 Jesus the subatomic-particle rearranger. Maybe this, maybe that, maybe the other. How does the compilation of unsubstantiated maybes for which no evidence whatever is set forth advance the discussion?

Whatever the Neil-God's (identity-violating) nature is supposed to be, Neil's own nature is not the same as that alleged nature. So how did Neil become God for the eight-hour stretch? Sans pseudo-naturalistic gloss, it can only be read as an identity-violating miracle. Or, reinstating the gloss: no, it wasn't a miracle...but the naturalistic process by which it occurred is utterly beyond our ken, as well as being utterly undectable by anybody else in the room. God, qua entity, is thus extremely powerful and masterly...yet so whispy and weak, so non-existent-like, that his arrival and departure leave no evidentiary traces whatever. Am I really pretending to omniscience if I note that the second alternative is as arbitrary, as galumphingly and belligerently impervious to understanding in naturalistic causal terms, as the first?

However, if we define "God" as a trauma-evoked alteration of NEil's own consciousness, the whole phony mystery is dispelled immediately. Brad and perhaps others at the time of the mind-mulch can doubtless attest to Neil's depleted physical state; and, presumably, had a doctor examined him, that doctor could have attested to his condition in more specific medical or scientific terms. Neil's own testimony about it is credible, because nothing about getting sick is inconsistent with human nature. There is an overwhelming, endless supply of evidence that organisms are not the same as invulnerable robots, and that the health of organisms is not sustained regardless of circumstances. Evidence. Great stuff.

Edited by Starbuckle
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Atheism is not a premise of Objectivism. Objectivism has no negative premises for the same reason you cannot prove a negative. Atheism is consequent to the lack of evidence for a Supreme Being. Anecdotal evidence might be good for suggesting a line of inquiry into certain phenomena, real or alleged to be real.

This may apply in the courtroom where the prosecution has to prove that the defendant did it, but doesn't one prove negatives quite often in everyday life? For example, when Jane tells John the butter is in the frigde, John can't see any butter there and tells Jane to look for herself if she doesn't believe him. John opens the fridge door and says to Jane: "Hereby I prove to you the non-existence of butter in this fridge!"

(Or the non-existenc of cookies in the jar which was full a few hours before ...) :)

Neil replied that it is the ridicule that annoyed him, not the non-acceptance, and that George was "denying the Objectivist premises we share."

That stumped me, of course, so I asked, "Which premises has he denied? A basic Objectivist premise like Atheism?"

Which point reveals me as sitting backwards on the horse, since Neil says that atheism is not in any way a premise of the philosophy, and that to so assert is a lie.

Of course atheism is an Objectivist premise, and all attempts at trying to marry theism with Objecitivism are a mere exercises in futility.

That Neil is finding it so hard to abandon the principles of Objectivism can be understood though: The human psyche is sensitive and vulnerable when it comes to constructing one's "sense" in life, therefore one doesn't just ditch a philosophy, ideology or religion one has lived with for decades as one would do with a worn-out shoe which does not fit anymore.

Some kind soul has put together some excerpts from Rand's TV appearances with Phil Donohue and Tom Snyder -- where she speaks of faith and reason, god and atheism. I am hoping another kind soul with a top-drawer grasp of Objectivism can tell us where atheism actually fits in Objectivism, if not as premise . . .

That's quite an epistemological blunder Rand made here in asserting that because one cannot prove the existence of a god, it means that god does not exist. Too bad the interviewer let her run with it.

For Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence. For example, it would be a non-sequitur if a fish deep down in the ocean concluded that just because he can't see any evidence of a sky and cannot prove existence of a such sky, this sky does not exist.

Like Ghs said in his book, failure to prove the positive does not automatically establish the negative. All that talk about "you don't prove a negative" does not justify epistemological non-sequiturs like claiming non-existence of something just because our limited mind may not be able to grasp it.

Straightforward reasoning suggests you had an abnormal (for you) psychological experience. You concede in several places that the most reasonable explanation for your mind-meld is psychological:

My most powerful communication was during a state of shallow breathing due to nasal and broncchial congestion, physical dehydration, and ketosis

One can say that I’m going through a psychotic episode at this point. Certainly the physiological conditions for a psychotic episode — ketosis, dehydration, lack of sleep — all of these various things can add up and say that I’m having a break with reality
.

-- you point to the problem that confounds you:

But the problem is that I’m not experiencing it as a break with reality.

So, bearing in mind that you concede that the circumstances suggest a psychological explanation, the only thing that convinced you of reality was a leap of faith.

What you ultimately are asking for is that those who accept the psychological explanation put it aside in favour of faith in you.

We can't do that, brother. We atheists don't accept your faith. And as you say, that is only a problem for you . . . that is the poignant reality.

Welcome back to OL.

Welcome back from me too, Neil.

My question to you: Can you rule out that what you percevied as as a god encounter could have been based on delusion due to the effects on the mind which you described fairly detailed in your book (dehydration, ketosis etc)?

Nowhere does she (Rand] assert that God can not exist. She only says it is irrational to accept the existence of God on faith without proof.

Rand answered with "That's right". to the interviewer's question who asked her if she concluded there is no god because the existence of such being cannot be proved.

Now, Rand did say no one can prove the existence of God. She was half correct. No one can prove the existence of God to someone else.

But one cannot prove the existence of a god to oneself either.

I do not accept the existence of God based on faith. I accept it from personal experience which I've tested with my reason and found impossible to negate as unreal. Having done so, to deny it would be exactly what Rand condemned: the denial of reality of someone without the confidence in his own individual reason.

But doesn't reason based on the information you yourself gave about your state of mind back then (ketosis, etc.), allow the inference that you probably experienced a break with reality?

Edited by Xray
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Readers of this thread might enjoy the film "The Man from Earth," also about a story that others find hard to believe. Extremely well-done. It's all about a few people meeting in a cabin to say goodbye to a colleague who is moving, and the conversation they have. The difference between Neil's story and that of storyteller John Oldman is that Oldman's could be objectively verified if it is true (he explains why he would not cooperate with the attempt). The movie is available for instant viewing at Netflix.

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Readers of this thread might enjoy the film "The Man from Earth," also about a story that others find hard to believe. Extremely well-done. It's all about a few people meeting in a cabin to say goodbye to a colleague who is moving, and the conversation they have. The difference between Neil's story and that of storyteller John Oldman is that Oldman's could be objectively verified if it is true (he explains why he would not cooperate with the attempt). The movie is available for instant viewing at Netflix.

Starbuckle:

Wow - this looks really interesting.

Man From Earth Site

Adam

Edited by Selene
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How My God Experience Ruined My Life

by J. Neil Schulman

Before I mind-melded with God I was a successful writer with two published novels and three published non-fiction books; and I'd had an episode I wrote of The Twilight Zone produced on CBS.

After I mind-melded with God I was a successful writer with three published novels, a published collection of short stories, a published collection of my screenwriting, and seven more books; the Twilight Zone produced on CBS; and I wrote, produced, and directed my first feature film which won two film-festival awards.

Before I mind-melded with God I was a libertarian activist for individual rights and against statism.

After I mind-melded with God I was a libertarian activist for individual rights and against statism.

Before I mind-melded with God I disliked faith-based religion and arbitrary binding traditions.

After I mind-melded with God I disliked faith-based religion and arbitrary binding traditions.

Before I mind-melded with God I advocated that people rely on reason instead of faith.

After I mind-melded with God I advocated that people rely on reason instead of faith.

Before I mind-melded with God I wasted my time not going to church.

After I mind-melded with God I wasted my time not going to church.

Yep. My mind-meld with God sure as heck ruined my life and degraded my values system.

Edited by J. Neil Schulman
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How My God Experience Ruined My Life

by J. Neil Schulman

Before I mind-melded with God I was a successful writer with two published novels and three published non-fiction books; and I'd had an episode I wrote of The Twilight Zone produced on CBS.

After I mind-melded with God I was a successful writer with three published novels, a published collection of short stories, a published collection of my screenwriting, and seven more books; the Twilight Zone produced on CBS; and I wrote, produced, and directed my first feature film which won two film-festival awards.

Thanks for the reminder of your resumé. I think it's been at least a week or two since your last one.

Before I mind-melded with God I was a libertarian activist for individual rights and against statism.

After I mind-melded with God I was a libertarian activist for individual rights and against statism.

Before I mind-melded with God I disliked faith-based religion and arbitrary binding traditions.

After I mind-melded with God I disliked faith-based religion and arbitrary binding traditions.

Before I mind-melded with God I advocated that people rely on reason instead of faith.

After I mind-melded with God I advocated that people rely on reason instead of faith.

Before I mind-melded with God I wasted my time not going to church.

After I mind-melded with God I wasted my time not going to church.

Yep. My mind-meld with God sure as heck ruined my life and degraded my values system.

You should title your next book How God Didn't Change My Life.

Ghs

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How My God Experience Ruined My Life

by J. Neil Schulman

Before I mind-melded with God I was a successful writer with two published novels and three published non-fiction books; and I'd had an episode I wrote of The Twilight Zone produced on CBS.

After I mind-melded with God I was a successful writer with three published novels, a published collection of short stories, a published collection of my screenwriting, and seven more books; the Twilight Zone produced on CBS; and I wrote, produced, and directed my first feature film which won two film-festival awards.

Thanks for the reminder of your resumé. I think it's been at least a week or two since your last one.

Before I mind-melded with God I was a libertarian activist for individual rights and against statism.

After I mind-melded with God I was a libertarian activist for individual rights and against statism.

Before I mind-melded with God I disliked faith-based religion and arbitrary binding traditions.

After I mind-melded with God I disliked faith-based religion and arbitrary binding traditions.

Before I mind-melded with God I advocated that people rely on reason instead of faith.

After I mind-melded with God I advocated that people rely on reason instead of faith.

Before I mind-melded with God I wasted my time not going to church.

After I mind-melded with God I wasted my time not going to church.

Yep. My mind-meld with God sure as heck ruined my life and degraded my values system.

You should title your next book How God Didn't Change My Life.

Ghs

Does it take a hard struggle always to miss the point, George, or are you simply a natural genius at it?

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I'm going to do something I haven't yet done in this discussion. Quote scripture.

Matthew 7:16 - 7:20 attributes to Jesus "By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

Luke 6:44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.

Some source of this scripture had heard of Euripides, who'd said four centuries earlier:

Judge a tree from its fruit, not from its leaves.

The point is, if one claims that God is "good" and is acting on orders from God -- and God's orders are to go out and slaughter innocent people -- a rational person with a decent set of values smells a rat. It's one of the reasons I refuse to take anything in the Bible as -- er -- Gospel. Too many human beings writing scripture justify appalling crimes and vilely evil legal codes by an appeal to divine authority. Either they're lying or God is capable of acting like a drunken child-beater, and despite the Book of Job needed to get sober and make amends to his kids. I suggested in my novel Escape from Heaven (and much earlier in some lines I gave Victor Koman which he used in his novel The Jehovah Contract) that God taking on a human body, walking a mile in our moccasins, and getting himself nailed onto a cross for blasphemy seemed like a repentant God taking his medicine. I don't know what God could have done for the first two steps which require reliance on a higher power, but deciding not to interfere further in our free-will decisions would have been a good Step Nine for him.

The person I mind-melded with has a good heart. He didn't tell me to kill anyone. He did prove to me his respect for life, reason, and individual liberty. If Ayn Rand met this guy she'd like him. I may have been too harsh on Joan of Arc -- who was, after all, a patriot defending her country from invaders -- but George H. Smith's standard that God is more interested in talking to people with swords than people with pens strikes me as curious, considering how much effective use of media to spread stories is part of a whole lot of claimed human contacts with God.

Did your god happen to say anything about calling people who disagree with or criticize you assorted names, such as asshole, liar, dishonest, cocksucker, and so forth?

That's some fruit. Only someone divinely inspired could possibly think of such clever things to say.

Ghs

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If the eight-hour event of 2/18/1997 had happened in isolation I might have been able to negate its reality by reducing it to a ketosis/dehydration-caused waking dream, albeit one which had the remarkable feature of allowing me to function normally while overlaying the perception of imagined features. But both prior and subsequent events gave me benchmarks for testing the experience as real or unreal; and a long period of my attempting to negate it as real, and failing to do so, finally convinced me it was real.

Neil, forgive me if this question has been asked and answered previously in this thread; the sheer volume of material is such that information is easily buried.

When you say that "prior events" gave you benchmarks for testing the experience as real or unreal, are you referring to the experience in which God manifested to you and told you to stop praying so hard or he would take your life, and the dream in which you were on trial, and the experiences regarding Simpson? Or are you referring to other experiences, and if so, can you say what they were?

When you say that "subsequent events" gave you benchmarks for testing the experience as real or unreal, can you say exactly what events these were and why they supported your conclusion?

Judith

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I subscribe to every premise Ayn Rand puts forth in this video -- including her statement that substituting faith for reason is psychologically destructive and that faith-based religion is damaging to human self-esteem and reliance on reason.

Nowhere does she assert that God can not exist. She only says it is irrational to accept the existence of God on faith without proof.

Now, Rand did say no one can prove the existence of God. She was half correct. No one can prove the existence of God to someone else.

I do not accept the existence of God based on faith. I accept it from personal experience which I've tested with my reason and found impossible to negate as unreal. Having done so, to deny it would be exactly what Rand condemned: the denial of reality of someone without the confidence in his own individual reason.

Neil, would you then say that the vast majority of people in the world cannot, rationally speaking, have any basis for believing in any god, since the vast majority of people have no direct experience of god, never have, and never will?

Judith

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I subscribe to every premise Ayn Rand puts forth in this video -- including her statement that substituting faith for reason is psychologically destructive and that faith-based religion is damaging to human self-esteem and reliance on reason.

Nowhere does she assert that God can not exist. She only says it is irrational to accept the existence of God on faith without proof.

Now, Rand did say no one can prove the existence of God. She was half correct. No one can prove the existence of God to someone else.

I do not accept the existence of God based on faith. I accept it from personal experience which I've tested with my reason and found impossible to negate as unreal. Having done so, to deny it would be exactly what Rand condemned: the denial of reality of someone without the confidence in his own individual reason.

How much more of this epistemological rat poison must we endure?

Ghs

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http://www.pulpless....ianprophet.html

My response to Schulman would have been what Cromwell once said:

In the bowels of Christ, think that ye might be mistaken?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf
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I subscribe to every premise Ayn Rand puts forth in this video -- including her statement that substituting faith for reason is psychologically destructive and that faith-based religion is damaging to human self-esteem and reliance on reason.

Nowhere does she assert that God can not exist. She only says it is irrational to accept the existence of God on faith without proof.

Now, Rand did say no one can prove the existence of God. She was half correct. No one can prove the existence of God to someone else.

I do not accept the existence of God based on faith. I accept it from personal experience which I've tested with my reason and found impossible to negate as unreal. Having done so, to deny it would be exactly what Rand condemned: the denial of reality of someone without the confidence in his own individual reason.

How much more of this epistemological rat poison must we endure?

Ghs

I think it's dishonesty. We've been chasing pigs.

--Brant

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Neil,

1) Ketosis/dehydration induced 'vision quests' have been happening for millenia.

2) People would believe you in a heartbeat if you offered even a shred of a profound insight into a previously intractable problem or mystery. If you mind melded with the Almighty, where's the insight?

3) You a science-fiction author that financially profits from fiction.

Seriously, rationally, what should we conclude??

Bob

Rationally, you need to characterize the facts correctly before you analyze them.

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Consider, for example [ . . . ] that maybe there are multiple universes which explain apparent miracles/paranormalities, etc. What is the evidence for any of this?

See my Message 537

Posted 31 December 2010 - 10:38 AM

Astronomers Find First Evidence Of Other Universes

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26132/?ref=rss

and also

http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-scientists-evidence-universes.html

For those who haven't followed the original links, the evidence is quite interesting, but the jury is, as they say, still out. Before we can accept this stuff as a warrant for Neil's exuberant certainty about a god that operates in multiple universes, we should probably wait for him to explain the evidence and how it offers support for his theories about god, and how god operates between and among the varied universes. It's quite a stretch between the one and the other, of course -- and of course the two papers say nothing about Starbuckle's question to the reality of "apparent miracles/paranormalities."

Beyond that, as one might expect, the headlines don't tell the whole story . . . here's a couple of paragraphs from the Physics.org story:

In the most recent study on pre-Big Bang science posted at arXiv.org, a team of researchers from the UK, Canada, and the US, Stephen M. Feeney, et al, have revealed that they have discovered four statistically unlikely circular patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The researchers think that these marks could be “bruises” that our universe has incurred from being bumped four times by other universes. If they turn out to be correct, it would be the first evidence that universes other than ours do exist.

[ . . . ]

Still, the scientists acknowledge that it is rather easy to find a variety of statistically unlikely properties in a large dataset like the CMB. The researchers emphasize that more work is needed to confirm this claim, which could come in short time from the Planck satellite, which has a resolution three times better than that of WMAP [ (where the current data comes from), as well as an order of magnitude greater sensitivity. Nevertheless, they hope that the search for bubble collisions could provide some insight into the history of our universe, whether or not the collisions turn out to be real.

[ . . . ]

This is the second study in the past month that has used CMB data to search for what could have occurred before the Big Bang. In the first study, Roger Penrose and Vahe Gurzadyan found concentric circles with lower-than-average temperature variation in the CMB, which could be evidence for a cyclic cosmology in which Big Bangs occur over and over.

Not to burst Neil's bubble, but the 'evidence' is as yet only an intriguing finding, subject to confirmation/falsification by imagery from the Planck satellite -- and of course, subject to some rigourous critical evaluations, which have proliferated in the physic community.

One reasonably accessible story in the New York Times puts the paper highlighted by Neil and the earlier Penrose/Gurzadyan paper into perspective. I suggest a gander at that precis to those who want some familiarity with the kinds of 'evidence' Neil is quick to accept.

I do thank Neil for coming back to this thread, and for enduring the backstage communication with me. Neil, I suggest you put up a separate thread to introduce the book by Donald D Hoffman that you recommended to me. It would allow us to discuss a sort of 'universal consciousness' that doesn't entail god concepts.

You stated there was no evidence. I showed you there was evidence. Evidence is not proof. Evidence is what scientists use to justify exploring a theory looking for proof or attempting to disprove a theory. Usually this process leads to another theory.

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It is in an interesting phenomenon that the debunkers of myths are often blamed by the believers.

Here's another fraudster exposed: the religious guru Sai Baba, who his believers think has the superatural power to e. g. materialize "holy ash" in his hands, which he then strews on the believers' heads. But the primitive trick Sai Baba uses is crushing a little pill filled with ash between his fingers.

This and other tricks of the liar Sai Baba exposed here:

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=Yblhsr1O4IQ

Not my hero, Baba!

--Brant

sob

Together with the videos debunking the fraudster, there was a (now closed) blog.

Interesting to observe that, instead of thanking the debunkers, some believers attacked them, asking for the videos to be removed because they insulted their belief .

So instead of being ashamed of their own gullibility and outraged at the fraudster who insulted their intelligence by using incredibly primitive tricks to suggest he can materialize "holy ash" from his hand or a "golden lingam" from his mouth, they want to kill the messenger istead.

Classic case of a sacrificium intellectus to keep the faith. In the conflict between reason and faith, it is reason which has to go because in the mind of these believers, faith is considered to be the higher value.

I can't understand why Neil S. Schulman is so critical of someone like James Randi, an another unmasker of fraudsters, like e. g. Uri Geller.

To me, J. Randi is the epitome of a rational man in is approach to these things, therefore shouldn't Neil - who says of himself that he has not abandoned rational thinking - be grateful for individuals like Randi whose rational faculties enable them to expose such trickery?

Moreover, the substantive points in my post are obviously unaffected by dropping the word "trance" in favor of some other word to label Neil's temporarily abnormal state of consciousness. So lamenting my deployment of that word seems diversionary.

I agree. It is strictly speaking, not really a question of terminology. What often happens in discusions of this type is that participans of both parties land in some linguistic sideshow where the meanings of various terms are beig vigourously debated, while the core of the issue gets lost in it all.

I'm asking myself what we could do to avoid such sideshows this time.

In order to establish a common epistemological denominator for all participants, I'll start with some simple statements which imo can be regarded as true by all participants.

A: There exist individuals who claim to have had an encounter with a god.

B: These claimed encounters encounters with a god are either

1) real

2) not real

As for 2) not real: there exist two possiblites:

2') the indvidual lied, i. e. made up a story knowing it to be false.

2'') the individual was, for whatever reason, deluded.

2'') comprises all kinds of delusions, and whether one calls them psychotic breaks, hallucinations, figments, etc. is a secondary issue.

So my question to Neil is: do you agree that that all claimed god encounters fall in one of these sections:

1) real encounter

2) not-real encounter:

2') made-up story 2'') delusion

Where would you place, going by your gut feeling, Joan of Arc's claimed god encounter?

Above my pay grade. I tell what happened to me and my interpretation of it. I have my conclusions based on my own experience. Everyone else gets to slap me and Joan of Arc around for what we said happened to us.

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