• About TWIM


    The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer's Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.



    TWIM is the first and only theist blog listed on the Atheist Blogroll, which currently contains over 1,000 blogs. It goes without saying that I don't endorse hardly any of the views of any of them. Contact Mojoey for more information.



    Ironically, TWIM won an award for "Best Atheist / Skeptic Site" from this site. Much obliged.



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    You and your commenters are a feast of thinking — great stuff.

    -C.L. Dyck
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I have no need to engage with racists, so will ignore cl’s further diatribes.

    -faithlessgod,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

    -Hermes,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [faithlessgod and Hermes] fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls.

    -JS Allen,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. I’ve been following him for quite some time and he’s one of the most effective Christian trolls out there. No one can completely destroy a conversation as effectively as he does, and with such masterful grace and subtly that he rarely gets banned. This isn’t a blunt-force “U R Hitler!” troll, this is the Yoda of trolling.

    -Eneasz,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

    -al friedlander,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...I wanted to get a message to you outside of the context of specific discussions on CSA. You make good, insightful contributions to that site, and since I often agree with you I'm glad there is someone else there defending my positions better than I sometimes can. However I don't think anything of value would be lost if you stopped engaging in personal combat with juvenile snipers.

    -Zeb,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thank you for your wonderful response - so reasoned in the race of [Waldvogel's] blustering.

    -Annie Laurie Gaylor
     Freedom From Religion Foundation
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thanks for a great Op-Ed.

    -Marianne Ratcliff
     VC Star
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...as atheists we need to make sure that someone like cl and any Christian readers of [An Apostate's Chapel] don’t come away with the perception that the atheists caved in or were incapable of responding. I’m sure that a lot of Christians who find cl incomprehensible at times and don’t even bother reading him themselves will come away with an assumption that cl is that sort of rare intellectual theist who can prove that gods exist. And that’s how those inane rumors about the feared xian intellectuals start…

    -bbk
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself...
    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be. They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

    -R.C. Moore
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You're doing a fine job.

    -Prof. Larry Moran
     Dept. of Biochemistry
     University of Toronto
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Phyletic change and vicariance (or, drift and selection versus population isolation), as cl points out, are much better ways of describing what are unfortunately more commonly known as micro- and macro- evolution, respectively.

    -Dan
     Biology postdoc
     Univ. of Cyprus
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl says, “The minute you call yourself a Christian or an Atheist or whatever the heck else, you automatically get painted by other people’s interpretations of those words, which are almost always different and almost always distorted.” cl’s point couldn’t be more on. As cl points out there is an important reason for not claiming any real religious (or lack thereof) belief. It puts logical constraints on one's arguments due directly to the bias of the individual that is translating the English to mind ideas of what it means to be religious.

    -Bobaloo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins.

    -Cipher
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me or my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you [sic] faith. I'm seriously considering banning you cl, as I've heard you were banned on other sites. You are much too ignorant for us to have a reasonable discussion.

    -John Loftus
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I admired the way you handled yourself in the discussion on John's blog. I'm not patient enough to keep my sarcasm in check with some of them blokes, but appreciate those who are.

    -David Marshall
     re: Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl, I have to say, while I fundamentally disagree with you, you are an individual which I highly respect. I think your responses are always well thought out and your insights always well thought out and pertinently derived.
    [Y]ou have made me a stronger atheist in my regards to critical thinking and debating. I really can’t wait to hear more from you. Hell, I’d even buy you a drink, good sir. Cheers!

    -Parker
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Bottom line? Sometimes I think he's right about certain arguments, and I don't have a problem admitting that. Other times, however, I think he's wrong, and I've called him on that. But I have found he can be pretty reasonable if you (1) don't overstate your case, (2) make concessions when you have, and (3) insist he do the same.

    -Lifeguard
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I like it when [cl] makes me stop, think and question if I am making unfounded assertions or if I am being sloppy. What has been annoying me about cl of late is that he is being excruciatingly anal...

    -seantheblogonaut
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I really can't thank you enough for catching me on my error in rhetoric. I always love a good debate! And I always enjoy your posts, as well! Keep up the great writing and the excellent eye for detail!

    -BZ
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You make me smarter...

    -Mike G.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ..thank you, cl. I discovered your blog on a random web search and saw it as an oasis amidst a vast desert of seemingly intractable theist-atheist debate.

    -Sung Jun
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    It's good to be able to discuss with people who are open and respectful, and know that disagreement does not mean disrespect... You are to be congratulated, not only for your patience, but also your ability to hold an ever-growing debate together with an impressive degree of structure.

    -Ritchie
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    My tone is derogatory... [cl is] ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked... In the time he's been here, he's shown a consistent pattern of antagonizing everyone he comes in contact with, monopolizing threads, derailing discussions with perpetual complaints, quibbles and demands for attention, and generally making arguments that display a lack of good faith and responsiveness... it's become intolerable. I'm not banning him, but I'm putting in place some restrictions on how often he can comment.

    -Ebonmuse
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This is no defense of the annoying cl, but what a self-righteous, prissy atheist you turned out to be, Ebonmuse. I'm disappointed in you, stealing a strategem from the theists.

    -The Exterminator
     to Ebonmuse
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I certainly didn't get any bad impression about cl, and I can't relate his comments with any of the things (Ebonmuse) said above. I actually thought it was quite interesting to have him around.

    -Juan Felipe
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Please continue to allow
    cl to post his views and make it clear that he is still welcome. And let me be clear, cl is not a lunatic.

    -Curtis
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    With one exception, you are the most coherent and intelligent theist I've seen on this site...

    -Steve Bowen
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I'm rooting for cl. I hope he perpetually manages to skirt the rules enough to do his damage, forcing rule revision after rule revision, ad nauseum. Awesome! Let's watch as Ebon, ever more frustrated, continues to struggle to figure out how to keep his precious private blog neat and tidy as cl keeps messing up his papers while one by one, readers leave due to an every increasing administrative presence. Outstanding! Well I won't go. The thought of this sounds like the most entertaining thing that probably would have ever happened on Daylight Atheism. Hot damn!

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Your visit has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater...

    -Brad
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I do have a lot of respect for you too. You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual with a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, cutting through all the bullshit rhetoric on the way down. The fact that many other atheists seem to unreasonably despise you bothers me a lot, because I think that maybe they aren’t acting in good faith.

    -Peter Hurford
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am not going to waste any more time parsing your comments to decide if they've crossed the line or not... So I banned you.

    -Greta Christina
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Be rude... cl invites rudeness. Would you want an incontinent little puppy coming into your house?

    -(((Billy))) the Atheist
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Note to all my regular readers: Since An Apostate’s Chapel is a free-speech zone, I don’t censor conversations.
    As it appears that cl is a troll, please note that I will not be responding to him any longer. I ask that you refrain from doing so, as well. Please don’t feed the troll!

    -The Chaplain
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    …I can’t reconcile being a "freethinker" with banning speech. [cl's] comments are not offensive in the normal understanding of that term, and he poses absolutely no threat except perhaps to some imagined decorum. Why can’t atheists lighten up, for no-Christ’s sake?

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Is it going to distract from my meal when crazy uncle cl starts blathering out nonsense, pick his ears with a carrot or start taking his pants off? No. In fact, it might actually heighten the experience in some amusing way. So no, I don't see cl's work as damage.

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll cl. Albeit an evolved troll, but a troll nonetheless. Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

    -GaySolomon
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl is] is either a sophist or an incompetent when it comes to the english language... (sic)

    -ThatOtherGuy
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I’d say cl is pretty sharp... it may be tempting at times to think that “the other guy” is arguing out of some personal character flaw rather than a sincere desire to acknowledge the truth, I still think it’s better to debate respectfully... It is disrespectful to make unsupported accusations against people, e.g. by suggesting that their views are caused by an intrinsically corrupt and immoral nature.

    -Deacon Duncan, 3-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] cannot refute my facts, so he needs must find (sic) some scapegoat in order to claim that he has confronted the enemy and proven them wrong... cl, sadly, has proven himself to be the sort of guest who comes into your living room and sneaks behind your couch to take a crap on the floor, just so he can tell all your neighbors how bad your house smells and what an unsanitary housekeeper you are... an interesting case study in the negative effects a Christian worldview has on a reasonably intellectual mind.

    -Deacon Duncan, 6-17-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

    -Deacon Duncan, 4-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I won’t be publishing your most recent comment because it’s a return to the same sort of schtick you’ve pulled here before: re-writing other people’s arguments to make yourself look misunderstood and/or unfairly accused, taking “polyvalent” positions so that when people address your points you can claim to have said something else, distorting other people’s arguments, trolling for negative reactions, and so on.

    -Deacon Duncan, 10-8-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [E]gomaniacal troll.
    You win... You’re a disingenuous sophist through and through, cl. And a friggin’ narcissist to boot! Since I’ve thoroughly and purposefully broken the Deacon’s rules of engagement, I shall consider my right to post henceforth annulled, and move on - dramatic pause, lights out.

    -jim
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He either thinks in a very weird way or he's quite the con artist.

    -mikespeir
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I will gladly admit that I have a boner for cl. Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

    -Eneasz
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Long time reader first time poster... I like reading what you
    have to say over at Daylight Atheism so I figured I'd pop in here.

    -Pine
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

    -KShep
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You’re not a reasonable thinker in my book. You’re simply an arguer, for better or worse. I’m Michael Palin, you’re John Cleese. You’re just a disputation-ist, bringing everything into question...

    -jim
     Reason vs. Apologetics
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Motherfucker, this is an interesting blog... Quite the group of commenters.

    -John Evo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are very articulate, and I can only assume that it's a result of high intelligence; an intelligence that's interested in, and can understand, healthy debate. However, at every turn, that's not what I or others seem to get.

    -ex machina
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a troll, a liar, and a useless sack of shit. Not only that, but you're still wrong even after moving the goal posts and trying to re-write history. So, you can stop cyber stalking me now and trying to provoke me. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it so that you can whine about how I'm being irrational and mean to you and stroke your pathetic martyr complex. You're a pathetic attention whore and I've already given you too much attention. So, back the fuck off, stop following me around the intarwebs and trying to provoke me, and fuck off.

    -OMGF
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I would just like to say that, OMGF, having read the debate as a neutral observer, some of the things cl says about your style of argument are true, IMO. It is quite hasty, which means you occasionally haven't got the central point cl is trying to make...

    -John D.
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...this is a difficult question that deserves more than a kneejerk reaction, not to imply that you're kneejerking. You're the least kneejerking person I've met.

    -Quixote
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    If you’re here playing devil’s advocate, then, hey, you do a great job at it, it’s a service, keep us sharp... You’re a smart guy, but those are exactly the ones who give the worst headaches!

    -Lifeguard
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a waste of time, cl. A big fat black hole of bullshit sucking in everyone who comes into contact with you.

    -Spanish Inquisitor
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    As for all that harsh invective that's come your way, umm... I gotta say, I've seen some of the invective, but I haven't seen the behavior on your part that called for it. Maybe I've just not seen enough? I don't know... from what I've read, I can tell that you're a smart person, and whether you deserved any of that treatment or not is quite frankly immaterial to me; I just want to deal with the smart person at the eye of that storm.

    -D
     She Who Chatters
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I now think that you’re an atheist, just having fun at other atheists’ expense. If that’s the case, kudos.

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

Isn’t Richard Carrier Putting The Cart Before The Horse?

So you might have heard that the Loftus put out a new book pompously titled, The End of Christianity, which includes a chapter from self-proclaimed infidel Richard Carrier, titled, Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them). Can we agree that this is an empirical claim? If so, can you imagine the consternation that might ensue if a reputable physics journal published a paper titled: The Higgs Boson Exists, And Science Could Find It?

Shouldn’t we demonstrate something before we bastardize science to say it exists? Granted, Carrier might be using “exists” abstractly, as in moral facts “exist” in a logical or philosophical sense. But, if that’s the case, he’s incorrect to say science can find them. And no, I haven’t read the chapter; that’s besides the point. I’m focusing exclusively on the misleading nature of the title here, so don’t try to flank me.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe moral facts exist, and though I think it would require some degree of revelation, I’m even open to the idea that science could find them. Or, more accurately, that science could demonstrate them. To find them implies to discover them via controlled, replicated experimentation, and that is precisely what I think science cannot do. To demonstrate them implies something more like a “proof” that any given moral proclamation is a fact.

I’m not disagreeing with Carrier in that moral facts exist. Rather, I’m suspicious as to why Carrier, Loftus and the rest of Team Scarlet A demand rigorous proof whenever a believer so much as claims to have wiped their bum in the morning, yet apparently feel free to publish and sell fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants arguments to the masses proclaiming that things exist before science finds them.

And Loftus says Victor Reppert is a science-basher!

Morality: Well Done, Wrongly Done

This, more or less, is what I tend to believe about morality:

Take, for example, that which we are now doing, drinking, singing and talking—these actions are not in themselves either good or evil, but they turn out in this or that way according to the mode of performing them; and when well done they are good, and when wrongly done they are evil; and in like manner not every love, but only that which has a noble purpose, is noble and worthy of praise.
-From Plato’s Symposium

What sayest thou?

The God Delusion: Low Hanging Fruit Indeed!

This morning, I stumbled across The God Delusion while deciding which books weren’t worth keeping on my shelf. I was about to simply toss it on the logic that plenty of people have dissected the book for the kitzche that it is, but then something from page 249 caught my attention, even inspiring me to post! Of course, one can pretty much flip to any page at random and find something that’s either outright false or at least fallacious. In reference to the “religious zealots” responsible for “burying” Mecca, Dawkins writes:

I do not believe there is an atheist in the world who would bulldoze Mecca…

My gut feeling is that Dawkins is wrong there, because there are some pretty militant atheists in the world, but I don’t want to waste time scouring the internet for a proof text. Perhaps one of you might have some knowledge you could pass along in that regard. I’m more interested in the rhetorical device that follows in the next sentence:

As the Nobel Prize-winning American physicist Steven Weinberg said, “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.”

Puh-leeze! This is the sort of pseudo-intellectual crap that’s influencing people to become atheists! So, what sayest thou? Agree with Weinberg? Disagree? If you disagree, feel free to provide your favorite examples of good people doing evil things without religion. Obviously, I’m assuming that an otherwise “good” person is capable of an “evil” thing, else this won’t even get off the ground. I’ll share my example[s] in the comments.

Aldous Huxley: The Doors Of Perception

I enjoyed Brave New World in high school, and until recently, that was all the Aldous Huxley I’d read. A few weeks ago I found a “two books in one” volume with Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell. The former chronicles a mescalin trip Huxley took in the spring of 1953. I’ve never taken mescalin, but if the right opportunity presented itself, I would consider it. I’m sure that statement may seem anathema to many Christians, but… I’m just being honest. Is it right? Is it wrong?

I mean, how many Christians rely on pharmaceutical medicines for their day-to-day existence? In God’s eyes, how does that compare to a person taking mescalin once? Is taking an anti-depressant really that much different than drinking wine or smoking weed? Which, if either, is the greater sin, and what is the biblical justification for the argument? Perhaps we can explore this in greater detail in the thread, if anybody has anything interesting to add.

Instead of summarize Huxley’s book, I’d like to share selected passages that stood out for me, and expound on them.

To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. [13]

I agree. I think it’s important to step outside of oneself, and to try to experience oneself as others do. Watching a playback of oneself on film can be especially useful towards this end. It works the best when one is unaware that they are being recorded. Of course, I’m speaking figuratively here, but there is a sense in which one can literally step outside themselves, and for Huxley, mescalin was a key to this door. The experiences of the mystics and visionaries of old concur with those of the modern mescalin-taker, and–coincidentally [?] enough–those who have claimed to have died and come back. The materialist would have us believe it’s all just an illusion.

One of the things I really enjoyed about getting reacquainted with Huxley was his even and open-minded approach towards reality. Versatile, flexible thinkers impress me, and Huxley strikes me as balanced. His sound grasp of science and rational thinking is tempered by a humility that precludes the descent into scientism so prevalent amongst today’s intelligentsia. Instead of denigrating his religious and spiritual counterparts, he meets them halfway. The following remarks on “Mind at Large” seem to dovetail nicely into the discussions on consciousness we’ve been having around here lately:

To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us stay alive on the surface of this particular planet. To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages. Every individual is at once the beneficiary and victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born… [23]

Huxley describes a mescalin trip as visual impressions greatly intensified, with the intellect unimpaired. Again, this dovetails nicely with the NDE. The mescalin-taker loses interest in normality, opting instead for inner exploration, or, “better things to think about,” as Huxley put it.

What the rest of us see only under the influence of mescalin, the artist is congenitally equipped to see all of the time [33].

If a writer may qualify as an artist of sorts, this might explain why I seem to see the world differently than the average person. Personally, I feel a bit like this most of the time. What they call “reality” I often find wholly uninteresting: so-and-so did such-and-such on TV, such-and-such team beat team so-and-so at game X, store Y has items A, B and C on sale… sober I couldn’t care less about these sorts of things, let alone on mescalin.

Huxley notes the heightened perception of color, and writes that man’s “highly developed color sense is a biological luxury–inestimably precious to him as an intellectual and spiritual being, but unnecessary to his survival as an animal [27].” I’d never really thought of that before. Indeed the vast array of colors we see does seem to be a bit gratuitous, such that it prompts the question: why, given evolution by natural selection, do we apparently have the capacity to see much more color than we need to?

Talking about aspects of waking awareness he’d rather forget, Huxley writes of “the world of self-assertion, of cocksureness, of overvalued words and idolatrously worshiped notions [36].” These are what I see when I watch television: one big cesspool of self-absorption and vanity. Don’t get me wrong, decent shows and movies exist, but I find the bulk of what we call “entertainment” to be thoroughly boring. At times, feel like I was born a few centuries late.

From the records of religion and the surviving monuments of poetry and the plastic arts it is very plain that, at most times and in most places, men have attached more importance to the inscape than to objective existents, have felt that what they saw with their eyes shut possessed a spiritually higher significance than what they saw with their eyes open [46].

Elsewhere Huxley writes of the “retreat from the outward Datum into the personal subconscious [49].” I find myself continually amazed at how little importance many atheists and materialists attribute to the experience of consciousness itself. I suppose it’s understandable if one embraces a worldview that relegates consciousness to the mere after-effect of matter dancing to-and-fro, but still, it strikes me as odd, anti-human even. On my view, consciousness leads, and matter follows.

The urge to escape from selfhood and the environment is in almost everyone almost all the time [63].

To me, the ubiquitous human desire to modify consciousness can be taken as evidence of a powerful and universal longing for something other-worldly. From shaman to pharmacist to street kid, we find this desire. I can say that this true of myself, and perhaps sometime I’ll write about some of the experiences I’ve had trying to sate this desire. Of course, religion is another means people use to sate it, and of this, Huxley writes:

Countless persons desire self-transcendence and would be glad to find it in church. But, alas, “the hungry sheep look up and are not fed.” They take part in rites, they listen to sermons, they repeat prayers; but their thirst remains unassuaged [69].

One could write about the deficiencies of sterile religion. The apostles were on some entirely different stuff. When I read the Bible I feel like a joke compared to these guys. Whereas my approach is often intellectual, they took faith as something to be experienced and manifested into the world; an active force to collapse wave-functions producing real change in the real world. The blind saw. The deaf heard. The dead were raised. What am I doing? Apostolic power demands attention. I will go so far as to say we are compromised Christians so long as this is an exercise in debate.

On the final page, and perhaps my favorite passage in the book, Huxley writes:

…the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend [79].

The Atheist Afterlife: p57-80

This installment covers four short chapters comprising the final section of Part One: The Fourth Dimension of Space [7]; The Second Dimension of Time [8]; When Separate Things Merge [9]; and, But Wait… There’s More [10].

Staume’s Inside-Out Theory posits an afterlife similar to a dream: consciousness turned inside-out on itself. The idea is that we dream in an expanded geometry with additional dimensions of time and space, which increases the potential for interrelationships between them. Staume raises an interesting point concerning the difficulty often experienced while trying to make sense of dreams:

Because we know that additional dimensions increase the ways that we can join things, we can predict that fewer dimensions would involve the loss of interrelationships; things would become disjointed and lose their internal logic–which is exactly what happens when we try to remember our dreams [58].

Elsewhere in this series, I’ve applauded Staume’s tendency towards conservatively stated claims, and the following is another example of what I mean. After suggesting that one needs to draw on their own dream experiences to test this idea of expanded geometry, Staume writes:

This presents two problems. The first is that this is subjective; if you find a correlation, all I have is your word for it, and vice-versa [59].

Staume refers to the fourth spatial dimension as rotation, and suggests that in this dimension, one could see something from all sides simultaneously. Parallax would no longer occur, and an object could appear the same size regardless of its proximity. Admittedly, this part of the book is a bit hard to follow, but at the same time, the ideas don’t strike me as any more bizarre than quantum tunneling.

As with much of Staume’s theory, the implications of this fourth spatial dimension are strikingly similar to the accounts of perception supplied by those who’ve experienced OBE / NDE:

If the Inside-Out Theory is correct, at the death of our body, our vision–as bizarre as it may seem–would be enhanced [61].

This is in fact what many who report these experiences attest to, and the same goes for hearing. You might recall from Pam Reynolds’ account that the sight and hearing she experienced was deeper and fuller than waking sight. As opposed to the muddled or compromised perception we would expect from somebody on the brink of death, those who have experienced OBE / NDE tend to report improved perception and awareness.

In a similar vein, Staume refers to his hypothetical second dimension of time as recall, and suggests that one could travel forward or backward in time. He suggests that we would only be able to relive these experiences, as opposed to interacting with them, thus avoiding grandfather paradoxes. IOW, we might go back in time, but could not change it. Staume’s idea has the added bonus of being less Newtonian:

We would probably be able to relive each and every detail, and see and feel the experiences of our past over and over again… [65]

This partially coincides with my beliefs about the afterlife, too. I firmly believe that at some point after death, each of us are going to see how our choices have affected others. I believe there will be an accounting demanded for our time and our words, and again, we find a correlation between Staume’s theory and NDE. The so-called “life review” is prevalent in NDE literature. People have reported experiencing exactly what Staume’s theory predicts.

Again and again while describing dreams, Staume’s language corroborates OBE / NDE:

Even if we do perceive a normal flow of time, waking can feel like being pulled back from immersion in a movie to observing it in the cinema… [66].

This is also exactly what Pam Reynolds and others have described. Towards this end, Staume gives another comparison:

Imagine that you’re traveling by train through the countryside, looking through the window and watching the changing landscape. This is analogous to our experience of one dimension of time; we see an ever-changing present, the future’s unseen in front of us, and the past has disappeared behind us. Now, smash the window and stick your head out–that’s what an additional dimension of time would do. At the beginning of the analogy we were watching the changing landscape, but when we stick our head out, we realise that it’s not the landscape that’s changing–it’s our perspective. We realise that the future–the landscape ahead of us–already exists, and the past–the landscape behind us–doesn’t disappear, it just gets further away [67].

While reading the chapters for this installment, I noticed that I’d marked “NDE” in the margin at least a half-dozen times. NDE corroborates much of Staume’s theory, and I’ve had personal experiences that correlate with it as well. Sure, these experiences are subjective, but when the object of evaluation is human consciousness itself, do we have a choice?

Now, for the bad part. Elsewhere in the series, I’ve complained about Staume’s willingness to depart from conservatively stated claims, and Chapter 10 contains no shortage:

[knowing the likely mechanism of an afterlife] demonstrates, yet again, how ill-equipped religion is to answer the profound questions of life. … A rational understanding of an afterlife demonstrates that most of the religious notions of life after death are false. The Inside-Out Theory shows that the concept of external judgment is false, because there is nothing arbitrary about the laws of physics. It shows that the concept of an eternal Hell is false, because finite causes have finite results and there is no external judgment [76].

Given Staume’s good behavior earlier, this blatant overconfidence comes as a bit of a surprise. His theory doesn’t show any of these things. As interesting as it might be, the Inside-Out Theory is nowhere near intact enough to sustain such strong claims. The way I see it, instead of refuting traditional religious concepts, much of his groundwork supports them: everything from seeing the future, to additional dimensions of space / time, to reliving life experiences. The major difference is that God is taken out of the picture, and the afterlife is referred to as “rational” and relying only on the “laws of  physics.”

For me the question becomes: how does this square with evolution and physics? Why would nature evolve an afterlife? If we remove God as the sustaining force of the universe, upon what does all this intricacy rest?

None Confirmed: The End Of Christianity, I

Tonight I had the opportunity to preview Vic Stenger’s contribution [PDF 220KB] to the upcoming Prometheus title, The End of Christianity, edited by John W. Loftus. After reading, I felt compelled to respond, so I figured I’d go ahead and kick off my review now. Amazon lists July 26 of this year as the expected release date.

Though Stenger’s contribution is titled, Life After Death: Examining the Evidence, over half the article clashed with Dinesh D’Souza’s philosophical arguments for God’s existence. For those expecting in an in-depth discussion of NDE’s as I was, you will probably be disappointed. Since I’m working on a series of posts addressing NDE’s, rather than reply to anything Stenger said about them, tonight I’d like to focus on a single claim:

None of the claimed prophetic revelations of the Bible have been confirmed and many have been disconfirmed. [Stenger]

I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly a fan of precision with language and firmly cemented goalposts. Fortunately, Vic gave us both in his two-pronged claim: he wrote that none of the Bible’s prophetic revelations have been confirmed. It doesn’t take an English major to realize that “none” means zip, zero, zilch, and it doesn’t take a professional logician to realize that a single instance of a confirmed revelation falsifies Stenger’s claim. While it would be easy to provide one and call it a day, why be lazy? I’ll give you four: two from science, and two from history.

Before we begin, I’d like to preemptively address those who would cry “cherrypicking” with a tacit confession: I fully acknowledge the fact that some biblical revelations are at odds with today’s conventional wisdom. For anyone who’s interested, we can talk about that in the thread. For now, I simply wish to address the first prong of Stenger’s claim.

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The Atheist Afterlife: p37-56

So I’ve had plenty of time to read over the past five days, and I figured it’s time to do another installment on The Atheist Afterlife, by philosopher David Staume.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I really admire and respect Staume for the approach he took with his work. Sure, there are areas I think could use improvement, but by and large, David adheres to the majority of the rules. He tends to state claims conservatively. He lets his reader know when he’s making assumptions or operating off speculation. He doesn’t overstate his case. I could go on, but, let’s just get to it. We begin in Chapter 5, titled, The Geometry of Space and Time.

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