A Mormon beefs about my anti-accommodationism

December 27, 2018 • 10:30 am

My piece on The Conversation about the incompatibility of religion and science continues to be the most-read piece of the week on that site, having reached nearly 100,000 views and 655 comments. I can’t say I’m not chuffed, but of course most of the comments take issue with what I said. Well, that’s okay by me: at least they heard me.

And I continue to get a lot of private emails from believers and loons (there is substantial overlap). I’ll show two of them today. This one came from someone called “Nobody special”, who was anonymous but apparently a scientist. I didn’t realize that my piece had been republished in Newsweek, but sure enough it was, just yesterday.

Here you go. “Nobody Special”‘s comments are indented, and my responses are flush left:

War between Religion and Science?

Nobody Special

Dear Dr. Coyne,

I read your opinion piece in the Conversation and in Newsweek about whether there is a war between science and religion.

I believe you are correct when both disciplines are incorporating the “philosophies of men”. And not open to new ideas or other vantage points.

Truth is universal, whether found in science or religion it is the same. The key is what basic principles you accept at the starting point. In science we accept basic truths about our external world, then we learn and test externally to see what hypothesis are true. Do you accept basic truths about the spiritual world, then learn and test internally to see what creeds of religion are true? No you do not.

Science accepts that this existence is real and what you see, touch, smell, and hear are real. There are truths in science that can’t be proved, but are accepted by faith (without proof), because we need a starting point. Yet many people experience dreams that are so real that they don’t know they are dreams until the wake up. This questions existence. You think, therefore you are. But you cannot prove to me that you think, you can only prove it to yourself. Sounds like religion. You can prove that you have brain waves that appear similar to mine when we each think of green, but there are still differences and you cannot prove that your experience of green is the same as mine.

No, those are philosophical questions, not religious ones, and they don’t go any distance towards proving the existence of God. And, of course, someday we may be able to see what other people’s subjective experiences are like, though we already have some clues from their behavior. It is, after all, empirical study and not the Bible that revealed that color blind people see differently from the rest of us.

Thus faith is required by you that your perception of green is correct. Yet we know this is not true for everyone. Color blind people do not see what you see, and vice versa. This experience we call life is very subjective, not objective. Science tries to remove much of the subjectivity, which is good, but it is never fully successful at the task.

I’m not sure that you can say “my perception of green is correct”. If 95% the world were blue-green color blind, it would be abnormal, but given that our perceptions are evolved, I’m not sure you can say that my perception of green is “correct” any more than you can say that a gay person’s romantic feelings towards of a person of their own sex is “incorrect”.

Does this make a color blind person’s experience of the world untrue? No, he has a different vantage point.

There are spirituality blind people also. And we know for a fact that what I experience when I seek the divine is not what you experience when you seek the divine.

Does this make one of our experiences untrue? No, we have a different vantage points.

Like the color blind person can’t see green normally. You, a spiritually blind person, cannot see the divine normally.

Okay, so HOW do you see the divine “normally”? Do Muslims see it normally? How about Scientologists, or Hindus? This person somehow is deluded into thinking that there are ways to judge the divine that are objectively “true.” The impossibility of that was my whole point.

So how did you get to your vantage point on Evolution? (Which by the way I believe is one of God’s methods of eternal progression.)

Thanks. Is that a truth?

You got there with much study, learned from masters, and tested the hypothesis for yourself. If I an unlearned evolutionist were to try to explain and criticize evolution, I would likely make many grave errors in my explanation and criticism. We scientists see this all the time in the “Divine Design” movement.

Is it not true that you an unlearned spiritualist will make grave errors and false understandings about faith and religion as you did in your hatchet piece?

It has taken me my life studying science to get to my current level of proficiency in my chosen field. It has also taken a lifetime of study, testing faith, seeking, and questioning God to get to my current level of spiritual proficiency.

Yet you, a spiritual nube, are criticizing that which you don’t know and haven’t studied or experienced. I have deeply studied many religions and found truth in all as well as error in all. This is exactly the same as science. All published papers have errors and truths in them. I would be castigated in science circles if I did the same thing with evolution that you are doing with religion.

Umm. . . I’ve studied religion and theology a lot more than the average person, but of course none of it gives even remotely convincing evidence for gods, much less religious “truth”. What this dude is doing is arguing from authority. He, apparently, has studied religion his whole life and is proficient in discerning “truth”.

But what IS that truth. Wait for it—it’s MORMONISM! He goes on (I’m assuming it’s male):

Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths”:

https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-22?lang=eng

An interesting read, I recommend you pay close attention to the paragraphs after the heading “Teachings of Joseph Smith”.

Note, I am anonymous as there is a contingent of scientists who will make great effort to submarine my career if I were not. This is the worst kind of censorship and definitely not scientific. Shades of Copernicus.

Sincerely,
Nobody Special

Well, here are the paragraphs of “truth” that he pointed me to:

The gospel of Jesus Christ embraces all truth; the faithful accept the truths God has revealed and put aside false traditions.

“Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails over priestcraft. …

“… Mormonism is truth, in other words the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, is truth. … The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.”

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters. Mormonism is TRUE! Other religions, by implication, are false.  This self-styled Copernicus has embraces one of the craziest religions in the U.S. (but it’s crazy only because we knew how it arose), and he says it’s rock-solid truth. Such a view deserves mockery and contempt, which I would summon up if I thought it was worth it.

I will let this person know that I posted the email (without identifying information), and you can feel free to respond in the comments.

123 thoughts on “A Mormon beefs about my anti-accommodationism

  1. “Nobody Special” is all kind of confused. The fact that he looks to Joseph Smith, a proven conman for truth is hilarious.

    Can you think of a more recent conman who is trying to define his own truth?

    Sorry, “Nobody Special”, but my dreams are truthier than your dreams. So there.

    1. I’m just wondering what would be the results of a vox pop on the streets of Salt Lake City would be if examining opinions on the proposition that “Joseph Smith was a confidence trickster”. I wouldn’t be surprised if a combination of brainwashing, social pressure and educational manipulation (such as controlling the content of school text books) resulted in many people genuinely not being aware of Smith’s history as a crook.

      1. I’m sure it’s not too hard to cement Smith’s sainthood. All his hucksterism can be quite easily rationalized simply by saying he was misunderstood – as are all prophets, including JC.

    2. Please Note: This is not a response specifically to the comment I’m replying to, it just happens to be the first comment one sees and I’d like this up front and centre where it can be seen rather than buried somewhere below and easily overlooked.,
      As a life-long atheist and long-time reader and occasional commenter here, I object most strongly to the fake ‘Nobody Special’ ruining my future credibility on this site with his Mormonic nonsense. I’m not suggesting that I actually have any credibility at present, but I’m sure that my ‘nym, which has passed relatively unnoticed until now, will henceforth stand out like a sore thumb and mark me as a religidiot. My only consolation is that my identity-stealing nemesis cannot register to comment here using my ‘nym.
      In short, I am not a Mormon nor do I have pretentions of being a scientist, but I am well-enough aware of the spirit of the Monty Python team to be able to say: I’m Nobody Special.

  2. Reminds me of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who showed up a few months ago at my front door. They started making claims about their god and I was challenging them, so they opened up some book (maybe the Bible, I’m not sure) to show me where it said their god is God.

    When I noted that EVERYONE’s book says their own god is the one true god, I got blank stares. They literally could not process the statement.

    My takeaway: Religious people, while they may be scientific in other realms, often lack the ability to even understand what acceptable proof is for their faith. I believe there is a special part of the brain set up by evolution specifically for the acceptance, maintenance and promotion of that unique insanity called superstition.

    1. when the jehovahs came to my door, I politely said no thank you to their pamphlets and said that I believed in one less god than they did. 3 baffled faithers got back in their car…

      1. When the god squaddies get sent round here, they are dropped off with a street map, a list of streets to work, a mobile phone, a bag of pamphlets etc, and a bottle of water. No money to take a bus anywhere else, or hide in a coffee shop. Certainly no option to go somewhere else.
        Also, nothing apart from a cheap and nasty phone to steal. Even the muggers aren’t interested in them. You almost feel pity for them as they loom out of the summer fog and drift damply to their next doorstep serving of contempt.

    2. *sings “My god is a badass god. He reigns pain from everywhere! With maliciousness, power, and hatred. My god is a BADASS god!”

    3. I have answered the doorbell more than once for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Always in the spirit of patient congeniality. Didn’t want to give them the least cause to reinforce their self-absorbed sense of being chip-on-the-shoulder persecuted, even though I didn’t owe them that consideration. But I will meet someone more than half-way. The first time I was in my bath robe with shaving cream on my face. I thought that that was “signal” enough. But they totally ignored and did not acknowledge that they could somehow be inconveniencing, if not “persecuting,” me in the middle of my toiletries and ablutions. Apparently they did not think that they owed me that consideration. After all, what are my preps for the day compared to (their perception of) the state of my soul?

  3. I’d be curious to know, if he has studied numerous religions as he claims, why he settled on Mormonism. Well actually, I’m not that curious, he simply chose the story he likes the most, absent any evidence for any of them. And because it makes him feel good, he decided it must be true.

      1. What is the heritability of that characteristic? It used to be up in the 90s of %, but these days, it’s probably below 50%.
        I think Jerry has posted statistic on this in the past. Which is why secular education is so terrifying to many religions – they know that it is a death knell if they lose that heritability.

  4. The refrain from a certain South Park tune seems to be an appropriate summary of Mormon style appropriation (Dumb DumB DuMB DUMB DUMB!!)

    1. “Teachings of Joseph Smith”

      Even more low hanging fruit. Nope, I am going to have a very nice dinner, some palatable ALCOHOL, and enjoy the rest of my evening (which will include COFFEE).

    2. I had to look it up, and all I get is a Canadian interior design show. Now I am confused; thrown into a state of spiritual turmoil…
      Does god want me to love my sectional couch and matching throw-pillows?
      Would it be a sin to put an art nouveau-style lampshade on a colonial-style lamp?

      1. That’s what Feng shui means… I always wondered.

        You need to put the lid down on your WC, then your spiritual turmoil will be flushed away.

      2. Mark, as the one who is to decide (well, somebody has to, and, more importantly, god told me I’m to be the arbiter) I hereby solemny declare you are allowed to put an Art Nouveau-style lampshade on a colonial-style lamp. It is no sin, not even anachronistic and will, on the contrary, greatly enhance your perception of spirituality.
        I hope that eases your agony?

      3. I had to look it up, and all I get is a Canadian interior design show. Now I am confused; thrown into a state of spiritual turmoil…

        I parsed it differently – as in “design inspired by the actor Divine“. Which would make for rather different results.
        A partial Divine filmography (annotated) :
        1966 Roman Candles The Smoking Nun (I already dread to think)
        1968 Eat Your Makeup (tasty!)
        1972 Pink Flamingos (the infamous dog shit eating scene)
        1985 Lust in the Dust (again, I dread.)
        1988 Hairspray (this rings a bell. Ominously)
        It is, in this context, convenient that “actor” is becoming an ungendered noun like “teacher” and “doctor”.

        1. Divine, the drag queen was incomparable. Perhaps the Gravel Inspector wouldn’t appreciate the phenomenon, but I’m a big fan of Divine. “Lust in the Dust” is hilarious. It’s a parody of “Elvira Madigan” starring Divine and Tab Hunter. “Elvira Madigan” was a film just begging to be parodied. Just thinking about Lust in the Dust reminds me that I must watch it again.

  5. I would not begin to argue religion with a Mormon, whatever kind of scientist he is. I think the handle says it all – Nobody Special. I have known a few good Jack Mormons who smoke and drink with the best of them.

    How do they just put your article in Newsweek without asking?

    1. Part of the deal with The Conversation is that it’s open access and uncopyrighted and anybody can republish all of it without asking so long as they adhere to the conventions on the Conversation website. It’s been republished in a fair number of places now.

      1. I myself was wondering that as well,
        Dr Coyne / Randall.

        And this ? This is so, so true: “Such a view
        deserves mockery and contempt, which I would
        summon up if I thought it was worth it.”

        TRUE … … TO the extent that I use this as
        my go – to criterion ( “if I thought it was worth it” ) to decide IF, or NOT, to even
        initiate entanglement of myself into /
        within Any Other’s stupidity,
        errm, their ” argument ” / their ridiculousness.

        IF I deem it … … soooo NOT worth it ?
        Well then, there’s MY answer !

        Blue

    2. I had some Jehova’s witnesses (I was going to say mormons, but I think they were JW’s, at any rate the distinction is marginal) at the door and -since having some spare time- invited them in, coffee, tea and all. Inevitably the discussion went to evolution, so they had to come back another day with some higher authority, some more senior preachers.
      They actually pitched up, and came in force, three of them. I’m proud to say that after a few hours of discussion they left tail between legs too (note this was even before I knew the Hitch’s works).
      Yes, I’m bragging, but I still consider it (about) my Finest Hour.

      1. O my, Dr Stempels ! .THAT. is just a
        darling accounting ! Of … … the game of
        ” Gotcha’ ! ” I love such sagas* !

        Blue
        * Is that the definition of mean – spiritedness and
        hard – heartedness ? ( rhetorically speakin’ only there … … )

      2. We had a visit from the Mormons once (or maybe it was the JW’s) and they ran into my grandfather, who was a Methodist/Congregational/Presbyterian (well, one of those anyway) lay preacher. A good time was had by all. They came back the next week, and the next, and the next, for about six weeks. Nobody convinced anybody else but they had a fine time debating.

        cr

        1. … and it kept all of them off the streets and prevented them from damaging other people during that time.

      3. Good on you Nicky. I invited a Seventh Day Adventist in once, and we had a very friendly debate until I started challenging the Church’s requirement that you cut ties with people who leave the Church – even family members. She came back for a while obviously looking for more conversation, but it was always at a bad time. (There were always two, but one never spoke – she was just there to absorb the evil from me and keep her colleague safe!)

    1. This anon dental technician or lab bottle washer claims this:

      “…I am anonymous as there is a contingent of scientists who will make great effort to submarine my career if I were not. This is the worst kind of censorship and definitely not scientific. Shades of Copernicus.”

      These unhappy, loony, mostly underachieving liars just love to be superior AND victimised – both at once!

      1. Meh. I don’t use my real name either, as you might have guessed. (I suppose I could invent a pseudo-realistic name, and nobody except PCC would know it was fake, but what’s the point?).

        My reason is simply personal privacy and the Internet. If I say something in real life, then it’s in front of the people actually present, who I generally know personally. If it’s in front of a crowd, most of them won’t know who I am anyway. Either way it’s unlikely to get broadcast to the world at large or recorded forever.

        But if I append my real name here then anyone Googling me can see everything I’ve ever said on the Internet (try Googling yourself some time, it’s alarming). ‘cr’ is my real initials as it happens, but that’s sufficiently anonymous (2310 million results) not to bother me.

        So I’m endorsing Nobody Special’s right to anonymity (not necessarily anything else he/she says). A quick count shows twelve other pseudonymous posters on this page.

        cr

        1. Eh? I merely reported to GBJ Nobody Special’s given reason [from his email] for being anon. I have never objected to people using an internet identity unconnected to their IRL identity.

          I suppose your comment was meant for GBJ, but you replied to me.

            1. It was just a general defence of prefer-to-remain-pseudonymous posters. Not specifically aimed at either of you.

              cr

  6. Come on. Surely if any religion is TRUE, it would be one proclaimed by an Italian angel, and inscribed on golden plates.

    1. Who needs golden plates when you can have theologically inspired spaghetti and meatballs on any sort of plate?
      (SBUHMMB)

  7. The statement “You think therefore you are” very neatly, and with unintended irony, symbolises the problem here. Indeed, we don’t know if we see the same ‘green’, but the Bible doesm’t get us any closer to resolving that problem; in fact it exacerbates it.

    It may well be that some things can only be verified subjectively, and while that does set a boundary for (objective) science it also excludes the Bible. Science, almost by definition, occupied the territory of common, shared human experience.

    Were there an objectively or even subjectively true religion, it could, hypothetically, occupy that territory too, but as it stands, religious people have failed to clear up the discrepancies.

    Furthermore, science progresses, religion doesn’t and can’t. That is an insurmountable difference between the two. (I think religious people pay far too little attention to that fact.)

    1. Mormons believe that there have been prophets since Joseph Smith, so in a sense they are the most progressive religion. This is how they have disabused themselves of fantasies that have been disproved by DNA technology.

      1. Maybe I worded that unclearly — I mean tthat religion doesn’t & can’t undergo progress in the same way that science does. Even if a Mormon were to argue (like each religion does) that his is the ultimate religion, that’s still a dead end. No Mormon today would argue that they have a better a better understanding of the doctrines than Joseph Smith had.

        No Christian would argue that they understand Jesus’ teachings better than those who heard it first hand…. Okay, they probably would, but they wouldn’t be able to argue that they can then pass that progress on to others in same way a scientific idea can be.

  8. This person doesn’t think like any scientist I’ve ever met. My guess is he (her) is pretending to be a scientist to add weight and comradery to his argument and which is consistent with his anonymity.

    If spirituality is a sense, like color vision, where is its sense organ? Sets off my BS detector like gangbusters. Wait! Does my BS detector have a sense organ? Why, yes it does. 😉

  9. “Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck…”

    But don’t drink coffee.

    1. Meanwhile, the *women* of Mormonism are repressed and forced to serve as incubators rather than human beings free to express themselves as individuals.

    2. And be *absolutely* sure to *always* wear your magic underwear! It has been scientifically proven to help identify morons!*

      *An alternative spelling of Mormon.

  10. He is a Sophisticated Accomodationist™, and so has done a terrific job at fooling himself. It was amusing to see-right-thru his shell game by doing things like bringing up color blindess, and seriously equating them to spiritual blindness!

    1. I was wondering about that argument. If we can’t trust our senses, then not sure how this helps with religious truth – especially when it comes to visions, revelation, etc….

  11. A colorblind individual is not differently correct. They could mistake an orange for an avocado, and I wouldn’t trust them to identify a butterfly from its markings. This is like saying that someone who is tone-deaf will sing the National Anthem “correctly” for them. If you’ve ever been next to one of these people in a stadium, there’s no doubt that they are simply (and painfully) wrong about pitch.

    Also, argument by analogy is a rather lame way to “prove” the correctness of religious “truths.” If there were any truth to Mormonism it would be demonstrably true experimentally, not by analogy. You can find an analogy to fit any preconceived conclusion.

    1. But the way a tone-deaf individual sings is
      right for them, intersectionally. It is just “a different way of knowing” music. If this website were hosted at a university, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion would spring into action about any comments that made the tone-deaf feel unsafe and anxious.

        1. “Tone deaf” refers to those who can’t reproduce musical notes correctly. Generally they can hear the difference between accurate renderings and off-key ones, they just can’t carry a tune themselves. Many if not most are painfully aware of this shortcoming.

          1. “Tone deaf” refers to those who can’t reproduce musical notes correctly.

            I assume that is “can’t reproduce, but not because they have faulty reproduction equipment”.

            Generally they can hear the difference between accurate renderings and off-key ones, they just can’t carry a tune themselves.

            I think there are several things crunched together into this. I can certainly hear the difference between one note and another. What “on key” and “off key” means though, is a question I can’t really turn into comprehensible ideas. How do you “hearers” know what is on key or off key? Do you have something like a list of comparisons either hard wired, or learned in youth? If it’s hard wired, where is it in the genome?

            Many if not most are painfully aware of this shortcoming.

            Oh, I know I’m tone deaf. But it’s not painful, nor is it a shortcoming. It’s just “Music, schmusik! Pass the cheese.”
            Punk was a good time to be listening, because there were some really interesting lyrics going on. Since then – well, I stopped listening to music in the early 90s because there was nothing interesting about it. When I have to listen to someone else’s music these days, I still hear nothing worth paying attention to.

              1. How can you tell if a note is “bad”? Possibly I wasn’t in school the day that the music teacher passed out that bit of knowledge, but I doubt it.
                You can tell if a note is the one that the composer intended – that’s easy. But it has nothing to do with whether or not a note is good, bad, or indifferent. It’s like the question of whether a move on the Go board (or chess, or senet, or hnaeflatl) is good, or bad, it’s all a question of whether it contributes to the desired end result of the game. Except I was also obviously absent on the day that the aim of music was defined.

              2. I was merely identifying how the phrase is used. I deliberately avoided giving any definition of “bad note” as its meaning depends on context. Feel free to engage any person who uses it with your argument.

    2. A colour blind person would not mistake an avocado for an orange. And I would trust them better than myself in identifying butterflies if they were trained a bit better than me -admittedly a low bar. It is only in very special ‘composite’ colours, involving reds or greens (‘protane’ or ‘deutane’) they could ‘fail’. Note that in WWII sometimes colour blind were enrolled on planes because they could discern some camouflage easily, since the camouflage relied on trichromate colour perception, not a dichromate one.

      I fully agree the argument is lame.
      ‘Spirituality’ does not compare well to colour blindness. Although… maybe those he considers spiritually blind can see though the camouflage, see the BS, of spirituality more easily.

    3. I may be wrong, but I’ve thought that tone-deaf people are not able to sing on-key and
      are unable to correct the problem. Some of us are born with perfect pitch and seldom, if ever, sing off-key. My brother and I used to sing while doing dishes as kids and he had a great deal of fun singing just a tiny bit off-key to drive me nuts. Much as I loved them, my Dad and my husband couldn’t carry a tune. Sad!!

  12. Aw, ‘mockery and contempt’ is harsh. He sounds like a nice enough person and Mormon communities can be incredibly insular. I prefer ‘discussion and exposure to other views’. I hope you’re not feeling attacked after days of nastygrams Dr. Coyne. 🙁 Sorry for the unsolicited advice, but I would say be careful with that – we are all prone to emotional contagion and when I’ve found myself immersed in hateful comments sections I’ve realized that my brain eventually responds as if I’m living in an environment where I’m surrounded by real world hateful people who spew verbal abuse at me. I don’t know that are brains are particularly wired to know the difference and I think too much immersion / engagement with the world of keyboard warriors can be bad for people. It’s the holidays, I hope you’re watching videos of ducks and drinking gin and tonics and eating whatever foodies eat and having fun!

    To the post… when he talks about how you haven’t ‘tested hypotheses’ and whatnot, I assume he means the ‘try this for yourself and see if it’s true’ method of inquiry that religions such as Buddhism and Christianity (I’m not sure about others,) tend to encourage – that’s fairly common phrasing in those communities, I think (I think it’s always hard, when talking to people from different backgrounds, to track the various slang and well known phrases and such that they would not be familiar with, as the assumption of shared referents becomes second nature after awhile, so I’m thinking that’s what he meant.) On this, I am now very much in agreement with Sam Harris (ironically, earlier in life I was more an enculturated Christian and was like “What the heck is Harris even talking about with all this ‘amazing subjective states’ stuff?”, so in that sense Harris sort of caused me to convert from cultural religion to spiritual ‘religion’.) I agree that there are an unusual and often wonderful spectrum of states present in various religions that do often seem kind of inexplicable (As in, the usual cause-effect relationships tend not to apply to them. I guess to an alien it might appear equally inexplicable / arbitrary that ice cream makes humans happen, but to us it’s the natural course of things. Sitting in church for an hour and feeling for most of the time like I’m bored and hating it and then suddenly feeling a rush of joy and uplifted-ness after completing the experience is more of a “Huh, what was that about, I don’t see a logical connection and there’s no ice cream here.” experience.) But, I agree with Harris that you cannot use these subjective experiences – interesting and, to my mind, worthy of investigation as they are – to support specific empirical claims. I think it’s ok to make a statement like “Wow, maybe there are factors at work here that aren’t understood yet”, but that has nothing to do with the historically validity of various scriptures.

    1. Roo:

      …there are an unusual and often wonderful spectrum of states present in various religions that do often seem kind of inexplicable”

      pleases name a few of these inexplicable states along the spectrum you speak of.

      These states you’ve listed for me are unique to religion? And in what way are they inexplicable?

      I assume you mean this to be a description of one of the states you speak of Roo – so what are the others?:

      “…in church…bored and hating it and then suddenly feeling a rush of joy and uplifted-ness after completing the experience”

      This is not special & is not particularly a religious state – it happened in church because it’s a quiet time, where you’re encouraged not to think & not to interact with others. You also have the babbling white noise of some official person talking comforting nonsense. There are little old ladies who also go off on a trip while repetitively speaking the rosary around & around for an hour in my old RCC Sunday services.

      You can bring on this one state [not many states AFAIK] in any environment where repetition is part of the scene – you can even create the repetition inside yourself by listening to your body pulse away. It’s TM, it’s dervishes dancing, it’s geezers dancing down the Hacienda Club while listening to the sounds of Madchester [acid might possibly be involved though].

      My main point is – you have uncritically assumed that this brain state is a feature of religion. The truth is it’s a feature of people & normal life which ‘religion’ has co-opted as one of the tools it uses to con the masses. I have taught myself to bring on this state at will to counter chronic pain – it has naff all to do with religion, gods or the spiritual.

      1. “…in church…bored and hating it and then suddenly feeling a rush of joy and uplifted-ness after completing the experience”

        That’d just be relief that the ordeal is over. Just like – (looks back a couple of posts) – “a woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” (John 16:21) That ain’t joy, it’s just fracking relief. (Also an indication of just how badly women were treated, back in the day).

        I used to feel the same walking out of the dentists. Or Sunday school, come to think of it.

        cr

      2. My main point is – you have uncritically assumed that this brain state is a feature of religion. The truth is it’s a feature of people & normal life which ‘religion’ has co-opted as one of the tools it uses to con the masses. I have taught myself to bring on this state at will to counter chronic pain – it has naff all to do with religion, gods or the spiritual.

        What? I didn’t say anywhere that it’s *exclusively a feature of religion, so who cares if I said such states are ‘present’ in religion? That would be like if someone said “I feel a strange sense of awe when staring into the night sky” and I said “You have uncritically assumed that awe is a feature of staring at skies.” I’m talking about a subjective experience, not proclaiming an empirical truth. What’s the problem with saying that beautiful subjective states can be associated with religion? I feel like you’re erring in the opposite direction and assuming you *know these states can’t be brought about by ‘religion’ (whatever that means to a person), without a lot of basis. For example, you say:

        …it happened in church because it’s a quiet time, where you’re encouraged not to think & not to interact with others. You also have the babbling white noise of some official person talking comforting nonsense.

        …but do you have any kind of baseline data to show that this is the case, that you *know this is why ‘it happened’? I have lots of quiet time during my day where I’m not interacting with others (and I think plenty during church) and this generally does not result in such states. If you strive to be evidence based, it has to work both ways. Please don’t assume that you know things about me that you couldn’t possibly know unless you’re omniscient. If you told me “At 2 pm yesterday I felt X emotional state”, I certainly wouldn’t say “Let me explain, you felt that state because of Y” – because I don’t know you, and there could be any number of reasons. Essentially, I am saying it is *possible that some states are brought about by factors we don’t yet understand. You seem to be saying you know this can’t be the case, without specifying how you know this. Maybe it *was the quiet. Maybe a church service is structured in a very particular way, to mold one’s peace of mind in the way that gym molds one’s body. Maybe I was in a sort of empathic resonance mode and I was feeling what the priest was feeling. Maybe various rituals do help people tap into levels of consciousness that we don’t yet understand. The truth is that neither one of us knows for sure, and I’m not a fan of pretending to have answers that I don’t have on *either side of that equation.

        1. You didn’t answer any of my three questions

          Roo quote:

          “…there are an unusual and often wonderful spectrum of states present in various religions that do often seem kind of inexplicable”

          [1] pleases name a few of these inexplicable states along the spectrum you speak of above. I assume you mean this [the below quote] to be a description of one of the states you speak of Roo – so what are the others?:

          “…in church…bored and hating it and then suddenly feeling a rush of joy and uplifted-ness after completing the experience”

          [2] These states you’ve listed for me are unique to religion?

          [3] And in what way are they inexplicable?

          AND as you can see from my question [2] I asked you if these states are unique to religion before you went off on one!

          1. I think I explained this in my OP if you look back at it (see the discussion of aliens and ice cream.) As for naming said states, I’m not sure if they have common usage names, you want like a general description?

            1. You’ve said “there are an unusual and often wonderful spectrum of states present in various religions that do often seem kind of inexplicable”

              I’m asking you to list the ones that are “present in various religions” – you say there’s a “wonderful spectrum of states”. So list what you mean.

              My questions above are clear I think.

              1. A few that come to mind:

                – Magic

                – Overwhelming beauty

                – Insight

                – Oneness

                – Expansiveness

                – Selflessness

                – Effervescence

                – Transformation

                – Agape

              2. OK – those states can correspond to how many brandies or spliffs I’ve had or the arrival of the new puppy or the regime I use for pain control [which is along the lines of focussed meditation] or the transition to sleep.

                Thanks for trying, but that’s thin gruel Roo & not inexplicable in the least. I’m going to answer my question [2] for you:

                Q. “These states you’ve listed for me are unique to religion?”

                A. “No”

                That was all I was asking from the beginning – my very first comment.

              3. Michael, I’m getting a bit frustrated in that I feel like you’re not actually reading my responses. I said at the very top of my second post that I do *not think such experiences are exclusive to religion, so I’m not sure why you’re writing as if you finally got your question answered if you read my replies. I’ve also said twice what I mean by ‘inexplicable’, and I am not using it in the sense you’re describing, which is essentially ‘exclusive / impossible in other settings’. As I said in my first post, I mean it in the sense of ‘there is not a readily apparent causal connection’.

                If you would like a nice traditional Christian to hammer out the usual points with, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m far from that. I go wherever I find, in my opinion, good solid spiritual (what that word means is another long discussion) teachers who I can relate to, and sometimes that’s church and sometimes it’s a variety of other places. I’ve said in previous comments on other posts, I often include scientists in that category, as I think they can be almost monk-like in their devotion to truth; focus; non-materialism / noetic development; and good values, and one is as likely to learn about unusual states of awe from them as from a dharma teacher or priest. And I continue to agree with Sam Harris that many of the states associated with religion are unusually powerful subjective states and worth studying. I’m not actually sure what you disagree with me on here.

        2. Roo quote:

          “Maybe various rituals do help people tap into levels of consciousness that we don’t yet understand. The truth is that neither one of us knows for sure, and I’m not a fan of pretending to have answers that I don’t have on *either side of that equation.”

          It’s not impenetrable mystery – we know more than you think. The various mental states [not just conscious incidentally] have been a fascination to many for all of time & there’s been a LOT of speculation & quite a bit of science done aside from the tons of mumbo jumbo spouted by the ‘spiritual’ crew. Didn’t Sam Harris mention this? Have you looked around?

          1. I’m really not clear on what your point is. Yes, I have ‘looked around’, I have been on many silent retreats, to one of the annual Consciousness Conferences, read books, and so on. They do not have definitive answers, nor have I proposed any here, so again, I’m not even sure what your apparent objection is at this point. That I mentioned beautiful mind states arising in church, or what? I think it’s more or less a fact that they *do arise in church for many people, and we don’t 100% know why, but I don’t see that as a problematic statement. It would be different if I said “Oh, we DO know why – because of Hanuman!”, but I haven’t proposed anything like that.

  13. “I have deeply studied many religions and found mainly bullshit in all”. There, fixed it for you, Nobody Special.

  14. I do find it amazing that in 2018 (and I can’t even say that for much longer) this whole debate still exists. We really don’t need science to help us differentiate between what is self-evident and what is clearly preposterous.
    Joseph Smith? Ha ha ha! Joseph Smith???? No. Really. Very funny.

  15. He may have a point about colourbindness.
    He certainly saw RED where as i didn’t… as in this:
    “…grave errors and false understandings about faith and religion as you did in your hatchet piece?”
    and just a tad of heat.
    I thought it gave off a warm glow of anti accommodationism, apologetics.

    “Shades of Copernicus.” whoa! now this individual is trying to eclipse one and all with their not so special grandeur.
    If s/he has to hide under a rock, then, so much for their truth.
    If i may, alittle unsolicited advice, your career for a lie? best you stay under Copernicus’s shadow.

  16. The outpouring since PCC(E)’s article has been very valuable to hear! Very stimulating to understand what religion is and how it works. And all from a microscope-like article on a very carefully carved problem between religion and specifically science. Very clever.

    I also go out on a limb a bit : I think it’s clear why your average scientist can’t be bothered to touch religion, lest they invite letters of this type in their email all the time. What I’m saying is : it’s a dirty job, where “dirty” means the conventional sense of getting one’s hands literally into the earth.

  17. I was born a Mormon. Christened shortly after birth, baptized at eight, and ordained into priesthood at twelve. With ordination came the power of discernment and the authority to act in god’s name. At least I remember ordination being about those powers. Of course a male Mormon advanced to higher levels of discernment and authority as he advanced in levels within the priesthood. Those are pretty hefty powers for a twelve year old. Fortunately the power of discernment seemed to work best for me.

    Mormons are no longer “Mormons” since the current prophet was told they should all be known as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, their rightful and god commanded name. So now we are all exMormons.

    This person still seems to think he has the extra power of discernment.

    I never discuss religion with anyone of faith. If questioned I usually reply with something like, “Someday we are all going to die and none of us will be surprised by the result.” That seems to satisfy them long enough to get away.

        1. I tend to confuse it with SDA.

          Other than being some shade of weird, I’m not sure what the difference is, come to that.

          Oh yes – if it comes in pairs on bicycles, wearing shirts and ties and black trousers in a heatwave, it’s Mormons. I’d feel sorry for them if it wasn’t self-inflicted.

          cr

        2. I believe (as in, I see URLs containing it) that “LDS” is the network domain that the Church Formerly Known As “Mormon” use as their location in Internet domain namespace.

        1. The basic unfairness of it all is that if we’re right and they’re wrong, after we die neither of us will know. But if they’re right and we’re wrong, we’ll both know.

  18. According to different polls, some eighty six to ninety per cent of US believe in God. That is a large, well entrenched group yo go up against. Pushback is expected.

  19. Suppose we were an entirely blind species. We would not have any qualia triggered by light, but human scientists could still detect “green” by making adequate measures of reflection or absorption. They could call a certain band of spectrum “green” and if the measurements say so, a material or a light source could be called “green”. There are also human groups that don’t have words for all the colours, yet of course still possess the type of cone cells that respond to “green” wavelenghts. A colour blind scientist can learn the word as well, but is simply not naturally equipped with an instrument to detect “green” directly. They would have to use other instruments to decide whether something has the property “green” or not, and to which degree.

  20. Usually when one reads an intellectual-ish religious person everything goes along smoothly for a while and then suddenly there’s that abrupt turn into “full wingbat” territory. And then one says to oneself “Ah yes there it is, what the hell took so long.”

  21. LDS beliefs have changed since origination of the church by Joseph Smith. Following are just a few examples:

    Blacks in the Church:

    1.a. Wikipedia: The LDS Church was organized in Fayette Township, New York on April 6, 1830. “During the early years of the Latter Day Saint movement, at least two black men held the priesthood and became priests: Elijah Abel and Walker Lewis.”

    1.b. In 1844, Brigham Young became president. According to Wikipedia, “On January 16, 1852, Young made a pronouncement to the Utah Territorial Legislature, stating that “any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] … in him [could not] hold the priesthood.” This referred to black people. “As recorded in the Journal of Discourses, Young taught that black people’s position as “servant of servants” was a law under heaven and it was not the church’s place to change God’s law.” This did not change until 1978.

    One Man with Plural Marriages to Women:

    2. At the start, plural marriages of women to men was not part of the LDS faith. “The private practice of polygamy was instituted in the 1830s by founder Joseph Smith.” It was “…practiced publicly from 1852 to 1890 by between 20 and 30 percent of Latter-day Saint families.” “These eventually stopped in 1904 when church president Joseph F. Smith disavowed polygamy before Congress and issued a “Second Manifesto”. Certain offshoots of the LDS Church continue to practice plural marriages.

    Prophecy by Women using Seer Stones:

    3. Wikipedia: “Smith owned at least two seer stones, which he had earlier employed for treasure seeking before he founded the church. Other early Mormons, such as Hiram Page, David Whitmer, and Jacob Whitmer, also owned seer stones.” “Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that Joseph Smith used a seer stone in the Book of Mormon translation effort.” “Other early Mormons, among whom were Jacob and David Whitmer, Philo Dibble, W. W. Phelps, and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, valued seer stones.” Both women and men used them to translate and to prophesy. “…Since the nineteenth century, no president of the church has openly used such a stone in his role as “prophet, seer, and revelator”.

    Without details:

    1. In the early days, Joseph Smith and friends drank alcoholic beverages, tea, and coffee and smoked (for medicinal purposes according to later interpretation.)
    2. In Utah, in 1857-58, the U.S. went to war with the LDS. “…Buchanan’s ‘Peace Commission’ arrived in the territory bearing a pardon for the Mormon people. Brigham Young’s acceptance on June 12, 1858, on behalf of his people was positive…”
    3. LDS arranged for and their militia participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre with Paiute Indians in September 1857 killing a wagon train of people traversing Utah heading to California.

    ETC. with

    1. Do you know of a book detailing the weirdness of the Mormons? A serious critique. It would come in handy when I next meet my LDS cousin.

  22. The fact that a Catholic or a Muslim could make the same pronouncements and conclude that their superior understanding of the spiritual world proved that Catholicism or Islam is the truth pretty much demonstrates the difference between faith based “knowledge” and Scientific knowledge. There are no mutually contradicting denominations of science. The fact that given enough people interested in a scientific question and the science-based answers to that question and given enough time, every one of those people will converge on the same “version” of the truth of the matter is what gives science the credibility it has vs the steady erosion of credibility of the world’s religions and of charlatans pretending arcane “knowledge” from the imaginary spirit world.

  23. As a life-long atheist and long-time reader and occasional commenter here, I object most strongly to the fake ‘Nobody Special’ ruining my future credibility on this site with his Mormonic nonsense. I’m not suggesting that I actually have any credibility at present, but I’m sure that my ‘nym, which has passed relatively unnoticed until now, will henceforth stand out like a sore thumb and mark me as a religidiot. My only consolation is that my identity-stealing nemesis cannot register to comment here using my ‘nym.
    In short, I am not a Mormon nor do I have pretentions of being a scientist, but I am well-enough aware of the spirit of the Monty Python team to be able to say: I’m Nobody Special.

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