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Devin Tarr

Master's Student, California State University Chico

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Why should presuppose that the cause of religious experience must be natural?

As I was watching Mr. Haidt's talk, I was struck with what he categorized as the "million dollar question". He says:

"Is the staircase a feature of our evolutionary design? Is it a product of natural selection like our hands? Or, is it a bug? A mistake in the system . . . religious stuff just happens when the wires cross in the brain?"

It seems, considering the testimony of those having such experiences, that we should at least consider whether they're caused by a super-natural explanation. It struck me as odd that Mr Haidt's logic went like this:

1) People have self-transcendent experiences, through religion or other means
2) What could be the cause of these experiences?
3) They must either be a natural feature of humanity, or a delusion producing bug in our biological system.

It seems to me there's an obvious third question as well. Is there something beyond us (super-natural) that we're connecting to, or is connecting to us.


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    Mar 17 2012: Dear Devin,
    Whether or not there is something beyond this earth life experience, why do you want to focus on it so much, rather than being fully engaged in HERE and NOW?

    On another thread, you write...."Aim at heaven and you'll get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you'll get neither." -C.S. Lewis.

    I ask you the same question I asked you on that thread, which was not answered. "Do you think/feel that if there is a god, he/she/it may have put us on the earth for a reason? We are HERE, NOW! To aim for another place simply takes us out of the moment of the here and now, thereby denying ourselves the opportunity to "be" fully engaged in the earth life experience. You're saying that a god created us, created this earth, put us here, and we are supposed to be aiming for heaven the whole time we are here? Seems like a silly idea to me! If there IS a god, I sincerely hope he/she/it is much smarter than that:>)"

    It feels like you created this question simply to provide yourself with a platform to try to promote your beliefs.
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      Mar 17 2012: Dear Colleen, I'm sorry I didn't get to your question earlier.

      I agree we should live in the here and now. I think existentialists have it right in that regard. What I don't see though, is that living for eternity is mutually exclusive to being fully engaged in the here and now. Indeed, it's because of the possibility that what we do in this life echoes for eternity, that what we do, and how we live, is more important than we can ever imagine. Hence I would never advocate someone retreat from life, but rather that people fully engage it.

      In regard to your question as to my purposes for this discussion, I actually wasn't trying to 'slip in the back door' as it were with a discussion on the existence of God. Rather, having watched Mr. Haidt's talk, it seemed odd that he would approach an inquiry on religious experiences from a standpoint of methodological naturalism. Considering his inquiry, it seemed logical to consider if perhaps there was any veridicality to people's claims.

      Please know I'm not trying to "preach" or "teach my beliefs." I just think we should reflect on our ontological and epistimological pre-suppositions. We may miss out on many truths about the world if, before we even start, we say some things are not possible.
      • Mar 17 2012: Hi Devin,

        1. We "begin to exist" in a very different way as the universe. Thus, you can't apply the same "principles" to the universe beginning to exist as to ourselves. Look at it carefully. Worse. You want to change its meaning into "change of affairs." Why? Why and with what justification you want to redefine our limited experiences about causes, and beginnings to exist to something so far from our comprehension as the beginning of the universe? That's 100% pure and unadultered equivocation, now also non-sequitur and hasty generalization.
        2. You cannot know if our universe comprehends all of material reality. The most you can say is that it contains all the material reality that we can ... grasp perhaps. If you want to redefine our universe into the whole material reality, then you commit yet another fallacy of equivocation. How can you apply what we know about the beginning of this universe to whatever the whole material reality might be? How would you know that there is no "material" reality other than our universe?
        3. The personal cause does not follow because there is no reason whatsoever to think that whatever might have caused the universe, if it was caused proper, has to be personal. You are the one who said something about "temporal effect," as if whatever that meant (I thought different time-rules of sorts, but maybe not), is something we do all the time as "personal causes," and no "impersonal causes" do. Thus, non-sequitur.
        4. Ad hominem is something like "this argument is false because the proposer is an idiot." I answered the fallacies first, and, because of the obvious snake-oil-salesman tactics of the argument (Kalam and other arguments), I concluded about this person's profession.
        6. Let's leave Fairies out of this. They might get angry, and believe me, you don't want them to get angry.

        Note that you added fallacies as a defence of the Kalam quackery. Try better understanding from the beginning before continuing.
      • Mar 17 2012: (Have you considered that I might have gotten "this is helpful" from a few people because they understood something that might have eluded you?)

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