Profiling the Atheist
Posted on 12 November 2018, 9:35
During my lifetime of more than four-score years, I have met many people who call themselves atheists. Usually, when they find out about my interest in afterlife studies and the fact that I have authored six books dealing with the subject, not to mention a hundred or more magazine and journal articles and more than 200 posts at this blog, they react with some surprise – often with a puzzled smirk, occasionally with a self-righteous sneer or a scoff, as if to say, “You don’t really believe in that stuff, do you?”
Not one to shy away from discussing the subject, I usually counter with a comment that I do believe in an afterlife, if not with absolute certainty at least with a conviction that meets the preponderance of evidence standard of our civil court system, and even goes well beyond that to meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of our criminal justice system. There is still about a 1.2 percent doubt there, so I say that I am a 98.8-percent believer and 1.2-percent doubter, meaning I am still a skeptic to some small degree.
However, I point out that by the standards of most religions I might be considered an atheist. That is to say that I doubt the existence of an anthropomorphic (humanlike) God, even though I call myself an unorthodox Christian and see Jesus as chairman of the board, or at least one of the directors, on the Other Side, assuming it is possible to give terrestrial names and imagery to celestial beings and matters.
Like so many other words today, “atheist” is subject to different meanings and interpretations, but for lack of an accepted word that means a person does not believe in the God of orthodox religion but believes in an afterlife, I’ll stick with it in this post.
“I believe in science,” is often the smug reply by the atheist, to which I respond that I also believe in science. If the person pursues the science road, I sometimes stress that I am familiar with the scientific method and probably have more experience applying it than anybody he or she knows. In fact, I might even claim the Guinness world record for applying it. No, I never wore a lab coat outside of a couple of college classes, I explain, but I had more than 40 years experience in insurance claims and litigation management, which involved weighing evidence and making decisions in countless claims and law suits as to whether to settle a claim, and for how much, or proceed to court. It’s referred to as courtroom science and not laboratory science, but courtroom science is more applicable to psychic phenomena than is laboratory science.
I must have applied the scientific method to at least 50,000 automobile accidents, products liability claims, industrial and commercial accidents, malpractice claims, construction accidents, and sundry other injury and damage claims over those 40-plus years. If there was nothing else I learned from those many years, it is that the science involved in most disciplines is far from exact. The plaintiff’s attorney would get a doctor, engineer, toxicologist, metallurgist, psychologist, whatever discipline was involved, to give his take on the evidence while the defense attorney would get an expert of equal standing to dispute the plaintiff’s expert. If there can be such inexactness in medicine, engineering, psychology and other disciplines in which they fancy themselves scientists, why can’t there be inexactness in psychical research? In response to this question, the atheist simply shrugs.
If the atheist shows some interest, which is rare, I try to get across the point that the afterlife I have come to accept is not the humdrum heaven and horrific hell of orthodox religion, but involves a much more active lifestyle than that espoused by the churches. But it has been my experience that most atheists are stuck in the muck and mire of scientific fundamentalism and will have none of it, just as much as evangelicals are stuck in religious fundamentalism. Over the years, I have developed a profile of the typical hard-core atheist. He or she may not have all of the characteristics indicated below, but here are 21 fairly common characteristics I have observed.
1) was likely brought up in a religious family, quite often in an evangelical family;
2) had problems with parental authority when young and was often rebellious;
3) while in school, adopted science teachers and professors as substitute parent figures and quickly divorced religion in favor of the “intellectual” reductionist approach of the teacher or professor;
4) cannot now believe anything that can’t be replicated and validated by science;
5) believes that it is necessary to prove the existence of God before considering the evidence for an afterlife;
6) believes wars, famine, poverty, premature death, etc. are evidence that there is no God, as a benevolent God would not permit such things. No God, no afterlife;
7) had an inferiority complex most of his or her life, but now sees his “intellectual” atheism grounded in science as making him/her better and smarter than all his/her friends who still suffer from religious superstitions;
8) has never really studied the evidence for the survival of consciousness but finds it convenient to parrot people like James “The Amazing” Randi and Michael Shermer by saying it is all fraudulent;
9) assumes that celestial ways and means must meet terrestrial standards, thereby further assuming that science has it all figured out;
10) attempts to put on a courageous front in his or her belief that life is nothing more than a march into an abyss of nothingness, but is really shaking in his or her boots, especially in his/her old age, when the courage turns to bitterness and despair, i.e., the pretend courage is really bravado;
11) doesn’t fully grasp the difference between evidence and proof;
12) assumes that the afterlife is nothing more than angels floating around on clouds and strumming harps for eternity;
13) fails to recognize that the evidence coming to us through psychical research and parapsychology is not always consistent with religious dogma and doctrine;
14) thinks that television “ghost hunting” programs are what psychical research and parapsychology are all about;
15) accepts the debunker’s explanation that all psychical phenomena are the result of fraud, hallucination or self-delusion;
16) believes everything he/she reads concerning paranormal phenomena at Wikipedia is the straight scoop;
17) assumes that psychics, if real, should be able to pick winning lottery numbers and be totally correct in everything he or she says;
18) stresses the “misses” in the testing of psychic phenomena, while ignoring the “hits,” even though they are far beyond chance;
19) assumes that if spirits exist, they should be all-powerful and able to more effectively communicate;
20) says we should “live for today” and not concern ourselves with what happens after death;
21) fancies him- or herself as a self-appointed guardian of truth in the war on superstition.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
Next blog post: November 26
The sceptic who is proud of his scientific rigour should understand that even Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity allows the possibility of Universes (eg the ‘world’ of angels?) that are beyond our electromagnetic reach right here in the interstices between the light cones of our own familiar Universe. It is impossible to claim that science provides any evidence against the probability of an infinitude of other places of existence, including the conscious existence of Beings like or unlike us, at least some of whom we would have to consider superior to us. Perhaps there are worlds of inferior Beings too. Experiments carried out within our own Universe sometimes have strange results far beyond chance expectancy, or which give hints of communication via or from other ‘places’. Much more could be said.
Eric Franklin, Mon 3 Dec, 23:27
Eric Franklin, Monday 3 December 2018, 22.27 pm.
It may be self-evident and somewhat trite to say and assuredly it has been said before, but we are all like the proverbial blind men describing our part of the elephant. We all perhaps are correct but it’s just that we are not able to see the whole. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 20 Nov, 00:28
I think my comments can stay here without reading Grimes. Her words and reasoning, upon close examination, can’t always be trusted. Several people, including myself, would rather not even see her name. Others put up with her. A few even like to pull her into arguments and she bites like a hungry fish. But I don’t speak for everyone, just the several people I know. As far as I’m concerned, she does a horrible job of helping the grieving, unless they are gullible, desperate, or credulous in their thinking to lead them to believe she is an authority on the afterlife. Conclusion: Wisdom isn’t present. Her words and reasoning can’t be trusted.
Kevin Williams, you make some great points regarding C.S. Lewis. Thank you for sharing that.
I had read Shermer’s experience some time ago and wondered how he can think there’s nothing, or speak as an atheist after that experience (maybe because he gets paid well to keep that stance?). Sam Harris (another one of the four horsemen) is slowing inching his way to re-thinking his stance while holding good critical thinking skills. He seems to be riding the fence, being cautious and using discernment rather than take a hard stance on atheism.
The bad logic of atheism or “there’s nothing, only science” argument throws many people (who require meaning to life by nature) into an existential crisis and nihilistic thinking after a while, especially when death of a close loved one happens (mementos don’t cut it). And the western mind is the worst go-to when dealing with death. Clearly atheistic rationale is a dead end regardless of Nietzsche’s observations and conclusions - to overcome and see power in oneself, which can possibly lead to the arrogant, “I am god” without the power to create even dust. It’s too bad that the logic of atheists, new age, and religious folks (which use highly flawed reasoning, from what I’ve seen) should not be explained by a)it’s all explained by science and materialism or b)it’s always “god” and his mysteries or c)quantum and all about “me”. Many things fall in between or none of the above. Each experience should be taken in it’s own context rather than form an umbrella belief. Discernment.
Here’s some of the problems I’ve seen with atheists, not mentioned: they have been damaged by religious beliefs and ended up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Can’t say that I blame them. It does make one disgusted, sick or confused at an early age rather than hearing wisdom from those who “should” know better. The undeveloped tools of critical thinking can’t be employed by children. They are vulnerable and these bad ideas stay with them. One mistake that Bart Ehrman has made has been to see god as omnipotent while assuming this god is always in control but god let go of the reigns, so he’s rejected this god rather than examine his own beliefs/assumptions. That’s good that he let go of that “god” because we have formed god and gods in our images through time. Atheism isn’t the answer. What if people examined a creator and its creation to a new idea, not call it “god”, and let it be revealed to them on new terms? Nix the stories of Yahweh, the Father, or the many pantheon of fickle and sick-minded gods in history. Or maybe see that what’s in the NT never speaks of Yahwah, or how Revelation (which does mention Yahweh once, according to Jehovah Witnesses in retort to this argument) was considered an unreliable and falsified book by some influential church fathers for many years, while many people held the apocalyptic view, making that book merely popular, not necessarily true. Or maybe let go of any and all religious ideas to stop creating ‘god’ in one’s own image. Furthermore, for those with the “moral” argument, morals can be learned and employed without a book.
When one has had a variety of experiences, (sober and sane, no less) it’s hard to think there are not other forces at work. Conversely, when one has not seen anything, it’s hard to believe there’s more. But having a variety of experiences myself, I don’t like to put those forces under the heading of “quantum” (as many seem so eager to do, thanks to pop media) since we really aren’t sure about that force or any other working forces we have not yet discovered. Obviously, a Creator(s) is much more intelligent than we can imagine, compare or duplicate.
silverpen123, Mon 19 Nov, 21:05
Roberta Grimes has taken up the subject matter in her blog at http://robertagrimes.com/jesus/am-i-an-atheist
Especially note her five points in the comments section.
Michael Tymn, Mon 19 Nov, 00:48
Consider this also from the book The Survival of the Soul and it’s Evolution after Death:
” The maitre replies that many of the inspirers of the religion called spiritualism, are of very high evolution, and for that reason know how to use the best means of reaching their audience,
the means adequate to their mentality. Those who make a religion of spirit-presence and spirit intercourse are almost always people who have an intense need of faith in God, in a personal god.A religion without god, who is at once king and father, would have no meaning for them. They cannot grasp an ideal that has no representation. And for this reason the inspiring spirits, observing and judging from their higher point of view, give them the mental nourishment that is necessary,the only one they can digest- and which,consequently, will sustain them.
Maybe Barbanell and the like may be vessels to convey messages to wider audiences who are religious to begin with or open to it.
Chad W Luter, Sat 17 Nov, 10:42
If subconscious coloring works for you in discounting Jesus as part of the hierarchy on the Other Side, so be it. However, you should also consider the words that came through medium Maurice Barbanell from the “group soul” calling itself Silver Birch. Barbanell grew up in a Jewish family and was himself an atheist, at least when he first realized his mediumistic ability. Therefore, his subconscious likely did not have any bias toward Jesus, as might have been the case with Stainton Moses, an Anglican minister.
When asked about Jesus, Silver Birch replied: “The Nazarene is one of the hierarchy behind all the directives we receive when we leave your world occasionally to fortify ourselves to cope with our mission and to glean more of what it is we have to achieve. I have a great reverence for Jesus, the Nazarene, a wondrous example of what the power of the spirit could achieve when divinity assumed human form and gives to those available simple but profound teaching that love is a power that solves all problems when people allow themselves to be animated by it…
“The object of the Nazarene’s mission was to demonstrate spiritual reality. If the Nazarene were to appear in your world today and to repeat what he said 2,000 years ago, I doubt if anyone would listen.”
Amos, I’m sorry to hear of your plight, although I think I understand. I have noted it as a subject for a future blog.
Michael Tymn, Fri 16 Nov, 00:43
I didn’t know that about Jainism. Interesting; I ought to learn more about the sect.
It is too difficult to pray to a creative force, divine force, almighty power, whatever, as we need to visualize a “person” on the other end of the line, or at least most people do.
Certainly. It’s unlikely anyone ever prayed to a Ground of Being or agreed to be martyred out of loyalty to a formless infinitude. We need a personal connection with God (which requires a person, however metaphorical), as well as an emotional bond, if our spirituality is not to be dry and intellectual.
At the same time, an excessive anthropomorphism in the idea of God leads to all sorts of foolishness and superstition.
Many intelligent people understandably cringe at the picture of a God who is too humanlike, e.g., expecting gifts and punishing worshipers who mess up in religious ceremonies.
You’re right, there isn’t any common word for those who reject childish notions of God. It’s somewhat confusing to call them atheists, but I see why you did.
Rick Darby, Thu 15 Nov, 18:09
I don’t know what I am but I do know that the core of my being—-my soul or consciousness—- is not human. That is, my consciousness does not look like the form it inhabits. And, it may in fact have occupied many different physical forms over its eternal existence taking on each different appearance in physical life but upon return to a spiritual plane has none of those appearances of form.
Those who anthropomorphize God really have no concept about survival of consciousness at all. Although they may be adults, intellectually they are still uneducated children in their thoughts about reality in that all they know or apparently can imagine is life in physical form—-but even so, most people could not or would not imagine their consciousness in a form other than human. It is said that the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, known as the ‘father of medicine’ is reported to have said that “the soul is the same in all living creatures although the body of each is different”. I too believe that, with no exceptions. People may shake their head in disbelief at my credulousness to believe such nonsense when I say that a spider has a consciousness, as does a butterfly, a bee, a bird, a snail, a snake, a dog, cat, deer or cow whatever. And I may be even more deranged to think that all of those consciousnesses also survive the dissolution of their body.
After all is said and done, life in physical form is only about experience regardless of the appearance of the form.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 15 Nov, 17:40
I have come to a point in my belief system that I feel that I no longer belong to the human society. I no longer have human interests and cannot converse with normal humans anymore. It is a station in life NOT to be desired. - AOD
Thank you for stating your position. I favour colouring as the explanation for the status of the Nazarene.
You are not aware then of Jainism. A jain will describe a vivid afterlife with no mention of a creator God.
Chad W Luter, Thu 15 Nov, 15:08
I call myself an Agnostic Spiritualist. I know there’s an afterlife from personal evidence and researching the subject for years, but I don’t even understand what the word ‘God’ means. Certainly not an old man who passes judgment. Everything is explainable by science, but the current materialist paradigm is wrong, it is a secular religion in itself. Post-materialist science and Quantum Physics, also Pearsonian Physics if you’ve heard of that (promoted by the late Ronald Pearson), suggests Consciousness is fundamental. Pearson calls it the ‘intelligent ether’ or ‘I-ther’. I would not equate this with ‘God’ as it is constantly evolving, learning from experience, and we are all part of this process.
Michael Roll, of the secular afterlife website Campaign for Philosophical Freedom, came up with the word ‘Survivalists’ for atheists and agnostics who accept the evidence for an afterlife, but unfortunately people who survive in places like deserts and jungles have usurped this word so it is not readily understood as having anything to do with surviving death. An increasing number of atheists and agnostics accept the evidence for survival of death. We will make the breakthrough when post-materialist science becomes the ruling paradigm, I would guess later this century.
Tony Papard, Thu 15 Nov, 06:26
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 15 Nov, 02:45
I agree! I think that ‘Super ESP’ (‘Super Psi’) has a very narrow or limited application to psychic phenomena. Perhaps there is a slight possibility that one uses Super ESP to obtain information but I don’t think it is applicable to physical psychic phenomena including such things as poltergeists, direct voices, levitations of furniture or persons, precipitated paintings, near death and out-of-body experiences, near death lucidity, cases of possession, behavioral changes in transplant cases, apports, or apparitions. I even find it difficult to consider Super ESP as a source of things like creative writing, music or paintings which otherwise are allegedly transmitted or guided by discarnate beings. I suppose though that some mediums who do automatic writing might be tuning in to some unknown creative genius off in some far corner of Timbuktu! Who can say for sure? -AOD
I think you misinterpreted what I was trying to say about a person who doesn’t believe in an anthropomorphic God but still believes in an afterlife. I couldn’t think of a word to apply to such a person, but, on second thought, maybe it is “panentheist.” I believe in God, but I doubt the existence of a God with gray hair and a beard. I believe God is beyond human comprehension.
I meant to say that some of my orthodox religion friends consider me an atheist because I don’t believe in a human-like God. It is convenient, however, to picture God as a human, and I think that is why the Council of Nicaea, in 325 AD, decided to make Jesus the picture of God. It is too difficult to pray to a creative force, divine force, almighty power, whatever, as we need to visualize a “person” on the other end of the line, or at least most people do.
Michael Tymn, Thu 15 Nov, 02:06
Chad asked why I hold “The Nazarene” in such high regard. So much of the communication purportedly coming from advanced spirits suggests that he should be held in high regard. Imperator, Silver Birch, and countless others have responded to questions about him. In fact, my notes accumulated over many years of reading show 23 such references to Jesus. While recognizing that the medium’s subconscious might color the communication and also recognizing other possible distortions in the communication, I tend to believe that the gist of them all is what Imperator communicated through Stainton Moses, as below:
“You inquire from us what position we assign to Jesus the Christ. We are not careful to enter into curious comparisons between different teachers who, in different ages, have been sent from God. The time is not yet come for that; but this we know, that no spirit more pure, more godlike, more noble, more blessing and more blessed, ever descended to find a home on your earth. None more worthily earned by a life of self-sacrificing love the adoring reverence devotion of mankind. None bestowed more blessings on humanity; none wrought a greater work for God.”
Michael Tymn, Wed 14 Nov, 23:54
This is a thoughtful posting, and I agree with most of it, but a couple of points are troubling.
If I understand you correctly, you are using the word atheist “for lack of an accepted word that means a person does not believe in the God of orthodox religion but believes in an afterlife.” Theoretically, the question of an afterlife and of the existence of God are separate.
But aren’t the two almost always found together? I haven’t met anyone who believed in a hollow afterlife with no supreme being. Buddhism doesn’t hitch its wagon either to God or an afterlife, and Judaism, while G_d centered, doesn’t go on about an afterlife. Neither represents atheism in your definition.
I can’t readily dismiss as fallacy no. 6 (“believes wars, famine, poverty, premature death, etc. are evidence that there is no God, as a benevolent God would not permit such things”). There is much goodness and beauty in the physical world, but the amount of terrible suffering can’t be written off as an inconvenience to get us to grow spiritually. We’re told that God wants us to choose of our own free will the path that leads to him. Does that apply if we seek God because we’re tired of being whipped by life?
C.S. Lewis’s answer, as described by Kevin Williams—that our inherent idea of justice implies that it must exist in a godly realm somewhere—makes no sense to me. It’s just reifying an abstraction. You can conceive of a purple cow or a flying horse, but if you see one it’s time to take your meds. (“And I can tell you here and now, I’d rather see than be one.”)
The score is still God/afterlife 20, more or less, atheism 1.
Rick Darby, Wed 14 Nov, 18:27
Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and particularly his “The Descent of Man” have had such an overwhelming directive effect on the thoughts of people of science and religion for almost 150 years now that anyone with a critical mind and especially those interested in metaphysical or paranormal things must actually read these two books. It is no longer acceptable to reference Darwin’s theories without actually having read them. One may find that Darwin’s thoughts and ideas about evolution are not exactly what one has been led to believe by mainstream “scientists”, i.e. atheists. Darwin writes that he had “two distinct objects in view” when proposing his theories. The first one was to “to shew that species had not been separately created”—-that is, that ‘God’ had not created each species and that secondly, “natural selection had been the chief agent of change” in species aided by inherited effects of habit and by the direct action of the environment.
Critical readers of this blog might be especially suited to evaluate Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection. I strongly recommend that all regular readers of this site should read these two books by Charles Darwin. Parts might be more suited for biologists, especially in “Origin of Species” but other parts can be understood by most educated people. Those who don’t want to invest the time and effort I recommend ‘The Descent of Man” as the selection to begin with. One may be surprised by what one reads there.
More and more critical scientists are reconsidering Darwin’s theories as applied to the development of the plant and animal cell with all of its components and whether or not his theories are really applicable at this level of the creation of living things. I find it especially perplexing to consider the development of reproduction in all of its intricacies starting with simple cell division (mitosis) and especially the development of gametes (meiosis) and sexual dimorphism.
One needs to be reminded that it is not known yet how DNA, composing the genes of chromosomes, is responsible for the production of form. It is believed that DNA codes indirectly for proteins but just how that is all converted into physical forms is not known. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 14 Nov, 15:43
Thanks for the post, Michael.
Simon, Wed 14 Nov, 10:43
I applaud you Mike for this useful research aided by readers into such an interesting subject and would like to add my tuppence worth. The fact that you have provided a multiplicity of reasons (nine) I consider is also the reality for many, as atheism (and once mine), likely arises for many reasons. While reading through the excellent contribution below by other readers, I wondered what the result would be of trying to pick the major causes of atheism. These are my top three in order of appearance.
Bruce Scott-Hill, Tue 13 Nov, 23:37
1 Parental influence. (My father was a fan of Darwin and owned a copy of his book, “On the Origin of Species”).
2 Church Dogma (again my parents thought a Christian education desirable and acted accordingly, so I became well versed in scripture, soon rightly rejecting most dogma as completely illogical.)
3 Became a captive of scientism which included false unproven science assertions e.g. the universe, life and everything arose by chance, also Darwinism. Note: Most people are still unaware that Darwinian evolution has in recent years been found experimentally and statistically impossible - as a cause for creating new species. The theory was based on the flawed assumption that cosmic rays cause favourable mutations to cells therefore spawning evolution over long periods of time. Experiments and statistical analysis have shown this to be false, as mutations destroy information and due to modern discovered information theory, can never provide a beneficial outcome leading to species evolution. Subspecies variation adaptive to the environment is valid however within the range of information contained already within one’s DNA/genes. The false Darwinian Theory assumptions since publication of his book in 1859 has probably massively increased atheism ever since as it suggests a pure chance cause for creation rather than a creator/God. (see my book, “The Paranormal is Normal (The Science Validation to Reincarnation, the Paranormal and your Immortality)” Pgs.8-16 and website, https://www.theparanormalisnormal.com/
22) Has run into so many fraudulent public figures on FB, Internet blogs and websites, and Youtube making claims that are so poorly spoken that one thinks, “If it’s real then why do so many believers employ the same lame arguments and rotten personal credibility about the dead, God, and the afterlife?”
Silverpen123, Tue 13 Nov, 23:08
Keith, Tue 13 Nov, 16:01
People who have a hardened belief in scientism should read ‘The Bond’ by Lynne McTaggart. If this book does not rock their confidence in current popular scientific prejudices, than nothing will.
Thanks to all for the comments so far. To respond to Sergio about my 1.2 percent doubt relative to survival, that small doubt is not so much with the genuineness of the evidence as it is with the interpretation. There are many parapsychologists who accept the reality of various paranormal phenomena lending themselves to a belief in life after death but who subscribe to the Super ESP or superpsi hypothesis, which holds that the phenomena can all be explained by subconscious abilities that we don’t fully understand at this time or by a cosmic consciousness that is far beyond human understanding and will never be understood. The latter might be called the “God without an afterlife” theory.
My studies. experiences, and reason have allowed me to all but discount Super ESP, but I don’t believe that absolute certainty (100%) is possible when it comes to believing in life after death. To put it another way, there is no way to disprove it. However, 98.8% is equal to a strong conviction and works for me.
Michael Tymn, Tue 13 Nov, 01:57
If I understand your short definition of an atheist correctly, then I guess I am one because I don’t believe in the anthropomorphic god of Michelangelo or the Christian religion but I tend to believe in an afterlife. (This is not to say that I don’t believe in an omnipotent consciousness).
There is an abundance of evidence spanning more than 2000 years of accounts from people who believe that they have been in contact with the unknown. That evidence comes from many different sources including classical literature, accounts of reincarnation from children, reports of reincarnation from hypnotized adults, reports of near death experiences, reports of out of body experiences, reports of deathbed visions and near death lucidity, reports of direct voices (and recordings) from the spirit world, “automatic” writing through many, many mediums dictated and transcribed from spirit sources, and many anecdotal reports over the past 150 years or so of people who experienced apparitions, poltergeists, or synchronicities, and precipitated paintings, dictated music, poetry and paintings transmitted from the spirit world sometimes allegedly from well known deceased people.
Something must be going on. Is it all fabrication? Can it be that thousands of people are misled by some natural function of the physical brain dying or otherwise? Is it all wishful thinking? Is there a tendency of people to misinterpret what they see and hear? Well, I don’t really know but if it is, then it is a grand fabrication foisted upon humanity since the human animal began putting words on paper or clay tablets. Why is there a need for humans to do this?
It may be that human belief systems are very strong at times thereby creating realities of thought somewhat akin to Quantum Theory that proposes that reality is composed of waves or vibrations until it is observed at which point it becomes something physical. Is it belief “even as a mustard seed” that has an effect on reality and the ability to “move mountains”. If we create our own reality by observation then maybe similarly we create our own afterlife reality. Maybe we survive death if we believe that we survive it! - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 13 Nov, 01:53
Mike, below is an excerpt from a chapter of my still-unfinished book, Enlightenment 101, which responds to your call for input:
According to Paul C. Vitz, professor of psychology at New York University, in “Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism” (Spence Publishing: Dallas, TX, 1999), psychological research shows that atheists have the absence of a good father as the source of their intense atheism. Vitz himself was an atheist until his late 30s. He notes that atheism “is a recent and distinctively Western phenomenon and…no other culture has manifested such a widespread public rejection of the divine.” He concludes, “Despite its pretensions to cool-headed rationality, modern atheism originated in the irrational, often neurotic, psychological needs of a few powerfully influential thinkers. He adds that “self-avowed atheists tend, to a remarkable degree, to be found in a narrow range of social and economic strata: in the university and intellectual world and in certain professions. Today, as a rule, they make up a significant part of the governing class.”
I think Vitz has an important insight, although it seems overstated to attribute atheism simply to bad parenting. I would contend that clear intellectual reasoning and the impulse for intellectual freedom from authoritarian control of thought is also a factor, probably the more important one, and appropriately so with regard to the illusion of God-the-graybeard and its associated worldview. The academic and intellectual worlds have contributed greatly to liberating the human mind from primitive superstition and clerical authority which denies scientific inquiry and reasoning.
However, as spiritual traditions point out, the intellect is a good servant but a bad master, and it is quite clear that the academic and intellectual worlds have enthroned intellect as the pinnacle of human intelligence. As such it acts as an obstacle to higher human development and can be as nasty an authority as that against which it originally rebelled. Emotional and spiritual intelligence tend to be ignored and even actively denied in the academic/intellectual world; atheism is simply one form of that, albeit a widespread form. Thus, when an atheist’s “bad father” state of mind mellows or is overcome through maturation, the possibility of what the Christian theologian Paul Tillich calls “the God Beyond God” becomes acceptable in that atheist’s worldview. Those who dare to follow where their newly awakened heart-understanding and emotional intelligence lead often find themselves surprised and converted toward some form of theism or sacred tradition. They may still be anticlerical, but not necessarily anti-God.
Historically speaking, therefore, the widespread presence of atheism in Western civilization is a sign of cultural evolution—a positive sign of health and growth in human consciousness. Its effect on civilization was, at first, destructive, although much of what was destroyed needed to be in order for intellect and reason to advance in their own right. Its later effect will be constructive as the shortcomings of atheism’s projection of an illusion onto the cosmos become apparent, which has been happening through science for several decades (e.g., the power of prayer and meditation, intelligent design studies, the anthropic cosmological principle, unified field research, the Big Bang theory of cosmogenesis, and quantum indications of some of the traditional attributes of God, such as nonlocality and zero-point energy). In the meantime, atheists will continue to denigrate the loving influence of the Divine placed in people’s hearts and to undermine the religio-moral foundations of Euro-American society which have tended to keep our unprecedented liberty from becoming license. The near term therefore bodes strongly for some degree of societal degradation.
John White, Tue 13 Nov, 01:38
I prefer to name these people “scoffers” rather than atheists as I class myself as a hardcore atheist, but believe in at least the possibility of survival. This position was also held by the psychical researcher CJ Ducasse.
I am intrigued as to why you hold the Nazarene in such high regard Michael?
Chad W Luter, Tue 13 Nov, 00:26
Let me paraphrase your alleged 5th characteristic of atheists: the reality of God is the first question, not the reality of the afterlife.
Coyd, Tue 13 Nov, 00:03
I change context, proposing that the reality of response to prayer is the “first question”, not who or what responds, let alone the reality of God. A “secular” alternative to responder being God is that your prayer triggers unconscious mental activity properly regarded as response. We don’t have to “decide” who is right, believer in God or secularist, to believe in response.
Concerning (6) believes wars, famine, poverty, premature death, etc. are evidence that there is no God, as a benevolent God would not permit such things. No God, no afterlife.
The Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis, whose former belief in an unjust universe led him away from atheism to theism, had a logical argument against the “unjust universe” argument:
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too - for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist - in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless - I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality - namely my idea of justice - was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1952)
So Lewis concluded that when atheists claim the universe is “unjust,” they are admitting a universal standard of justice exists which they believe universe is not following for some reason. Theists generally believe the apparent “injustices” occurring in life are due to “free will” and are corrected in the afterlife. But if the universe is meaningless or unjust as many atheists claim, we would never have discovered it to be meaningless or unjust. Instead, the atheist’s universal standard of justice and the theist notion of God gives the universe plenty of meaning. And because the burden of proof lies with those who illogically claim the world is meaningless and unjust, and not upon those who disprove the claim by giving it meaning, this shows the claim of a meaningless and unjust universe is a contradiction. Therefore, the belief in a universal standard of justice is logical support for belief in theism.
Near-death experiences also supports theism. Consider the following NDE scenario where an atheist asks the Being of Light, “Why do you allow things like famine, war, suffering, disease, crime, homelessness, despair, etc. to exist in our world?” And the Being of Light’s answer, “Interesting that you should bring that up as I was about to ask you the exact same question.”
Kevin Williams, Mon 12 Nov, 23:31
Great article Michael. I might add another:
(22) constantly equates “science” with “materialism” although classical Newtonian laws of physics and materialism such as: (a) locality, (b) causality, (c) continuity, (d) determinism, and (e) certainty, have been falsified by quantum electrodynamics in the last century.
Concerning (1) was likely brought up in a religious family, quite often in an evangelical family.
I have always believed that unless a person has some kind of life-changing experience with the “unknown” they have practically zero interest in spiritual matters. Take for example Michael Shermer. He had a very minor after-death communication (ADC) experience which “shook his skepticism to the core”. Read about it here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/anomalous-events-that-can-shake-one-s-skepticism-to-the-core/
But when you compare Shermer’s relatively minor experience (by comparison) with major anomalous events such as OBEs, DBVs, or NDEs, I can’t help but give Shermer a tolerant, but amusing smirk, despite his experience “shaking his skepticism to the core.” Many media skeptics such as Shermer are just pseudoskeptical magicians who are unable to understand the real “magic” in quantum theory and life in general. And unless something upsets their biased intellectual comfort zone, such as a profound NDE, as it was with the famous atheist A.J. Ayers, they will likely never accept any reality involving an afterlife. And I agree this mainly has to do with having a bad experience with religion growing up in a strict religious environment. More here:
Kevin Williams, Mon 12 Nov, 23:30
to Stafford: Would love to see your 21-list here.
a3dg, Mon 12 Nov, 22:13
Mike, your 21 common characteristics of the atheist reminds me of a similar list I made of the ways that belief in an afterlife brings happiness to our world. Very nice, helpful, and original!
Stafford Betty, Mon 12 Nov, 21:17
A dog is left behind with a friend in New England. The dog’s owner flies to his new job in California. One day, the dog escapes and eventually makes it all across the country to meet his original owner.
By smell? No way. That dog has a non-physical sense that guides him/her across thousands of miles.
I like an atheist explain this. Their rather unscientific dismissals of such and many other stories are often quite childish and reveal a real lack of “curious George-ness’, seemingly satisfied with a status quo opinion they received but never questioned. I wish mankind would do better than that, by being more inquisitive!
Coincidence that my watch stopped and my car gave out black smoke (and gave me a feeling that something was amiss) and wouldn’t start the time my mother died?
The militant atheism and materialism that prevails especially the science departments in universities is doing mankind a great disservice and also totally negates the idea of freedom of thought, expression, speech, writing, etc.
a3dg, Mon 12 Nov, 20:50
The sceptic who is proud of his scientific rigour should understand that even Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity allows, even suggests, the possibility of Universes that are beyond our electromagnetic reach right here in the interstices between the so-called light cones of our own familiar Universe. It is impossible to claim that science provides evidence against the probability of an infinitude of other places of existence, including conscious existence such as of beings like or unlike us, and perhaps what we would have to consider superior to us. And terrestrial experiments with strange results far beyond chance expectancy give hints of communication via or from such ‘places’, and even within our cosmos, for example via entanglement. Much more could be said.
Eric Franklin, Mon 12 Nov, 20:22
Nicely put, Michael. Thanks for the post.
I’m just curious about that ‘1.2 percent doubter’. Why is it?
I mean, after Leonora Piper, Elizabeth Blake, Etta Wriedt, Gladys Leonard… After Oliver Lodge’s, Judge Edmonds’s, Dr. George Dexter’s or Governor Tallmadge’s experiences, after professors Robert Hare’s, William Barrett’s or James Hyslop’s investigations, to name a few, and to name just some of the best evidence coming from mediumship alone, why is your doubting Thomas still there, even if hugely diminished? What is the rationale behind it?
Sergio, Mon 12 Nov, 19:50
I don’t waste my time arguing with atheists or non-believers in an afterlife. If they draw comfort from not being able to deduce how the universe created itself, or that life has no meaning, they’re certainly welcome to it, as far as I’m concerned. The whole point of believing in God and the afterlife is for those of us who do, to be able to further our own spiritual development. Arguing with those who don’t might enhance your debating skills: but it is’t going to change their minds, or yours.
James McArthur, Mon 12 Nov, 19:12
It seems to me that you can be an atheist and believe in an afterlife. Those two are not mutually exclusive. I believe it is possible that some form of us, probably in an energy form, exist after bodily death. I don’t believe there is this supreme God that created and controls everything.
Just because religions teach about God and the afterlife together, does not mean they are tied together. In fact, I think not believing in an afterlife created by a god, might help us identify the existence of an afterlife sooner.
Madelaine Lawrence, Mon 12 Nov, 18:58
You are so correct in your 21 attributes of an atheist to which I fully concur in my near mirror image of your take on life and after life. I totally validate your scientific prowess from your 40+ years of adjusting/investigation experience. You and I have corresponded in the past years about our adjusting experience. I, too, am mostly retired in turning over the reigns of our little IA firm to the kids and looking forward to my full emeritus status as I will hit 49 years next month.
One, outside of “rawhide” adjusters, cannot really imagine the range of your such widely diversified knowledge from so many decades of investigative experience.
In your request to post any other characteristics of atheists you fail to mention one in which I consider you to be the absolute expert in. That would be that atheists have no way to explain the preponderance of detailed past life reincarnation
accounts particularly those related with absolute accuracy in thousands of cases by young children in controlled research circumstances. They have a pretty much deer in the headlights response when confronted in their “fade into nothingness theory” upon so called ‘death’ when confronted with the prolific proven evidence.
Kudos to you for yet again an excellent posting.
Happy Enlightenment Trails,
jpf1030, Mon 12 Nov, 17:18
I believe in God who created man, not in God CREATED by men!
claudiopisani, Mon 12 Nov, 12:41
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