John W. Loftus - Why I Became an Atheist

January 30, 2009

John W. Loftus earned M.A. and M.Div. degrees in theology and philosophy from Lincoln Christian Seminary under the guidance of Dr. James D. Strauss. He then attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he studied under Dr. William Lane Craig and received a Th.M. degree in philosophy of religion. Before leaving the church, he had ministries in Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, and taught at several Christian colleges. Today he still teaches as an adjunct instructor in philosophy at Kellogg Community College and has an online blog devoted to "debunking Christianity." His new book is Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.

In this interview with D.J. Grothe, John Loftus discusses his background as an Evangelical Christian preacher and apologist and what led to his rejection of the faith, including both emotional loss and "lovelessness in the church," and also philosophical arguments and historical evidence that caused him to doubt. He critiques the Christian illusion of moral superiority. He challenges religion with what he calls the "outsider test." He explores whether logic and reason led to his atheism, or followed only after he adopted an atheistic point of view for emotional reasons. And he explains what he does believe in now that he no longer believes in Christianity or God, and the benefits he thinks this new worldview brings him.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Debunking Christianity

Comments from the CFI Forums

If you would like to leave a comment about this episode of Point of Inquiry please visit the related thread on the CFI discussion forums

I discovered John Loftus’ blog http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ only two weeks ago but keep coming back. He has a number of co-contributors, so there is always something thought provoking. For instance, the information about recovery retreats led by psychologist Marlene Winell who helps ‘refugees’ from fundamentalists sects to get their life back. So while the general title focusses on Christianity, a much wider net is cast.

Posted on Feb 20, 2009 at 10:02pm by moreover Comment #1

Very enjoyable podcast.

The theological/philosophical part is well-worn to us here but I always find these biographies interesting, especially of defectors among the flock. Here’s what I found interesting-

“lovelessness” of the church. The irony being that seeing to one’s emotional/social/spiritual well-being is often trumpeted by believers in support of their church or religion. Further irony, Loftus may have just been in the wrong place. Lots of pedophile priests seem to have got plenty of love from their church authorities. Perhaps Mr. Loftus’ sin was insufficiently horrific to merit support.

Evolution. Lots and lots of moderate Christians and atheists alike tell you that evolution is no “real” threat to faith. Bull. Darwin really did cut some of Loftus’ faith strings and to think he is alone there is preposterous.

Good for you John Loftus, truly you are now doing the lord’s work.. so to speak.

Posted on Feb 27, 2009 at 10:41am by sate Comment #2

It was a very interesting podcast.  I didn’t know he had a blog until the podcast.

Posted on Feb 27, 2009 at 2:02pm by Mriana Comment #3

I discovered John Loftus’ blog http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ only two weeks ago but keep coming back.
.

Interesting blog, well-written with consise posts and links for followup. Provides access to multiple perspectives. I was intrigued that he posted a review of his book by a Christian website (and that the Christian website reviewed his book).

I found the interview dragged in spots—in the same way as some people have personal reasons for believing in God, he has personal reasons for not believing. But there is a lot of good thinking in the blog and having been educated in “Christian apologetics” Loftus knows the weak points of the arguments.

Jackson

Posted on Feb 27, 2009 at 7:21pm by Jackson Comment #4

There are plenty of “targets” to shoot at within Christianity as well as amost any other form of organized faith, but the problem is with people, not faith per se.  Jesus himself reserved his harshest criticism for those who felt themselves “most religious” within his society while pointing out their hypocrisy.  Ultimately that group of religious leaders had him killed for his success with being so popular by saying such things - which somehow lead to thousands, millions, and ultimately billions of people professing that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of God… amazing.

Historical as well as current complaints against some people who call themselves Christians are of a similar nature in that Jesus would also condem them for what is ironically so much un-Christlike behavior.  Would they not kill him yet again? (Somehow there’s often a “stake” of some kind involved with this behaviour, whether it involves burning or just hanging there.)

Real concepts such as the relationship between God and Man, Heaven and Hell are long lost for much of organized Christianity, having been buried in acres of dogma and doctrine by the too often self-serving “servants” of the church.  What’s even more ironic?  If you decry them, you might somehow actually manage to exhibit Christlike behaviour! 

2 Corinthians 11:12-15   - There’s a real lesson here.

“Always remember, I am right and everyone else is wrong!”

Posted on Mar 03, 2009 at 12:58pm by gray1 Comment #5

Virtually identical apologetics, distinguishing the “true” belief from the adulterations of its followers are being made by adherents of many religions, all over the world. The problem is it presupposes that your Christian god and his incarnation Jesus of Nazareth are the real deal, not any of the 4500+ deities of other religions or none.
BTW, you are welcome to duke it out on John Loftus’ blog.

Posted on Mar 03, 2009 at 2:18pm by moreover Comment #6

There are plenty of “targets” to shoot at within Christianity as well as amost any other form of organized faith, but the problem is with people, not faith per se.  Jesus himself reserved his harshest criticism for those who felt themselves “most religious” within his society while pointing out their hypocrisy.  Ultimately that group of religious leaders had him killed for his success with being so popular by saying such things - which somehow lead to thousands, millions, and ultimately billions of people professing that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of God… amazing.

You assume there ever was an actual new testament Jesus.. considering his life in the Bible is carbon-copy mythology from thousands of years before I find it dramatically unlikely there was ever really a Jesus, at least of the time and place the NT ascribes. Moreover, it isn’t “amazing” to me even if there was a Jesus. The success of Christianity is owed mostly to Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, & Steel”.. in other words, dumb luck mostly related to geography and regional biology. Christianity was spread at the tip of a conquerers sword, not by an irrepressibly valorous message. If Europe had been Muslim at the start of its imperialist period then Mohammad would be the hero.. whereas the messiahs of say, South American peoples are consigned to oblivion. It’s all pretty random, really.

Historical as well as current complaints against some people who call themselves Christians are of a similar nature in that Jesus would also condem them for what is ironically so much un-Christlike behavior.  Would they not kill him yet again? (Somehow there’s often a “stake” of some kind involved with this behaviour, whether it involves burning or just hanging there.)

This sentiment is often expressed among skeptics and thoughtful theists but I still find stark the ignorance among believers of the fact. I would add to your observations that Jesus was rather anti-family, anti-nationalism and openly communistic. He seems like the polar opposite of your standard US god-fearing Christian. I even started an essay I’ve yet to finish but I titled it “Why Don’t Christians Hate America?”. It seems beyond debate that Jesus would have.

Posted on Mar 03, 2009 at 2:40pm by sate Comment #7

There’s a fascinating historical fiction book that just came to mind, by my favorite author Kim Stanley Robinson:
The Years of Rice and Salt
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw_4_11?url=search-alias=aps&field;-keywords=kim+stanley+robinson+the+years+of+rice+and+salt&x=0&y=0&sprefix=kim+stanley

Robinson lets Christianity die out with a year 1000 plague and now the world gets conquered and developed by Muslims, Chinese, and to some degree Buddhists.
An allegory, yes, but an instructive one.
(I also love, and just re-read, his Mars Trilogy, and his trilogy about abrupt climate change).

Posted on Mar 03, 2009 at 2:54pm by moreover Comment #8

Yes, the “winners” are free and inclined to rewrite history to reflect whatever they wish.  As to the “recycling” of religions, why would God or man either one want to change a perfectly good story line?  Do we assume automatically that all such tellings are not true for its own place and time? 

We can’t prove “god” anymore than we can prove “non-god” except for the testimony of those who have and have not encountered such.  Testimony alone fares well enough in most courts.  It is possible that there are just as many people actually willing to testify that they know God exists as those who would testify that they know he does not.  Would it have to be “sworn” testimony?

God makers Moses and Paul were both of a highly educated and extremely privileged class within their own societies.  That stated, works such as theirs did not happen in a vacuum.  Do we suppose that “the story” is complete when scientists have just figured that the creation of our universe most likely did actually begin with “darkness” before the “light”?  Now how else could Moses have stated his own story of creation within a few lines while still very carefully explaining that “days” are therein being defined as periods of “light” and “dark” even before the stars, sun and moon were supposedly formed? 

I might thereby ask the biblical literalists how anyone with half a brain can figure that the “days” of creation amounted to 24 hour periods when even the Jews who founded the Bible wouldn’t buy that story.  So how many hours are in a day at the South Pole?

Posted on Mar 03, 2009 at 6:55pm by gray1 Comment #9

Yes, the “winners” are free and inclined to rewrite history to reflect whatever they wish.  As to the “recycling” of religions, why would God or man either one want to change a perfectly good story line?  Do we assume automatically that all such tellings are not true for its own place and time?

When we establish that a story’s origin is untrue (such as when we find that its content is stolen from earlier stories, that the authors or publishers are liars or fools etc..,) then we would be more than prudent to question whether any of the content is reliable. 

We can’t prove “god” anymore than we can prove “non-god” except for the testimony of those who have and have not encountered such.  Testimony alone fares well enough in most courts.  It is possible that there are just as many people actually willing to testify that they know God exists as those who would testify that they know he does not.  Would it have to be “sworn” testimony?

Testimony alone fares well? So I accuse you of murdering my child, I get a 2-3 friends to do the same.. there is no physical evidence. Shall you be convicted on testimony? And this is a good idea? People throughout history and to the present day merrily report nonsense. Fairies, werewolves, succubi, mermaids, dragons and giants have all been reported by eyewitnesses. For any serious question about the nature of the world, testimony by itself is utterly useless (unless the question goes to the nature of the witnesses, perhaps).

God makers Moses and Paul were both of a highly educated and extremely privileged class within their own societies.  That stated, works such as theirs did not happen in a vacuum.  Do we suppose that “the story” is complete when scientists have just figured that the creation of our universe most likely did actually begin with “darkness” before the “light”?  Now how else could Moses have stated his own story of creation within a few lines while still very carefully explaining that “days” are therein being defined as periods of “light” and “dark” even before the stars, sun and moon were supposedly formed?

I might thereby ask the biblical literalists how anyone with half a brain can figure that the “days” of creation amounted to 24 hour periods when even the Jews who founded the Bible wouldn’t buy that story.  So how many hours are in a day at the South Pole?

I’m not a literalist, but one might tell you that when addressing an audience and using a word they know to mean “about 24 hours”, that they would then assume that is what you meant because that is how language works. Day means day. “incomprehensibly vast eon of time” would have easily worked to convey the notion of its referent to a prescientific people. Elsewhere, the Bible describes large numbers. 2 Chronicles says that a million Ethiopians came to the battle. Why is it possible to talk about a battle involving 1.5 million combatants and be understood but not a million years? Why would an all-knowing deity who would know his subjects would misunderstand the time frame involved by a factor of a billion use such a word? And clearly, the people did and largely still do buy into the 7 24-hour days bit. Let’s look at two lines-

13 And there was evening, and there was morning— the third day.

  14 And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,...

So, we’re supposed to believe that on line 13 the word “day” means a million years or some huge number, but one line later where day pretty clearly means 24 hours along with seasons and years.. does not? This would be the work of an idiot, not an educated prophet or a god.

How did this supposedly erudite Moses explain to people who asked how plants survived through “day” 3 when there was no sun to power them? I suggest this, admittedly stolen from the Simpsons: “whenever something doesn’t make sense.. a wizard did it”. You could exchange wizard for jebus, god, the magic ghost, etc magic is magic after all.

Posted on Mar 05, 2009 at 5:11pm by sate Comment #10

Confusion generally stems from ignorance.  It’s no wonder that Christianity is such a wreck, but again, dogma and doctrine causes many to ignore facts in favor of investments in error.  If we are to investigate “religion” just like we do science as Richard Dawkins wishes, it pays to cut past the obvious “crud” which starts at “In the beginning…” with the “young earth” adherents.  So what should be casually dismissed and what might mean anything at all?  A little knowledge is required.

The following is taken from http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/six_days_of_creation.pdf

“Hebrew scholars acknowledge the word translated “day” (yôm) has several literal
meanings: daylight, day, time, moment, or long era of time. The question is which
definition of yôm did the Genesis author intend? Biblical Hebrew has a very limited
vocabulary–approximately 3,100 words compared to over 4,000,000 English words.43 In
English, we have many words to describe a long period of time. However, biblical
Hebrew has no word other than yôm to denote a long timespan…

In biblical Hebrew, “evening” (􀇥ereb) has several meanings, including “sunset,” “night,”
or “at the turn of evening”47 and conveys a “sense of gradual cessation or diminishing of
activity.”48 “Morning” (􀁅􀇀qer) also has several meanings, including “the point of time at
which night is changing to day… the end of night, daybreak, dawn”49 or “beginning of
day”50 and conveys a sense of a “new starting of creative activity.”51 Thus, neither term
restricts the meaning of “day” to a 24-hour period.

... As Collins states: “This means that any effort to find this as
defining [24-hour] days runs counter to the author’s [Moses] own presentation.

According to Professor Nathan Aviezer of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, this is consistent
with the way early Talmud scholars approached Genesis 1. He states, “A statement must
be made at the outset about biblical chronology of the six days of creation. Any attempt
to correlate the biblical text with scientific knowledge must necessarily understand the
term ‘day’ to mean a phase or a period in the development of the world, rather than a
time interval of twenty-four hours…”55”

Please note the references to “Hebrew” and “Talmud Scholars”, which might represent a better authority than any johnny-come-lately Christian/would be preacher-type as to what might be meant by the scriptures.

Religion is massive whether regarded as a concept or a business and anything having so much mass naturally has a lot of momentum.  Heck, even some of the services are termed “Mass”!  That said, spending any (more) time attacking the 24 hour creation thing is much like tilting at windmills, the real dragons are still out there.

Posted on Mar 06, 2009 at 11:43am by gray1 Comment #11

Unfortunately, if several people were to testify that they saw me murder someone, it would take a miracle to keep me from being convicted for same.  No, this is not a good idea (because I in fact did no such thing) but that’s the way of the world. The point is that this is the way humans deal with most difficult situations in the absence of a king. 

When enough people agree on something, it somehow passes in a magical/mystical fashion from being a subjective thing to being an objective one, even in the presence of duress and/or doubt.  That anyone in particular actually knows better does not (in actual practice) matter.  Many a man has gone to prison or the gallows knowing he is innocent, but that is a small consolation.

My earlier comment as to “testimony” alone creating the facts was an attempt at sarcasim.  That which I do know about anything at all is subjective unless in your own madness you tend to agree.

Posted on Mar 06, 2009 at 12:14pm by gray1 Comment #12

It seems to me very convenient that for thousands of years when it served the religious people to assume God magicked the world into being in a few solar days that interpretation was correct. Today, when apologists or consilience promoters need it to mean “period” then that interpretation becomes correct.

The question is not what does the word yom have the capacity to refer to, but what did it refer to there? Here are problems with your explanation:

-it is NOT agreed upon by all Hebrew scholars that yom is a suitable equivalent for “age”

-if day is figurative than “morning” and “evening” must be also, because they describe day but in all of the old testament evening is never found to figuratively mean “beginning”. When speaking figuratively, morning always means early in the OT and evening means late. Therefore the idea that morning figuratively means “ending” is unsupported in scripture.

-Exodus 20 8:11 we clearly see side by side the word day used to describe the sabbath on which you should rest because god rested after 6 days of creation. like early genesis, you want the reader to assume the word “day” radically changes meaning between two usages only a few words apart, with no context or hint that this should be done?

Most of these observations comes from the book The Quest for Truth. link

My own observations are more basic- if god/moses/santa meant eon and wanted the reader/follower to understand their meaning.. they failed miserably. The fact is that people have believed the opposite for thousands of years (and still do, at least hundreds of thousands). Your god or your prophet is an idiot or at least a comically awful communicator.

As to the trial metaphor.. the point I’m getting at is that eye witnesses alone don’t get you reliable truth. Anecdotes are irrelevant to science. Evidence is the standard by which we learn how our world works and what it is made of. Witness-only standards are the hallmark of every insane cult, superstition, myth salesman and religion in history.

Posted on Mar 06, 2009 at 5:47pm by sate Comment #13

Confusion generally stems from ignorance.

Do you think that the leaders of the Mormon faith actually believe in the literal truth of Mormonism? Or that the leaders of Scientology believe in the literal truth of that faith? Or that the Pope actually believes literally in Christianity?  All of them? or just a couple?

Who benefits from the ignorance of believers?

Jackson.

Posted on Mar 06, 2009 at 7:08pm by Jackson Comment #14

Confusion generally stems from ignorance.

Do you think that the leaders of the Mormon faith actually believe in the literal truth of Mormonism? Or that the leaders of Scientology believe in the literal truth of that faith? Or that the Pope actually believes literally in Christianity?  All of them? or just a couple?

Who benefits from the ignorance of believers?

Jackson.

That’s exactly what I said about Justice Scalia once here,many posts ago.Does anybody really think he actually believes in god?He claims to be a catholic,I’m sure he is in name.Who benefits from the ignorance of the believers indeed?

Posted on Mar 06, 2009 at 8:03pm by VYAZMA Comment #15

I’d have to agree about the legal system (as well as our political system) being comparable to an “insane cult.  Each offers as many lies in their basis and practice as does (so we believe) religion.  Perhaps that is the norm for humanity and yes, there are always those who delight and profit by manipulating others as well as those who are apparently willing to be manipulated. 

Personally, I’m amused by anyone who “knows” that God is or isn’t either way.  Agnostics form the only group holders of “truth” in this matter since even if a hundred people were to testify to having actually been “in the presence of God” (this is really not too difficult to find), where then is the “proof” for any non-beliver? The term “you had to be there” comes to mind and even then not everyone may “feel” what happened. 

“God gene” anyone?  Would such represent the advance in evolution which allowed civilization to take place and if so, is anyone not having this unit deficient in some way?  If such is no longer needed, would having dropped such a gene represent a further advance in evolution?  Would there be a replacement of some sort?  So what’s the next step up from homo sapiens?

Since matters deemed spiritural preceed even civilization itself, I doubt that its own continuing evolution will evaporate because some people recognize it as only so much insanity.  That the many faults of religion are pointed out will be ignored by religious followers just as the great political schism between Democrats and Republicans enables each side to put on blinders regarding the seemingly criminal actions of their own “leaders”.  Social structure identity trumps all reason, justifies all the great lies.  Utilitarianism ultimately rules.

Q.  When does a pebble cast into a pond make no ripples?

A.  When that pond is frozen.

Posted on Mar 07, 2009 at 4:43pm by gray1 Comment #16

Personally, I’m amused by anyone who “knows” that God is or isn’t either way.  Agnostics form the only group holders of “truth” in this matter since even if a hundred people were to testify to having actually been “in the presence of God” (this is really not too difficult to find), where then is the “proof” for any non-beliver? The term “you had to be there” comes to mind and even then not everyone may “feel” what happened. 

I’m amused, or perhaps bemused, by those who think silly, farcical and fundamentally irrelevant ideas need such serious attention as to create special labels and philosophical exercises to elucidate.  In other words, self-identified agnostics, among others. The god notion has the intellectual import of “Big Mama’s House”.

“God gene” anyone?  Would such represent the advance in evolution which allowed civilization to take place and if so, is anyone not having this unit deficient in some way?  If such is no longer needed, would having dropped such a gene represent a further advance in evolution?  Would there be a replacement of some sort?  So what’s the next step up from homo sapiens?

There certainly isn’t a god gene, nor is there any one gene for any complex idea or behavior. Religion came with civilization but only at the time and degree of politics, professional frauds like magicians, and other people who figured out how to exploit society so they wouldn’t have to get a real job like the farmers. Society turns on ideas, not genetics. It isn’t old enough for genetics and the evidence of history shows that ideas alone often radically transform societies in the time span of a single generation.

Since matters deemed spiritural preceed even civilization itself, I doubt that its own continuing evolution will evaporate because some people recognize it as only so much insanity.  That the many faults of religion are pointed out will be ignored by religious followers just as the great political schism between Democrats and Republicans enables each side to put on blinders regarding the seemingly criminal actions of their own “leaders”.  Social structure identity trumps all reason, justifies all the great lies.  Utilitarianism ultimately rules.

Except that religion in fact is evaporating. I’d not argue it is because of intellectual dissent.. but whatever the cause religion is fading from every nation on the bleeding edge of socioeconomic development. It represents the past, but nontheism clearly represents the future. Not that there are guarantees of anything in particular.
Utilitarianism would ultimately rule- just as soon as you produce objective units of “good” and “bad” or happiness/suffering by which we can decide what is and is not a utilitarian good.
If social structure identity trumps all reason then why has the Christian church had well over 30,000 schisms? Why has our own political landscape, and every other western nation’s, splintered again and again? Shouldn’t everyone in a given generation mindlessly (reason being trumped) dedicate themselves to whatever social group they find themselves in? If this were the case, then we should have been over-run by the big-family-minded Mormons or catholics decades ago. Instead we see Catholics and Mormons defect at a very high rate, abdicating their “social structure” be deciding they want something else or nothing else.

Posted on Mar 07, 2009 at 5:36pm by sate Comment #17

As to any criticism of God/Jesus being a “poor communicator” what with so many people being kept in the dark, the old Bible story which gives reason why Jesus speaks publicly in parables instead of clear language is given in Mat 13:9-17.  One of the many disillusions commonly held is that God has to be fair about anything when the Bible shows otherwise throughout.  There is not much pandering going on in the scriptures to account for any continuing popularity, but since they are so seldom actually utilized any more, churches continue to be founded and expand regardless through very much pandering instead.

Posted on Mar 07, 2009 at 5:38pm by gray1 Comment #18

The fastest growing faith in the world is Islam.  They might also be considered by some to be the least tolerant of “non-believers”.  Good luck with that.

Posted on Mar 07, 2009 at 5:54pm by gray1 Comment #19

The fastest growing faith in the world is Islam.  They might also be considered by some to be the least tolerant of “non-believers”.  Good luck with that.

You know whats growing faster than Islam? nontheism. At least in the long view. According to data from the WCE “The number of nonreligionists….  throughout the 20th century has skyrocketed from 3.2 million in 1900,... to 918 million in AD 2000…. “

Almost certainly the nonreligious now number over a billion.
No faith, not Islam by far, has come anywhere near the level of explosive growth (about 28,700%). Nor is any projected to.

quoted here - Edge: Why the Gods are Not Winning

Posted on Mar 08, 2009 at 11:48am by sate Comment #20

There are plenty of “targets” to shoot at within Christianity as well as amost any other form of organized faith, but the problem is with people, not faith per se.  Jesus himself reserved his harshest criticism for those who felt themselves “most religious” within his society while pointing out their hypocrisy.  ....

2 Corinthians 11:12-15   - There’s a real lesson here.

“Always remember, I am right and everyone else is wrong!”

I really didn’t understand what point you are getting at.
I think the problem is that the Christian God doesn’t exist, and believing in Him only hides the problem. 

Are you taking the position that the Christian God exists and are trying to rebut Loftus’ points?

Posted on Mar 08, 2009 at 1:14pm by Jackson Comment #21

Thanks for sharing that, Sate.  I don’t know if he’s right, but it would be nice to think religious belief is on the decline.

Posted on Mar 08, 2009 at 1:21pm by Mriana Comment #22

You know whats growing faster than Islam? nontheism. At least in the long view. According to data from the WCE “The number of nonreligionists….  throughout the 20th century has skyrocketed from 3.2 million in 1900,... to 918 million in AD 2000…. “

Almost certainly the nonreligious now number over a billion.
No faith, not Islam by far, has come anywhere near the level of explosive growth (about 28,700%). Nor is any projected to.

quoted here - Edge: Why the Gods are Not Winning

I wonder if that number, impressive as it is, includes the counting of those in Red China and the former USSR where the state has supressed all forms of religion for many years.  It may be that people who give no thought to religion at all actually number well into the billions.  Now there’s a comforting thought…

Posted on Mar 08, 2009 at 5:37pm by gray1 Comment #23

I wonder if that number, impressive as it is, includes the counting of those in Red China and the former USSR where the state has supressed all forms of religion for many years.  It may be that people who give no thought to religion at all actually number well into the billions.  Now there’s a comforting thought…

Here is what the authors, Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman, said about China:

The Central Kingdom has never been especially religious, became atheistic under communism, and is striving for world dominance via materialistic consumerism. The finding by the Shanghai university poll that religious Chinese lifted from 100 million in the 1960s to 300 million resulted in headlines along the lines of “Poll Finds Surge of Religion Among Chinese.” But the 300 million figure is far below the 600 million religious estimated by the World Christian Encyclopedia, and is less than a third of the adult population. Nor should monotheists be particularly comforted. The survey uncovered 40 million Christians, about half the inflated estimate in the WCE, and just 4% of the adult population. Most religious Chinese are Buddhists and Taoists, or worship the likes of the God of Fortune, the Black Dragon and the Dragon King. By the way, The Economist says women are using religion as a way to battle traditional Chinese patriarchy. If the survey is correct that over two thirds of Chinese are not religious then they may approach a billion in China alone, expanding the global total even further.

So the WCE assumed massive numbers of theists, communism or no. As for Russia, well I don’t know if you have followed events there but the Russian government has cozied up with the Russian Orthodox Church making it a de facto state religion. The state began closing down competing faiths including synagogues and other types of Christian churches. Byzantine requests to hold religious services (in writing) are often required and often rejected for no reason or for “incitement” claims. Russia is heading down a road as dark as the one behind it- but it certainly has not been an enemy of the church in years.. at least not the ROC. Nonetheless metrics seem to show religion struggles in Russian and the religious minority is more nationalistic than devout as the ROC is a symbol of Russian heritage and culture.

Posted on Mar 09, 2009 at 9:55am by sate Comment #24

As I suspected.  It sounds like confusion and/or manipulations are as popular in those parts of the world as everywhere else.  Could it be that having too many choices actually inhibits making any choice?  I just finished listening to a WNYC Radiolab podcast on “Choice” which points out research in that direction.

Perhaps it is that:

1.  People who are born into “the faith of their fathers” will opt out and then have too many choices.
2.  People who are born into “not having a faith” might desire one but also have too many choices.
3.  The Russians have the idea in that if there is to be religion, take advantage of it to force a homogeneity (the “old school” approach - here is your choice), however,
4.  Organizations of almost any nature ultimately become corrupt, create dissent and spawn anew.
5.  The world-wide level of (available and recognized) hedonism continues to increase resulting in an increase of those who tend to redefine or skirt altogether any number of classical morality issues as defined in historical mainstream religions (No God wanted, or at least no judgement.)  Resulting in…
6.  A non-religion or perhaps something “spiritural” where anything goes for purely social purposes as a default choice.

Well, that’s progress…

Posted on Mar 09, 2009 at 11:00am by gray1 Comment #25

I find the argument by Zuckerman, Paul, and others compelling that economics ends up being the answer to why societies are religious or are not. This seems somehow both more obvious and more strange than more typical explanations. It is the only one I have seen though that is able to resolve certain difficult questions such as why is the US so much like Iran in terms of religion and unlike it in any other way? Also the theory predicts the facts: there isn’t a single overtly religious nation with a high standard of living and moderate distribution of wealth. Not few or just one.. none.  What you say here could help explain how you get from A to B of course, why the economics has the effect that it does.
The jury remains out but I find the topic fascinating.

Posted on Mar 09, 2009 at 3:33pm by sate Comment #26

I find the argument by Zuckerman, Paul, and others compelling that economics ends up being the answer to why societies are religious or are not. This seems somehow both more obvious and more strange than more typical explanations. It is the only one I have seen though that is able to resolve certain difficult questions such as why is the US so much like Iran in terms of religion and unlike it in any other way? Also the theory predicts the facts: there isn’t a single overtly religious nation with a high standard of living and moderate distribution of wealth. Not few or just one.. none.  What you say here could help explain how you get from A to B of course, why the economics has the effect that it does.
The jury remains out but I find the topic fascinating.

I have not read the arguements mentioned.  How do you define an “overtly religious nation” and a “moderate distribution of wealth”.  Historically, most nations that have developed a reasonably high standard of living for it’s citizens were at one time deemed somewhat religious and for the most part is seen with Christianity and an element of Judiasm as the major, if not only religions.  This accounts for Western Europe and those nation’s former territories including the U.S.  By and large the non-Christian nations have been marked by a truly wide disparity between the haves and have-nots excepting the economic boom which benefited Japan’s citizens after WWII.  This may not be PC to say, but it is pretty well true.

As to perceptions of a growing change in the relative “religious nature” of any given country, one of the factors I mentioned earlier is a growing populace with hedonistic lifestyles which eschew religious values.  This concept and option will only become available to the general public as they can afford same so economics is definitely a factor.  It still costs free time, fewer responsibilities (i.e. a breakup of the family)and spending money to “sin” good and properly.  In the U.S., the Welfare State was so poorly mismanaged that it seemingly purposefully generated millions of fatherless households whose relationships within their relatively strong churches often provided strong social bonds which would be otherwise lacking.  It is not surprising that many of these churches have long preached a “prosperity message” which has only recently seen popularity among the general population.

I fail to recognize how the U.S. and Iran might be alike in terms of either government or religion.  In Iran an organization such as CFI could not exist because their government is tightly controlled by a hard line Moslem theocracy.  The U.S., on the other hand, has written into it’s laws that there is to be separation of church(es) and State.  It might be more correct to state that some of the “fundies” in the U.S. seem to resemble the Taliban.

Posted on Mar 10, 2009 at 1:16pm by gray1 Comment #27

I have not read the arguements mentioned.  How do you define an “overtly religious nation” and a “moderate distribution of wealth”.  Historically, most nations that have developed a reasonably high standard of living for it’s citizens were at one time deemed somewhat religious and for the most part is seen with Christianity and an element of Judiasm as the major, if not only religions.  This accounts for Western Europe and those nation’s former territories including the U.S.  By and large the non-Christian nations have been marked by a truly wide disparity between the haves and have-nots excepting the economic boom which benefited Japan’s citizens after WWII.  This may not be PC to say, but it is pretty well true.

I find the particular monotheism highly irrelevant. Christian nations generally also went through lengthy eras of regress in virtually every imaginable way- economic, political, scientific. One can forgive the peoples of Papau New Guinea for their lack of political progress- their history is of a small isolated people with few natural resources. Meanwhile Christian Europe with every kind of advantage boldly marched backward for centuries which we now call the Dark Ages before generating some of history’s most brutal and terrible dictators. Clearly, there is nothing intrinsically helpful about being a christian society. Frequently the theistic element of those societies fought tooth and nail against economic, technological, scientific, moral, and political progress. Humanism might be a better social boon.
Moreover… Jared Diamond’s wonderful synthesis Guns, Germs, and Steel provides the best current explanation for the fates of all of earth’s societies and it has nothing to do with race, religion, or culture.

As to perceptions of a growing change in the relative “religious nature” of any given country, one of the factors I mentioned earlier is a growing populace with hedonistic lifestyles which eschew religious values.  This concept and option will only become available to the general public as they can afford same so economics is definitely a factor.  It still costs free time, fewer responsibilities (i.e. a breakup of the family)and spending money to “sin” good and properly.  In the U.S., the Welfare State was so poorly mismanaged that it seemingly purposefully generated millions of fatherless households whose relationships within their relatively strong churches often provided strong social bonds which would be otherwise lacking.  It is not surprising that many of these churches have long preached a “prosperity message” which has only recently seen popularity among the general population.

I am unable to reconcile your reasoning here with the state of affairs in Europe, where I have lived for the past 3 years. Certainly, western Europe is nonreligious.. but they also have rather firm family and community values. They’re socialism isn’t merely an economic descriptor for the role of federal government- they actually care and expect each other to care about their environment and welfare of children and elderly parents. Liberal as we call them, they seem to have the “family values” our conservative christians wail on about- and they have it minus stinky god baggage.

I fail to recognize how the U.S. and Iran might be alike in terms of either government or religion.  In Iran an organization such as CFI could not exist because their government is tightly controlled by a hard line Moslem theocracy.  The U.S., on the other hand, has written into it’s laws that there is to be separation of church(es) and State.  It might be more correct to state that some of the “fundies” in the U.S. seem to resemble the Taliban.

There is no comparison between the governments, and that is kind of the point. We’re a lot closer to Iran, with our very own thought police (FCC), Fundies, and state-sponsored religion (“faith-based initiatives”, unseemly tax breaks to churches, open gov/mil support of Christian bigot groups like BSA etc), Media Moral Hygiene Commission (the MPAA), and laws in at least 6 states the prohibit atheists from one or other public office. We also resemble such countries and diverge from first world nations when you compare rates of violent crime and healthcare. The question is why do we diverge so strongly and basically stand out from the entire western world along these axes? The proposed answer is largely disparity of wealth. All the countries should have nothing in common with but do also have a high disparity of wealth like our own. All the countries with low religion, low violent crime, better healthcare? Low disparity of wealth. All.

Posted on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:58pm by sate Comment #28

Interestingly as we discuss this topic, this headline appeared on CNN.com today-


America Becoming Less Christian

This is based on a recent survey of 54,461 Americans. A few snips-
Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether,...
...The rise in what the survey authors call “nones” is the only trend reflected in every single state in the study, Silk said….

Posted on Mar 10, 2009 at 3:08pm by sate Comment #29

As to the reasons for the economic health and other benefits to Western Civilization which in the past have been seeped in Judeo/Christian values, we shall have to agree to disagree.  It is what it is and that was derived from what it has been, not what it’s becoming.  Those nations being touted as “better than the U.S.” in so many respects which seemingly have “advanced” beyond the need for religion are currently in a serious decline from all of their socialist engineering.  Unfortunately, this is the same direction the U.S. leadership seems intent upon following. 

Wasn’t that “enlightened” France where the “poor” were most recently seen rioting and burning in the streets?  Where will the mainstream backlash to such violence hit hardest?  Just how “wishy-washy” have the British been in continuing to let Moslems take over their country and where do we suppose that will lead.  How about the Dutch?  No, it seems the “ideals” of Europe have a great many problems we are not talking about here. 

Did being a secular state really help the USSR and Red China, etc. treat their own citizens with decency and respect, or were/are those human rights (and millions of lives) which were lost just part of a plan for the broader good?  What is the difference in the mindset which makes Sweden, for example, a little better on human rights?  Perhaps being part of the larger Porvoo Communion which also bears the representation of numerous other state churches in Europe might provide part of the answer?  They all have a Christian heritage and their leaders still hold to that historical accountability whether or not the majority of citizens ever actually show up in church.

Posted on Mar 10, 2009 at 11:18pm by gray1 Comment #30

As to the reasons for the economic health and other benefits to Western Civilization which in the past have been seeped in Judeo/Christian values, we shall have to agree to disagree.  It is what it is and that was derived from what it has been, not what it’s becoming.  Those nations being touted as “better than the U.S.” in so many respects which seemingly have “advanced” beyond the need for religion are currently in a serious decline from all of their socialist engineering.  Unfortunately, this is the same direction the U.S. leadership seems intent upon following.

What we “have been” is horrible, though. Dark ages, witch hunts, pointless crusades, book burning, state assassination of scientists, hypocrisy, genocide, imperialism, racism, sexism, bigotry.. “judeo-christian” values did not magically avert all of these tragedies for the centuries prior to enlightenment ideals taking root. It could reasonably be argued to have caused many of them directly.

Wasn’t that “enlightened” France where the “poor” were most recently seen rioting and burning in the streets?  Where will the mainstream backlash to such violence hit hardest?  Just how “wishy-washy” have the British been in continuing to let Moslems take over their country and where do we suppose that will lead.  How about the Dutch?  No, it seems the “ideals” of Europe have a great many problems we are not talking about here.

 

So you’re saying everything good in Europe is thanks to religious tradition and everything bad is from Europes secularism-turn-hedonism at the same time? jeez, supremacist much? I’m not arguing who has a better or worse society, government or whatever. I am saying merely that the objective cause of religious decline is tied to economic conditions and not to any other. If you produce X,Y,Z economic conditions than religion will dry up and it doesn’t matter what the culture or longitude is (as Japan proves, for example).

Did being a secular state really help the USSR and Red China, etc. treat their own citizens with decency and respect, or were/are those human rights (and millions of lives) which were lost just part of a plan for the broader good?  What is the difference in the mindset which makes Sweden, for example, a little better on human rights?  Perhaps being part of the larger Porvoo Communion which also bears the representation of numerous other state churches in Europe might provide part of the answer?  They all have a Christian heritage and their leaders still hold to that historical accountability whether or not the majority of citizens ever actually show up in church.

Neither the USSR nor Red China can be called secular in the sense that we are secular. We are humanists and with regard to government, democrats and that makes a big difference. Totalitarianism is bad, period. In China/USSR the state demanded fealty and faith, unquestioning support, thus it was a quasi-religion. No secularist would agree to unquestioning, blind following of any institution.. so secular USSR? hardly.
Christian heritage? The recent heritage of the country I live in is Naziism and genocide. Which was very much Christian, I agree. But I don’t think they’re paying much attention to it these days, not overtly or subliminally. One thing I love about the place.. they aren’t hard atheists like I am. They don’t have to be. To them, religion is just not in the picture.. its irrelevant and absent, not debated and fought over. They just don’t care, and not caring is perhaps one of life’s greatest luxuries. I envy them this social treasure the US is not rich enough to afford.

Posted on Mar 11, 2009 at 1:28am by sate Comment #31

I am saying merely that the objective cause of religious decline is tied to economic conditions and not to any other.

I don’t want to sound like ensign Chekov on Star Trek who brings up Russia whenever he gets a chance, but I must, once again, bring up the fact that the highly secular Czech Republic is certainly not a result of any economic condition, as all the surrounding countries with similar standard of living (or even higher in some cases) show much higher percentage of believers. Economy can be one reason, I suppose, but it is clearly not the only one.

Posted on Mar 11, 2009 at 5:51am by George Comment #32

Being half Czech myself and trying to work on my ancestry, I can offer that the Czechs who came to the US in the late 1800’s and settled in somewhat homogeneous settlement areas of Czech/German Texas have a strong and proud Catholic heritage.  My grandmother spoke Czech and knew people in the early part of the 20th century who still didn’t even know English because they spoke Czech often as not.  The Czechs, apparently through the strength of their national character, managed to shine (both in human rights and economics) above the rest of the Soviet bloc even though the communists supressed religion, the results of which is still seen today.

So we have a chicken and egg kind of theory… can cycles of perceived economic wellbeing and degrees of active religious affiliations be graphed to show any kind of phase relationship?  So, if we encounter a serious economic downturn (like now) does that mean that religious affiliations will naturally increase?  Perhaps if I become a Moslem those oil-rich Arabs will send me some money?  And how about the price of tea in China?  I think these situations might have some relationships, but they are not what drives the various boats to where they ultimately go.  World-wide demographics are becoming increasing complex and it is folly to compare the U.S. to Europe (or anywhere else) when seeking to analyze such complex problems as either has or will have, but the history of each still factors in heavily.

I didn’t know the Nazis where so big on Christianity in that Jesus himself was not keen on burning and gassing Jews.  This article might be enlightening as to what happens when a mad-man effectively declares himself “God”:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Nazi_Germany
from which we get things like this:

“Hitler and other Nazi leaders clearly made use of both Christian symbolism combined with indigenous Germanic pagan imagery mixed with ancient Roman symbolism and emotion in propaganda for the German public and this worried Protestants.[43] Many Nazi leaders subscribed either to a mixture of then modern scientific theories (especially Social Darwinism),[44] as Hitler himself did,[45] or to mysticism and occultism, which was especially strong in the SS. Central to both groupings was the belief in Germanic (white Northern-European) racial superiority. The existence of a Ministry of Church Affairs, instituted in 1935 and headed by Hanns Kerrl, was hardly recognized by ideologists such as Alfred Rosenberg or by other political decision-makers.

Despite Germany’s long history as the seat of the Holy Roman Empire and the birthplace of the Reformation, Christianity was in a decline during the rise of the Nazi Party. Some of the factors leading to this decline were the after effects of World War I which challenged “traditional” European viewpoints.[citation needed]”


The observed cycles?  Economic downturn after WWI ushers in the rise of Hitler and Nazism with corresponding (leading or following?) decline in traditional religious affiliations in favor of newly invented religions designed to justify certain idealisms.  I think this represents a dangerous glitch we should watch out for…

Posted on Mar 11, 2009 at 7:31am by gray1 Comment #33

I am saying merely that the objective cause of religious decline is tied to economic conditions and not to any other.

I don’t want to sound like ensign Chekov on Star Trek who brings up Russia whenever he gets a chance, but I must, once again, bring up the fact that the highly secular Czech Republic is certainly not a result of any economic condition, as all the surrounding countries with similar standard of living (or even higher in some cases) show much higher percentage of believers. Economy can be one reason, I suppose, but it is clearly not the only one.

I am not competent to fully defend the thesis as I do not know the detail histories of each of these nations. I would submit however, that the “much higher” percentage of believers in nearby nations may be illusory. Poland is one of those nations and on that the authors wrote,

...Even in Poland, the one eastern bloc nation in which religion played an important role in overturning atheistic communism, just one third consider religion to be very important in their lives, and faith is declining towards the old European norm. It turns out that the “new” Europe is not turning out particularly godly.

I would add that it wouldn’t be particularly surprising for the stalwartly independent-minded Czech’s who repelled communism that surrounded them would then be much more apt to discard old “heritage” nationalism/religion more easily than other “go with the flow” nations.. but the outcome seems to be about the same, over time.

And I ask you this.. if the Czech republic had not become a developed nation, a NATO and EU member and fell into third world economic status.. would it remain so staunchly secular? If it did it would be the only one.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 at 8:42am by sate Comment #34

So we have a chicken and egg kind of theory… can cycles of perceived economic wellbeing and degrees of active religious affiliations be graphed to show any kind of phase relationship?  So, if we encounter a serious economic downturn (like now) does that mean that religious affiliations will naturally increase?

Increases in religious affiliation are in fact predicted regarding the economic downturn. The CNN article I linked the other day includes such predictions. That said, the US would have to fall very far economically to see any lasting result in increased religiosity because we’re a very rich nation. What makes us religious as a nation is the disparity, not the standard of living. At least so goes the idea.

World-wide demographics are becoming increasing complex and it is folly to compare the U.S. to Europe (or anywhere else) when seeking to analyze such complex problems as either has or will have, but the history of each still factors in heavily.

and yet certain patterns are hard to miss. Name me one nation in this complex “incomparable” world that breaks the rule or bucks the trend? What first-world nation with a large middle class is also overwhelmingly religious? What super-poor economically stratified nation is atheistic?

I didn’t know the Nazis where so big on Christianity in that Jesus himself was not keen on burning and gassing Jews.  This article might be enlightening as to what happens when a mad-man effectively declares himself “God”:

They certainly got along fine. The Pope never condemned Hitler. To this day relations with Jews are strained for the complicity of the Catholic and other churches. Yes I know about the occultism and twisted social darwinism.. but simply being a highly Christian nation changed nothing about the progression to evil and genocide. What might have stopped the madness? Reliance on reason instead of ideology. Free inquiry instead of blind obedience. In other words, everything religion stands against.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 at 9:01am by sate Comment #35

I would submit however, that the “much higher” percentage of believers in nearby nations may be illusory.

In that case I would ask why the Czech Republic also doesn’t show higher illusory numbers. BTW, most of the Poles I have met are religious — I have never met a religious Czech, including old people or those with a minimum level of education.

And I ask you this.. if the Czech republic had not become a developed nation, a NATO and EU member and fell into third world economic status.. would it remain so staunchly secular? If it did it would be the only one.

I don’t know. Would you, would I, would any one of us on these forums ask God for food if we were starving? I guess it’s like asking Dawkins if he thinks he will “repent” when he is dying.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 at 11:03am by George Comment #36

In that case I would ask why the Czech Republic also doesn’t show higher illusory numbers. BTW, most of the Poles I have met are religious — I have never met a religious Czech, including old people or those with a minimum level of education.

Perhaps the Poles are still proud of their own Pope John Paul II?  Most catholics I know are not overtly religious but do enjoy their social connections.  Proselytism is apparently not a big issue among Catholics unless marriage with a non-Catholic comes into the picture.  I suspect they might be embarassed to ask anyone who’s not already a Catholic to consider joining for fear the Priest/child molesters thing might come up.

I don’t know. Would you, would I, would any one of us on these forums ask God for food if we were starving? I guess it’s like asking Dawkins if he thinks he will “repent” when he is dying.

The famous “There’s no athiests in a lifeboat” saying comes to mind.  I’ve also heard that some people have an increased level of religiosity following their having a “near death experience”.  I don’t know if this sort of thing has happened with a well recognized, formerly “devout” atheist, but it might be interesting to know if such perceptions change given the proper “experience”.

The story that John Loftus has given us impressed me as his having lost faith in his people from whom he expected a better “Christian love” (a common mistake) at least as much as having lost faith in his God to whom he had dedicated so much of his life.  Sex scandals are a big bear trap which has caught many “godly men”.  Ironic that ministers will preach that “God forgives” when they know full well that their own church will not.  If a Southern Baptist minister suffers a divorce, there also goes his career regardless of the circumstances.  In recognition of this vulnerability, there is a rule that ministers should never expose themselves to such game opportunity or false witness either one by visiting alone with a woman.  Come to think of it, Jesus told his own disciples to go out by two’s.  Good advice!

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:06pm by gray1 Comment #37

The famous “There’s no athiests in a lifeboat” saying comes to mind.  I’ve also heard that some people have an increased level of religiosity following their having a “near death experience”.  I don’t know if this sort of thing has happened with a well recognized, formerly “devout” atheist, but it might be interesting to know if such perceptions change given the proper “experience”.

My uncle crashed in an airplane into the lake Ontario in 1976 and was “dead” for quite some time—IIRC, it was somewhere around twenty minutes and supposedly a world record at that time in the sense that he “came back” normal, or in other words, not as a “vegetable.” He “saw” the usual thing: the tunnel, the light, his dead father, and a friend who died when my uncle was a kid. I asked him what he thought of it, and he said that it felt like a dream. That’s it. He didn’t see Jesus or any other deity and remains an atheist to these days. What did change for my uncle was his hobby. He sold his airplanes and built a yacht. I think my aunt would have probably preferred if he turned to religion instead, as the yacht took him ten years to build.  :-)

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 at 7:06pm by George Comment #38

What is it with the “tunnel, light, dead friends and family” thing anyway?  Why are those so common in such cases?  Why “dead” people at all?

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 at 8:24pm by gray1 Comment #39

I don’t know. My uncle said that the girl he “saw” in his NDE (near-death experience) died when he was a child, and in reality they were not much of friends — she was a kid from his neighborhood. I have heard a few explanations for the tunnel and light. Carl Sagan, for example, speculated it might have something to do with our birth, where we enter the world through the birth canal towards the light. Hmm, maybe. Many people who experienced NDE say they see their whole life being played in retrospect in front of them—almost as if watching a movie—followed by the tunnel and the light, so it would make sense for the “movie” to culminate in our first experience, our birth.

Whatever it is, though, it certainly isn’t what many wish it to be. Many have said to watch their bodies (and the doctors in the case when people are being operated on) from the ceiling. They tested it: a big number was placed on top of the operating light, visible only from the perspective of the ceiling. None of the NDEers was ever able to confirm what the number was. Plus, people experience similar feelings (out of body, light, etc.) when they take some drugs.

Whatever the NDEs are, at least they are supposedly pleasant. My uncle said that even though it felt like a dream it was a quite enjoyable and a very calming experience. Well, thank Zeus for that, as those will be the last seconds of our life.

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 7:03am by George Comment #40

A few articles about NDEs from Skeptical Inquirer:

“Visitations”: After-Death Contacts—Joe Nickell

Return from the Dead—Joe Nickell

Probably the most relevant:

Darkness, Tunnels and Light—G.M. Woerlee

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 7:11am by dougsmith Comment #41

This sounds very joe-nickellish: “And the life review results from the dying oxygen-starved brain stimulating cells in the temporal lobe and thus arousing memories.” No footnote, no reference of any kind.

I tried googling it, but all I could find was the lack of oxygen actually causing a memory loss. I am not sure where Nickell got this information from.

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 9:06am by George Comment #42

Dunno, but there are other references in all these papers; they might contain further information.

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 9:19am by dougsmith Comment #43

Also check out the Skepdic article on NDEs—particularly the part about Dr. Jansen and his experiments with ketamine. The claim that we only or usually see dead people in an NDE may simply be a version of selective memory (or faulty fact-checking) and be part of the general hallucinative state.

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 9:22am by dougsmith Comment #44

Whatever the NDEs are, at least they are supposedly pleasant.

I guess I was wrong on this one.

From the article Doug has provided a link to:

...according to some estimates as many as 15 percent of NDEs are hellish (Blackmore 2004: 362)

and

There are numerous reports of bad NDE trips involving tortures by elves, giants, demons, etc.

I can imagine my negative NDE: Lou Dobbs torturing me to eat egg white.  :cheese:  (I don’t like Lou Dobbs and I hate egg white.)

What would your negative NDE be like?

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:59am by George Comment #45

The “out of body experience” can apparently be induced by an electrode planted in a certain spot of the brain.  This is one of the many interesting things discussed and reported on in The Brain Science Podcast in a program covering a book about Body Maps: (listen to mp3)  Another spot if stimulated the same way has been reported to induce the feeling of a “spooky and perhaps evil interloper”.  This is another pretty interesting production by Dr. Ginger Campbell who was interviewed earlier on the CFI podcast.

The implications of this brain science stuff are enormous when speculating about such “experiences” although I can’t yet see such “brain buttons” being conclusively explainative regarding the reasons we have mystically “revealed” religions until the sources of such complex details (as in dreams) are better understood.

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:48pm by gray1 Comment #46

The “out of body experience” can apparently be induced by an electrode planted in a certain spot of the brain.  This is one of the many interesting things discussed and reported on in The Brain Science Podcast in a program covering a book about Body Maps: (listen to mp3)

Do you have the link, grey1?

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 1:07pm by George Comment #47

http://docartemis.com/brainsciencepodcast/2007/09/22/brain-science-podcast-21-body-maps/

This was quickly followed by an interview with the author:

http://docartemis.com/brainsciencepodcast/2007/10/19/brain-science-podcast-23-interview-with-sandra-blakeslee/


Enjoy!

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 3:47pm by gray1 Comment #48

In that case I would ask why the Czech Republic also doesn’t show higher illusory numbers. BTW, most of the Poles I have met are religious — I have never met a religious Czech, including old people or those with a minimum level of education.

I offered a possible reason why in my most. Some nations are more nationalistic and clingy of tradition. Why is it you think most “religious” Americans readily lie about being more religious than they are and going to church more often than they do?

I’ve met plenty of nonreligious poles, most recently over last thanksgiving in Wroclaw.. but anecdotes aren’t really evidence of much.

And I ask you this.. if the Czech republic had not become a developed nation, a NATO and EU member and fell into third world economic status.. would it remain so staunchly secular? If it did it would be the only one.

I don’t know. Would you, would I, would any one of us on these forums ask God for food if we were starving? I guess it’s like asking Dawkins if he thinks he will “repent” when he is dying.

My question wasn’t about individuals, it was about nations. The comparison is not sound.
I don’t think it is disputable that destitute towns, regions, or nations are more religious than richer ones.

One more thing. I don’t mean to say specific history does not matter.. the mechanisms in this hypothesis would apply to previous eras. It isn’t just now that should be explained, but how we got to now in the first place.

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 4:08pm by sate Comment #49

NDE’s are also commonly experienced by pilots and such who must test themselves in a high-speed centrifuge.
Even without this evidence, the religious NDEs are unconvincing. Hindus never see Jesus. Christians never see muhammad. People see what they expect to see.

Carl Sagan did rather embarrassingly propose the “memory of birth” NDE explanation.. much like scientologists still believe. This is all nonsense because cognitive science informs us that no long term biographical memories are stored before age 2 or so. Brains are born half-formed and rather incapable.

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 at 4:15pm by sate Comment #50