David Sunfellow, Can the Scientific Study of NDEs Reveal the Purpose of Life? |413|

Exactly, you really don't seem to understand the point I'm making. I'm saying that if a child is born with a deadly genetical disease we should not be content with saying "oh well, that's how the world works, it's because that way someone will really appreciate having a healthy child, so it all makes sense FOR US, hence it's all good", as you said/implied.
I've read a lot of your posts in this thread and others and I can relate with a lot of what you're saying. You're tackling what is to me, the biggest reason why people lose their religion and their faith. "Why would a benevolent God make me this way?" is a phrase uttered by many who are born at a disadvantage, whether that be genetic defects, or otherwise. This very question is why so many turn to atheism and materialism, because the world makes much more sense this way and is not as complex as a world that is both physical and spiritual. People will reject the spiritual no matter how obvious it is in their face to avoid attempting to reconcile it, it makes things very messy in how people approach the world when all things are considered. Nonetheless, it is there and it deserves as much, if not even more attention, than the physical does at this point due to our willful ignorance of it as a Western society.

Not to sound too dramatic, but for me, there was far too much suffering in the world to turn a blind eye away from evil and I realized that a very young age that a benevolent God would have stepped in to fix it, wouldn't you think?(queue the atheism that led into nihilism for a decade for me, until I became aware of the evidence for this sort of thing and had my own experiences to shake me out of it) So, I have always rejected that line of thinking that life is purely a school and preplanned, etc because it doesn't really make any sense.

To finish my 2 cents on God, I think what helped me the most understand more of what were dealing with is the book Mind Trek from Joe McMoneagle. He talks about how when he had his second NDE he did an "inspect" and discovered the "light" he was initially greeted by that was unconditionally loving, etc. was not God but the "totality of self." He concluded that the experience gave him a different perspective on what God is, and that God is beyond our comprehension. I think the best way of viewing God is to view it as an incomprehensible, amoral "everything" that encompasses all the good and all the evil, since after all a real God would be omnipotent and all knowledgeable.

In regards to the question of evil, I'm going to call upon my background for this one, which is heavily in psychology and some neuroscience (which I know everyone here loves). I specifically have studied evil for a while now in a psychological context, mostly on the understanding of psychopathy, and there is a lot of theories for it. Some say its all down to the parents, other say its genetic, and others say its childhood trauma. There is no real, concrete indication or marker for when an individual is going to be evil. Evil itself is entirely subjective and a sociological concept, its a time-oriented concept. Many things the early Christians did could be considered evil today, and yet back then they believed themselves to be virtuous.

So, I don't think "evil" is a good word for describing what motivates people to do heinous crimes that are abhorrent to us. We can't track evil because it's just an idea and its subjective, but what we can track are other factors. I think what it comes down are things such as a lack of empathy, sadism, selfishness, among other factors. This is where neuroscience can be good, we can take brain images of people who exhibit psychopathic behavior (evil behavior) and see what their brains look like in comparison to "normal" brains. What we find is that 99% of the time they're different and have abnormal growth. In fact, the research was so startling the journal Science refused to publish it because they feared what the research showed! However, this does not mean just because someone has a "bad brain" makes them bad people. There have been many people who have that type of abnormal growth and, while they do show a lack of empathy towards others, they do not commit heinous crimes, and are in most cases very, very successful individuals. (I'm paraphrasing a lot here, if requested I can make a more detailed analysis and go into what brain parts I'm talking about etc and the professors involved in this, just don't want to now as this post is getting long as it is).

So, it's not just a lack of empathy that makes people commit these horrific acts, but they're motivated by a selfish desire to fulfill a fantasy of theirs that could be sadistic in nature. Its just the lack of empathy that allows them to commit that crime since there is no "break" to stop them (that break being empathy). I will say there are cases in which this is not always true and there are no observable trends before someone commits a horrible crime, sometimes they're on drugs and they are hallucinating (could that be a spirit motivating them to do it? who knows?) and other times people simply snap and in a fit of blind rage they take things too far and someone dies. Ultimately, I think it is a consequence of living in a universe of free will.

Really, it's all shades of gray and I think the afterlife and other spiritual realms are no different. Reality truly seems to be what the individual makes of it and it is always going to be mysterious. Take things in stride and use your experiences as your strength, I certainly do. I went through a lot of suffering early on in life, as many people do, and I do not call myself a victim. It made me who I am today and it made me much stronger than I would be otherwise. In retrospect, it all makes sense to me now how things happened the way they did. Perhaps that's what people mean when they call life a school, not literally of course, but in a metaphorical sense of looking back at the lessons the experiences taught you and how you became stronger from what happened.

As far as why people are born at a disadvantage to others, I do not know. I don't find the "life plan" compelling, because a baby born with genetic defects does not only bring suffering onto themselves, but the parents as well. Pure speculation, but it may be random and could just be that particular individuals biology and how their physical body was developed from a purely physical standpoint. We are both spiritual and physical beings after all. I think the majority of people would agree with this and find topics like biology, psychology, etc more tolerable if they acknowledged the spiritual nature of humans as well (which is surely needed, these fields are on their last leg now without it). Looking at the world through either a purely physical or purely spiritual perspective lacks the scope necessary to accurately explain why things happen and to explain our reality, and in my opinion, both are equally as necessary as the other in order to explain it.

I should mention that my explanation is only scratching the surface of what the nature of "evil" is. To summarize, I think it comes down to free-will, individual agency, a lack of empathy, selfishness, sadism, perspective, and humans interacting with each other in the large majority of cases. I am aware there is some compelling evidence spirits or entities can influence people to do certain things, good or evil, (thinking DMT), but I'm hesitant to call those entities "evil" even if they exist. Morality might be best understood as a bell curve and where people fall into it grants them the title of good or evil, extremes being on both ends, and the middle being the gray area that we all know very well.
 
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speaking from a near-death experience perspective, the reason Jesus is such a big deal is: 1. He appears in some of the most well-known and influential near-death experiences (including the one that launched the modern day near-death experience movement -- the NDE of Dr. George Ritchie), 2. The core life and teachings of Jesus echo the universal truths championed by near-death experiences more clearly than any other historical religious figure I am aware of; 3. Jesus, hands down, appears in far more NDEs than any other religious figure.
Hi David, thanks for the thoughtful interview. You are a brother on the path of goodness! Also liked the postscript. I am sure the imbalance in almost all aspects of our modern culture is at the bottom of its severe sickness. We do need both, light and dark, good and evil, male and female. NDEs, whether Hellish or Blissful seem like desperate messages, possibly from within our psyches, to urgently remedy this.

I must say though, the reiteration of Jesus (innocent murdered prophet I'm sure he was, and one of many imprisoned and/or killed for saying their views) may be because we manifest what is prominent in our conscious mind, influenced as it is by the outside world. Jesus has had huge exposure, as has God and i wonder if we carry over from our 3d materialist perception, these self-made icons? Both names have too many over-used connotations for me. I would prefer a term more neutral for what I think your research implies. We may even need a new branch of language for this phenomenon. I would like to get your book, but if I'm going to see Jesus or God a lot, it will be rocks in my path.

Can I ask another (related question?) What is the meaning or intention behind the element of hierarchy in the NDE realm? Is it also a reflection of our material paradigm colouring the manifestation and interpretation of it? I have read Brian Weiss' research with 'between lives' regression-hypnosis, and I don't object to 'getting better' but why are we not all equally good in spirit form?

Thanks again
Alice
 
One thing I never hear anyone ask about NDE's is a pretty important one. How do we really know who or what these beings are that people encounter? Can you really know if the experience is not some form of simulation experience? I don't know if it's even possible to know, but I think running into beings that instantly make you feel calm and at peace reeks a lot of some abduction experiences.

In Robert Monroe's second book on his OOBE's he talks about an experience where he learns the earth was engineered as a giant "loosh farm" by an entity that wasn't 'the' God, but would appear to be God by our perception. You find a similar line of thought in the Gnostic belief system with the idea of a demiurge.

I'd love to see some NDE's experiencers put under hypnotic regression to see what they recall in that state. In any case I think it's something worth asking.
These are the kind sof questions that prevent me from accepting NDE research as gospel the way some people do. Sometimes the "NDE belief system" almost seems like a new religious movement in its early stages.

We have absolutely no way of knowing what kind of spiritual ecosystem we're living in. Do earthworms have any comprehension of the planet they're crawling through? Do anchovies have any idea how bizarre the oceans are? It seems that there are entities for whom the boundary between life and death is not so clear-cut as it is for us. What is their existence like? What kinds of desires and motivations could they have? As HP Lovecraft mused, perhaps knowing the true nature of the universe would make us go insane.

It seems fairly certain that beings "on the other side" don't experience time the way we do. It's possible that they can "see" all of time the way physical beings can view a physical landscape. If so, then this could mean that they know exactly who will survive a near-death experience and who will end up dying. And therefore they could "target" the people who are going to "come back" and shape their experiences in order to foster the development of certain beliefs/tropes/memes. Maybe the entire NDE field is a cosmic psy-op.

And what might be the purpose of this psy-op? Anything and everything...
 
These are the kind sof questions that prevent me from accepting NDE research as gospel the way some people do. Sometimes the "NDE belief system" almost seems like a new religious movement in its early stages.

We have absolutely no way of knowing what kind of spiritual ecosystem we're living in. Do earthworms have any comprehension of the planet they're crawling through? Do anchovies have any idea how bizarre the oceans are? It seems that there are entities for whom the boundary between life and death is not so clear-cut as it is for us. What is their existence like? What kinds of desires and motivations could they have? As HP Lovecraft mused, perhaps knowing the true nature of the universe would make us go insane.

It seems fairly certain that beings "on the other side" don't experience time the way we do. It's possible that they can "see" all of time the way physical beings can view a physical landscape. If so, then this could mean that they know exactly who will survive a near-death experience and who will end up dying. And therefore they could "target" the people who are going to "come back" and shape their experiences in order to foster the development of certain beliefs/tropes/memes. Maybe the entire NDE field is a cosmic psy-op.

And what might be the purpose of this psy-op? Anything and everything...
This is close to what I feel. I mean, I am pretty sure that NDE's are evidence for a larger reality, but what that reality is, is much harder to say.

I sometimes think we should think of the non-physical realm as being populated by human-like mental entities, plus some others, and enormously complicated - at least as complicated as human activities are on earth. Now think of NDE's as brief temporary connections between those realms. It is hardly surprising that NDE's vary a lot. I also wonder if our various cultures continue in the afterlife - after all, if our minds are already non-physical, we are basically there already.

David
 
As far as why people are born at a disadvantage to others, I do not know. I don't find the "life plan" compelling, because a baby born with genetic defects does not only bring suffering onto themselves, but the parents as well. Pure speculation, but it may be random and could just be that particular individuals biology and how their physical body was developed from a purely physical standpoint. We are both spiritual and physical beings after all. I think the majority of people would agree with this and find topics like biology, psychology, etc more tolerable if they acknowledged the spiritual nature of humans as well (which is surely needed, these fields are on their last leg now without it). Looking at the world through either a purely physical or purely spiritual perspective lacks the scope necessary to accurately explain why things happen and to explain our reality, and in my opinion, both are equally as necessary as the other in order to explain it.
There are many people born with genetic defects who live not only viable lives, but with joy. It is easy to frame a way of thinking in the 'normal' and presume it applies universally. Its like the complaint that if there was a compassionate (or benevolent) God he would prevent suffering - and because I see suffering there is not a compassionate God - or any God at all. But we have defined compassion in a way that would outrage a parent or a champion athlete. And we have set the rules of conduct for a compassionate God - he would prevent suffering. Mothers might have an issue with that too - despite Genesis 3 16 - "I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children". The God of the OT was not, surely compassionate. Indeed the idea of a compassionate God is a bit of a myth. The God of the Bible seems benevolent only in consequence of obedience. The Christians say their God is loving (indeed God is Love). But in the confused theology it is Christ who is loving and forgiving - not the Father.

Love, compassion and benevolence are not synonyms. Physical life is a realm of suffering, the real underworld - as Plato's allegory of the cave suggests. Elsewhere it is the realm of sacrifice - of life to life.

We can and should struggle to understand reality as we know it. But we need to avoid the theological trap of defining the limits of argument by assuming our delineation of concepts and definitions of words creates the only allowable space we can think in. The alternative to the theological approach is a mystical one, which allows wisdom to suffuse through the layers of thought.

And we must fuse the spiritual and physical - and the other dualities of our reality - head and heart, thought and intuition, knowledge and imagination - and so on.
 
This is close to what I feel. I mean, I am pretty sure that NDE's are evidence for a larger reality, but what that reality is, is much harder to say.
David, that's like saying that damp sand on the sea shore is evidence of the ocean, but the dimension of the ocean is beyond our knowing for then moment. We can't infer the nature of the larger reality from NDEs, and we should not try, unless we enjoy futile imagining. There's enough 'damp sand' to keep us productively occupied for quite some time to come.

For starters, NDEs sit within a range of experiences that are in the shallow end of the other side - OOBEs and lucid dreams, psychotropic experiences, spirit communication and other things. A systematic inquiry into their relationship with where we are would be helpful. We don't have the equivalent of a Hubble telescope to look into the metaphysical domains. If we have not undergone the disciplines that open up mystical experience, or born with the sensitivity, or acquire it in some other way, we are confined to intellectual inquiry.

I can get a bit frustrated by the focus on NDEs because they are context specific, and we seem to ignore the context so that we can focus on experience -as if the context has no relevance. There are actual death experiences that are reported, and I am inclined to think they might be a bit more to the point in terms of the larger picture. Ditto some OOBEs.

I do not want to seem disrespectful to you, but when you say you are "pretty sure that NDE's are evidence for a larger reality" you are showing up the limitations NDEs as a source of instruction.They are 'wow' from the standpoint of no awareness of the other side. That's their primary value - convincing folk there is a non-physical dimension by giving something that can be tussled over by 'scientists'. I think we can declare the argument won and move on. Arguments about brain states are irrelevant (but don't tell brain scientists that). OOBEs occur with normal brain states.

I know Skeptiko has fidelity to pushing science, but there's better science than just worry about whether the brain causes consciousness and whether the proposition that it doesn't can be proven to those who think it does.
 
I think the best way of viewing God is to view it as an incomprehensible, amoral "everything" that encompasses all the good and all the evil,
This sounds like a description of Nature, and we don't say "Wah, how could She be so mean?" It helps enter into a humble first step of open-minded acceptance. Towards understanding without first fulfiling preconceived expectations and demands for definition of its role as it applies to us.
Ultimately, I think it is a consequence of living in a universe of free will.
And perhaps resonance with a paradigm that evil "exists and is inevitable"
 
Hey Pamela and welcome - one quick soapbox, and then a comment on your excellent post.

Don't fall for US and elitist European progressive academic myth. Islam as a religious eschatology, is a problem globally - from the Philippines to Sweden to DRC Africa. As a person who has worked in the Wahhabist triangle in Saudi Arabia (and had to wear a disguise to keep from being assaulted or killed) and worked on the Yemeni rebuild - the CIA neither started, nor is it sustaining this 900 year old conflict of Shi'a empire aspiration. Radical Islamic (both Shi'a and Sunni) expansion is ranked in the top 5 concerns of every nation for which I have done infrastructure strategy, throughout Asia and Africa. It was the #2 concern for China - #1 for the Philippines. Not one country has ever cited extreme elements of Christianity as a top concern.

The KKK-mindset has been rejected and denounced by Christianity - it is no longer any form of exculpatory analogy. Islam has not exorcized its darker nature - and still celebrates and wallows inside it. Citing expansionist and displacing/genocidal radical portions of the religion is not a fallacy of composition at all - until Islam begins to denounce this prevailing circumstance globally and publicly takes action against this philosophy - all mankind will suffer the Tyflocracy of the Imams.
Lots of new information for me here...thanks.

What do you make of those who claim that the US / black hat intelligence agencies have had a hand in feuling and promoting this latest round (last 50 yrs) of radicalized islam... e.g. the muslim brotherhood in egypt. seems undeniable to me... and not surprising. the use of religion to manipulate and conquer has been in the playbook since roman times.
 
Hi TES

I just feel I have to push back against this anti-Islam tirade. There is just far too much evidence of the U.S. (and UKs) selfish interference which has affected millions of innocent people’s lives world-wide to sit quietly by. Doing so will no doubt bring forth a tirade of response from some and anti-Steve feeling within others. So be it. I’m fed up of people sitting on the fence while feeling deep in their gut that they should probably say something, but feel intimidated, or shy, or whatever. Maybe I’m wrong and they agree with what’s being said and feel no need to push against it? Is it any surprise that I think I’m in the minority here on this forum?

During my lifetime The Middle East has always been seen as a ‘troubled place’.( I know that Islam is far from only that area. )The media have portrayed it mainly as such, the Arabs are usually portrayed as shifty, devious con artists, while the WW2 stiff upper lipped English Officer (I forgot Zulu) and the honest ordinary British ‘Johnny’ are there defending freedom, as usual. John Wayne is the US equivalent, with his band of flag loving footsoldiers. The Japs and the Jerries then the gooks and finally the aae-rabs being the latest evil enemy. That simply doesn’t wash any longer. What were you doing in the Wahhabi Triangle? The Yemeni rebuild? British and American technology have surely not been helping that these past few years! ( British Aerospace, Raytheon et al) Of all the many places in the world, what are the chances of an American being there? One that worked for some spy agency.

All this and Jesus too.

Wow, it’s amazing.

Nowadays, I’d rather die than fight for any flag. Self defence? Yes, but where do you draw the line. Nuke them before they nuke you? Fuck that.

There is so much more I could write, but it’d be pointless. I’ve made my pointless point. I do have faith in Jesus and God. I will leave it to them...

I choose to read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (sounds like an Arab :)). It’s relatively easy to understand, there’s nothing too complex within it - but within it, everything that is important is explained. I struggle with the Bible, but this little book is my equivalent. As far as I am aware, it’s baggage free. Long may it stay that way.

http://www.brainybetty.com/2007Motivation/Khalil Gibran - The Prophet.pdf
one of my favs :)
--
Khalil Gibran; sometimes spelled Kahlil; was a Lebanese-American writer, poet, visual artist and Lebanese nationalist. Gibran was born in the town of Bsharri in the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, Ottoman Empire, to Khalil Gibran and Kamila Gibran. Wikipedia

Gibran was born into a Maronite Christian family and raised in Maronite schools. He was influenced not only by his own religion but also by Islam, and especially by the mysticism of the Sufis. ... Gibranhad a number of strong connections to the Bahá'í Faith.
 
religion is the cause, not the solution to the world's suffering.
I guess your point, but what's the alternative. hey, I get that many wonderful alternatives can be imagined, but yr a real world guy TES. the options we seem to be presented with today are satanic technocrats (I don't always agree with my friend gordon white but nailed it in ep 414), and those that dare to imagine we are more.
- islam as we know it is wrong
- atheism as we know it is not even wrong

and I don't think one has to be a john wayne flag waver to see the glorious audacity of "we the people" especially when we contrasted with Apple's ChiComm friends. I think that despite all the missteps the US constitution is our best hope.
 
islam as we know it is wrong
Believe it or not, I’m not a fan of Islam, nor a fan of any other ‘religion’.

How well do we know Islam?

Could we not say the same about Christianity if we were to pick the bad bits out? And there are a lot of bad bits! What did Cat Stevens see in Islam that was wrong? His songs were not about jihad either before or after his conversion! :)

I think the same could probably be said of all religions, and all ideologies. The bad is bad, the good is good. How do we tell the difference? I think our hearts are a decent guide.
 
What do you make of those who claim that the US / black hat intelligence agencies have had a hand in feuling and promoting this latest round (last 50 yrs) of radicalized islam... e.g. the muslim brotherhood in egypt. seems undeniable to me... and not surprising. the use of religion to manipulate and conquer has been in the playbook since roman times.
Tyflocracy

One way to shortcut the enormous effort of creating religious factions, is to keep key leadership under constant threat of assassination. By keeping a leader constantly in fear of being taken down by violent means (or even non-constitutional legal means in countries with tighter security apparatus), one can render a government less able to manage its affairs. I have observed this first hand in developing countries where I have met with a President to present a proposal, or conclusions or an update on progress - and the President kept his eye on security cameras the entire time we were meeting - distracted by the potential need to flee at any moment. In those nations, little is ever accomplished. The assassins (not just a lone assassin) have no desire to make things better, they thrive off the corruption and disarray which results from ineffective leadership. They are in partnership with the fanatic factions inside religion. The rest of the 'peaceful' religious group 'looks the other way'. This is called a Tyflocracy.

The radicalized version of Islam has employed this type of warfare strategy since the collapse of The Second Golden Era of the Sassanid Empire - where I believe that we derive the word assassin (and not from the Arabic ḥašīšī ‘hashish-eater'). This occurred at the very same time in which Muhammad penned his scriptures. If you want to see his religion as it was practiced, examine the list of assassinations here. Another reason why the religion of an Arab, was embraced so quickly by a collapsing empire of allied Persians. It was useful as a warfare strategy against the collapse of the holy empire. Kamakazi-go.

Rome's Model

Rome on the other hand, as a strategy, sought to unify and assimilate various religions under the one state recognized religion. Christianity is a blending of many regional religions and ritual cultural practices. Take Saint Paul for instance. He was the quintessential model of the counter-agent. Fervent persecutor of a specific religious sect, notorious for his violence towards this group - a group gullible for 'conversion' theology. He is suddenly 'converted' through a healing from a malady; a process in which none of the events could be verified by a doctor, nor external observer - blindness. He leverages this notoriety then into a resounding celebrity, and further then into championing the benevolent leadership of Rome - and unification of all churches - under his ambassadorship to Rome as well. He hides out in Rome, pretty much thereafter - ruling by fiat-edict. The traditional disciples rejected this. "When [Paul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they [avoided] him, not believing that he really was a disciple." (Acts 9:26). But Rome said he as a disciple, and eventually Rome won.

The West has used the artifice of uniting religions under the white hat of competent and authoritative leadership. It is not that we have never used a black hat disruptive influence to foment toppling a regime, as I am sure that we have. But the evidence I think, points to a great preponderance of the instability coming from where it always has - anger over the loss of THE holy empire. The sperm which resides in my balls, must spread across the planet, or they must all be killed. God has mandated this. An empire set on genocide and conquest in the name of god, whether they fully admit it or not. This, regardless of which religion practices it, is what we are at war against.
 
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So, I don't think "evil" is a good word for describing what motivates people to do heinous crimes that are abhorrent to us. We can't track evil because it's just an idea and its subjective, but what we can track are other factors. I think what it comes down are things such as a lack of empathy, sadism, selfishness, among other factors. This is where neuroscience can be good, we can take brain images of people who exhibit psychopathic behavior (evil behavior) and see what their brains look like in comparison to "normal" brains. What we find is that 99% of the time they're different and have abnormal growth. In fact, the research was so startling the journal Science refused to publish it because they feared what the research showed! However, this does not mean just because someone has a "bad brain" makes them bad people. There have been many people who have that type of abnormal growth and, while they do show a lack of empathy towards others, they do not commit heinous crimes, and are in most cases very, very successful individuals. (I'm paraphrasing a lot here, if requested I can make a more detailed analysis and go into what brain parts I'm talking about etc and the professors involved in this, just don't want to now as this post is getting long as it is).
As I expect you have realised, I am extremely cautious about modern science, and this is one paper that fuels my caution:
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01125.x?ssource=mfc&rss=1
It is a bit old by now, and I expect proponents of this sort of research would claim standards are higher now, but it really illustrates how easily scientists can fool themselves and therefore us.

However, there are similar claims made about London taxi drivers:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/london-taxi-memory/

Now in this case the extra spatial memory is something acquired by those who perform this job for many years. In other words these brain changes could well be the consequence of the mind that they contain, not the other way around. You have to realise that conventional science more or less takes it as axiomatic that all mental activity is caused by the brain, so it is almost inevitable that they come up with this sort of stuff.

Perhaps brain scanning should be done blind - like most studies in parapsychology - so scientists would have to study whatever data they liked from a brain, and then predict the type of personality of the owner. Other scientists would then try to match the predictions with the patient in question! Indeed unorthodox scientists such a Rupert Sheldrake always introduce some sort of blinding technique into their work - or it would not be published! Julie Beischel's study of mediumship was also praised, because she introduced multiple levels of blinding into her work, so that the mediums knew nothing about the person they were trying to contact, and the relatives had to choose from more than one reading, which one belonged to their loved one. A sucess was scored if the relative picked the report that was performed to contact their loved one. Remarakably the results were well above chance.

Possibly part of the problem with religions is that most assume that the supreme being is totally responsible for the world, and that it must therefore be perfect. This assumption ties everyone in knots. I think there is increasing evidence that biology was, at least in part designed. However, that design need not have been done by one benevolent being, moreover if our minds 'occupy' biological bodies, rather than being generated by our biological bodies, our minds may not be designed as such. This is vague, I know, but I think it makes more sense than standard religious doctrines.

David
 
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Tyflocracy

One way to shortcut the enormous effort of creating religious factions, is to keep key leadership under constant threat of assassination. By keeping a leader constantly in fear of being taken down by violent means (or even non-constitutional legal means in countries with tighter security apparatus), one can render a government less able to manage its affairs. I have observed this first hand in developing countries where I have met with a President to present a proposal, or conclusions or an update on progress - and the President kept his eye on security cameras the entire time we were meeting - distracted by the potential need to flee at any moment. In those nations, little is ever accomplished. The assassins (not just a lone assassin) have no desire to make things better, they thrive off the corruption and disarray which results from ineffective leadership. They are in partnership with the fanatic factions inside religion. The rest of the 'peaceful' religious group 'looks the other way'. This is called a Tyflocracy.
super interesting stuff... self-evident once explained.

The radicalized version of Islam has employed this type of warfare strategy since the collapse of The Second Golden Era of the Sassanid Empire
I'm sure you're right, but this may have more to do with our discussion regarding the nature of evil than inherent characteristics this goofy abrahamic tradition. that's why I think it's more useful to look at why we covertly backed the muslim brotherhood in egypt.

I don't want to be a naive. I get the "you want me on that wall you need me on that wall" mentality... and there's a reality to it. for me, that's where the flag-waving, constitution-waving stuff comes in. if we're different, if we are what we aspire to be, then we have to do better... and demand more of our leaders (USA... USA... USA).
 
Rome's Model

Rome on the other hand, as a strategy, sought to unify and assimilate various religions under the one state recognized religion.
to me it looks more like covertly co-opting ( "well, you know, that god of yours is a lot like our sun god... maybe we're not so different after all") when possible, and then obliterating after (e.g. mass murderer of the druids).

Christianity is a blending of many regional religions and ritual cultural practices.
I don't know looks like a pretty direct reboot the pre-existing roman cult. new boss same as the old boss.

Take Saint Paul for instance. He was the quintessential model of the counter-agent. Fervent persecutor of a specific religious sect, notorious for his violence towards this group - a group gullible for 'conversion' theology. He is suddenly 'converted' through a healing from a malady; a process in which none of the events could be verified by a doctor, nor external observer - blindness. He leverages this notoriety then into a resounding celebrity, and further then into championing the benevolent leadership of Rome - and unification of all churches - under his ambassadorship to Rome as well. He hides out in Rome, pretty much thereafter - ruling by fiat-edict. The traditional disciples rejected this. "When [Paul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they [avoided] him, not believing that he really was a disciple." (Acts 9:26). But Rome said he as a disciple, and eventually Rome won.
great example... last part is new to me.

it may be worse. I don't agree with everything joseph atwill says, but I think his claim about josephus being a fictional character is spot-on. this has huge ramifications for how we are to interpret the bible and all the goofy abrahamic traditions that flow from it.
 
Tyflocracy

One way to shortcut the enormous effort of creating religious factions, is to keep key leadership under constant threat of assassination. By keeping a leader constantly in fear of being taken down by violent means (or even non-constitutional legal means in countries with tighter security apparatus), one can render a government less able to manage its affairs. I have observed this first hand in developing countries where I have met with a President to present a proposal, or conclusions or an update on progress - and the President kept his eye on security cameras the entire time we were meeting - distracted by the potential need to flee at any moment. In those nations, little is ever accomplished. The assassins (not just a lone assassin) have no desire to make things better, they thrive off the corruption and disarray which results from ineffective leadership. They are in partnership with the fanatic factions inside religion. The rest of the 'peaceful' religious group 'looks the other way'. This is called a Tyflocracy.

The radicalized version of Islam has employed this type of warfare strategy since the collapse of The Second Golden Era of the Sassanid Empire - where I believe that we derive the word assassin (and not from the Arabic ḥašīšī ‘hashish-eater'). This occurred at the very same time in which Muhammad penned his scriptures. If you want to see his religion as it was practiced, examine the list of assassinations here. Another reason why the religion of an Arab, was embraced so quickly by a collapsing empire of allied Persians. It was useful as a warfare strategy against the collapse of the holy empire. Kamakazi-go.

Rome's Model

Rome on the other hand, as a strategy, sought to unify and assimilate various religions under the one state recognized religion. Christianity is a blending of many regional religions and ritual cultural practices. Take Saint Paul for instance. He was the quintessential model of the counter-agent. Fervent persecutor of a specific religious sect, notorious for his violence towards this group - a group gullible for 'conversion' theology. He is suddenly 'converted' through a healing from a malady; a process in which none of the events could be verified by a doctor, nor external observer - blindness. He leverages this notoriety then into a resounding celebrity, and further then into championing the benevolent leadership of Rome - and unification of all churches - under his ambassadorship to Rome as well. He hides out in Rome, pretty much thereafter - ruling by fiat-edict. The traditional disciples rejected this. "When [Paul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they [avoided] him, not believing that he really was a disciple." (Acts 9:26). But Rome said he as a disciple, and eventually Rome won.

The West has used the artifice of uniting religions under the white hat of competent and authoritative leadership. It is not that we have never used a black hat disruptive influence to foment toppling a regime, as I am sure that we have. But the evidence I think, points to a great preponderance of the instability coming from where it always has - anger over the loss of THE holy empire. The sperm which resides in my balls, must spread across the planet, or they must all be killed. God has mandated this. An empire set on genocide and conquest in the name of god, whether they fully admit it or not. This, regardless of which religion practices it, is what we are at war against.
TES,
But in Latin America the same phenomena occur with Narco Lords and Generalissimos in the place of Imams, sheiks, et al.

IMO, it is just ass backwards third world and unenlightened primitive human nature. Once again, the extraordinary value of the combination of Christianity + the Enlightenment + the Magna Carta/US Constitution, etc is perennially underestimated by those who enjoy the fruits of it all. Too much whining over imperfections and a failure to make an honest comparison to what the rest of the world is and always has been.

It's like reverse Jesus - bitching about the splinter in your own eye while romanticizing the board in your third world neighbor's.
 
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I've read a lot of your posts in this thread and others and I can relate with a lot of what you're saying. You're tackling what is to me, the biggest reason why people lose their religion and their faith. "Why would a benevolent God make me this way?" is a phrase uttered by many who are born at a disadvantage, whether that be genetic defects, or otherwise. This very question is why so many turn to atheism and materialism, because the world makes much more sense this way and is not as complex as a world that is both physical and spiritual. People will reject the spiritual no matter how obvious it is in their face to avoid attempting to reconcile it, it makes things very messy in how people approach the world when all things are considered. Nonetheless, it is there and it deserves as much, if not even more attention, than the physical does at this point due to our willful ignorance of it as a Western society.

Not to sound too dramatic, but for me, there was far too much suffering in the world to turn a blind eye away from evil and I realized that a very young age that a benevolent God would have stepped in to fix it, wouldn't you think?(queue the atheism that led into nihilism for a decade for me, until I became aware of the evidence for this sort of thing and had my own experiences to shake me out of it) So, I have always rejected that line of thinking that life is purely a school and preplanned, etc because it doesn't really make any sense.

To finish my 2 cents on God, I think what helped me the most understand more of what were dealing with is the book Mind Trek from Joe McMoneagle. He talks about how when he had his second NDE he did an "inspect" and discovered the "light" he was initially greeted by that was unconditionally loving, etc. was not God but the "totality of self." He concluded that the experience gave him a different perspective on what God is, and that God is beyond our comprehension. I think the best way of viewing God is to view it as an incomprehensible, amoral "everything" that encompasses all the good and all the evil, since after all a real God would be omnipotent and all knowledgeable.
Hi Nos, nice to meet you, thank you for your interest in my posts and for you long and thoughtful response. There would be so much to say (you may refer to my last 2-3 posts where I address some of the issues you touched upon here).

Absolutely, yes, the only conceivable God is an incomprehensible, amoral "everything" that encompasses all the good and all the evil. That's certainly a possibility, and a pretty probable one at that. But then the word God would be a misnomer, at least for Christians, because the Christian God is supposedly exclusively good, most definitely not evil (that would be Satan, apparently :) - I am not a Christian myself)

And even if one would qualify the word God by saying "I worship God, a being who encompasses all the good and all the evil", so that there would be no misunderstandings about his nature, I fail to see what kind of consolation or inspiration people would get from relating to this "everything" as a person, associating it with Jesus, even (like many NDErs), loving him, worshipping him (??) - as you know, many NDErs who refer to a God like the one you describe (in that it lets evil happen in our world and considers it a perfectly ethical way to reach his ends, whatever they may be) say that they met Jesus, but I fail to see how Jesus can represent a "totality" that is both good and evil.

I am more inclined to see this "totality of self" (the Universe/all that is) as a field made up of "spiritual forces" (for lack of a better word - they could be more akin to archetypes than to "personal spiritual beings", if you see what I mean). So there would be no "central mastermind" orchestrating everything. But certainly there would be plenty of metaphysical agencies with profoundly different agendas.

By the way, I see you don't like the word evil - I'm not at all attached to it, words are just conventions. You could call it selfishness that stops at nothing, radical selfishness, anti-love, pleasure in inflicting pain or taking from others for the sake of it, or whatever. And at the same time we see incredible forces for good, altruism, loving kindness (I was on the receiving end of a wonderful act of kindness today so I find it impossible to feel that it comes from the same 'source/self' that has materialised in incredibly cruel people - and I will not make any examples of these people because they are all too obvious, and there are thousands of them).
 
In my view, religion is the cause, not the solution to the world's suffering. And I did not have that view before I ventured out into the world to work.
Now, TES. I have to respectfully disagree with you here. Granted, the manifestations of religion - as social and cultural institutions - create reason for thinking as you do. But religion, per se, is a different matter.

For starters I want to argue that what we call religion is a blend of two related phenomena. The first is a hard wired human impulse to see the world in a holistic, and what I would call an 'animistic' fashion. That is to say there seems to be an innate quality in the human psyche that allows rational commentators to speak of sport as a 'religion' and to also talk about a 'secular' religion expressed in politics - esp Communist - and, one could credibly argue, as manifest in aspects of Trump's support. So we employ the term 'religion' in a far wider frame, because we understand that it is more than the popular sense.

The second is a rational apprehension of the metaphysical dimension of human reality - and organised response to it on behalf of a community (religious) or individuals (mystical). This is an important distinction.

So even those who espouse no religious sensibility will still behave in a way that is consistent with those who do. So what is the problem? The impulse or the content of intentional response to that impulse?

I was born in Belfast to a deeply Protestant family. My father fashioned a hatred of Catholics because of his culture and community. But because there was a social divide determined by religious affiliation, the question should whether religion is the 'cause' of the divide, or a manifestation of it. If we look into history we can see that it is a shared affair. But then I grew up as a Protestant in Australia, and I have no aversion to Catholics or Anglicans. That's because my religious experience was not determined by culture in the way my father's was.

Now it is entirely true that the Abrahamic traditions have some pretty repugnant elements, and it could be argued that Judaism is a deep fusion of faith and culture and history - but even so there various expressions of the faith. Christianity is a deeply cultural faith. The last 1600 years of its expression also includes a deeply political dimension - still evident today. Likewise, Islam is profoundly cultural and communal. Each. however, has its non-conforming, mystical aspect that gives the individual a chance to engage at a level that is constrained by neither theology nor cultural and communal politics. These days so many people are escaping the cultural dimension of faith by describing themselves as spiritual but not religious (SBNR).

I argue that the greater issue is culture and the pathology of leadership - and that religion itself is innocent as a thing in its own right. The famous atheist, Christopher Hitchens, famously said religion spoils everything. But he was talking hyperbolic bollocks. What about ambition and lust for profit? Hitchens did the lazy atheist trick of reciting obvious idiocies and then ascribing them to religion alone. He was (intentionally or not) oblivious to the hideous sins of Marx and Stalin, which, in modern terms at least, render the ills of Christianity mild. Christians demanded the end of slavery and fought to end the cruel exploitation workers in the Industrial Revolution. Let's not forget the critical charitable organisations that responded to poverty and illness precipitate by industrialists. Christianity v Capitalism?

Yes, people espousing religious beliefs have done awful things - and continue to do so. Yes some religious espouse beliefs and values we find offensive. But the fact that some fucked up sociopath decides to brand their particular brand of hideous lunacy with symbolism associated with a religion does not mean the religion is to blame.

Here's my point. Religion is not belief, not theology. It is an innate human existential reflex.We do not blame sex for rape. We blame the rapist. We do not blame food for gluttony, nor music for the many awful manifestations perpetrated in it name. Ditto art.

I get your point. I am asking you to look deeper than the standard cant on the subject. That's more worthy of your style. I want to recommend two books. Larry Siedentop's 'The Invention of the Individual - Origins of Western Liberalism', and Peter Frankopan's 'The Silk Roads'.
 
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