Why I’m Pretty Damned Sure God Does Not Exist – Part 3

Posted: April 20, 2010 in Evolution, Existence Of God, Religion, Science
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Over the past couple of days I have been sharing my opinion on the arguments for the existence of God and today I continue by looking at religious experiences.

“I Experienced God So He Must Exist”

This is perhaps one of the most convincing arguments for the existence of God. There are many people who believe they have had some sort of spiritual experience. They range from direct ‘supernatural’ experiences where people say they’ve witnessed miracles or angels, to circumstantial experiences where prayers have seemingly been answered. They include ‘out of body’ experiences of people believing they have met God or seen their life ‘flash before’ them. When presented to us by people who otherwise seem totally logical and ‘normal’ they can be convincing and when accompanied by events that seem unexplainable they are strengthened further.

The argument in its logical form states that it is only possible to experience something which exists and therefore if someone experiences God, then God must exist.

To test this I thought about whether it was possible to experience something that doesn’t exist. There are many examples of humans experiencing something that doesn’t exist. Dreams are situations where the brain completely believes the dream is real. It is not until you wake up you realise you’re dreaming; you never realise while you’re actually dreaming. A hallucination is the same thing except you are awake. Some drugs can alter our minds so that we believe we are experiencing something that isn’t happening. Drugs add no new capabilities to our brain they merely interfere with the normal processing occurring within the brain. Drugs have the ability to allow incredibly realistic yet non existent experiences. Some mental illnesses provide evidence of the brains ability to do this without chemical help. Schizophrenic people sometimes have very different perceptions of reality. Some people recall in the most detailed way how they were abducted by aliens and what happened to them. The world is full of examples of the human’s ability to experience something that doesn’t exist.

This concept is pretty easy to understand when you understand how the brain actually works and what an ‘experience’ is. Your eyes let in light which in turn is detected by optical sensors. These send constant signals to your brain which arranges them into an image. Your ears do the same with sound. You are not listening to an audio feed, you are hearing your brain’s construction of a constant supply of sound vibrations. It is easy to fool the brain with simple optical illusions where things appear to be completely different to how they actually are. 3D films appear 3D but are actually on a flat screen.

Sometimes we don’t receive enough information to construct a truly accurate picture and our brain calls on information it already has stored. An example of this is when a person lying in bed may hear what sounds like someone breaking into their car. On closer inspection it turns out to be a fox poking around in the bins. When the person heard the noise they thought it was a thief. Their brain was given nothing but the actual sound waves but it immediately used its pre-stored memory of what it expected a car thief to sound like. Indeed the very fact that the person suspected a car thief is evidence of knowledge previously stored in the brain. I make this example merely to demonstrate that a particular experience comprises of different factors. The brain can easily create an experience which is not actually occurring.

It is quite clear then that the argument’s main premise is false and that it is in fact possible to experience something which does not exist.

It is entirely plausible that a person with pre-determined beliefs in angels and miracles could be in a situation where they experienced what they thought was an angel. I have no logical reason to not extend the same to miracles. There are more examples of the effect pre-determined beliefs have on what we can experience. I have witnessed plenty of avid ghost hunters speak of the ‘spirits’ and ‘presences’ they have experienced.

Some religious people say God speaks to them, they say they know it’s God and so he must exist. Despite the obvious comedy value in this belief I will address it none the less. I worry about the sanity of someone who genuinely believes that the random thoughts that pop into their head are God but yet millions of people do believe it. It is more than clear that God tells them whatever they already believe God would say. Humans consistently apply characteristics they have invented to God.

I could go on with more examples; people who claim to have met Elvis after he had died, people who say God has told them to murder and rape, suicide bombers who say God told them to blow up buildings. It is more than obvious that it is possible to see, hear and experience things that aren’t actually happening and don’t really exist.

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