Please Help Me Believe

dassercha
Superfan
Posts: 233
Joined: 2007-01-18
User is offlineOffline
Please Help Me Believe

I'm new to this forum and forums in general. But I came across this site and appreciate all the dialogue.

I could easily buy into the atheism route, but here's my dilemma:

I grew up with EXTREME fundamentalist christian parents who would spend hours with friends talking about their former dabbling or either serious involvement in the "occult": organized groups, "sorcery," oui-ja boards, etc.

These tales scared the 'hell' out of me as a kid and to this day, I come across lots of folks who have similar tales: just playing with a oui-ja board brought them "inexplicable" experiences, some of them horrifying.

Since then I have read and heard people from all walks of life describe similar experiences. I mean non-Christians, new agers, wiccans, etc.

QUESTION: How can ALL these people have pretty much the same experiences with a "spirit realm"? are they all lying? remarkably deceived? What? Have any of you ever participated in one of these groups (wicca, seitans, OTO) or tarot cards, oui-ja boards and just nothing happened to you at all? Again, I can't get over the fact that ALL these folks report very similar results--and some outright frightful!

These reports would almost proof the existence of a "spirit world" to me. What about you?

I would like to eventually rest easy at night being that I'm a grown man nearing his late 30s.

Your input greatly appreciated.


Roly1976
Posts: 45
Joined: 2007-01-18
User is offlineOffline
2 things:  The human mind

2 things:  The human mind is incredibly powerful but easily-deceived, and works to fill in gaps in its understanding and find 'meaning' or utility or a threat wherever possible. Which is a big evolutionary advantage, because if something isn't useful, or a threat, or whatever you're just mistaken, but if it is it could save your life. Dawkins in the God Delusion has the great example of optical illusions like the slowly turning mask appearing solid when it's hollow.  In atmospheric circumstances, with trance like concentration or if you're half-asleep, surrounded by forceful or beguiling personalities, anyone could be convinced to do or believe anything.  Look at the Nazis' Nuremberg rallies.  But the supernatural has been debunked so clearly so many times it just doesn't hold water.  Secondly, I fooled around with a Ouija board when I was a kid, and it's just hocus pocus - the small involuntary movements of a group of people's fingertips even out to make the pointer move a bit in one direction, and then your reactions keep it going.  9 times out of 10 the 'spirit' spells out fbdhmst or something, but when it reads aunt or pig that one time when you're all hyped up it gives you a scary thrill, and some people are gulled into thinking it's 'real'.


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Are you familiar with James

Are you familiar with James Randi?

He's had an offer of, I think, $10,000 to anyone who can prove anything supernatural. He's had the offer for years and years and nobody's been able to collect. He's let people try on live tv many times.

Are there that many hucksters in the world? Yes.

Is everyone lying? No. Some of them are, but most people who believe in the spirit realm really believe in it. Are they wrong? Yes.

When I was a kid, I had several experiences with the supernatural. At least it seemed so to me. As I grew up and became more familiar with science and logic, I was able to go back and explain those things in ways that made more sense.

I don't claim to know the answer to every "supernatural" event. I'm sure there are things science has not discovered that produce effects we feel are supernatural. I'm also sure that science can describe them, which means they are, in fact, natural.

Oh, and for the record, I'm a very good astrologer, and can do tarot cards, too. Yes, I'm an atheist, and I know how both of those things work. When I do them, it's more like a "magic trick." All it is is cold-reading people and letting them tell you what they want to hear.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Vastet
atheistBloggerSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 13210
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
I remember playing with a

I remember playing with a oija board as a kid. But it ended up apparent to me that it was just the big kids trying to have some fun at the little kids expense. Needless to say, it didn't work as they'd expected.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


darth_josh
High Level DonorHigh Level ModeratorGold Member
darth_josh's picture
Posts: 2650
Joined: 2006-02-27
User is offlineOffline
Those 'experiences' are

Those 'experiences' are only as powerful as the people are weak in my opinion. Almost a perfectly inverse proportion of experiences versus I.Q.

Given the human propensity for creating elaborate stories to explain simple things(see constellations of stars, Does it really look like a big dipper to you?) then I think it is a safe assumption that what we are told to see is what we want to see. I think it's important to use another folk story to remind us that it only took one child to see that the emperor was indeed naked instead of finely clothed in whatever he was supposed to have been wearing. 

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists.


ShaunPhilly
High Level ModeratorSilver Member
ShaunPhilly's picture
Posts: 473
Joined: 2006-03-15
User is offlineOffline
There is one thing in

There is one thing in common to all of these experiences of what people interpret as the supernatural.  What is it? The human brain.

 The fact that all the people who claim to experience the supernatural have a very similarly evolved device for perception, intellect, emotion, etc tells me that what is going on is a shared type of reaction or process when in similar environments and situations.

It would be akin to giving everyone red-tinted glasses and then concluding that the world is really fundamentally red. It's not the world, it's the device interpreting the world.

Shaun 

I'll fight for a person's right to speak so long as that person will, in return, fight to allow me to challenge their opinions and ridicule them as the content of their ideas merit.


V1per41
V1per41's picture
Posts: 288
Joined: 2006-10-09
User is offlineOffline
Hey Hamby, When James Randi

Hey Hamby, When James Randi started the challenge it was a $10,000 prize.  He has since increased it to $1 million for any supernatural ability.

If you haven't seen them already, I would check out some Penn & Teller Bullshit! episodes like the one on Tarot cards 

"It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan


hellfiend666
Rational VIP!
hellfiend666's picture
Posts: 192
Joined: 2007-01-15
User is offlineOffline
I was raised atheist and

I was raised atheist and explored paganism as a teen.  It followed through my early 20's and I eventually became a Wiccan High Preist, and ran my own coven with the help of my now ex-wife.  I have extensive knowledge of Tarot Cards and other forms of divination, and have even made a few of my own Tarot decks, in fact.  I never really felt like I fit in with those people though.  Now, years later, I know that it's all bs.  Cold reading is one way to do it, but if you read the interpritations of wht the cards are supposed to mean, they're all very vague.  So when you flip one card, and then another, the person will usually make a connection in their own mind, and fill in the blanks from there,even if cold reading someone isn't working.  If they don't resonate with the first or second card, usually one will come along and they'll say, "oh, I know what that's getting at, so that one back there must mean this, and this," and so on. 

 In short, the huamn mind can very easily play tricks on it's self, making mundane actions under the right set of circumstances and stimuli, seem divine or supernatural.  When, in fact, it's all in your head.  Does anyone believe the people in a schitzophrenics head are real, the ones that talk to them and seem as real as you or me to them?  No.

The darkness of godlessness lets wisdom shine.


dassercha
Superfan
Posts: 233
Joined: 2007-01-18
User is offlineOffline
I appreciate everyone's

I appreciate everyone's responses & input.

Still, several scenarios playout in my mind that I find difficult to dismiss.

 I remember reading an interview with Steven Spielberg long ago-cant remember in what and tried goggling to no avail- but he stated that he used telepathy to communicate with others on set during some hard to shoot scenes. Now a rationalist would argue there is no such thing. Either I have faulty memory (possible) or he could have been a) kidding and/or trying to sound "neat" b)telling the truth, c) crazy and on and on, etc.

 I've also heard from good friends "encounters" that couldn't be otherwise explained: A) half of one room-literally- turning ice cold after messing with the ouiga board-several people witnessed and all agreed it was impossible-middle of summer, no a/c unit, blah, blah.

 B) Meeting a total stranger who told them things about themselves that were so detailed and so obsure the stranger could not have possibly known these details just by guessing. Again, I guess there is the "cold-reading" element to it and/or my friends could have been a) kidding and/or trying to "pull my leg" b)telling what they perceived as truth, but were fooled my a good magician c) just more deluded than I perceived.

 More Thoughts?

 

EDUCATION! EDUCATION! EDUCATION!


Jutter
Jutter's picture
Posts: 65
Joined: 2006-08-24
User is offlineOffline
I could try being

I could try being diplomatic, and say that supernatural phenomena are allergic to me, and that's why I never encounter such things.

 It's entirely more plausible though, that my brain simply doesn't fascilitate such delusions, and delusions is all they are.

~Let us be reasonable~

You want to claim there's such a thing as "the supernatural"? Fine. I hereby declare you to be "paracorrect" in doing so. 


hellfiend666
Rational VIP!
hellfiend666's picture
Posts: 192
Joined: 2007-01-15
User is offlineOffline
I, for one, am willing to

I, for one, am willing to accept he fact that science has yet to explain things that naturally occur that could be attributed to these "feelings". I have never experienced "ghosts" or "pyschic visions", I have had my fair share of de ja vu, and my last girlfriend and I, only days after meeting, were known to say the exact same thing at the exact same time in stereo, if you will. That is not to say I don't think it CAN be explained, but rather just hasn't been yet. Since humans on average only use 7% of thier total brain capacity, or so I've heard, I'm not convinced that at least telepathy is entirely erronious. The rest of it is hogwash though, in my opinion. I've seen how people work themselves up in an environment where the "supernatural" was, in their minds, a possible explanation, and am not convinced. To that end, I like what Jutter said about the supernatural being allergic to him, seems to be the case with me as well. I am all ears though if someone can explain scientifically.  In the end, I guess, you really have to make up your own mind.  As much evidence as we may be able to throw at you, it really is up to you.

The darkness of godlessness lets wisdom shine.


triften
atheist
triften's picture
Posts: 591
Joined: 2007-01-01
User is offlineOffline
One things we humans love

One things we humans love is being correct. Not necessarily knowing the truth... just feeling correct. So when a person or two in the room with the ouija board gets a chill and says it could be something supernatural, the easiest way for the others to be correct is to agree.

There has been at least one study wherein there are a number of lines and people are asked to point out which line is shorter. If asked on their own, they are very accurate. If on the other hand, you ask a group and have a plant pointing out the wrong line. Most people in such a group will eventually agree with the plant. They want to feel correct. They don't care about counting, someone has already made the decision for them. (See also the bible and its "answers".)

I think this behavior ("going along with the herd" ) helped out our ancestors living in danger of being eaten. It probably goes very well with the tendency to hallucinate.

Imagine a group of early primates in a grassy area. A lookout sees some movement or shapes in the grass. It could be a tiger. If it isn't and the primate thinks it is, he calls the alarm, everyone runs a bit (and, due to his reaction, possibly "see" the tiger as well.) The group has wasted some energy but no one got eaten. If he hits too many false positives, they waste a lot of energy and bad things happen.

If he decides there's no tiger (or is taking too long to decide) and there is a tiger, he gets eaten, maybe a few of his clan get eaten, and bad things happen.

Who is more likely to be eaten outright? The one who doesn't hallucinate. Who is more likely to survive? The one who is a little paranoid. Which group is most likely to survive? Those who tolerate some false positives and even go along with them, but know when to draw the line and stop listening to the totally paranoid ones.

I think this behavior has stuck with us so that people who see things _everywhere_ are considered crazy while people can get away with some hallucinations (seeing faces in smoke, objects in clouds, briefly hearing voices).

-Triften


slowhand
slowhand's picture
Posts: 30
Joined: 2007-01-06
User is offlineOffline
Assuming that whatever

Assuming that whatever can't be explained is supernatural is simply ridiculous.  an experience that cannot currently be explained may well be explained next week, next month, or 200 years from now.  Here's a hypothetical situation:

 Suppose we had the ability to take an average person from 100 years ago and place them into the present day.  Imagine how much of our everyday lives would make no sense to them.  they would have only a basic idea of cars and planes.  Things like television, computers and the internet would be utterly astounding and seem impossible to understand, given their understanding off the world.  How would they react to nuclear weapons and space travel.  Imagine this same experiement run with subjects from 200, 1000 or 2000 years ago.  much of what they would experience would certainly seem magical, because they would have no other context with which to view things.  that would not, however, mean that they were correct.  

 To assume that things that cannot be explained won't be explained is narrow-minded, and almost definately incorrect. 

“The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.”

“It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him.”

<


dassercha
Superfan
Posts: 233
Joined: 2007-01-18
User is offlineOffline
I appreciate everyone's

I appreciate everyone's input.

Bottomline: guess it is just VERY difficult for me to give up these belief systems when, again, it has been so engrained in my head since I was around age 5 or so and obviously very impressionable.

The "super/para-natural" seems to be allergic to me as well...Foot in mouth

EDUCATION! EDUCATION! EDUCATION!


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
I understand where you're

I understand where you're coming from.  It took me several years to get from dismissing Christianity to dismissing the supernatural.  Reading science journals helps... making friends with other atheists who have already thought a lot of thing out -- also good.

The bottom line, though, is that you just have to make the decision that you're going to live rationally, even if some of it doesn't "feel" exactly right.  Just hold everything to exactly the same standard.  Logic.  If it's not logical, don't believe it, or at the very least, treat it with extreme suspicion.

Good luck, and please, feel free to ask any question here.  We're here to help, and we really do have a personal interest in your questions!

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


MythSlayer
MythSlayer's picture
Posts: 11
Joined: 2007-01-18
User is offlineOffline
I used to play with ouiji

I used to play with ouiji boards a little in high school and they always seemed to work then.  But now that I'm in my 30's with an education that involved the studies of critical thought and science, the magical movement of the "mystical oracal" seemed to have dissapeared.  The group mindset of teenagers open to the notion that paper and plastic can communicate with the dead can indeed make it happen, at least in thier minds.  When people that don't buy into the notion of the supernateral use these walkie talkies of the dead they always seem to be broken. 

Things appear more supernatural the younger one is.  A five year old child perceives the world through the filters of his limited knowledge and physiology.  I remember going to Disneyland when I was young child and thinking the place was huge and the haunted house ghosts looked real and the pirates of the cribbian looked menacing and scary.  Now as an adult, the park seemed smaller, the ghosts obviously had projectors and transperent screens, and the pirates looked fake and silly. But I was also a fraction of the size I am now, and I had yet to learn of concepts like light projection and animatronics. 

The mind takes in the information from our senses and creates abstractions that we can understand based on our expiriences and what we tell ourselves what these expiriences mean.  Our senses also can fool us.  People that where blindfolded and then given samples of chocolate icecream but told that the sample was strawberry acually thought they tasted strawberry!  When you soak your hand in warm water and then place it in cold water the initial sensation is that the water is hot.  As for these cold room sensations, did the mercury actually drop or did you just feel it?  Because I feel a simular cold chill when I hear fundies talk about how things should be.

We see the world as abstractions our minds create based on the tiny sliver of reality our bodies can detect.  You create your own reality.  The question is, how real is it? 


Vastet
atheistBloggerSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 13210
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
I would suggest looking into

I would suggest looking into group dynamics and psychology to get a good impression of how some events can seem to be shared experiences.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.