General Question

Zuma's avatar

What if the divine revelations of Christianity, Islam and Judaism are explainable in terms of Temporal Lobe Epileptic seizures?

Asked by Zuma (5908points) November 19th, 2008

What if the “presence of God” experienced by prophets, seers, shamen, and holy people can be accounted for by a specific diagnosable form of brain abnormality, such as Temporal Lobe Epilepsy? Could it be that when believers speak of being “touched” by the Holy Spirit, or otherwise having personal knowledge of God, that what they are really experiencing is the result of a stroke or seizure? (Please see at least one link.)

The prophet Mohammad, for example, recorded his physical and mental states as he took “dictation” from God that now look, in modern retrospect, very much like Temporal Lobe Epilepsy.

St. Paul also appears to have had a seizure on his way to Damascus.

Could it be that “divine revelations” are the actually the result of the individual’s conscious and subconscious attempts to make sense these experiences? Could it be that the content of revealed religions evolves over time by through the interpretation and reinterpretation of existing mythology, personal delusions, and brain events such as these special kinds of seizures?

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81 Answers

syz's avatar

I was watching “The Last Temptation of Christ” at 4am one night (nuthin else on), trying to figure out what all the brou-ha-ha was about. The first 3/4’s was pretty standard bible story stuff, except that (whether intentionally on the part of the film maker or not) Jesus was clearly schizophrenic. I had a personal epiphany and realized that much of religion could be explained by mental illness. There are corollaries in many cultures and plenty of research that seems to support the idea. (And by the way, when Jesus had sex and a kid by way of Mary, I figured out what all of the brou-ha-ha was about.)

But then again, that’s just my personal opinion. I seem to be in the minority. I’m happy for everyone to have their own beliefs (as long as they stop knocking on my door at 9am on a Saturday to ask me if I’ve been “saved”. Then I rapidly lose my tolerance for freedom of religion.)

gailcalled's avatar

Would TLES explain the severe headache I am getting now?

EnzoX24's avatar

It is possible. There was absolutely no understanding of mental illness in those times. Babies that showed signs of mental illness were believed to have been corrupted by Satan.

I was watching an episode of House a couple nights ago, and a teenager with a brain tumor was having hallucinations and believed he was a messenger from God. I know it is a fictional story, but I’m sure there are some people who believe these kinds of things.

augustlan's avatar

It certainly could be (note that I am not saying it is)...weren’t the Salem Witches having mental/physical symptoms from eating moldy grain? What is not understood is classified as either Divine or Evil.

syz's avatar

Ah. the ergot poisoning theory.

EnzoX24's avatar

I haven’t heard that about the witches. I had always just assumed that the people were declaring their enemies witches because they would be sentenced to death regardless of whether or not it was true. (Which it obviously was not true)

fireside's avatar

These videos are so long…halfway through.

Ergot is what got the Children of the Corn too.

cookieman's avatar

Yeah…but God GAVE them the seizure…so THEREFORE, it’s still divine. Problem solved. Next question.

(Yeah, that’s the ticket)

EnzoX24's avatar

In that sense, God gave me scoliosis and now it hurts to kneel down and pray. How does that make sense?

fireside's avatar

Assuming that the premise is true, is it not a phenomenon worth exploring and utilizing? Or is it a genetic mistake like opposable thumbs? What about people that say drug use is a short cut to a religious experience? Do the drugs cause seizures too?

So what if they were seizures? Do you really think that billions and billions of people have just been duped by a few dozen epileptics? What made their messages more prominent and more likely to be spread around the world than other epileptics? Were their seizures more intense than L. Ron Hubbard’s? Or what about Tolkien, or Kerouac?

Did the messages they conveyed serve a purpose that helped people through difficult times? Did their messages allow people the chance to let down their guard and look within to try to connect with a universal consciousness? Did it give them a chance to find the answers they were seeking, either within themselves or through their community?

Here’s the link to the article laureth posted a couple days ago.

The scientists emphasized that their findings in no way suggest that religion is simply a matter of brain chemistry.

“These studies do not in any way negate the validity of religious experience or God,” the team said. “They merely provide an explanation in terms of brain regions that may be involved.”

Zuma's avatar

So does that mean that the Quran, as dictated to Mohammed, is the inerrant Word of God?

cookieman's avatar

I was being facetious.

EnzoX24's avatar

Haha, so was I.

fireside's avatar

i wasn’t : )
well, a little

El_Cadejo's avatar

You cant forget drugs influencing religion as well.

Zuma's avatar

“Do you really think that billions and billions of people have just been duped by a few dozen epileptics?”

Certainly, millions upon millions of people have been “duped,” if you want to call it that, into thinking that the world was flat, simply because it was the first theory to come down the pike. In the case of the supernatural, its not as if there is a whole lot of contrary evidence piling up, since it’s more like a lack of evidence, in the absence of a competing theory.

“The scientists emphasized that their findings in no way suggest that religion is simply a matter of brain chemistry.”

But they are not suggesting that religion is a matter of actual divine revelation either. Obviously, there are sociological factors in play—i.e., how people use existing scraps of theory to make sense of their experience. The idea of being touched by the Holy Spirit may simply be a theory for a common kind of brain seizure. At least that, according to Occam’s razor, would be simpler than the alternative explanation.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Interesting hypotheses, and one that bears more study. Much of what I understand about religion (and trust me, I’ve studied almost every known faith for over thirty years) tells me that since everything we experience is filtered through the brain via our senses, this might help to explain many things about theists I have always wondered about. Christ on a taco shell, puh-lease!

As for the ones that show upon your doorstep at 9 am on Saturday, if they are JWs, I have the solution for you. Figureout a way to get on their list (they have two lists, by the way, a temporary list and a permanent list) so that they leave you alone. I got on their permanent list by asking for their addresses and offering to have the mother ship pick them up when it came back to take me home to Alpha Ceti X. That was six years ago, they have never come back.

fireside's avatar

A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.
Albert Einstein

wundayatta's avatar

Sounds like a mystical experience to me, fireside. What’s the difference between a mystical experience, a drug-induced experience, and a temporal lobe seizure experience?

Most importantly, does any of it matter in trying to debunk religion? I doubt it. Religion is driven by another cause: man’s incredible fear of the unknown. Belief seems to be an excellent antidote for fear of the unknown.

We are, I believe, evolved to be problem solvers. We hunger for knowledge, because knowledge makes us safer. That which we don’t know could be very dangerous. We use belief to calm those intense fears. Religion is a great way to give people belief.

If we are to debunk religion, we must offer people an alternative way to deal with their fear of the unknown. Personally, I don’t let it bother me. I just don’t think about it, except for short periods of time. I also use a rigorous method that is designed to help me efficiently and quickly move small chunks of the unknown into the known category.

Ultimately, though, for whatever reason, I am comfortable in the clutches of the unknown. Sometimes it makes me really happy. It’s a problem to solve and I need problems to solve, or I will probably die. A problem a day keeps death away.

For most other people, what I do is not enough. They need answers, and God provides answers. Or so they believe. Is there an alternative that is workable? I’m open to ideas.

Zuma's avatar


“Religion is driven by another cause: man’s incredible fear of the unknown.”

Personally, there are a zillion more things I don’t know than things I do, but off hand I can’t think of one of them that actually frightens me. I think a more important driving force for religion is to shield us from the things we know but wish we didn’t—such as our impending mortality, our insignificance in the universe, the unfairness of existence, that all is vanity under the sun.

Collective self-deception seems to be the stock in trade of religion—it blunts and sweetens, romanticizes, normalizes, rationalizes and legitimizes the awful truth that can’t be revealed to the ears of youth. One alternative is to learn to live without illusions.

wundayatta's avatar

@ Monty,
Religion blunts and sweetens, romanticizes, normalizes, rationalizes and legitimizes the awful truth that can’t be revealed to the ears of youth.

While I agree that these things happen, I think it’s important to look at what motivated people to create organizations that do this. All the things you mentioned: mortality, insignificance, unfairness; are motivators. People sought to explain these things, and to protect “children” from the fear that lack of answers gives rise to.

Also, it protects the adults who don’t think the children can handle it. They say, “Our children shouldn’t know about death, sex, or violence. It will warp them if they know. If we use fairy tales, we can avoid having to explain the truth to our kids, and let them keep their sense of wonder.” Of course, this was invented long, long before there was even any concept that kids should have a sense of wonder. However, in those days, everyone had a sense of wonder because almost noone knew much about how the world worked.

Zuma's avatar

No, dallon, I don’t think so. All this Romantic twaddle over protecting the innocence of children was a late 19th and 20th Century phenomenon. For most of human history children actually counted for very little in the scheme of life, since a great many of them died quite young.

EnzoX24's avatar

I feel like I need to point out that Galileo was imprisoned by the church for proclaiming that the Earth was round. I know its a bit different then where the conversation started going, but it is important to see how far the church has been willing to go to protect itself.

wundayatta's avatar

@Monty, I agree that children counted for little up until the dates you mentioned. What I was trying to say was that prior to the 19th century, for the most part, adults were the “children” who needed protecting (by their religious officials). That’s what I had in mind when I wrote the last sentence of that post.

laureth's avatar

A seizure, back when people were less scientifically advanced and still explained the world largely through superstition, can look like a religious experience – or demon possession. Like the sun circling in the sky, they don’t know how to describe it as what it really is, so it’s God. Must be God. No other way.

Now that we have CAT scans, technology, hospitals, and doctors that work with modern scientific principles rather than, say, looking at our humours and bleeding us with leeches, we know seizures for what they are: seizures. That’s why Tolkien and Hubbard (assuming their religious thoughts came from seizures) don’t command the zeal that a St. Paul or Mohammed do. And thusly have a few epileptics “duped” the world.

fireside's avatar

How about CS Lewis? Did he have seizures too? And Ghandi? Mother Theresa?
What about Joel Osteen? He’s a current religious figure, have his doctors identified his epilepsy?

But again, is there no value to the experience, regardless of the origin?
The messages they conveyed haven’t helped people in any way?

Billions of people have had their lives touched by messages that are meaningless because they stemmed from some medical condition and therefore all religious experience is considered invalid and should be done away with to comfort those who don’t have the same feelings?
That really sounds like the simplest answer to you?
That really sounds like the most humane answer to you?

People who feel persecuted should continue to tear down other people’s value systems because they have had their own values questioned? Doesn’t that seem to be going the opposite direction of building a common moral code? Doesn’t that seem to be the opposite of releasing the ego?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing the validity of the possibility, just the implications

Zuma's avatar


“A seizure, back when people were less scientifically advanced and still explained the world largely through superstition, can look like a religious experience – or demon possession.”

Exactly right. And more to the point, they were taken as a direct manifestation of God. They proved the existence of God, and the existence of a God-centered supernatural world—a fiction which held humanity back from discovering the natural world and naturalistic explanations of the same phenomena.

Zuma's avatar


Did you watch the clips? Did you see the part where the guy says he thinks he is God (but realizes that this is a delusion) and later says that if it wern’t for his realization that these are delusions, he would have no trouble commanding millions of people to their death?

“I’m not disputing the validity of the possibility, just the implications”

Well, then, why not consider the actual implications instead throwing yourself off the slippery slope into hysterical scenarios that aren’t actually implied?

Why do you assume that providing a naturalistic explanation for certain religious experiences is necessarily going to invalidate the religion in its entirety? It seems to me that you are assuming that what is valuable in these religions can not be justified on any rational or ethical grounds, and so must depend on irrational appeals to a supernatural authority in order to elicit or compel belief.

If brain science shows that there are natural physical reasons why someone would feel “touched by God,” does this invalidate the content of the experience? Or, does this simply change the kind of claims you can make about it later? Do you really think people are better off taking these experiences at face value—i.e., believing them to be actual communications from God—and, on that basis, feeling entitled to demand our belief? Why shouldn’t these supernatural claims be viewed with the appropriate skepticism that brain science suggests?

“is there no value to the experience…?”

Well, what is the value of these experiences? Is it the irrational supernatural content? Or is it the moral and ethical content, which surely must be able to stand on its own merits?

What happens when you get someone like Mohammad, who is at the center of a group of adoring admirers, who hang on his every word, eager to hear the news of the riches that await them in the afterlife. Who could resist the opportunity to seize absolute power, and construct a delusional world in which he is in the indispensable role of mediator between the faithful and their God. I am sure such an experience was of value to Mohammad—and of the people who profited by the campaigns of holy conquest he unleashed on humanity?

What is the value of sharia law today—which, because it is believed to be the inerrant Word of Allah, can not be questioned or modified. What is the value of considering women the property of men; of barring them from public life; requiring them to go about heavily veiled; and forcing them to have their genitals mutilated? What is the value of freezing a whole society into permanent backwardness, because they believe a supernatural God compels them to.

Does brain science invalidate the ethical content of the entire religion? Or does it simply call its supernatural content into question? Does a rethinking a religion in humanistic, rational and naturalistic turns invalidate and destroy the religion, or does it put it on a firmer foundation?

“That really sounds like the simplest answer to you?”

A rational explanation is always the simplest explanation, by definition. Indeed, brain seizures seem like a lot simpler explanation of for the supernatural than assuming that there are invisible beings with unnatural powers, talking snakes, people rising from the dead, and a 6,000 year old earth.

And yes, I do think that tearing down irrational beliefs in the supernatural are essential to developing a rational foundation for a common morality. Irrational beliefs are not necessary to religion, in fact they ultimately undermine it. Why? Because irrational beliefs are arbitrary, inconsistent and therefore intrinsically incompatible with morality.

fireside's avatar

And Buddhists that seek nirvana within, are they also self inducing seizures?

Hey, if you really think that some 7 trillion people on the planet have a belief in a power greater than themselves because they suffer from unidentified medical conditions, then I’m not really going to waste my time arguing that with you.

Because clearly, I’m not being rational.

Besides, I am firmly of the belief that cultural messages passed down through religion are intended to change with the times.
btw, i watched all the videos and I really don’t know any religious people who act that way. but if you think that is the case, maybe that is just your experience. I have seen people who take drugs acting very much like that though from time to time.

fireside's avatar

…and actually, I don’t even mind if it is a medical condition.

I would just ask what the next step is in your process of “proposing to ridicule the beliefs they use to justify their persecution of me—to ridicule the already ridiculous so that they think twice before expressing such beliefs in public.”

And, how exactly does that make you any better than them if you want to find a common code of decency? Or are you just interested in tearing down and not building up?

fireside's avatar

…and, from what I understand, homosexuality is the result of a medical condition in the brain. Does that make it any less valid for you?

fireside's avatar

[edit] – sorry, I don’t know where 7 trillion came from. more like 6 billion.
Trying to do too many things at once.

ok, i’m done for a while. 4 poss in a row is looking a bit irrational : )

Zuma's avatar


Clearly, if you think that just because some unspecified fraction of the world’s population thinks that there are supernatural beings in a supernatural world that this makes it so, then you are truly irrational and no more need be said to you.

“from what I understand, homosexuality is the result of a medical condition in the brain.”

Really? And what condition would that be?

”...if you really think that some [6 billion] people on the planet have a belief in a power greater than themselves because they suffer from unidentified medical conditions…”

You have a straw man argument going on here. I am not talking about all religious people. I am only talking about religious people who make claims about having direct knowledge, experience or “proof” of the supernatural—claims they use to justify denying the whole society the benefits of stem cell research, erasing the boundaries between church and state, and denying other people their civil rights. More specifically, I am talking about people who start religions.

And, to repeat myself, I do think that tearing down irrational beliefs in the supernatural are essential to developing a rational foundation for a common morality. Rationality is the foundation of secular society—which is why religious True Believers despise it so. Irrational beliefs are arbitrary, inconsistent and therefore intrinsically incompatible with morality and secular society.

Obviously, your commitment to rationality and secular society can’t be very strong if you are arguing against someone who is defending it.

fireside's avatar

Monty, I said “a belief in a power greater than themselves” not supernatural beings with supernatural powers.

I believe that science and religion are two wings that humanity needs to progress.

Really? And what condition would that be? Something to do with the size of the amygdala, as I recall. I don’t have any idea if that is true, just something i heard. Kind of like brain seizures causing people to be viewed as prophets.

If you think I’m not being rational because I think it is hypocritical to go around tearing down other people’s beliefs rather than leading by compassionate example; that’s fine.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I’ve got nothing to say, but nice debate going here. Le’t all play nice, mmmkay? : – )

toyhyena's avatar

So yeah, it sounds like these seizures are an “unrefined” way of having one of these experiences, actually.

Lemme point you to something it took me months of reading about the weirder things people say about consciousness, some history of the world (gotta chase down those archetypes), Near Death Experiences, Out of Body experiences, split brain research, weird paranormal experiences (including aliens, mediumship, reincarnation), some quantum physics (wave-particle duality anyone?), perception stuff (from the philsophical Plato’s Cave to the more physiological findings of Nobel prize winners Wiesel and Hubel), and even certain government conspiracies. And by the way, this includes looking into the things skeptics say to disprove this stuff, as well as hearing what the experiencer or the whistleblower or whoever was saying out.

I point you to the potential conclusion of my research, a not too well-known about molecule and its organ that should probably get more interest than it currently does: Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and the pineal gland.
Since it’s more interesting than me typing more, you get a choice between two links!

Some drug-experienced dude on a radio show talking about his experience taking DMT:
a short documentary clip of practically the only expert on this (less amusing, but still interesting):

If you need any more elaboration, I’ll try to provide. On DMT specifically, I’m especially still in the take-in-new-info stage. :P

Zuma's avatar


“I said ‘a belief in a power greater than themselves’”

That can mean almost anything—the army, the nation, Walmart are all “greater” than the individual. What has that got to do with TLE or the discussion at hand?

“Something to do with the size of the amygdala”

Not so, and it would have been an easy enough to check, if you cared, oh compassionate one.

“If you think I’m not being rational because I think it is hypocritical to go around tearing down other people’s beliefs rather than leading by compassionate example; that’s fine.”

Oh please, you haven’t missed a cheap shot yet.

Just so we’re clear, I do not consider allowing people to propagate error an act of compassion. I don’t dispute that people have the right to hold irrational beliefs which they arrive at through illogical reasoning, but as soon as they make them public, they invite examination and critique—which is the whole idea of public discourse. Not to challenge irrational beliefs, so as to spare someone the embarrassment of having his ideas being rejected, defeats the whole purpose of collective deliberation—which is to provide a marketplace of ideas in which good ideas propagate throughout society and bad ideas perish. This is how cultures do quality control.

If nobody enforces the norms of rationality, people lose their ability to think critically, collective deliberation degenerates into yea-saying and the intellectual culture goes into decline. For example, letting people blather on and on about how 3-day old embryos have human souls, has lead us to a situation where politicians find it expedient to force the whole society to forgo the fruits of stem cell research. Where’s the compassion for the people who suffer and die because this most promising area of medical research has been banned?

I am afraid that “leading by compassionate example” does absolutely nothing to overturn these destructive ideas. It is simply a rationalization for laziness and cowardice. What happens when the religious right begins to feel emboldened by their numbers and begins to insist that Creationism should be taught in the public schools? Do you think they will be similarly tolerant of views they regard as “against God”? What happens to our science education then, and our standing in a competitive technological world?


cdwccrn's avatar

I am a pastor, a person of faith, and an epileptic.
God is NOT a figment of my imagination or my seizures.
God is the great I AM.

Zuma's avatar


Yes, I had forgotten about DMT. I took LSD a number of times in the 1960s, and so have some personal acquaintance with the kind of religious experience that it affords. I don’t discount these as inauthentic or unimportant spiritually.

In fact, it was these experiences which first convinced me that a belief in the supernatural is both unnecessary and counter-productive. (Its not for nothing that the Christian right as made sure these substances are illegal.)

What I find interesting about the DMT experiences reported in you clips is that the person did not feel connected to some entity in the “great beyond” but with life itself. It also struck me that he identifies the messenger/presence as a kind of alien—which also happens in TLE experiences. No doubt they would have been seen as angels or demons in an earlier time.

This caused me to remember a friend who was in the advanced stages of bi-polar disorder, telling me how he communed with a life-sized crystal panther, which he was aware that he was hallucinating but was communicating with nonetheless. He also told me that when he was on the manic part of his cycle, he had the delusion that he was God’s avenging angle who, after being appropriately tanked off with meds, would get in his rusted-out 1973 Cadillac battle chariot, and scare the living bejezzus out of traffic etiquette violators.

There is also the author PK Dick, whose quasi-religious science fiction stories seemed to have gotten a whole lot more interesting after he had a stroke.

Last night I saw an HBO documentary on celibacy, which apparently doesn’t do much by itself. It was the ascetic practices intended to suppress their sexual thoughts—flagellation in the context of submission to God—that got them worked up into a masochistic religious ecstasy. The Buddhists tend to favor starvation as a means to this end, and the Jains, self-mutilation and pain.

I met a few religious notables in my sojourn in the Haight Ashbury in the 1960s. I met the Hare Krishna founder Swami Bhakivedanta, whose followers starved and hypnotized themselves into religious ecstasy. I also met flying saucer cult founder and messiah Allen Noonan back before he was anybody. He had ideas about flying saucers before he began taking massive quantities of LSD and surrounding himself with comely young sycophants. I met Ingo Swann, self-proclaimed astro traveler, back when he was a Scientologist—where I also met L.Ron Hubbard, a true psychopath if there ever was one.

In the 70s, after we had both dropped out of Scientology, I met Jack Rosenberg when I applied for a job as an encyclopedia salesman (which I didn’t get because there is nothing sadder than a Taurus on straight commission). He later changed his name to Werner Erhard, founded EST, and made a fortune insulting the spiritual pretensions of San Francisco yuppies. After 9 years of graduate school he was an apt pupil of L. Ron Hubbard’s, who proved conclusively that, when it comes to religion, there is a sucker born every minute. I never met Rev. Sung Mung Moon, but Margo St. James and I would picket him whenever he came to town. I also managed to attend a Pentecostal tent revival meeting; and the haunting mass of a satanic cult, which I later found out some of the Manson family members had splintered off from earlier.

I guess what I am saying here that there is such a diversity of religious experience, it seems almost criminal to insist that Born Again Christianity deserves any special consideration, much less deference. In my view, it is the most destructively illogical religion of any that I have encountered, with the exception of Scientology, which makes no pretense of being anything nice. In my view, DMT, LSD, and the like are all comparatively benign, since they show you that reality is chemically mediated in a fundamental way. So, why shouldn’t religion become a way of expanding the human capacity for pleasure—reengineering ourselves to achieve peak performance, unbounded energy and compassionate regard? (Its just a thought.)

fireside's avatar

fireside – “I said ‘a belief in a power greater than themselves’”

monty – That can mean almost anything—the army, the nation, Walmart are all “greater” than the individual. What has that got to do with TLE or the discussion at hand?

Really? Was I so unclear?
Did their messages allow people the chance to let down their guard and look within to try to connect with a universal consciousness? Did it give them a chance to find the answers they were seeking, either within themselves or through their community?

A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude;

But again, is there no value to the experience, regardless of the origin?

And Buddhists that seek nirvana within,

a belief in a power greater than themselves

Yeah, looking back through my posts, I can see how a rational person would automatically assume that the greater power I was referring to was Wal-mart, or the military, or supernatural beings.

To me, religion, and even rationality, is about removing your ego from the equation.
Based on your posts, I doubt that you have any idea what my faith is all about.
but i’d love to see a list of what you feel are cheap shots.

oh, and I also feel that calling people names because they don’t agree with you is the sign of a weak argument, similar to maybe inciting crowds to seethe with anger at a black muslim terrorist sympathizer. but to each his own. if you think your methods work, best of luck.

fireside's avatar

I guess maybe to put it in context, I will share with you some of the religious messages which I happen to like from `Abdu’l-Bahá, son of Bahá‘u’lláh.
These quotes are about 100 years old:

There is no contradiction between true religion and science. When a religion is opposed to science it becomes mere superstition: that which is contrary to knowledge is ignorance.
How can a man believe to be a fact that which science has proved to be impossible? If he believes in spite of his reason, it is rather ignorant superstition than faith. The true principles of all religions are in conformity with the teachings of science.
The Unity of God is logical, and this idea is not antagonistic to the conclusions arrived at by scientific study.
All religions teach that we must do good, that we must be generous, sincere, truthful, law-abiding, and faithful; all this is reasonable, and logically the only way in which humanity can progress.
Among other principles of Bahá‘u’lláh’s teachings was the harmony of science and religion. Religion must stand the analysis of reason. It must agree with scientific fact and proof so that science will sanction religion and religion fortify science. Both are indissolubly welded and joined in reality. If statements and teachings of religion are found to be unreasonable and contrary to science, they are outcomes of superstition and imagination.
There are certain pillars which have been established as the unshakeable supports of the Faith of God. The mightiest of these is learning and the use of the mind, the expansion of consciousness, and insight into the realities of the universe and the hidden mysteries of Almighty God.
All blessings are divine in origin but none can be compared with this power of intellectual investigation and research which is an eternal gift producing fruits of unending delight.
don’t mistake my potential upcoming silence for death. i’m headed on vacation and don’t know if i’ll be around much in the next week. probably will, knowing fluther and me, but we’ll see.

toyhyena's avatar

Eeee, I can’t say I’ve read the whole thread completely, but I’d say I’ve read enough. While trying to stay out of the ongoing exchange between fireside, I just wanted to throw in my two cents that I don’t think following a religion is ideal. But, I also think leaning too hard on either end of the spectrum (die-hard atheist or religious zealot) is pretty unhealthy too.

I think it’s important to be critical, but also be open-minded as well. People that want to be too much like a robot will probably blow a fuse for the stuff they (or science) isn’t able to rationalize yet (or risk ignoring the event altogether, which = no new ground explored maybe). Orrrr, might feel inadequate if say, a robot bests them at chess, despite them being the world champion chess player (Deep Blue!). Meanwhile, people that are too caught up in their religion kinda risk losing touch with, well, reality? I’m picturing maybe their individual critical thinking skills might be pruned away due to lack of use :(

But basically, they’re both institutions that I think every individual should question at least from time to time.

I think more-so than religion, an individual should seek personal spirituality. I’m thinking along the lines of self-actualization-type stuff. And the scientific field is still a group of people as well, with all of the biases and corruptness (is that a word? heh) that goes along with that.

Overall though, I’d prefer a world where people weren’t so bent on being “right” or “wrong”. Usually people are oversimplifying if that’s how they see it (in my opinion).

Zuma's avatar

I see nothing in your two posts with which I disagree. I apologize for misreading you.

I have only one tiny quibble about Nirvana being “a power greater,” but I see what you are getting at.

Sorry for having gotten personal.

fireside's avatar

@monty – no worries. And Brahman is the term I would use if I had been speaking of something greater for a Buddhist. Nirvana is just the state of seizure ; ) (those were separate posts from further above)

cookieman's avatar

Well thank God* you two finally agree!

*Otherworldly, all powerful, supernatural, benevolent, being who most likely isn’t real as he/she/it came into being as a way to understand a temporal lobe epileptic seizure but it still believed in by millions of people today because of ignorance or the need to trust in something greater than them as a way to help explain the insane world around us or to lessen their fear of the unkown or death.

BoyWonder's avatar

What if you people stop spreading sacreligious propaganda????

Tantigirl's avatar

What if you got a grip and realized that everyone has their own theories, opinions and beliefs, and have the right to state and discuss them here on fluther????

BoyWonder's avatar

Well then I have a right to call the rantings of some of you flutherites, “sacreligious propaganda.”

laureth's avatar

@BoyWonder: Anyone who mentions any religious thing is spouting sacrilege, if you ask someone else who believes in another religion. Even talk of science is sacrilege to some. Does that mean we should cease all communication, burn all the books, and shut down the Internet? Or do the benefits of free exchange of research and ideas outweigh the possible negative consequences of banning such communication?

Zuma's avatar

What in the world is “sacreligious propaganda”? And what if it stopped?

BoyWonder's avatar

When you’re out to desecrate religion in any way, to me that’s considered sacrilege. You’re stepping all over the idea of religion as being a good thing which I feel is wrong. Some aspects of religion aren’t always convenient but it certainly isn’t a bad thing. It’s the few bad apples who use religion to drive their own agendas and twist words around to coincide with their lifestyle. You atheists are no better. You’re promoting atheism because it suits your own lifestyle and you’re reaching for excuses for there not being a God instead of submitting to the possibility that there is a force out there much greater than yourself.

shadling21's avatar

@Boy –
Oh, is that what we’re doing?
But, wait… What are you doing?
Read laureth’s quip, please.

Zuma's avatar

So, then, are you saying that any criticism of any religion—Hinduism, Islam, Judaism or extremist variants of Christianity—is off limits because you personally happen to consider it “a sacrilege”? Are we are all supposed to tip-toe around your delicate sensibilities and censor ourselves in order not to present an occasion where you might take offense?

And who are you talking about when you say “you atheists”?

“you’re reaching for excuses for there not being a God instead of submitting to the possibility that there is a force out there much greater than yourself.”

It sounds to me like you are saying that there are no excuses for not submitting to God. What “force” might that be? Or does it matter, just so long as your are suitably groveling and servile to whatever it is?

laureth's avatar

@BoyWonder: Do you realize that if you silence any group based on what they are saying, that there is nothing stopping you from being silenced for the same reason? You may not like talk that you feel is disrespectful of religion, but there are also those who feel that religion is bad, and that people like you should be silenced as well. When one loses freedom, we all lose freedom.

BoyWonder's avatar

I don’t think we have the right to criticize any religion for any reason, or the idea of religion. You’re an atheist and if that works for you, more power to you. I belong to a religion that I feel works for me, so I’m not gonna sit here and let you ingrates shit all over religion as being a bad thing. I have reservations about atheist and what they represent, which is nothingness to me. But i’m not on a crusade to convert the world to my religion. And if I was, I wouldn’t have to bash another religion to do it. So stop bashing followers of religion.

@ MontyZuma:
If u didn’t have to “tip toe” around my issues with u hating religion, I guess I wouldn’t have to tip-toe around gay people either. I could wear a shirt that said “gay people must die” because I don’t have to give a shit really. Your sensibilities would be too delicate to censor myself and we can all say whatever we feel like saying, whenever we feel like saying it. Do you believe this is right? I mean, what did laureth say…when one loses freedom, we all lose freedom, no?

laureth's avatar

@BoyWonder: Why is religion is such a sacred cow (so to speak), to be so far above comment? People discuss and critique pretty much everything from pasta salad to the Presidency. Religion’s going to get shoved in there whether followers like it or not, just like atheism is.

While you may not approve of our discussion, I’m not sure you can do anything other than “let” us continue. You don’t have to read it – and if it bothers you so much, you would probably do well to change the channel – but you can’t really stop the discussion without somehow shutting down Fluther or having the mods gag us, and then it will just move to some other website.

You say you don’t want to convert us, and I appreciate that. How do you reconcile the urge to censor us with your conviction that we should be allowed our beliefs?

There is a lot of grey area between discussing the merits of religion and starting an Inquisition against believers (or “shit[ting] all over religion,” as you so eloquently put it). Please do not mistake one for the other. You are a religionist and that works for you – great. I have no desire to convert you in any way. If your belief in God is so weak as to be unable to stand up to an Internet chat, though, it can’t be very strong at all. For your sake and the sake of your covenant, perhaps it is best to avert your eyes.

Zuma's avatar

Well, well, well, looks like we meet again CelticsFan.

What if religion is a bad thing? What if it promotes superstition and irrationality—or as it would seem to be in your case, an irrational and superstitious hatred of homosexuals? Do you really think you deserve admiration and respect for your irrational hatred of others?

You have certainly never “tip toed” around me, so why should I of you? So why should I let your cowardly attempt to hide behind religion pass without comment?

Grow up, boy. And see if you can at least try to make sense by offering an argument with some merit to it.

fireside's avatar

@laureth – i don’t like olives in my pasta salad…and sometimes I call it macaroni salad instead.

laureth's avatar

Infidel! ;)

BoyWonder's avatar

I feel sorry for all of you. I pray that someone, or something out there, u know…the thing greater than yourself that u choose to disregard, has mercy on all of you. And trust me when I say this…had we been in person discussing this, I can put money on the fact that YOU Montyzuma my friend, would be the one in hiding. PS- glad to see I’m still on your mind and that I’ve made a lasting impression on you ;)

laureth's avatar

BoyWonder, if all religions are above reproach or criticism, do you think that the British were wrong for repressing the Thuggees in India in the early 1800’s? Or for banning the Hindu practice of Sati?

BoyWonder's avatar

You speak of cult practices here, not religion. Get it right.

fireside's avatar

@BoyWonder – There are 900 million adherents of the Hindu religion, according to this website

Calling a long-standing religious tradition a cult practice seems to me to be exactly the opposite of, “I don’t think we have the right to criticize any religion for any reason, or the idea of religion.”

Or did you not even look at the second link and made a snap judgment based on the first?

BoyWonder's avatar

Those 2 links illustrate deviant sects of Hinduism, not Orthodox Hinduism, genius.

fireside's avatar

Oh, of course.

The debates that led to the [East India Trading] Company’s prohibition of sati stimulated elite orthodox Hindus to form organizations, such as the Dharma Society, to protect what they deemed traditional Hindu practices. Orthodox Hindus staunchly argued that custom as well as Hindu scriptures supported self-immolation by Hindu widows as their sacred duty.

The Petition of the orthodox Hindu community of Calcutta against the Suttee Regulation, together with a paper of Authorities, and the Reply of the Governor-General thereto. (January 14, 1830).

BoyWonder's avatar

What do you expect from a secondary source website that calls itself Primary Sources? Instead of making yourself out to be the fool that you are, you should talk to a real Hindu and ask them their opinion. Hinduism consists of hundreds of sects and alot of these sects engage in deviant behavior. They have no place in society because of their dangerous nature and that’s why those sects are heavily regarded as cults. There’s a Hindu sect where followers engage in eating dead people from the Ganges River. I’ve lived alongside Hindus all my life and their orthodox ideologies and practices have no alignment with deviance. Maybe in the Eastern world it’s different but I can tell you that over here, they just don’t do that stuff. Anyway, I wonder how Hindus are being scrutinized by you conservative dingbats all of a sudden. Why don’t you talk about the Ancient Greeks and their belief in what we call Greek mythology today. Wouldn’t it then be wrong to label a long-standing religious tradition a form of mythology? Fireside please get a life.

laureth's avatar

It seems kind of harsh to call some sects cults and some ancient traditions “mythology” when we shouldn’t have the right to criticize any religion for any reason, or the idea of religion. Or did you just mean your particular religion?

fireside's avatar

Why would you assume that I am conservative?
Get a life? I’m not the one who came to a dead thread and started harassing people.

Are you suggesting that the letter from 1830 they cite on that website was made up?

BoyWonder's avatar

It also seems harsh to criticize Christmas as being a pagan ritual when in reality, that’s how it began. I assume you have no problem engaging in the eating of dead people from a polluted river filled with dead bodies. You can see yourself throwing your body in your husband’s crematory chamber as he burns to ashes. Honestly, tell me that you’re so open-minded that you can stand for long periods of time and engage in self-mutilation out of the devotion you have for your Lord. Suicide and self-mutilation are regarded as deviant behavior and this is a FACT.

BoyWonder's avatar

@ fireside: You have to be somewhat conservative to generalize a whole religion you know nothing about without doing your homework first, and think that no one’s gonna call you out on it. Look, I’m obviously not here to garner admiration or dare I say it lurve from anyone out there. I’m just here to say my piece and return to my regularly scheduled life. I’m just sick of these overgeneralizations about things in which you folks have no expertise.

augustlan's avatar

@BoyWonder Actually, I have found fireside to be very well versed in all things religion related. You are being pugnacious, and that is no way to earn the respect of this collective.

laureth's avatar

I believe we do have a valid argument here. A valid argument is one where, if the premises are true, the conclusion is inescapably true. To wit:

Premise 1: We shouldn’t have the right to criticize any religion for any reason, or the idea of religion.

Premise 2: Even what we might call deviant practices and bizarre cults, no matter how distasteful, are still based in religion.

Conclusion: All kinds of awful practices are above reproach.

Now, when you have a valid argument that leads to a false conclusion, as I showed here (reductio ad absurdum style), you know that at least one of the premises must be wrong. In this case, I vote for premise #1 as the error.

SeventhSense's avatar

Ok but the worldwide similarities between religions is uncanny based upon civilizations who never had contact. There are more than one example of virgin births and divine revelation and ascended messiahs. Obviously these cultures found profound significance in certain ideas.
Buddha said, “Under heaven and earth, I alone am holy”
Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the light”.
Now from a perspective of linear or literal thinking, one of these statements can not be true. From a perspective of metaphor, the consciousness that has the capacity to make this statement is in fact the way and is the only thing that we can ever know for certain.
As to worldwide seizures or mental illness, it has been proposed by Julian Jaynes that before minds like these existed, there may have been a hallucinated imagination of an externalized executor of the brain. The whole world may have just had undeveloped brains. And what it may have been was just a disconnect with the inner processes of the brain-the hemisphere’s interaction etc. I hypothesize that the corpus callosum and commisures were evolving. And so Jesus and Buddha were probably quantum leaps. Jesus after all introduced ideas of an internal dialogue to a world that only externalized behavior. “The Kingdom of God is within you.” “You are the temple of God” And after these persons died there may have been only a few who really grasped their message/method.

BoyWonder's avatar

@augustlan: I don’t remember asking for your biased opinion.

SeventhSense's avatar

Being pugnacious isn’t a sign of intelligence neither is bullying. The power of dialectic is tremendous but we have to assume our right size in the equation which is one voice among many. Your misanthropy is bordering on paranoia. You may consider putting down the pipe.

BoyWonder's avatar

@seventhsense: ask me if I give a rat’s ass what you think. No really, ask me! Otherwise, save your 2 cents for the topic, drink bleach and be merry.

SeventhSense's avatar


shadling21's avatar

@SeventhSense: OH! So that’s what happens when you don’t have any spaces in your response.

Excalibur's avatar

LOL. You would have to catch someone having similar revelations to prove it! Not an easy thing to do considering there are very few people who have had such elaborate divine revelations.

Zuma's avatar

@Excalibur Actually, there are quite a number of observed cases of temporal lobe epilepsy where the people describe experiences of being in contact with the divine, or what they interpret as the “divine” (some are visited by angels, others are abducted by aliens).

Excalibur's avatar

With ‘divine revelations of Christianity, Islam and Judaism’ a vast amount of information has been passed on. İn most ‘divine’ experiences people talk of ‘sightings’ and ‘visitations’ without the huge transfer of knowledge that took place with the revelations of the Abrahamic texts.

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