Recurring personal experiences VS scientific explanations

Hello, I am hoping some athiest can give me some guidance to my questions or perhaps some advice as to books i could read!? I grew up christian and up to recently believed whole heartedly that 'god' was assisting me etc I grew up with an abundance of medical problems which i slowly overcome with the help of what i thought was god. I didnt really believe what was told in the bible... but when you grow up with enough stories and personal experiences and phenomena, whats not to believe? My question is mainly about spirits and ghosts etc. Just when i was adjusting to views of atheism, the one thing i cant escape nor ignore is spirits or ghosts. My friend for example, all his life, has had 'powers', where he has sensed, felt, become ill from and spoken to from spirits. He can move pain away from certain parts of his body and has even been able to bend spoons, and has witness friends move objects across the room with their mind. He also said that his mother has the same 'powers' and knows when he is sick etc. Now, i understand and love how science can explain logically how people can think they are surrounded by a ghost now and again.. but how can it explain recurring experiences, telling the future and supernatural powers from just an everyday normal non-religious person!? He cant explain it, he can just do it. This is the only thing that is keeping me from lets say, living in ignorance that nothing outside ourselves exists. Could it be unknown human potential maybe?? maybe we can all heal people, fly around and move objects across the room.. but we havent all evolved to such a point yet!?? i'm yearning for some answers here. I've also had friends that are 'wiccan', who practise and perform spells, who believe in many gods. I have a friend that when he speaks to his gods, they speak back, and he demands things of them etc. I cant just accept that some things dont have answers or that hundreds of supernatural incidents throughout someones life is just a glitch in the brain!? See people, i want to be an athiest, but i cant! thank you for anyone that replys!
Atheist Answer: 

The first thing I notice is that you haven't personally experienced any of this. Your friend hasn't demonstrated anything with a physical, observable effect for you. You're working entirely on the basis of his accounts of his own doings.

The first thing I would do is ask your friend and/or his mother why they don't go public with their "powers" and make a fortune as a new family of Uri Gellers. They will have very good reasons to give you, no doubt, but their reaction in the first split-second will be very informative if you look closely. The idea of being scrutinised by a professional skeptic like James Randi can be an unpleasant one if there's any doubt in one's mind whatsoever.

You've brought up a great many paranormal phenomena being claimed by the same fellow. Even if you don't consider the possibility that your friend is lying, there are ways in which he can have given himself a mistaken impression of each one.

Poorly-defined "spirits", in particular, can be credited for a wide range of things.
- A sudden, brief wave of nausea can come to some people at any time for a variety of medical reasons. It can feel like a ghost has flown straight through them.
- Like me, some people have one-second episodes where they shudder all over, even though they're not cold. It's referred to as "someone walking over your grave".
- We hear disembodied voices all the time, in our thoughts and in our dreams. All it takes is serious consideration that they might not all be coming from you, even if they really are, to create the idea of a second participant in your inner monologue.
- During an episode of sleep paralysis, which I've also experienced, hallucinations of all kinds can happen to perfectly sane people. The brain just panics.

The predictions of your friend's mother are made more significant by confirmation bias. If she has a feeling that your friend may be ill, but then calls and finds out he's fine, she probably thinks nothing of it. If she calls and she's right, it's enough of a coincidence to have an emotional impact, and therefore be remembered. After a while, she would mostly remember only the times she was right, and have a skewed impression of her rate of accuracy.

The spoon-bending thing is the hardest one to explain away without considering outright fraud, but it's still possible. Put yourself in the place of your friend. You believe, fervently, that you have psychic powers of some sort. You decide to put them to the test by attempting the classic achievement, so you get a spoon out of the kitchen drawer.

You hold both ends of the spoon, very lightly, to detect any movement caused by your mind. You don't know how it's actually done, so you experiment. You look at the spoon, and imagine it bending. Nothing happens. You silently order the spoon to bend, and nothing happens. You decide to go all out, and concentrate on the spoon so hard your face scrunches up, and your body tenses. Still nothing, so you go even harder. Finally you're so intent on the spoon itself, and your muscles are so rigid, that you don't even feel the slight pressure your hands are now exerting on the ends of the spoon. It seems to bend all by itself, and your red face and headache tells you it is thanks to your mind. If anyone ever saw you do it they would instantly break the spell, but if you don't ever demonstrate it in public you might never know.

Finally, your friend's stories of telekinesis are a bit vague. You'd have to ask him and preferably also his friend exactly what happened for us to discuss it usefully.

Look at it this way. If your friend is right and there are spirits and psychics, that's important. If he's wrong and there aren't any, that's important too, especially to your friend. What if he receives what he thinks is a message from a spirit which accuses an innocent acquaintance of his of stealing from him, and he wrongfully confronts that person, therefore needlessly making an enemy?

That's why it's beneficial to him as well as you to find out whether there's any truth to all this. This is the spirit in which you might approach him, if you decide you want him to give you a demonstration.

He might well accuse you of doubting his honesty or his sanity, but - and this is important to the religious debate - just because someone isn't lying or mad doesn't mean they're RIGHT. There are countless ways in which they could be honestly mistaken, and if they are they need to know about it.

- SmartLX


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Thanks alot for your in

Thanks alot for your in depth answers

I pretty much put the 'spirit' experiences to possible 'brain glitches' but then these are just as 'annoying' as religious answers to questions because there seems to be 'an answer for everything'., But it helps alot..

As for the spoon bending, when he told me i asked him to show me and he straight away said he doesnt want to ever do it again due to the 'ritual' he must go through in order to perform it. He mentioned the power coming from Lucifer and he does not intend to do it again due to the fear of the dark powers.

As for his friend, he said his friend simply had some items on a table, waved his hand at them as if hitting them off the table but without touching them, and they flew onto the floor.
He said since this time he has wittness scary things involving weegi board and witnissing other people bending spoons etc
He also mentioned that when his friend demonstrated his object moving powers that it was under trust that he wouldnt go public due to the fear of being institutionalised.... this aside, this is the question that comes up every time i think of this, why not go public?

The only public display of this i can think of apart from those staged psychic shows, is John Safrans documentary on everything religious. In the last episode he went under an exorsism, and ended up blacking out during a fit while being exorcised. He claims while watching back on the footage he does not remember any of it, and coming from an athiest whodoesnt believe in what they are doing, how can he be second-handedly affected?

Another example i've heard while growing up is from a church pastor who said he could telekenetically talk to his father while growing up. They would have conversations but decided to stop it due to the powers being demonic.
It all seems too coincidental to state this, but there is no proof either way.

I questioned my friend why he automatically thinks such seemingly wonderful powers are demonic, he just stated that due to again, the techniques he must perform to perform something like the spoon bending.

When i get the opportunity i will try and question it all further but i highly doubt i will be about to witness it myself.

The only other 'evidence' i can recall from our conversation was that when a spirit was contacting him he heard a click in this ear as well as feeling cold and the other things you mentioned.
Also it depends on the place, the house etc. He once worked in an old institution where lots of abuse happened to children and he heard the screams of the children and the yells of the carers and he could smell urine and vomit etc during the experience.

When i get the opportunity i will try and question it all further but i highly doubt i will be about to witness it myself.

If anyone else has some more words of wisdom i will highly appreciate it.

I have almost finished reading richard dawkins 'god delusion', and i'm finding most of it just too, 'detached'. I think he spends too much effort on explaining and emphasising common skepticisms and reasons as to why we should be athiest. Coming from someone who went from talking to god nightly to reading his book, he's not giving me any 'evidence' or strong enough reasons as to why theres no god. What i get from the book is that it is simply illogical to believe in a god.... but.. 'we' as christians etc already know this!?
I'm hoping the last chapter puts it all together for me.

More woo

"Brain glitch" is unsatisfying because it's as vague as possible, and really, it doesn't explain anything. If you're going to find real neurological or psychological explanations, you need them to be more specific than that.

Case in point: the supposed exorcism John Safran went through was most likely a form of hypnosis. That explains the blackout, the collapse and the fact that it worked on an atheist. Safran himself has probably come to the same conclusion, because he's still an atheist. Still, he was a brave man to submit himself to it.

The pastor's story is again a case of not-enough-information. Did he and his father communicate anything specific enough to make sure they weren't just thinking the same thing at the same time? And I'm thinking the same as you, how did he know it was demonic as opposed to a gift from God? He's a pastor! It's not like he would have performed a demonic ritual on the off chance that it would get him something.

That brings us to your friend. If he's so worried about tempting evil with his dark powers, what the heck was he thinking when he performed the rituals in the first place? How did he even learn them?

We both knew he would give a good reason for not giving you a demonstration. The thing is, just because a person has a GOOD reason for doing something, or not doing something, doesn't mean it's the REAL reason.

For another example, think of the separate evangelist and Roman Catholic propaganda against condoms. They claim that condoms are ineffective, or even that they help spread disease. Both would be good reasons, if true. The REAL reason, however, is that condoms make people less afraid of sex and more likely to "sin". Anything else is just rationalisation, and in this case false.

The God Delusion is not good at converting believers directly into non-believers. Richard Dawkins admitted as much after gauging reactions to the book. It's better at convincing agnostics to get off the fence and come out as atheists.

It does claim that belief in gods is illogical. Some Christians are happy to accept that belief contradicts and trumps logic and reason (that's called fideism), but most believers would rather think that belief is logical and defensible. That's why the book has got so many people steamed, and prompted so many response books (God is No Delusion, Deluded by Dawkins, etc.)

ok, i understand so from an

ok, i understand

so from an athiests perspective...
regardless of the 'power' or experience, you pretty much believe it is an entire crock?
Theres absolutely no chance it to be somewhat real? Because its not made public?

I dont understand why people would lie tho, or not look into their own experiences more...

I also have a friend who's mother had a life threatening tumour in her body and on the day of her surgury, while she was waiting to get taken by the doctors into the surgery room she prayed by using a bible verse. Then when the doctors opened her up they couldnt find any trace of the tumour. They compared the old xrays and new xrays and cant understand how it could have vanished.. apparently its still in files as a medical phenomenon.

And what about all the predictions in revelations and other books in the christian bible?

I guess its just hard for me to believe in a christian god and completely believe in absolutely nothing... it seems that the whole debate is just too outweighed with the religious people having too much history under their belts to back them up.

I think i'll just wait and see how i feel in a few years... all i knw is i've never experienced anything supernatural first hand...

Has chance, has chance.

I didn't say that there's absolutely no chance that any of it is real. I can't say that, I'm not omniscient. I just think that the countless ways in which phenomena like this can be faked or mistakenly identified make it very, very unlikely that a given incident has to somehow involve the supernatural.

Not knowing your friend, I don't understand why he would lie or not examine his "abilities" critically either. But this is another big point, which comes up often in the creation/evolution debate: just because you or I don't know how something might have happened doesn't mean it DIDN'T happen. There may be possibilities we just haven't considered yet.

Here are a few examples. Maybe having unique powers makes him feel good about himself, and he relies on this in the absence of self-esteem. Since his mother also claims to have powers, maybe he subconsciously doesn't want her to be lying (or just wrong) and therefore he convinces himself that he has inherited them. Maybe he talked in a dream with lost beloved relatives, and doesn't want to think that he can never talk to them again.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Think of all the ways in which he could justify lying to you, or subconsciously lie to himself, or be honestly but mistakenly convinced. Then compare all of these possibilities with the alternative: that he, his mother and a few of his friends have been uniquely gifted with supernatural powers, but not given any instructions for their use so that they now lie unused and entirely pointless. Now, perhaps, you see why I think that last one's unlikely.

My first question related to your other friend's mother is, how soon before the operation was the last X-ray taken? Cancers can occasionally lose out to the body and be absorbed. That's what remission is. Was going into the operating theatre the only time she had prayed, and if not, why did it only work at the last minute? If it's a medical phenomenon, is the doctor's file someplace the public could access it, maybe in an online database? If the doctor really thought he had something extraordinary on his hands, he'd want to share it with the medical community.

I've gone into predictions in depth, Biblical and otherwise, after being bombarded with them by one particular evangelist. Here's what I wrote.

It does take time to digest this stuff, so go ahead and see how you feel later. Just going from agnosticism to atheism took me 15 years, although from Christianity to agnosticism was almost instantaneous.

One day you may well think you've experienced something supernatural. Don't immediately fall to your knees in the absence of another explanation. Eliminate the alternatives. That way you can be more secure in whatever you end up believing, or not believing.