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Why are human beings religious?

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William Crawley | 15:39 UK time, Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Why are so many human beings "religious"? And not just church-goers. Even self-confessed atheists have been known to offer the odd prayer while in desperate straits. If you believe in God, you might explain our species' special relationship with the divine by saying, we are the way we are because God made us that way -- with minds that are restlessly in pursuit of their creator. But how do you explain human religious thinking if you don't assume that God actually exists? Some atheists say religious belief is a kind of irrational glitch in the system that we should work hard to overcome; the more strident have even used the term "mental illness" to describe religious belief.



Step forward a scientist and author with a new theory that is getting a lot of talk around the world. Jesse Bering is an American psychologist and award-winning columnist who teaches at Queen's University. In his new book, The God Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny and the Meaning of Life, he argues that humanity's religious instinct is what sets us apart from other animals -- and it carries powerful evolutionary benefits. I asked Jesse Bering to explain his theory in this Will & Testament interview.


Why is your book called The God Instinct?
At it's core, the book is about our species' strange wild goose chase for the so-called meaning of life. The term "instinct" is riddled with technical difficulties in scientific parlance, and I'm well aware of that, of course. But the term also has an immediate currency when it comes to effectively characterising a species' strong, "natural", unlearned inclinations. And our species' pursuit of the supernatural, whether it exists or not, is very much an instinct in this sense. It turns out that things are much more complicated than observing that religious people are silly or that atheists are arrogant and blinded by science. It's time to look more deeply at the cognitive seductiveness of religious beliefs; simply attributing religion to a lack of education, or a fear of death and meaningless, isn't going far enough. That's just polemical hand-waving. The actual science behind the story reveals just how much believers and nonbelievers have in common.


Is non-belief, in a sense, unnatural for human beings?
It's unnatural in the sense of it being cognitively effortful. But it's important to keep in mind that whether something is natural or not tells us nothing about whether it's "good" or "bad." It's not natural for women to shave their legs, either, after all, or for men to mask their pungent body odour with an effluvium of chemicals, but for some reason we don't confuse morality with naturalness in these other domains.

How can the science of psychology tell us anything about how or why human beings developed religious beliefs?
When I was studying chimpanzee social cognition as a graduate student in Louisiana, I wondered if chimps ever ask themselves, like we humans do, about the meaning of life, or worry about what happens to them after they die, or think about their individual destinies, why bad things happen to good chimps, or about a God that cares about who -- to take an even stranger example -- they have sex with? If not, why don't they? It occurred to me that the ability to even think about these types of big existential issues rests on our having evolved certain psychological capabilities that may be unique to human beings, having evolved relatively recently. Through psychological science, we can isolate and study the "cognitive ingredients" that are involved in religious-type thinking. For instance, we can explore how these psychological factors develop in children, the conditions under which they are likely to be expressed (or not expressed), and whether they have specific functions. I think theologians and philosophers have a sense of entitlement to the question of faith; but they shouldn't claim proprietary ownership, and my opinion is that they've been going about it all wrong. The answers aren't as unknowable as they claim. It's just that the questions they're asking are flawed ones.

Most would accept that there are "cognitive ingredients" involved in religious-type thinking, but many people of faith will regard your analysis as reductionist because you ignore the possibility that God might actually exist and may have created human beings with minds that, when properly functioning, intuit God's existence.
I've no question that they will regard it this way. But mine is an appeal to common sense, not theological prevarication. I acknowledge in The God Instinct that one can never rule out the possibility that God microengineered the evolution of the human brain so that we've come to see Him more clearly, a sort of divine LASIK procedure. But to do so would require reasoning that the evolution of the human brain was indeed guided by a God that slowly, methodically, over billions of years, placed our ancestors into the perfect selective conditions in which they were able to develop the psychological traits that, in addition to serving their own huge, independent, adaptive functions for interacting with other human beings, also enabled this one species to finally ponder His highly cryptic ways and to begin guessing about what's on His mind. Does that sound like a convincing argument to you?

Why are so many human beings religious?
What I argue in the book is that the illusion of a morally interested God, one that arises so naturally in our species, was a meaningful contributor to our species' success. There is no single fix in evolution, but God helped our species to solve a very specific, very unusual and unprecedented adaptive problem, which is the problem of human gossip. It's not about whether one can or can't be moral without God. All that matters is that when our ancestors genuinely believed that some supernatural agent was watching and judging them, especially when they failed to appreciate the presence of actual human onlookers, they behaved in ways that protected their reputations and thus helped their genes. We tend to live our lives -- either consciously or under the implicit assumption -- that there is a grand "Other" out there that is emotionally invested in our wellbeing, that cares about our social behaviors, that is dropping us hints here and there, and that is 'writing the script' of our personal narratives. For religious people, this is God; but just because one rejects God or is an atheist, or even is agnostic or spiritually apathetic, this vague, egocentric sense of being under the cosmic spotlight never really goes away. God doesn't need to be real to "work" in a mechanistic, gene-salvanging sense; people simply needed to be convinced that He was, and our evolved brains conjure up a suite of very convincing illusions to persuade us that He is indeed real.

Is that religious sense of a grand "Other" healthy or unhealthy? Is it a dangerous "delusion", as Richard Dawkins claims?
I'm very much aware of the 'New Atheism' movement, and work by figures at the helm of that movement such as Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, and of course Richard Dawkins. I can only say that I think these people are having a very different conversation than what I am engaged with in The God Instinct. My book certainly isn't a polemic, and I'm not taking a sociopolitical stance against religion here. Believe if you want to, or don't. Atheists should be more conscious of the contradictions in their own private thoughts, contradictions that betray the psychological appeal and cognitive naturalness of believing in God. I'd much prefer my position in The God Instinct to be viewed by readers as "nuanced atheism" than just another book in the "New Atheism" movement. For people who would continue waving the battle flags, my approach is likely to disappoint in its absence of animosity. But for those who want to stop pointing fingers at the other side, and actually have a look at some of the cognitive science driving our species' belief in God, The God Instinct offers a fresh start. One of the central messages I try to get across in the book is that religious belief doesn't make us weak, ridiculous, or foolish. It just makes us human. That doesn't mean that it's a good thing or a bad thing--it's just an empirical reality."

You argue that religious thinking evolves as an answer to the problem of human gossip. Some theologians and philsophers argue for the reverse, that human moral reasoning points to the existence of God as moral law-giver. Does your work provide any scientific evidence against this "moral argument" for God's existence?
Scientific evidence, no; but scentific parsimony, yes, loads of it. Morality, like any phenomenological property, is a matter of perception: our minds have evolved as biased filters to view certain behaviors as being bad or evil, but the behaviors themselves are simply behaviors. As an analogy, you may think that a rotting corpse is inherently disgusting. But your average housefly would beg to differ, and might even regard it as a wondeful place to raise her offspring. The point is that there's no "disgusting-ness" quality that exists out there "in" the corpse, just like there aren't any moral "truths" grounded in objective reality. We see things this way, subjectively, because of our species' evolved minds. So I'd say that those who would subscribe to the "moral argument" for God's existence have got it absolutely backwards.

How can your theory be tested scientifically?
Remember that the "big idea theory" in the book is that the illusion of watchful, morally concerned supernatural agents is an evolved psychological adaptation to solve the problem of human gossip. Evidence that supernatural reasoning curbs our selfish and impulsive behavior is, to date, limited. But it's also consistent, and comes from a variety of studies that I describe in The God Instinct. For example, a few years ago, my colleagues and I reported the results of a study in which, as part of a slick cover story, we told a group of participants that the ghost of a dead graduate student had recently been seen in the lab. Compared to those who didn't hear any mention of the alleged ghost, students who received this information beforehand were much less likely to cheat on a separate game in which they were competing for fifty dollars when left alone in the room and given the opportunity to do so. And we've just published similar findings with children: those children who are told that an invisible woman is in the room with them are significantly less likely to cheat on a highly tempting task than those who hear no mention of the invisible woman.

The study you reference can provide evidence for the claim that human beings change their speech if they believe they are being observed by others, seen or unseen. But how do you get from that evidence to the conclusion that the idea of God probably emerged within human groups as a moral limit on speech? Isn't it also possible that human beings change their speech if they belief they are being observed by an invisible "other" because they have a natural inclination to sense the presence of God, and they have that disposition because it was given to them by God?
It's not so much that feeling watched changes your speech, but rather it changes your behavior. And your behavior, especially when you do bad things, is what other people are going to talk about. This gossip -- of which you are the target, if you've done wrong -- is how it all comes back to the illusion of God. If you believe He's watching you, tallying up your misdeeds, concocting "life lessons" for you in the form of misfortunes, lying in wait for you after you die, well, then you're probably going to think twice before acting selfishly. All that really matters, in an evolutionary, mechanistic sense, is that you've prevented yourself from engaging in a behavior that would have negatively effected your reputation if it were discovered and talked about by other human beings. Poor social reputations translate, most of the time, to poor reproductive prospects.

How would you describe your personal attitude to religious belief? Are you an atheist?
It is exceptionally easy to say, "I don't believe in God," and to mean it wholeheartedly. Such people are increasingly common and I have numbered among them for a very long time. But this type of epistemological atheism is yawningly boring from a psychological perspective because it tells us so very little about how the mind secretly works. Once we stop boasting about our immunity to irrational or quasi-religious thought and pause long enough to look carefully, critically and objectively at the data, it becomes startlingly obvious that the innate human mind is cognitively prepared to believe in God.
But-and this is a very big but-this doesn't mean that God is real. On the contrary, this is why I refer to God as a cognitive illusion; not a delusion, mind you, but an illusion. For these are very different concepts in psychological terms. One is pathological, the other normative. One can be "cured," while the other is a permanent fixture, a shadow state, of evolved cognitive architecture. One is largely impregnable to self-critical introspection, while the other can, once the magic trick is given away, easily be evaluated in objective terms and recognized as not reflecting actual reality. The God Instinct is, to be honest, a nihilistic book. But I don't see nihilism necessarily as being a bad thing. In fact, there's a certain humanistic appeal in it-personally, I'd much rather spend my limited time as a subjectively experiencing self with people who see life as I do, which is, rather humorously I think, fundamentally absurd and meaningless, than I would with people who are operating under the more frightening, strident, and, frankly, false assumption that there are inherent moral truths. I'm not keen on replacing God with "mystery" and just leaving it at that. Why worship mystery when the answers are becoming increasingly obvious?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    William,
    Thanks for this - really interesting. A question and a comment. First of all, it sounds like he's viewing the idea of "God" in a more general, maybe even ontological sense. To that end, what does he say about the historical existence of Jesus, Mohammad or Confucious for example?

    Secondly, he says "I acknowledge in The God Instinct that one can never rule out the possibility that God microengineered the evolution of the human brain so that we've come to see Him more clearly, a sort of divine LASIK procedure. But to do so would require reasoning that the evolution of the human brain was indeed guided by a God that slowly, methodically, over billions of years, placed our ancestors into the perfect selective conditions in which they were able to develop the psychological traits that, in addition to serving their own huge, independent, adaptive functions for interacting with other human beings, also enabled this one species to finally ponder His highly cryptic ways and to begin guessing about what's on His mind. Does that sound like a convincing argument to you?"

    Leaving aside the 'highly cryptic' comment, this is precisely the argument that some Christians will use to point to the Sovereignty of God.

  • Comment number 2.

    Firstly, thanks for this detailed piece which must have taken you some time to write.
    I think that more and more people are becoming less religious (which is dogma) and becoming more & more spiritually conscious, which is probably the direction in which homo sapiens would have evolved had our species not been interrupted.
    I believe that humankind has believed in "gods" for so long because in the ancient world (I mean before Greece & Rome), there actually were gods (superior beings) who roamed the face of the earth (The Bible calls them "Nefilim".) They were on earth 500,000 BC - in ancient Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Mexico - in short, all over the place.
    These superior beings could fly (in machines); they could watch (from far distances); they seemed to live forever (at least in comparison to homo sapiens); they could move massive stones by sound vibration...
    I believe that humankind was created by these gods in order to do the work of the gods i.e. serve god.
    I believe that these gods designed and built (via tools that we cannot even imagine) the ancient pyramids, the ziggurats, and the temples - using massive stones so closely fitted that to this day, humankind cannot duplicate the effort.
    Gods had their personalities and their territories; so, some gods were wrathful, some jealous, some kind and some gentle. Some demanded sacrifice; some did not.
    When earth became too populated with humans, the gods went away; but they cannot stay away because the planet from which they came (and from which earth was seeded with life) periodically returns. It is not a planned thing, it's just the eliptical orbit that this planet takes & 3600 years.
    Zachariah Sitchin called this planet Nabiru. In fact most of my ideas about these beings from Nabiru have developed from reading & re-rerading Sitchen's "Earth Chronicles".
    It is from these so-called alien beings (that created homo sapiens from their own blood and the blood of ancient man, probably homo erectus) that we learned to be "religious" because these beings controlled our lives, told us what to do; and we prayed to them, obeyed them, and did what we were told. This was religion. Religion bound us to our gods.
    But as I said, I think "religion" is fading, and in it's place is coming our own homo-sapiens way of tuning to the infinite. Spirituality sees God everywhere, as in William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence":
    "To see a world in a grain of sand,
    And a heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
    And eternity in an hour."
    I believe that the god of homo sapiens' is all around us, the total sum of all sentient consciousness. In short, all sentient creatures are one, connected by a deep, evolving cosmic consciousness. We, homo sapiens, are slowly forgetting the ommnipotent and omnipresent sky-God in favour of our collective consciousness: We think therefore we are, and as we think, we co-create our own universe.
    If there is hatred, it's because we hate.
    If there is love, it's because we love.
    If we destroy our world, it's because we didn't love enough.

  • Comment number 3.


    Eunice?

  • Comment number 4.

    "Some atheists say religious belief is a kind of irrational glitch in the system that we should work hard to overcome; the more strident have even used the term "mental illness" to describe religious belief."

    Oh yes, it is a rather unfortunate glitch, I must admit.

    I myself struggle with this 'mental illness'. This unfortunate condition is particularly acute when I visit the Will & Testament blog, because, try as hard as I can, I just cannot rid myself of this weird and preposterous idea that the posts on this blog have actually been written by real living intelligent beings! To be truthful, I feel a bit embarrassed by my 'problem'. I am sure that it can be described as a kind of 'cognitive illusion'.

    I feel we ought to be radical about stamping out this disease. I diagnose the problem as being one of reading something really ridiculous into reality. This absurd thing is called 'purpose'. Purpose! What a daft idea.

    The next time I see someone looking at a machine and asking "What is the purpose of that machine?" I am going to get them sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Such a person is clearly not only a danger to himself, but to everyone else. Any sane, moral, well balanced person knows that nothing has a purpose, and nothing can conceivably be the result of intelligent input.

    Coming back to Will & Testament: any sensible observer knows that the computer is just a closed system, and that it writes the posts itself. No more of these silly fairy stories about beings using other computers to construct ordered and purposeful posts. No, that is dangerous, archaic, primitive nonsense!

    (/ a great outpouring of sarcastic despair)

  • Comment number 5.



    ”The God Instinct is, to be honest, a nihilistic book. But I don't see nihilism necessarily as being a bad thing. In fact, there's a certain humanistic appeal in it-personally, I'd much rather spend my limited time as a subjectively experiencing self with people who see life as I do, which is, rather humorously I think, fundamentally absurd and meaningless,”

    Oh I wouldn’t say humorous, I’d say incongruent.

  • Comment number 6.

    The blog posting: "Some atheists say religious belief is a kind of irrational glitch in the system...

    LSV: "Oh yes, it is a rather unfortunate glitch, I must admit. "

    LSV - yet again extrapolating his own words from someone else's!

    He's here all week!

  • Comment number 7.

    LSV, I didn't think you had It, but if you did, you have clearly lost It. You once boasted that you had a modicum of philosophical training. It's not been in evidence lately. Your armchair is getting a bit shabby, old boy. Clearly LSV needs DFS.

  • Comment number 8.

    LSV, try googling "Turing Test".

  • Comment number 9.

    I cannot see why Dr Berring should insist that women shave their legs! This is patriarchal oppression, and he should issue an immediate apology.

  • Comment number 10.

    His specieism is also repugnant. Chimps may be fully conscious of the divine, but lack the cognitive tools to develop this awareness into a religion or a myth.
    That said, while the chimps may not have wondered about the god's take on their sex lives, they may well have wondered why the observing humans took such an interest.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sure some of us are not turnips however it is well to remember how much of DNA is related to other species.

    Humans evolved posable thumbs and that is one of the key reasons for our modern abilities. Actually it is thanks to dogs that we evolved. (Will you can follow that up with PBS)

    "Why are so many human beings "religious"?

    The obvious answer lies in the brain and the fact that there exist billions of believers is rooted in early childhood imprinting of terrifying (unproven) after life narratives. In some belief sects the emotional terror is followed up with a really awful blood letting ritual (circumcision) performed on defenseless children.

    New neuroscience developments in the neuro-plasticity show that a brain can be re-trained but it takes effort.

    If and when it is no longer socially approved to imprint children then it is logical to assume that our species will no more embrace myth and magic as a way of being.

    @ Will - you needed to ask the questions from the point of nueroscience and imprinting.

  • Comment number 12.

    LucyQ: "The obvious answer ..." Alas, there is no "obvious" answer.

  • Comment number 13.


    William

    "Alas, there is no "obvious" answer."

    I'm inclined to agree, but (based on the above) this does not seem to be what Jesse Bering is saying. What he seems to be saying, and he seems to be saying this is obvious, is that believing/religion is a useful but unnecessary and ultimately false human behaviour. Is this the sense you got when speaking to him, or was there an 'it's obvious, but' feeling lurking there too...

    ...a bit like the Christopher Hitchens interview; sometimes you have to listen to a person's eyes.

  • Comment number 14.

    I stand corrected but that doesn't mean my penchant for embellishment is abated.

  • Comment number 15.

    The term "religious instinct" is vague and and unprovable. That many people believe in religion is not evidence of the existence of an instinct, but is, perhaps, simply a short-hand way in which many people recognize that they do not have full control of their lives and of the outcomes of their endeavours? It is, in short, hope. Religionists seek to exploit this cognitive imperative as best they can: "you're being watched all the time and if you even think about veering one inch from the dogma you're damned".

    I am intrigued by the use of the phrase "cognitively effortful", but I agree that if something is "natural" this does not necessarily make it "good". Are all things that are not cognitively effortful therefore inherently natural? And does not the illusion of a morally interested God take some effort?

    "Poor social reputations translate, most of the time, to poor reproductive prospects." What about Genghis Khan!

    A challenging and though-provoking read that has raised many questions, doubts and uncertainties.

  • Comment number 16.

    Why do we believe in God?
    Allow me to summarise the hypotheses on the table

    God did it - PM2 and LSV
    The gods did it - BB
    The dog did it - LQ

  • Comment number 17.


    Deckard


    Perhaps it was the Rev Green in the Library with a Candlestick.

    And there's a hippopotamus on the table? No one told me that!

  • Comment number 18.

    d_a_a_r (@ 16) -

    "Why do we believe in God?
    Allow me to summarise the hypotheses on the table

    God did it - ... LSV"


    Yep, that's my view (although it's actually rather stronger than a 'hypothesis').

    By the way... (and this is a general point about the theme of this thread)... if the ideas of an ultimate 'hope' and 'purpose' are to be regarded as mere wishful thinking and 'cognitive illusion', then where is the evidence that the ideas of ultimate 'despair', 'meaninglessness' and 'nihilism' are not wishful thinking?

    The argument works both ways.

    If theism is the result of an inflamed imagination, then the same could be said of atheism. I can't help but feel that some people put a great deal of effort into convincing themselves that God does not exist (wait for the angry denials now....), even to the extent of magicking up an infinite number of universes to obviate the need for a Creator.

    I've rather got used to the fact that logical consistency is not one of the 'moral imperatives' of atheism (well I suppose why should it, when you have the philosophical luxury of making up morality as you go along?).

  • Comment number 19.

    LSV,

    if the ideas of an ultimate 'hope' and 'purpose' are to be regarded as mere wishful thinking and 'cognitive illusion', then where is the evidence that the ideas of ultimate 'despair', 'meaninglessness' and 'nihilism' are not wishful thinking?

    I would put it this way, hope and purpose are attributes/feelings which exist due to our ability to formulate a plan to achieve a desired outcome combined with a confidence in our abilities and the availability of resources.

    Dispair, meaninglessness and nihilism are attributes/feelings which exist when we cannot plan, have no resources and lack confidence in our abilities and so know we cannot reach desired objectives.

    One requires forward thinking, the other actually requires nothing.

    Its a bit like - theism is a belief, atheism is absence of belief, one requires assertion the other requires nothing.

    Light requires light, darkness requires nothing.

  • Comment number 20.


    Dave

    It requires a person. The very fact that you have defined it in these terms demonstrates that.

    For goodness sake, Jesse Bering looks forward to the experience of it every weekend with a couple of friends and a cold beer!

    Our basic dilemma (however we resolve it) is that we are here. Despair may very well be the result (among other things) of a lack of confidence or a lack of resource, but it is not nothing.


  • Comment number 21.

    Despair can be a decision just as much as hope.

    (That was a short post from me, for a change!)

  • Comment number 22.

    I think the key bugaboo here is "purpose". Humans have evolved brains that see purpose, intention, stratagem, device in pretty much everything, hence our penchant for conspiracy theories beloved of Protestants and grotesque martyr complex beloved of Catholics and pixies in your pockets beloved of the Pagans. We like stories, and we build 'em up all over the place. Nothing "just happens" - there has to be intent behind everything.

    It's a cognitive illusion, and it has given us such comedy greats as YHWH, Allah, Horus-the-Saviour, Ahura-Mazda, Odin, Adonis/Adonai and Slartibartfast.

    Now there isn't necessarily anything *bad* about this propensity, as long as we recognise it in ourselves, and take the necessary steps to keep it in check. Just like we (at least most of us) don't run around all day gratifying our carnal desires, but instead act in a socially appropriate manner, likewise we should enjoy our pixies responsibly, and not let them run our entire lives.

    OK, I am saying this at a time when the Church of Jesus Christ Atheist has maybe 5 friends on Facebook, which is fewer than my neighbour's cat, but the issue, I think, is that it is possible to be religious (which, dear Catholics, is an adjective, not a noun), and indeed possible explicitly to be a Christian, and disavow the actual belief in the entertaining, instructive, delightful and entirely fictional myths of God, resurrections, miracles, angels and the like.

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm sorry to admit frustration got the better of me before I finished reading this interview.

    I'll not take the time to go through the whole thing but there a couples of things he said about morality I want to comment on.

    All that matters is that when our ancestors genuinely believed that some supernatural agent was watching and judging them, especially when they failed to appreciate the presence of actual human onlookers, they behaved in ways that protected their reputations and thus helped their genes.

    This seems a little off.

    For instance, it overlooks the penal codes of many ancient state-religions, not least the Mosaic covenant. People were killed precisely because they didn't keep the law. So many behaved in ways that failed to protect their reputations and thus failed to help their genes.

    Take a slightly different later example from an essay by Alan Jacobs, he writes:

    [Perry] Miller tells us that the preachers of colonial New England, in an "unending monotonous wail," in "something of a ritual incantation...would take some verse of Isaiah and Jeremiah with which to berate their congregants." After 1679 - thanks to the hard work of a synod of preachers - they could even employ a prefabricated list of the twelve varieties of iniquity characteristic of New Englanders, "merely bringing the list up to date by inserting the new and still more depraved practices an ingenious people kept devising." Miller was duly impressed by these denunciations: "I suppose that in the whole of literature of the world, including the imperial satirists of imperial Rome, there is hardly such another uninhibited and unrelenting documentation of a people's descent into corruption." '

    Not only did many of the New Englanders fail 'to appreciate the presence of actual human onlookers' they also failed to appreciate the divine lawgiver, in whom they most certainly believed. They were each losing their 'reputation', people are often hypocrites don't you know, and frankly they didn't care.

    In fact, there's a certain humanistic appeal in it-personally, I'd much rather spend my limited time as a subjectively experiencing self with people who see life as I do, which is, rather humorously I think, fundamentally absurd and meaningless, than I would with people who are operating under the more frightening, strident, and, frankly, false assumption that there are inherent moral truths.

    Yes, humorous that life is absurd and meaningless. There's a great line in an essay called 'Escape from Nihilism' by Natural Law ethicist Dr. Jay Budziszewski that goes like this; 'Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to commit.' This last response of Mr. Bering's is a good example of such stupidity.

  • Comment number 24.

    Helio,

    As much as I like you, I can't possibly 'like' the Facebook page of your Church. I'm not a christian in any sense and I'd hate to do a Pascals Wager with Facebook ;-)

  • Comment number 25.

    Is there any 'purpose' to Helio's post #22?

    No, there can't be (objectively speaking) 'cos we all know (and there is apparently copious evidence to support this - not that I've ever seen any, but such a clever person as Helio can't be wrong, surely) that 'purpose' is just a made up concept - ya know, subjective and all that.

    So I don't really know *why* he wrote it.

    Very strange. Very very strange indeed.

    Must be another example of that 'Turing' thingy.

  • Comment number 26.


    Helio

    2 minds, 2 posts. Respond to either, both or none.


    Post 1

    All well and good; I’m more than happy to run with the idea that we are ‘meaning makers’, that we like stories, that we do not like the idea of ‘just is’ and instead read intent into the world around us. (which is what I read the last line of your paragraph 1 to mean).

    I can even find (if I wished) a cosseting justification for this ‘what I am’ in the pages of the bible, some of our religious ‘chin-stroking’ friends like to call it the cultural mandate; but what I want to know is this, what, in your opinion, does this tell us about ourselves.

    It’s all very well saying, “Look! Look at what humans do,” but is it telling you anything about what we are?

    I’ll rephrase the question of the thread, ‘Why are humans, beings?’


    Post 2

    Scrap all that and let's cut to the chase. "It's (God/belief/religion/purpose) a cognitive illusion". Are you? Am I? And could *I* recognise that in *me*.

  • Comment number 27.

    Boys, there is purpose behind some things. That is not to say that there is purpose behind all, which renders DFS's little rantarooney somewhat laughable and juvenile.

    Natman, no, not everyone will "like" the facebook Church of Jesus Christ Atheist, but read the mission statement - it'll not float everyone's boat, but it's not "purposed" to :-)

  • Comment number 28.

    Oh, and Peter, humans are not "beings" - we are systems. Watch that old ontological fallacy there, boyo! :-)

  • Comment number 29.

    "But I don't see nihilism necessarily as being a bad thing."

    I agree with the above proposition. Recently I heard a leading author say that entrenched pessimism leads to nihilism; but nihilism need not be linked with the disengaged who depend on Prozac. When people talk of the meaning of life I do not understand what they mean. There is no one over-arching goal towards which everyone directs their efforts, though people are generally goal-orientated.

    Nihilism in the sense used by Jesse Bering resonates with me and is not something incompatible with one's happiness. He questions the widely held assumption that nihilism is only for those who are human car-wrecks or who wilfully live in sadness. Nihilism has much to offer us, but sadly the warped teachings of religionists will always be with us.

  • Comment number 30.


    Well that's easy to say, H. Was the H system aware of saying it? Or was it an Heliollusion :-)

    And Newlach, why ever would you think nihilism limited to saddness? But if what you are saying is that nihilism is offering you meaning, perhaps you need a different word.



  • Comment number 31.

    Er, Peter, if you were aware of *half* the stuff the H-system is aware of, you would rapidly develop the curliest toenails in Ireland...

  • Comment number 32.

    I must admit that I am in a state of indecision at the moment. There are three contemporary events that I am cogitating on, and I simply can't decide which is the most inane. They are as follows:

    1. England's sour grapes over the FIFA decision.

    2. Calling 999 to report the theft of a snowman.

    3. The posts on this thread written by 'the hitchhiker from Heliopolis."

    Hmmm.

    I think I am now getting pretty close to a decision.

    Yes, that's it... got it...

    In order of total stupidity, I rank them as follows:

    3.

    1.

    2.

    Perhaps I ought to turn up to the Institute of Illogicality (a.k.a. 'Church of JC Atheist') to present the award in person to Mr "Life is a Lucky Dip" himself...

    (On second thoughts, such an act involves an element of 'purpose' and so Mr Lucky might think he's dreaming when he is presented with the award, and I wouldn't want to wake him up from the joys of his overheated imagination.)

  • Comment number 33.

    30 peterm2

    I do not think that nihilism is limited to sadness, but I believe that many people do see nihilists as a sorrowful lot. Christians may ask: How can they be happy without the joy of Christ in their hearts?

    I consider the word "nihilism" to refer to a life lived without over-arching purpose, and I think that Jesse Bering correctly points out that such a life need not be a sad one. I cannot say that a word whose definition includes the "fundamentally absurd and meaningless" offers me meaning in any spiritual sense.

    If nihilism did offer me meaning, what word do you think would best replace "sadness"? I'm very interested and intrigued by you comment.

  • Comment number 34.

    LSV,

    If you can't restrain from ad hominem attacks then I suggest you keep your typing fingers to yourself.

  • Comment number 35.

    Natman -

    Oh dear, silly me. I forgot the golden rule on this blog: only atheists are allowed to make ad hominem attacks (e.g. #27). I must try harder in future to remember that, so as not to upset the logically (and morally) inconsistent.

    Talking about logical inconsistency (and this is an attack on an argument, not a person), I just read this from Professor Peter Atkins (who, as you must know, is another famous promoter of the "life is a lucky dip" theory):

    "Humanity should accept that science has eliminated the justification for believing in cosmic purpose, and that any survival of purpose is inspired only by sentiment."

    Now I wonder whether there is any 'purpose' to this quote? Was there a reason why he wrote it or said it? If not, then why should anyone pay any attention to it? And if there was a purpose, then he is admitting that he is indulging in the very sentimentality he condemns.

    Oh, I get it! He is saying that the idea of 'purpose' is only 'a sentiment' when it involves understanding reality as a whole. Trouble with that is that he provides no evidence for that bold assertion. As human beings we can only start with "where we are" (as Helio has often pointed out). And when we "start with where we are", we find that we cannot jettison the idea of purpose: hence Atkins' need to use purpose when making his grand claims. This then poses the question: from where does he get the evidence which justifies his condemnation of 'purpose' being applied to reality as a whole, since the only 'stuff' he has to work with is human experience, which cannot function without 'purpose'? (I know the answer to that, but let's see if others can work it out).

    Yet more evidence that atheism is totally illogical and deviously inconsistent.


  • Comment number 36.

    LSV,
    Yet more evidence that your posts are totally illogical and deviously inconsistent:

    Confusing -cosmic- purpose with every other kind.

    It is entirely possible for the universe to be meaningless, but to find meaning of your own, y'know?

    There's also a difference between mocking someones posts and mocking them in person.

  • Comment number 37.

    Natman -

    "It is entirely possible for the universe to be meaningless, but to find meaning of your own, y'know?"

    "Possible?" Oh yes!

    It is 'possible' that Liechtenstein might win the next World Cup. It's possible!

    Many things are possible. I don't dispute that.

    Now back to the point I made: where is Atkins' evidence that justifies his leap of faith?

    "There's also a difference between mocking someones posts and mocking them in person."

    Aaaah dear. Can't little Helio fight his own battles? Poor little man! The great insulter has now gone all sensitive, has he, now that his views are being shown to be incoherent?

    Please be so good as to pass this message on to the emotionally fragile Mr Helio: "If you don't want stones thrown at you, then don't throw stones."

    Simples.

  • Comment number 38.



    Newlach #33

    Nihilism cannot offer you meaning, it is rooted in the word nothing, no thing. That is why I think you need a different word.

    I’m not so sure either that many really live life without an over-arching purpose (or the hope of one); it need not be God to be over-arching, it just has to be a narrative that connects our lives. For example, for me, family is a key theme in who I am and what I do. I’m with Helio on this point, we are story tellers, we like stories, we tell stories and we tell stories in which we are characters and this is a good thing. It is what we do and it is what we are.

    What I find odd however is that there are those who wish to recognise what we are (meaning makers) and then go on to say that this 'what we are', this meaning, these stories, are mere illusions (or, more subtly, suggest that meaning is real, but only 'real' for me, and in doing so deny the interconnectedness of this world); that is why I used the word incongruent a few posts back for it is to define what we are and, at the same time, forsake it.

    It is one thing to tell a story with many and varied conflicts, it is quite another to tell a story with an unresolved and unresolvable conflict. But this it seems, *in spite of what I am*, is what some would have me buy into.

  • Comment number 39.

    LSV,

    1st post - Somehow linking Atkens' quote that "...science has eliminated the justification for believing in cosmic purpose..." with Atkins saying that there is no purpose behind anything at all, ever, never.

    2nd post - Avoiding that this was pointed out to him and then insisting that what he said was that Atkins needs to provide evidence that there is no purpose behind everything, at all, ever, never. So come on, Atikins. Show us that there is no purpose! Oh, what's that? It's a negative and you can't prove it? Don't tell LSV that, he's twist your words to make out you have no purpose to exist at all, ever, never.

    Then to top it all off, despite posting in another thread "I think the idea of a Christian publicly agreeing with another Christian must keep some atheists awake at night!" he posts "Aaaah dear. Can't little Helio fight his own battles? Poor little man!"

    Hypocritical? Or just incoherant? I leave it upto other people to decide.

    At least, LSV, when you kept your posts to some attempt at rational debate involving the nature of logic and reason you had some coherancy and a modicum of civility. True colours must be shining through. I'm done with you for now.

  • Comment number 40.

    DFS, let us know when you have something to say. It is probably unnecessary to point out that what you term "Christianity" is not what the Church of Jesus Christ Atheist is about. Or what Jesus the Nazarene was about - you could hardly see *him* coming out with the sort of pathetic juvenile nonsense that you endlessly spout. Maybe you should take a course in philosophy or something. Anything to raise your game. Hey, maybe you could even read your Bible?

  • Comment number 41.

    Helio -

    "...you could hardly see *him* coming out with the sort of pathetic juvenile nonsense that you endlessly spout."

    Hey, Natman, if you're still there, take a look at this! What was it you were saying earlier about 'civility'? Gonna rebuke Helio, then?

    Oh, I forgot, moral consistency - it seems to be a problem for you guys: evidence of juvenility here on the part of the person now attempting to compensate for his lack of coherent argument by claiming the 'moral high ground'.

    And Helio, I don't want to embarrass you too much, but you may like to present some evidence one day for your ludicrous claims. (I assume you know what the word 'evidence' means? Or do you, since you never present any?)

  • Comment number 42.

    LSV, you're busted, dude.

  • Comment number 43.

    38 peterm2

    Where I wrote "nihilism has much to offer us" I was referring to its usefulness as a means of explaining reality. I think the word is useful.

    You make a good point that it need not be God to be over-arching and you give a concrete example. But is the absurdity about which Bering writes necessarily inconsistent with the actions of a person who shows particular consideration towards family members? Have you never chuckled to yourself and wondered why you treat family members more favourably than others?

  • Comment number 44.


    newlach

    You have made two points, I shall take the first one first. What is it you think nihilism explains about reality?

  • Comment number 45.

    LSV, you used to make little sense, now you are making no sense, try to come to reality!!

  • Comment number 46.


    newlach

    A quick comment on point two.

    I rather suspect that when Bering uses the word 'absurd' he means it in the more formal sense of 'meaningless' rather than the more informal 'odd' or 'daft' or 'strange' accompanied by a wry smile and a chuckle.

  • Comment number 47.

    Narrative is only one way of parsing meaning. It is important but it is not everything.

    One of the major criticisms of postmodernism, and postliberal theology, is an inability to distinguish between true and false stories; it has a relativistic tendency, you have your stories and I have mine.

    But what if we want to find out which stories are true? In a way asking this question lurches back and postmodernists might even say it misses the point. The problem is, how can you tell which stories are true by evaluating competing stories, particularly, despite protestations to the contrary, when the person doing the evaluating inherits a grid that shapes how they think.

    So perhaps 'which stories are true?' is the wrong question, it is at least the wrong place to start. Perhaps a better way to think about this is the justification of meaning; how is it there is meaning at all?

  • Comment number 48.

    Dave (@ 45) -

    "LSV, you used to make little sense, now you are making no sense, try to come to reality!!"

    'Sense'?

    What is that, evolutionally speaking?

    If it 'helps my survival' to believe and assert something, then (according to your worldview) what's wrong with that?

    And if you happen to be referring to logic, then I assume that you believe in the objective validity of logic? Good. Shall we start a long discussion about this subject? No, I'll spare you, as you can read all about it on other threads (and everyone breathes a deep sigh of relief).

    'Reality'?

    I can see you're a fan of philosophy. Where do you want to start?

  • Comment number 49.

    44 peterm2

    The world comprises many different cultures and belief systems, many of which I cannot fathom. The way things are the way they are is not the result of some rational process. Nihilism encapsulates this evident lack of order and design and is therefore a useful concept. I am attracted by the non-destructive nature of Bering's nihilism and am awaiting the arrival of his book to find out more. I think Andrew (47) makes a good point when he writes:

    "Perhaps a better way to think about this is the justification of meaning; how is it there is meaning at all?"

    46 peterm2

    I rather suspect that you are correct, but it is often the case that the incongruous challenges our framework of understanding. You mentioned that your relationship with your family is important to you, but is it your argument that if someone subscribes to nihilism they could therefore not see their family as "important"? I am inclined to think that a nihilistic parent who rejects the existence of inherent moral truths could have a good relationship with his children.



  • Comment number 50.


    newlach

    Thankyou for your comments and the manner of them, I hope I can respond with the same degree of civility.

    A number of thoughts, and my apologies if some of them seem like I’m stating the obvious.

    A straightforward point first, yes there are many different cultures and belief systems, and, like you, I do not understand them all, however difference does not necessarily mean lack or order, it might just mean different kinds of order.

    I’m interested that you use the phrase “non-destructive... nihilism”, and would counter that whatever that is, it is not nihilism; nihilism (at least as I understand it) is usually defined as a belief that existence lacks meaning and purpose and often includes the idea of destruction. To introduce meaning, at whatever point, personal, communal, cosmic, is to move away from nihilism and really all I’ve been saying so far is that while we might speak of nihilism, that is not how we live. We might say, believe, feel even, that ‘life is meaningless’ and then go on to seek to fill our lives with the meaning of family or work or creativity or friendship or whatever. We might say ‘life is meaningless’ but we are in fact selective about this. We might say that there is a lack of order in the world and then go on to use and impose upon the world the order of language and thinking and culture and law and science. This is incongruent not in the sense of being ‘challenging’ but because it reveals to us that we *have to* live out of step with a stated worldview. And so to your second point I would reply that to see your family as important (which is an excellent thing) is to embrace some kind of truth and morality and meaning.

    To me then nihilism fails as an answer for it says that there is no answer; if there were no answer, however, there would be nothing to say. Even this little blog is evidence of our confidence in meaning and order and rationality.

    This, of course, leads us to Andrew’s very useful and, in my view, very important question.

  • Comment number 51.


    PeterM - # 38

    "there are those who wish to recognise what we are (meaning makers) and then go on to say that this 'what we are', this meaning, these stories, are mere illusions (or, more subtly, suggest that meaning is real, but only 'real' for me, and in doing so deny the interconnectedness of this world)".

    At this time of the year, good Anglican that I am, I couldn't fail to recollect Genesis 3:1 "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made". I hope you weren't being mischievous in your choice of words! ;-)

  • Comment number 52.

    50 - peterm2

    You make a strong case against nihilism, typified by the use of the word "important" in your final sentence. If nihilism denies the value of everything, then a nihilist cannot use the word. But there are things that are important, and there are things that are more important than others.

    I think, however, that Bering's use of the word "humanistic" is especially relevant, as is Andrew's question. The question on my mind is:

    "Did God create man or did man create God?"

    You have argued above that it need not be God from which over-arching values derive: this is key. Bering challenges the idea of a creator god and offers a humanistic explanation; but it does not logically follow that nihilism should prevail as a consequence of this absence of belief. The justification of his argument is firmly grounded in humanity and it is this that appeals to me.

    You make a good point that "difference" might simply mean different kinds of order and you give a number of good examples. Where I wrote a "lack of order" I should have inserted the word "divine" before the word "order". What order and meaning we have comes from humans.

    In post 38 you suggested that I might need a different word. You are right. Humanism is the word.

  • Comment number 53.


    Parrhasios

    "I hope you weren't being mischievous in your choice of words! ;-)"

    Interestingly the words of Genesis had not occurred to me at all; however I have hesitated before making a reply, even as I type I am still hesitating!

    I expect that you will know at least some of the reasons for such hesitation, but, in my own words, here is a pointer:

    Jesse Bering suggests ”that the illusion of a morally interested God, one that arises so naturally in our species, was a meaningful contributor to our species' success.” and that ”just because one rejects God or is an atheist, or even is agnostic or spiritually apathetic, this vague, egocentric sense of being under the cosmic spotlight never really goes away.”

    I also read, ”One of the central messages I try to get across in the book is that religious belief doesn't make us weak, ridiculous, or foolish. It just makes us human.”

    Now, I am fully aware that what he is saying and what I am hearing might be two different things, as I am aware that I may be biased towards ‘belief’ because I believe. However, it would appear that this ‘bias’ is what it is to be human, and if that is the case then I am being asked to adopt a position which suggests that human beings have prospered in acting as if God is there and yet *at the same time* we must say that he isn’t.

    God is dead, but we must pretend he is alive.


    "There is no Narnia, no Overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan,' said the Lady of the Green Kirtle, Queen of the Underworld. 'You have seen lamps, and so you imagined a bigger and better lamp and called it the sun. You've seen cats, and now you want a bigger and better cat, and it's to be called a lion. Well, 'tis pretty make believe...'

  • Comment number 54.

    "Did God create man or did man create God?"

    You have argued above that it need not be God from which over-arching values derive: this is key. Bering challenges the idea of a creator god and offers a humanistic explanation; but it does not logically follow that nihilism should prevail as a consequence of this absence of belief. The justification of his argument is firmly grounded in humanity and it is this that appeals to me.


    I think Peter's point was that people live in a meaningful way regardless of whether or not they are religious. It is to say that man seeks to, and in fact does, live meaningfully, one way or another. Justifying meaning is a separate issue.

    Bering builds his case on a 'subjectively experiencing self', he rejects realism, instead making himself, as a 'subjectively experiencing self', the determiner of what is meaningful. There is a sense in which we all determine meaning insofar as individual choice can be meaningful but we do not come to the world as meaning makers as we might come to a piece of abstract art. To think of ourselves as observers, like someone viewing art, an outsider looking at something, separates us from the world of which we are a part. The world has no meaning. You observe and you project but your life has no meaning, it is an illusion and then you die.

    Earlier Peter used the phrase the 'interconnectedness of life', I like this phrase a lot. It is a rebuke to reductionism. As Edgar says in King Lear, 'thy life is a miracle, speak yet again'.

  • Comment number 55.

    Andrew

    I agree that religious believers can live in a meaningful way. I also agree with Bering's idea of a "subjectively experiencing self" which does not "necessarily reflect an intrinsic reality about what we perceive". Humans respond to stimuli, and does not the fact that people respond differently to abstract art not support Bering's argument?

    In the book he gives a good analogy. He writes that there is no such thing as an intrinsically "bad smell". People respond differently to olfactory stimuli and to say that rotting flesh is disgusting is similar to saying that the sunset is beautiful: there is no "disgusting-ness" intrinsic to rotting flesh. What is disgusting and what is beautiful is in the eye of the beholder.

    I know little about the "interconnectedness of life" argument, but I see that Bering recognises the importance of genes in determining our behaviour. He criticises Sartre for downplaying the role of biology and writes:

    "In reality, we're only as free as our genes are pliable in the slosh of our developmental milieus."

  • Comment number 56.

    Hello again one and all - hope you had a good Christmas and wish you all a JoyFull New Year!

    Re The God Instinct, the psychology of souls, destiny and the meaning of life.

    Based on the above interview, as I have not read the book, unfortunately Jesse Bering has fallen into the same trap that most of us do at some stage when considering the question of God. His work appears to focus on the cognitive science, psychology, mind based belief systems, thinking etc. Thus he will never find or know God using these systems and will continue to believe that what he writes is actually true re God - when it is actually far from true re God as far as I am concerned.

    It is like drilling for oil in a place where you know for a fact that none can actually exist - the same can be said of those looking for God or answers about God, with the mind and in the mind - it is a dead-end. I've been there, done it and got the T-shirt (yes another one!). At risk of repeating myself from months ago - GOd is love and can only be known with and through and in the heart or inner heart to be exact. The mind is loveless, it does not feel. We do not say "I love you with all my mind" - no - but we do say 'I love you with all my heart' or even 'heart and soul' - both of those being organs of love (so to speak - soul not an actual organ). SO God can only be known by the heart/inner heart, by love, by feeling - not by the mind, not by thinking nor by believing.

    To see God as some sort of judge, tallying up misdeeds and lying in wait for when we die and all those other things that are mentioned, sadly only reveals a lack of true understanding re the nature of God. For God does not judge nor tally up misdeeds nor create life lessons for us - we do all of that ourselves. God is pure love, loves us all equally and always no matter what misdeeds we have done - and when we realise that love is within us it leads us, calls us to live in a way that is loving to self and others. Whilst I understand his view it is based on a false understanding/belief/perception of what God is - so in a sense I would agree that the God he is talking about is an illusion because that God as far as I am concerned does not exist - however, God that is God, that is love, does exist, is real and can be known by all.

    It's not so much an 'intriguing new theory' re God - for it only reveals his ignorance re God as he has bought into all this mind-based cognitive psychology blah blah that actually has nothing to do with God as far as I am concerned. :-)

  • Comment number 57.

    Happy Yuletide, Eunice. I think we've established that "as far as you are concerned", God is cognate with the Warm Fuzzies, and that about wraps it up :-)

    But you do Jesse Bering a disservice - he is not looking for god (who cares? God doesn't really matter), but why people believe in it. Different matters entirely.

  • Comment number 58.

    Eunice;
    Not sure who, but someone once pointed out that "Faith is a journey from the mind to the heart".

  • Comment number 59.

    Helio - happy helio new year to you!! You do me a disservice! Warm fuzzies does not wrap it up as far as I am concerned!! Far from it .....alas a misunderstanding anytime the word 'love' appears! Hey ho! :-)

    Re Jesse Bering and your point - surely to know why people 'believe' in something, is it not important to know what that something is - even if one does not want that something for oneself?? My point is - the something that he thinks people believe in (that is called God) is not actually God - hence his conclusions are going to be false because the very foundation is false. So from where he's looking God is an illusion - and I would agree - the God he talks about is an illusion and completely false.

    Theophane - sure but once the journey is made from the mind to the heart - faith is no longer required - for then God is or can be known and 'faith' as it is commonly understood is redundant.

  • Comment number 60.

    Eunice -

    Welcome back!

  • Comment number 61.

    I think your're right Eunice , when you say, *For God does not judge nor tally up misdeeds nor create life lessons for us - we do all of that ourselves*
    I think most of us are very easily swayed into playing God and critic over others and quietly concealing our own weak points
    Welcome back btw Eunice :o)

  • Comment number 62.

    Thanks LSV and Ryan.

    Ryan - I agree with you - of course it is easier to point out the motes in another's eye than remove the planks in one's own! The thing is we can't really quietly conceal our own weak points - we only think we can. Arrogance is a huge one for many of us and I hold my hands up (and there are perhaps one or two contenders on W&T for that one!!) - thinking we know better than others, have answers etc.
    I am critical of Jesse Bering's work (what I have read of it above) as to me it is very far from reality or any true understanding of God or why people believe in God. It becomes another book that adds to the plethora of stuff out there that is false re God or why people believe in God and in doing so promotes the separation from God and may lead many away from God and that when fully understood is to me very worthy of criticism. My intention is to criticise the work rather than the person but I can lapse from time to time!! :-)

  • Comment number 63.

    Hiya Eunice, but you're saying the Jessmeister is right; just that you don't believe in the god his subjects do. You can't whack him over the head for that - you need to sell your ideas to the punters.

    And you haven't shown how your "god" concept is any different from the warm Fuzzies, or indeed from no god at all. How would you test your notions?

  • Comment number 64.

    Helio - I understand his views from where he's looking and in the direction he's looking - which is all mind focused, brain, thinking, cognitive this or that, psychology etc and from that perspective God may be seen to be an illusion - but that does not mean that God is in fact an illusion. He's looking with and through the wrong lens in my opinion....ergo what he writes from that lens may be correct in that lens but is not actually correct re God which requires the 'lens' of the heart and not the mind.

    I understand you see what I write as notions and concepts but they are not that to me. I use to be as stridently anti-god as you and to dismiss anything anybody said about God because for me God was irrelevant - just a fanciful notion or concept that people needed to get them through life, a crutch, a support of some sort. There was nothing anybody could have said to me that would have persuaded me otherwise - and you may be the same. Indeed I use to be nauseated by people who went on about how their life had been transformed since welcoming Jesus into their heart - I didn't get it and as far as the last part is concerned I still don't. That said - I have changed radically or transformed my own life by coming to know who and what I really am instead of who I thought I was - and it is ongoing. For me it is about empowering the human person to know their true nature, to live according to that true nature and it's not about worshipping or giving one's power away to anything outside of oneself.... easier to say than do!

    I don't need to sell anything - I may share my story sometime and what I have learned ( I mean in life not here) and people can take it or leave it. It's not about preaching, imposing or selling - but living and how to live life in a way that is honouring to all people including self, that is truly joyful and not make-believe, that can handle the stresses and strains of life without getting stressed or strained oneself and a whole lot more besides - there is no sphere of life that is untouched.

    I personally do not need to 'test' what I know to be true and any test I would come up with you or others would no doubt find flawed. For me the real 'test' is in the life lived, is putting the teachings into practice and experiencing for oneself whether they are true or not. This is not an overnight eureka phenomenon but a steady unfolding back to one's true nature - stripping off all the crap we have acquired through the process of growing up/living etc. There is of course more to it than I can say here in a few words.

 

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