How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
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30-11-2012, 02:41 AM
How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
One thing that has been puzzling me recently...BTW I am a recent convert to Atheism straight out of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity...I know quite a few Christians (two or three have had vivid visions) who have had the so called "vision of God"...For example one guy I know talks about the ground opening up before him and being taken to hell etc...the experience caused him to totally turn his life around from a "New Age" non-Christian and devote his life to the ministry...the funny thing is that this guy is really smart, he ran an internationally renowned Amplifier chain and is by no means crazy, but he talks about his experience as if it was absolutely real. I tried to question his reasons for believing in God, and he basically responds by saying he has seen God, nothing that I can say can convince him otherwise, end of story. I don't believe there is any reason to believe him, but it absolutely puzzles me as to why he is SO convinced that it was real. The other thing is I hear SO MANY of my Christian friends appeal to personal experiences of God, and I wonder...are these people simply crazy or is there something more going on here? I have been reading Susan Blackmore's book Dying to Live, which deals with the brains tendency to hallucinate when in a state of hypoxia or during Near Death Experience...and I was wondering...could there be some sort of chemical process in the brain that could cause people to have vivid, seemingly real visions and all that without being in a state of hypoxia?? Any thoughts?
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30-11-2012, 03:08 AM
RE: How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
Short answer, yes. Some people are prone to having visions. Most are not.

Here's a few disconnected thoughts.

1. Maybe this guy who got a guided tour of Hell is just lying? Lots of people lie for attention. It happens all the time. In my experience, it happens more often than actual guided tours of Hell, but then I admit, my experience is quite limited in the scope of 7 billion people - maybe some of those really are getting tours. Seems unlikely though.

2. Maybe the tour guy simply had a vivid dream while he was asleep. Some people have a real disconnect that makes it nearly impossible for them to distinguish between dreams and reality.

3. Maybe he's just crazy. Some crazy people are very specifically crazy in just one way but seem "normal" in all other ways - maybe his brand of crazy is having realistic hallucinations.

4. The need to belong to a group can cause many people to do anything, say anything, just to belong. Like those many Christians who have personal experiences of god. Maybe some of them are just confusing a personal experience with craziness, drugs (legal or otherwise), a bad burrito, whatever. Maybe others are just faking it because "everyone else has it, why don't I" is not something they want to admit to the in-crowd.

5. I hear all the time from de-converted evangelicals that they had, usually multiple times, "spoken in tongues" but every time they did it they were faking it just because they didn't want to be the only one in the church who couldn't do it. In fact, I hear that so often that it sounds like the normal behavior, at least for the de-converted tongues speakers. If it's that common, then maybe others in the church are faking. Heck, maybe they're all faking it so that the others don't know they're faking it. I think "personal experiences with god" can be a lot like this - faking it to be part of the in-crowd.

6. Ask yourself why YOU didn't get a guided tour of hell. Or heaven. Or a visit from an angel. Or from Jesus. Or an image of Jesus burned on your toast. Or whatever else these "special" people claim that makes them so cool. Why is it that only a tiny tiny percentage of people are privileged enough get this stuff. The apologists say that god can't reveal himself or it robs us of freewill, but these "special" people seem to be the exception - why can god reveal himself to them but not to all of us? They say god won't reveal himself because he wants us to come to him from faith, but then why does he visit these "special" people? Or, if everyone is wrong and god really is quite OK with revealing himself to a few of us mere mortals, then why just these few "special" people. Ask yourself why god plays such games.

7. God either wants us to worship him or he doesn't. If he does, then why only 2 billion Christians out of 7 billion humans? And those Christians don't all agree with each other about how to worship god. He's all powerful, why can't he get all 7 billion of us? Surely sending a few visions to a few people isn't the best way he can think of to keep the other 5 billion souls out of hell for eternity? Or maybe god doesn't care if we worship him, maybe he's OK with nobody really knowing the truth, everybody having to guess which religion, which sect of which religion, which biblical verses are literal, which are metaphor, which are simply added by human schmucks with their own agenda. Maybe god is OK with that, but then why would he even bother with the visions and personal experiences?

In summary, yeah, there are billions of people in the world and, oh, I don't know, millions of mental illnesses. I don't know how many mental illnesses there are, but it's too many for me to count. I'm sure there's room for a few mental illnesses that could account for a lot of this "vision" stuff, even in people who seem normal. And I'm sure that some people lie, even about god, especially when it's the fast track to the Christian in-crowd. And I'm pretty sure that god wouldn't communicate with us in this fashion, it's either too limited or too revealing, depending on which apologist you listen to.

It just doesn't make any sense, and there are too many rational, non-miraculous, explanations to really believe this is the best that god could figure out to guide us to salvation.

Or, since god has been a fickle bastard all along, maybe this is just more of his fickle bastardliness. Can't say for sure.

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30-11-2012, 04:02 AM
RE: How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
(30-11-2012 03:08 AM)Aseptic Skeptic Wrote:  It just doesn't make any sense, and there are too many rational, non-miraculous, explanations to really believe this is the best that god could figure out to guide us to salvation.

Or, since god has been a fickle bastard all along, maybe this is just more of his fickle bastardliness. Can't say for sure.
Don't get me wrong...I don't believe in any God, so I don't see any point in asking whether this is the best that God could figure out etc.

What I am thinking more about is is there some Psychological reason why somebody would experience visions in the absence of any exterior factors?

I did in fact have very subjective personal experiences on three occasions during my Christian life: I experienced a voice speaking in tongues saying what I interpreted to be a scriptural verse, I had some quite strange experiences with so called demonic possession in which parts of my body went numb...so that is why I have not asked the question of why I didn't experience such things.

I don't believe that there are any supernatural reasons for these things...but still...it FELT real. So that is why I believe my friend when he said that his experience FEELS real.

My experience of Christian friends who speak in tongues has been that many are not faking it, and firmly believe that God is actually speaking through them...to the point where they actually get angry when I don't believe them.


I have considered lying...however these are people who get upset if they miss a dollar on their tax return and return to a store to apologize if they are given the wrong change...they are not the lying type.
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30-11-2012, 04:10 AM
RE: How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
What I'm asking is does anyone know if there have been clinical trials done on people who have experienced a "visitation" of some sort, or "tour of hell" etc?
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30-11-2012, 05:25 AM
RE: How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
Pathological lying or concussion, it's very simple.
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30-11-2012, 06:24 AM
RE: How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
When I was 8 years old I saw the devil.

I was lying in bed, waiting to fall asleep. I was staring at the wall opposite the bed.

And there he was, a black outline of the devil that grew more and more intricate and clear as I looked at it. It became 3 dimensional and it scared the dickens out of me and resulted in two years of being super religious.

Today I see it as the shadows of a tree outside my window and an overactive imagination during a state of being half awake and half asleep.

But then I sure as heck believed I had seen the devil. I would have bet my life on it.

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30-11-2012, 08:13 AM
RE: How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
Numbness in bed, hearing either a voice speaking in tongues or demonic laughter, seeing a dark figure... I have experienced all of these things.

It's called a Night Terror. It's what happens when you're body is going to sleep, but you become alert again. The paralysis is a natural state to prevent you acting out your dreams, the feeling of a presence (usually coupled with fear) are natural reactions in your brain, and the voices are a spasm of the eardrum.

Night terrors have been experienced by many whom have claimed that God has spoken to them, they have been possessed by demons, they are being tormented by witches, Aliens, ghosts... really, pick your paranoia. Wink

As for the earth splitting open and a guided tour of hell - that sounds much like a vivid dream to me. I mean.. wouldn't anyone else have witnessed it, out in the world? Maybe not taken down to hell, but seeing him being pulled down a fissure in the street? I had a very vivid "spiritual" dream myself, actually. I saw the gates of heaven, and met Jesus. Funny thing that, he's nothing like Christians paint him as. He agrees with all of the morals I personally live by. And he wears Polo. Otherwise known as, it was certainly all in my head.
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30-11-2012, 08:47 AM
RE: How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
Delusions....

I'm not anti-social. I'm pro-solitude. Sleepy
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30-11-2012, 08:54 AM
RE: How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
LSD.

So many cats, so few good recipes.
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30-11-2012, 08:55 AM
RE: How do you explain believers' "visions" of god?
Cause God is REAL, dude. Angel

Nah. The "why" varies; temporal lobe epilepsy, drugs, nucking futs... but the "how" is always the same - chemical context. Ever blink? That's an evolved response to preserve continuation of vision, but when it happens, the brain simulates the entire environment. See? The brain has evolved to make shit up. It's not surprising people have visions, what is surprising is that more people don't have visions.

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