On Spirituality, Spirit-ism, and Supersition
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18-09-2014, 11:10 AM
On Spirituality, Spirit-ism, and Supersition
This wall of text began life as my response to naffonso and his thread "Spiritism". It has evolved into something that I consider a bit too verbose and extensive for that.

For reference feel free to read the original thread. Spiritism

I take experiences like these very seriously. If only for the sake of honest discussion, I assume that the speaker is honestly relating the events as they occurred, to the best of his or her ability. Although they might be dishonest, I believe there is something to be learned from the discussion.

I have noticed that the unknown is often hijacked on behalf of the supernatural. An honest person begins the inquiry by admitting that something they do not yet understand has occurred, and is willing to accept any explanation which is supported by evidence. If no evidence is available, the honest person does not present private speculation as fact.

The superstitious on the other hand, are happy to attribute all unknown events to whatever superstition they currently espouse. I know myself well enough, and I know enough about possible mental disorder, to question my experiences, especially when they are highly unusual. I don't assume that my cognition is a perfect reflection of the world, but rather an imperfect simulation which, if circumstances are right, can break down and even fail. When someone else hasn't considered that, and then leaps to the supernatural to explain the event, I consider it hubris.

The main objection I hold to the supernatural is that it's "explanations" add a great deal of confusion to go along with whatever they are intended to explain. This is why they violate Occam's Razor, because explanations which create more questions than they answer, aren't explanations to begin with. They are inventions which also require an explanation, and so on.

I sometimes wonder, what do superstitious people do when one of their many wild guesses has been proved wrong by legitimate scientific knowledge? From what I can see, they retreat from their positions falling back directly to the very limit of what we currently know. This is the painless explanation for why superstitions concerning sickness being due to demonic possession are largely laid to rest, while unexplained experiences are credited to anything and everything supernatural. If I am right, we should continue to see the retreat, further and further back into ignorance, as the hammer blows of science make it impossible to credit the invisible.

For those who don't accept that personal experiences are not valid evidence, I can provide my own. It doesn't matter to me that It doesn't prove anything, because it makes my point all the same.

All of my life I have been a singer. I trained classically in Washington D.C. and sang Opera and Crossover with an aim to a professional career. Although I have chosen other pursuits professionally, I still train and sing for my own pleasure, as well as others. As a believer I was frequently asked, and often volunteered as well, to sing religious hymns in church. I always did so gladly because of the wonderful feelings that would fill me when I praised god with my voice. It was one of the few activities which I could explore with the support of the church, in the church, that allowed me to express my passion and personality without shame.

It is nearly impossible to describe the way it feels to be so lost in the emotion and passion of a song, that you hardly remember to feel the concept of "I". I sometimes feel as though I am pure emotion, thought, or desire, and that I am floating into the sky or over the heads of the congregation. The only similarity that I know of is the feeling of being happily drunk, yet the music is that burning inner happiness mixed with an exhilaration that alcohol has never inspired. Of the two, the music is better. When I am so lost in my singing, it flows as easily as writing or speaking.

When I was a believer in Mormonism, which can be inadequately described as Christianity plus poorly fabricated extra downloadable content, I attributed this rich emotional experience as a spiritual one. I chose to interpret the experience through the lens of my particular faith, which is an easy explanation for why I didn't wonder if it was really Allah inspiring me to sing.

My view was given extra weight by the many and infinitely renewable sources of confirmation from the congregation. Many friends, family, and lay members who I hardly knew, came up after the meetings to praise my talent, and make explicit statements about it's divine and spiritual nature. It is not an exaggeration to say that literally hundreds of people have approached me after a performance to tell me how their faith has been greatly strengthened by my gift, and that they were grateful that god had orchestrated the circumstances of the performance, specifically to that end.

When I abandoned faith as a means to learn truth, my voice remained with me. It remains a sincere passion, and now doubles as a weapon against faith. I still sing in church meetings, as well as on the street corners during the Christmas holidays, and the experience is hardly different. Not one moment of ecstasy has been robbed of me by non-belief. I am still profoundly emotional and full of passion. I still sing religious songs, especially when I find them particularly beautiful, and it doesn't bother me that they profess faith. I see no reason for the artist to be forced to agree with the content of the art itself. I do not need to be in love to sing a love song, so why shouldn't faith be the same?

I call it a weapon, because I have used my voice as a means to expose religious thinking. I have gone into church meetings on false pretenses, appearing to everyone to be a member with faith, and still made people cry and have profoundly "spiritual experiences" as a result of my performance. They still line up after the meeting to say the same stupid things as they always did, not aware in the least that I don't believe a word of what I just sang. If they knew, they wouldn't believe me when I claim to be an unbeliever, which is the reaction I have gotten from the few people to whom I exposed the charade.

This isn't evidence to anyone but me, but I am thoroughly convinced, as a result of these little "experiments" that there is some connection between the emotions, the mind, and music that I do not understand and that goes beyond mere religious beliefs. It certainly isn't the "evidence" for spirituality that I believed it to be when I was a faithful member.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.

-Karl Marx
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18-09-2014, 11:21 AM
RE: On Spirituality, Spirit-ism, and Supersition
(18-09-2014 11:10 AM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  This wall of text began life as my response to naffonso and his thread "Spiritism". It has evolved into something that I consider a bit too verbose and extensive for that.

For reference feel free to read the original thread. Spiritism

I take experiences like these very seriously. If only for the sake of honest discussion, I assume that the speaker is honestly relating the events as they occurred, to the best of his or her ability. Although they might be dishonest, I believe there is something to be learned from the discussion.

I have noticed that the unknown is often hijacked on behalf of the supernatural. An honest person begins the inquiry by admitting that something they do not yet understand has occurred, and is willing to accept any explanation which is supported by evidence. If no evidence is available, the honest person does not present private speculation as fact.

The superstitious on the other hand, are happy to attribute all unknown events to whatever superstition they currently espouse. I know myself well enough, and I know enough about possible mental disorder, to question my experiences, especially when they are highly unusual. I don't assume that my cognition is a perfect reflection of the world, but rather an imperfect simulation which, if circumstances are right, can break down and even fail. When someone else hasn't considered that, and then leaps to the supernatural to explain the event, I consider it hubris.

The main objection I hold to the supernatural is that it's "explanations" add a great deal of confusion to go along with whatever they are intended to explain. This is why they violate Occam's Razor, because explanations which create more questions than they answer, aren't explanations to begin with. They are inventions which also require an explanation, and so on.

I sometimes wonder, what do superstitious people do when one of their many wild guesses has been proved wrong by legitimate scientific knowledge? From what I can see, they retreat from their positions falling back directly to the very limit of what we currently know. This is the painless explanation for why superstitions concerning sickness being due to demonic possession are largely laid to rest, while unexplained experiences are credited to anything and everything supernatural. If I am right, we should continue to see the retreat, further and further back into ignorance, as the hammer blows of science make it impossible to credit the invisible.

For those who don't accept that personal experiences are not valid evidence, I can provide my own. It doesn't matter to me that It doesn't prove anything, because it makes my point all the same.

All of my life I have been a singer. I trained classically in Washington D.C. and sang Opera and Crossover with an aim to a professional career. Although I have chosen other pursuits professionally, I still train and sing for my own pleasure, as well as others. As a believer I was frequently asked, and often volunteered as well, to sing religious hymns in church. I always did so gladly because of the wonderful feelings that would fill me when I praised god with my voice. It was one of the few activities which I could explore with the support of the church, in the church, that allowed me to express my passion and personality without shame.

It is nearly impossible to describe the way it feels to be so lost in the emotion and passion of a song, that you hardly remember to feel the concept of "I". I sometimes feel as though I am pure emotion, thought, or desire, and that I am floating into the sky or over the heads of the congregation. The only similarity that I know of is the feeling of being happily drunk, yet the music is that burning inner happiness mixed with an exhilaration that alcohol has never inspired. Of the two, the music is better. When I am so lost in my singing, it flows as easily as writing or speaking.

When I was a believer in Mormonism, which can be inadequately described as Christianity plus poorly fabricated extra downloadable content, I attributed this rich emotional experience as a spiritual one. I chose to interpret the experience through the lens of my particular faith, which is an easy explanation for why I didn't wonder if it was really Allah inspiring me to sing.

My view was given extra weight by the many and infinitely renewable sources of confirmation from the congregation. Many friends, family, and lay members who I hardly knew, came up after the meetings to praise my talent, and make explicit statements about it's divine and spiritual nature. It is not an exaggeration to say that literally hundreds of people have approached me after a performance to tell me how their faith has been greatly strengthened by my gift, and that they were grateful that god had orchestrated the circumstances of the performance, specifically to that end.

When I abandoned faith as a means to learn truth, my voice remained with me. It remains a sincere passion, and now doubles as a weapon against faith. I still sing in church meetings, as well as on the street corners during the Christmas holidays, and the experience is hardly different. Not one moment of ecstasy has been robbed of me by non-belief. I am still profoundly emotional and full of passion. I still sing religious songs, especially when I find them particularly beautiful, and it doesn't bother me that they profess faith. I see no reason for the artist to be forced to agree with the content of the art itself. I do not need to be in love to sing a love song, so why shouldn't faith be the same?

I call it a weapon, because I have used my voice as a means to expose religious thinking. I have gone into church meetings on false pretenses, appearing to everyone to be a member with faith, and still made people cry and have profoundly "spiritual experiences" as a result of my performance. They still line up after the meeting to say the same stupid things as they always did, not aware in the least that I don't believe a word of what I just sang. If they knew, they wouldn't believe me when I claim to be an unbeliever, which is the reaction I have gotten from the few people to whom I exposed the charade.

This isn't evidence to anyone but me, but I am thoroughly convinced, as a result of these little "experiments" that there is some connection between the emotions, the mind, and music that I do not understand and that goes beyond mere religious beliefs. It certainly isn't the "evidence" for spirituality that I believed it to be when I was a faithful member.

Spirituality isn't like a theory needing proof; it's a thing that happens all over the world. If you say God's not real, then that has literally no effect on the existence of spirituality, and spiritual people (atheists can be spiritual, too). Just because you don't feel it, (or do you?) when you sing, doesn't mean others don't hear it when they listen to you.

I hope that makes sense.
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18-09-2014, 11:33 AM
RE: On Spirituality, Spirit-ism, and Supersition
(18-09-2014 11:10 AM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  This isn't evidence to anyone but me, but I am thoroughly convinced, as a result of these little "experiments" that there is some connection between the emotions, the mind, and music that I do not understand and that goes beyond mere religious beliefs. It certainly isn't the "evidence" for spirituality that I believed it to be when I was a faithful member.

That was quite eloquent, thank you.

I am also convinced that music moves us deeply and that how it does is not well understood.
But that doesn't make an argument for anything, merely that we don't yet understand it.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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18-09-2014, 12:14 PM
RE: On Spirituality, Spirit-ism, and Supersition
(18-09-2014 11:21 AM)Li_Holodomer Wrote:  Spirituality isn't like a theory needing proof; it's a thing that happens all over the world. If you say God's not real, then that has literally no effect on the existence of spirituality, and spiritual people (atheists can be spiritual, too). Just because you don't feel it, (or do you?) when you sing, doesn't mean others don't hear it when they listen to you.

I hope that makes sense.

You are correct about spirituality not being a theory in need of justification, and I will set aside for the moment the ambiguity of the word, and I think I stated from my own experience that what I feel while singing (if anyone insists that I call it a "spiritual" experience) has continued to be a part of my life long after I abandoned religious faith.

When I wrote the following:

Quote:It certainly isn't the "evidence" for spirituality that I believed it to be when I was a faithful member.

I could have perhaps put it more accurately if I said "a vindication of the supernatural claims of my former religion" rather than "evidence for spirituality". What I am trying to say in any case, is that attributing profound emotional and mental experiences to a specific supernatural claim is nonsense, and can be demonstrated to be nonsense by noticing contradictory circumstances under which those same experiences can take place.

Now, on the subject of the word spirituality. I have noticed that it is usually ambiguous in its definition. What does spirituality mean? Well, that seems to depend on the person using the word. I avoid it for this main reason, even though I have experienced profound thoughts and emotions, usually to do with love and/or music, that have overwhelmed my senses to such a degree that could be described, without reference to the supernatural, as a different "state" than every day experience. I have known others who would say the same and would refer to such a state as a "spiritual experience".

Contrast this with the individual who upon experiencing love, peace, or happiness, attributes it all to god, or a religion. As I once did, they feel a deep personal connection to an invisible realm of invisible beings who they believe to be existent. For one, it speaks to the ambiguity of the word that "spirituality" can be employed to describe the attitudes and experiences of both categories of people. Also, the latter is likely to be confused by someone who professes my own form of "spirituality" and will likely be confused by the use of the word.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.

-Karl Marx
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18-09-2014, 12:29 PM
RE: On Spirituality, Spirit-ism, and Supersition
(18-09-2014 12:14 PM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  
(18-09-2014 11:21 AM)Li_Holodomer Wrote:  Spirituality isn't like a theory needing proof; it's a thing that happens all over the world. If you say God's not real, then that has literally no effect on the existence of spirituality, and spiritual people (atheists can be spiritual, too). Just because you don't feel it, (or do you?) when you sing, doesn't mean others don't hear it when they listen to you.

I hope that makes sense.

You are correct about spirituality not being a theory in need of justification, and I will set aside for the moment the ambiguity of the word, and I think I stated from my own experience that what I feel while singing (if anyone insists that I call it a "spiritual" experience) has continued to be a part of my life long after I abandoned religious faith.

When I wrote the following:

Quote:It certainly isn't the "evidence" for spirituality that I believed it to be when I was a faithful member.

I could have perhaps put it more accurately if I said "a vindication of the supernatural claims of my former religion" rather than "evidence for spirituality". What I am trying to say in any case, is that attributing profound emotional and mental experiences to a specific supernatural claim is nonsense, and can be demonstrated to be nonsense by noticing contradictory circumstances under which those same experiences can take place.

Now, on the subject of the word spirituality. I have noticed that it is usually ambiguous in its definition. What does spirituality mean? Well, that seems to depend on the person using the word. I avoid it for this main reason, even though I have experienced profound thoughts and emotions, usually to do with love and/or music, that have overwhelmed my senses to such a degree that could be described, without reference to the supernatural, as a different "state" than every day experience. I have known others who would say the same and would refer to such a state as a "spiritual experience".

Contrast this with the individual who upon experiencing love, peace, or happiness, attributes it all to god, or a religion. As I once did, they feel a deep personal connection to an invisible realm of invisible beings who they believe to be existent. For one, it speaks to the ambiguity of the word that "spirituality" can be employed to describe the attitudes and experiences of both categories of people. Also, the latter is likely to be confused by someone who professes my own form of "spirituality" and will likely be confused by the use of the word.

I see. I often wonder when people say about how God's singing through ____ person if they're just feeling endorphins. The most spiritual moments with me are with silence (meditation, monastic focus etc.).
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18-09-2014, 01:02 PM
RE: On Spirituality, Spirit-ism, and Supersition
(18-09-2014 11:10 AM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  When I was a believer in Mormonism, which can be inadequately described as Christianity plus poorly fabricated extra downloadable content,

I'm at work and everyone looked at me as I laughed at the sentence above. Brilliant.
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