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Human experience December 13, 2011

Posted by shaunphilly in Religion, Skepticism and atheism.
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A lot of people talk about how religion has changed their life.  They talk about some experience, or set of experiences, which have given them a new perspective on the world and subsequently changed their behaviors for the better.  They say that god, or at least some religious ritual or practice,  changed their life.

Now, I don’t doubt their experience (not usually).  Nor do I doubt it did change them, if only temporarily or periodically.  What I am skeptical of is the source of these experiences and of their subsequent life-changing perspectives.

I have known for a long time that certain things we learn, whether they take the form of a sudden insight about ourselves, others, or the world in general, forever shift our perspective.  They give us a change to the  lens through which to see the world, and we are never quite the same after that.

I think we all have these experiences from time to time.  Perhaps some people are more sensitive to these things than others, perhaps relative to their sensitivity and level of introspection, but I think that this is a common human experience.

So why are some of them, at least by some people, attributed to a religion or to a god? Why are these experiences labeled as “revelations” or “religious experiences”?

Once again it is the bias that we have towards attribution of what is good to god and what is bad (or perhaps just mundane) to us.   All glory belongs to the Lord, or someshit, and so if we have a moment of beauty, personal transformation, etc of course it is due to our religious background, especially if the commitment to that religion is new.

It is at our times of struggle, emotional intensity, etc where we both commit ourselves to god and experience personal transformations, and the correlation of these events lead people to forget that these experiences are human experiences.

I have had many experiences that, had I been religious, I would have attributed to some god or other.  I am well aware that the bias which infects others is present within me, only I was lucky enough to not have been indoctrinated into a religious worldview designed to interpret such experiences from me.

I simply don’t know what to say to someone who will insist that this or that experience was from god when it clearly has human experience written all over it.  This is the primary reason why subjective, private religious experiences are so problematic from the standpoint of evidence; we all have them, no matter of faith or lack of it.

 

 

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