If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

What do they believe? What do you think? Talk about religion as it exists today.
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Peter Kirby
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If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

Post by Peter Kirby » Thu Jan 28, 2021 10:44 am

Suppose the following:

(1) A religious experience could be difficult to explain for you personally, without impugning your psychological state. It would not involve drugs or being asleep, so you are left only with other possible natural explanations, such as a mental problem you have no previous history of. Or, alternatively, you are left with the possibility of supernatural causes for the experience. There would of course still be room for doubt.

(2) A religious experience could be extremely vivid. You could, for example, see an angelic person who appears suddenly in your living room.

(3) You have a doubt either way as to whether you could have such a religious experience, but for some reason you have the feeling that it's at least possible even if unlikely. Let's say you've had milder feelings of what could be called a numinous presence, for example, but nothing before your five senses.

(4) Hypothetically, you believe that the vivid experience would most likely not ever happen if you simply wished that it did not happen. It's a sort of inverted Pascal's wager. If there's a real presence there, you believe it would respect your wishes not to experience it more vividly. Since you believe yourself mentally sound, you believe you wouldn't see it if it weren't there. So you'll likely experience nothing if you just wish to experience nothing.

Would you wish that you never had such an experience? Or would you remain more open to it, or even wish for it? Why or why not?

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Re: If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

Post by andrewcriddle » Thu Jan 28, 2021 12:06 pm

I think one should remain open to religious experience but positively desiring such experiences is problematic.
As you said not wishing for such experiences is liable to prevent both true and bogus versions but one should add that positive desire leaves you open to the bogus as well as the genuine.

Andrew Criddle

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Peter Kirby
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Re: If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

Post by Peter Kirby » Thu Jan 28, 2021 3:23 pm

This question could be connected to another one, a question of whether someone can be considered morally culpable for their lack of belief.

Bertrand Russell was once asked, if he were to come before God, what he would say to God. Russell replied, “Not enough evidence God, not enough evidence.” The implication is that Bertrand was justified in his nonbelief, and perhaps also that if God were just, then Russell wouldn't be punished solely for his rational nonbelief. The lack of sufficient evidence could be considered to remove the moral responsibility to have belief, since it cannot rise to knowledge without sufficient evidence. Literally, despite a wealth of data, Russsell could have ignorance because of a lack of knowledge.

According to an idea in Catholic theology: "Invincible ignorance excuses from all culpability. An action committed in ignorance of the law prohibiting it, or of the facts of the case, is not a voluntary act. On the other hand, it is culpable to remain willfully ignorant of matters that one is obligated to know (vincible ignorance). In this case the individual is morally responsible for their ignorance, and for the acts resulting from it." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invincibl ... _theology)

Here enters the question of the will: does someone lack knowledge because it was not possible for them to have that knowledge, or do they lack knowledge because they made choices that could prevent themselves from acquiring that knowledge? To avoid being justly considered culpable for avoiding knowledge available to you, would you be obligated to make some effort to have the available experiences that could provide such knowledge, if you at least suspect that such experiences and knowledge are possibly available to you and of concern to you?

If Bertrand Russell didn't wish for that knowledge to become available to him, excluding certain ways of knowing (such as religious experience, by wishing to avoid it, in this example), would this make his answer ring hollow? Could he be rightly accused of ignoring what he should know, like a man who suspected that it could be illegal to carry his fresh fruits into a different country but chose not to check so that he could feign ignorance at the gates in case he gets caught?

If one willfully avoids some kind of knowledge, which could pertain to any afterlife, do they lose a rightful basis of claiming that there wasn't enough evidence for them to know how they should have prepared in this life? And does someone have some responsibility for taking active measures to seek out that knowledge, so that the only answer that avoids culpability is to wish for such experience if it were possible?

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Re: If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin » Fri Jan 29, 2021 9:09 am

Peter Kirby wrote:
Thu Jan 28, 2021 10:44 am
Would you wish that you never had such an experience? Or would you remain more open to it, or even wish for it? Why or why not?
I believe that it makes no essential difference for my answer whether the question relates to a religious experience or contact with aliens or unknown microbes. In any case, I wouldn't wish it. If there is no other choice then I would prefer a safe distance to begin with. Why? Fear of the unknown that is probably more powerful than me.

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Re: If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

Post by DCHindley » Fri Jan 29, 2021 8:07 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:
Thu Jan 28, 2021 10:44 am
Would you wish that you never had such [a vivid religious] experience? Or would you remain more open to it, or even wish for it? Why or why not?
I think there should be a distinction between an experience that comes upon you, as opposed to one you cause yourself.

Ones that come upon you: When circumstances outside your control come together to allow you to see some part of the world with a new eye. These can include ones that are caused by some kind of bipolar affection.

I have a bipolar friend who is fine for long periods of time, but every year something knocks him off-kilter, like a change in diet or feeling like he didn't need or want his medications, and he would get paranoid, dissociative and angry. Maybe it was Seasonal Affective disorder, I don't know.

Back when I led a bible study at a Jr College I attended (if 3 people showed up I was elated), one guy came in for several weeks with color pencil drawings of what he recalls seeing in visions. He was quite aware that he had a form of "schizophrenia" as they called it then. They were evidently very vivid for him and luckily he expressed his experiences very well. The problem was he could not tell anymore what was imaginary and what was real. To him, he actually "saw" what was depicted in those pictures with all the rays of colorful light and distortions.

Think of autistic savants, who may be unable to relate to other people in a normal manner, look at the relationship of numbers, say, and realizing they are all connected, can do all sorts of math in their heads. The average cashier today can barely calculate change (coins) in their head without the register, or pulling out a calculator or phone app. Is that a "religious experience?" I cannot say for sure.

Induced: The other angle is when we try to induce a religious experience. In these cases we are trying to pre-program a religious experience. Jewish Merkabeh (sp) mystics repeat passages from scripture that have symbolic value, but turn the phrase around in their head in a way that is similar to picking a gym locker lock. Once they hit the right combination, they start to loose spatial orientation and imagine they are rising through the heavens, giving secret passwords and sigils to the guardian angels at each gate, until they were able to commune with God (depicted as singing in the celestial choir around God's throne).

While I have never done this myself, some people do arrange to participate in Native American religious ceremonies involving use of Peyote/Mescaline "buttons" or Psilocybin mushrooms to induce a vision. They immerse themselves in the Native culture, and undergo this because they *want* to experience what Shamans do.

Most probably don't remember the late 1960s and early 1970s (when I was in Jr High and High School), but the combination locks by Master Lock Corporation could be picked by systematically applying a logarithm until the right combination occurred. It took into consideration that the flat spots on the lock mechanism were about 3 digits wide. The whole thing could be done in under five minutes. By the same principals, I had figured out how to calculate a "reverse combination" (completely different than the original one) that was dialed in reverse. At the time, I was amazed and elated that I had figured that out and I used my secret knowledge to put notes in girl's lockers, steal a bully's clothes so he had to go about in his shorts all day, things like that. I felt empowered.

The whole "patriot" phenomenon in the USA is similar. Lots of folks were bombarded by carefully placed social media posts and news articles to believe that the election is a dark plot to oust the "right thinking" people, the only solution they can think of is violent insurrection to bully or threaten others to accept their positions. They were fully convinced that the US President of that time was going to impose martial law and put people of color in their place, as it used to or should be (in imagination at least), as if this is enshrined in the US Constitution (it isn't). They were not even trying to disguise themselves, as no harm would come upon them when the president seizes full control. They had the religious conviction that the President would prevail, and so they acted, full of "righteous anger," threatening to shoot folks for being of the wrong political party (the party you are a registered member of is public record here), etc. I don't think this is over just yet. Lets just say we are investing in ammo for several shotguns and rifles our kids inherited from a relative.

These recent events remind me of the Hutu rebellion against Tutsi rule in Rwanda. First it was radio talk shows denouncing the unity government, even going as far as shooting down the President's official plane with a shoulder fired missile and by secret agreements the extremist Hutus arose on the same day all over the country and hacked as many Tutsis to death as they could. "You are Tutsi, so you must die" was the phrase the mobs used, and since the extremists were willing to kill even other moderate Hutus, many were driven by fear to also commit atrocities, even Christian priests. IIRC, this all occurred in the 1990s. To the radicals, they were on a divine mission. They had worked many of the Hutus into a frenzy and it erupted on an orgasm of extreme emotions.

But now look at the Judean rebellion in AD 66. It was accompanied by extreme hype about an oracle of a coming kingdom that would replace the Romans as world empire. It was talked about in the marketplaces and religious gatherings. The newly established Jewish kingdom would, of course, be a just and a blessed one to live in, but there were different approaches to achieving it and who should be included or excluded, that clashed with each other and proved ruinous. "Maybe God would send angels to do the fighting for us, or maybe God expects us to establish it ourselves!"
Matthew 11:12 "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force."
These self induced frenzies, IMHO, totally overwhelmed the Judeans. The disappointment of not realizing the establishment of that kingdom and the extreme social stratification that occurred in the course of the revolt and afterwards literally forged Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism and even some forms of Gnosticism as we know it since.

Would I want to live through a religious frenzy playing out like that? IMHO, we already are, at least here in the US. Where are the Sociologists/Social-Anthropologists when you need them? We may have just witnessed the establishment of a new form of evangelical "Christian" religion that is totally different than what it was just a few decades before.

Just my 2 cents.

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Peter Kirby
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Re: If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

Post by Peter Kirby » Sat Jan 30, 2021 12:55 pm

DCHindley wrote:
Fri Jan 29, 2021 8:07 pm
He was quite aware that he had a form of "schizophrenia" as they called it then.
What do you think they call it now?

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/ ... ndex.shtml

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Re: If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

Post by DCHindley » Sat Jan 30, 2021 1:38 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:
Sat Jan 30, 2021 12:55 pm
DCHindley wrote:
Fri Jan 29, 2021 8:07 pm
He was quite aware that he had a form of "schizophrenia" as they called it then.
What do you think they call it now?

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/ ... ndex.shtml
Back in them days literally everything that now falls under bi-polar disorder was called "schizophrenia" by most folks, and maybe some (not all) specialists. That's what he called it, in a very matter of fact way. He knew he was experiencing visions or hallucinations but they just seemed so dang real to him. That was why he had started to draw pictures of what he saw. So yeah, he was periodically experiencing schizophrenic dissociated events all right. However, most of the time he was a regular guy in his mid 20s. Ex military, he said, and he was a fit dude. Went back to school on a GI plan. He came to the meetings, he said, because he felt his visions were religious in nature. I was probably not much help to him but he came to meetings about 3 - 4 times. He would have his drawings in a manila folder, always new ones, like he was doing these several days a week.

Eventually I went on to get a BA degree with a major in Psychology. That doesn't make me an expert by any means. I never pursued it into graduate school. There were no interview notes or recordings. My memory may be influenced by subsequent experiences. Nothing I may talk about is meant to imply a stigma. Like one of the other board members, I had been diagnosed with deep depression and for a while I took medication for it. That doesn't make us bad people, just regular people.

Would I want a religious vision? No.

Would I want to be dragged into someone else's religious vision? Again, no.

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Re: If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

Post by Peter Kirby » Sat Jan 30, 2021 4:43 pm

DCHindley wrote:
Sat Jan 30, 2021 1:38 pm
Back in them days literally everything that now falls under bi-polar disorder was called "schizophrenia" by most folks, and maybe some (not all) specialists. That's what he called it, in a very matter of fact way. He knew he was experiencing visions or hallucinations but they just seemed so dang real to him. That was why he had started to draw pictures of what he saw. So yeah, he was periodically experiencing schizophrenic dissociated events all right. However, most of the time he was a regular guy in his mid 20s.
Hallucinations are a symptom of schizophrenia and not a symptom of bipolar disorder:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-con ... c-20355955

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-con ... c-20354443

Having better and worse times for symptoms is also a typical expression of schizophrenia.

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Re: If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Jan 30, 2021 5:05 pm

I've had them. Many, many of them. You know the Native American Church has a saying about peyote:

Image

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Re: If you could have a religious experience, would you prefer not to?

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Jan 30, 2021 5:07 pm

If you like creative fiction based on real anthropology:


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