Friday, May 28, 2010

God teaser # 1

Three Faces of Eve

The Three Faces of Eve

© Brother Greg 5/28/10

This is a story of a woman who found that she had three different persons in her, a bit like God in three persons. She had a mousy, nice self, Eve White; an exuberant irresponsible and sexy self, Eve Black; and later a more grounded, reasonable self, Jane. During the course of a couple of years of therapy, the three Eves integrated into one new self, Evelyn White. Apparently, Evelyn split into three persons as a child, when her mother forced her to touch her grandmother’s body at a wake. There may have been more that led toward the splitting, but this appeared to be the triggering event.

The story, for me, is mostly interesting in terms of what it says about what makes a person a person. What makes us feel we are the same person from moment to moment, day to day, year to year? Are we the same person in our dreams? Do we have secret selves that we suppress? What’s going on when a quiet person gets drunk and then acts in a loud and exuberant way? Is he/she the same person? Can a person radically change, so that he or she is not recognizable as a former person? Apparently this really happened with Eve, under the influence of extreme trauma. But can it happen otherwise? I think most psychological disorders exist on a continuum, and traces of many of them can be found in most of us.

It’s said that when people are hypnotized, they may do some things out of the ordinary, but they will not do things counter to their usual moral sensibilities. Is that because they are still the same people, even when in a trance?

The extremes of psychological change leave open for me the question of spiritual experience. We don’t know what it is. We don’t really know that much about what people experience. How can we, if we don’t really know what makes a person a person?

Corbett H. Thigpen, Hervey M. Cleckley. The Three Faces of Eve. Kingsport, TN: Kingsport Press. 1957

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Neurology and Spirituality

Neurology and Spirituality

© Brother Greg 5/25/10

The book Why God Won’t Go Away describes various functions of the brain and theorizes about how our neurological circuitry enables to have spiritual experiences. The authors focus on a type of spiritual experience they call “Absolute Unitary Being.” To my mind, it sounds like the “all is one, one is all” sort of experience some people describe. It’s a kind of egoless ecstasy of feeling a connectedness with all that exists—all being. The authors argue that this is the deepest and most fundamental spiritual experience that makes its appearance in all major religions. The authors do not claim that the brain structures, patterns of neurologic activity and spiritual experience prove the existence of “God,” but they point out that knowing how the brain processes spiritual experience does not prove that the brain simply generates the experience internally. The brain may really be processing real spiritual experience, just as it does any other perceived experience. In short, scientific understanding of the brain neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. But they lean toward the belief that spiritual experiences are quite real and not self-generated.

It’s an interesting, provocative book that is worth reading. It was written by two neurologically knowledgeable physicians and a freelance writer. I admit, I appreciate a book that basically points out that the doors remain open to consideration of an unknown universe that eludes the reductionistic grasp of scientific inquiry.

I’m not convinced, however, that the “Absolute Unitary Being” experience the authors describe is the be-all and end-all of spiritual experience. There are a variety of vivid spiritual experiences people have described in different cultures and periods of time—some of them nice and warm, some of them terrifying, and some of them startling in any number of ways. The attempt to argue that one particular kind of spiritual experience is the deepest and most profound arrival, toward which all other experiences are merely steps, is yet another narrow assertion of religious truth. It’s another form of religious fundamentalism. I wish the authors had truly accepted the open-endedness of their own neurologic inquiries and not fallen through the trapdoor of religious conclusions.

Andrew Newberg, MD; Eugene D’Aquili, MD, PhD; and Vince Rause. Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. New York: Ballantine Books. 2001.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Friend Dies - posted on

By Brother Greg

3_D303826-Coffee House, Cafe, Drink, Restauran...

This is something that happened during high school that I wish I had looked at more directly earlier in life – it might have helped me leave Christianity much sooner than I ultimately did. I should mention that this high school was an American school based in Taiwan. In Taiwan, when I lived there, there where there were a large number of white missionaries supposedly there to convert Chinese people to fundamentalist Christianity. I had a friend in the high school– let’s call him Mike.

Mike was a nice guy. He was also quite human. He was proud of his high SAT scores. He was in love with a girl at my high school, and the love was unrequited. He was very opinionated about music, about performing artists, songs, and lyrics. He was someone I could agree with or disagree with, but I respected his intelligence.

One day, Mike invited a friend, Steve, and me to a Christian weekend retreat for high school students, run by missionaries, and, out of curiosity, we agreed to go. There, during that weekend, Steve and I both had spiritual experiences. Given the context of our experiences, surrounded by all the missionaries and fellow high school students who were deeply invested in Christianity, we became Christians. We were told to read the bible, pray, go to church, and clean up our lifestyles, etc. I was stunned by my personal spiritual experience and overwhelmed by the earnestness of all the people so quick to tell me how to interpret my own experience.

Days after that, while hanging out at a local coffeehouse that was set up for Christian teenagers, Mike commented on how he was so happy to have participated in a “miracle”—the conversion of Steve and me. It was a comment that haunted me for years afterward.

About a week later, Mike was diagnosed with hepatitis. He stopped attending school and retired to his home. At the time, it seemed to me to be one of those diseases from which people usually recover. I don’t think, in those days, much was known about the different forms of hepatitis—that some forms are more harmful than others. I didn’t think anything of it. My father had once had hepatitis from eating shellfish, and he recovered. But Mike was getting worse, not better.

I went out to visit Mike at his home one Saturday afternoon. At that time, as he lay in bed, we talked briefly. He told me it was hard for him to have a conversation, because he felt so tired. Even just listening to people was an effort. He indicated that it was hard for him to have visitors, and I got the sense he’d rather not have any. So I let him be.

The next time I saw him, he was in the hospital. Another person and I visited him in the early evening, and he was sleeping. An orderly shook him, telling him he had visitors. Mike woke up, startled, looked at us, and promptly got sick. He was really out of it, and we soon left. That was the last time I saw him.

A strange event that happened after that. It was early on Easter morning, and I had been invited to join with a group of adult, male missionaries for a prayer meeting. During this meeting, we started doing what was called “speaking in tongues” – believing we were praying in another language that we did not otherwise know. Then there was some prayer, in English, about the health of Mike. In this middle of this prayer meeting, someone started speaking, as if channeling a message from God, that we should rise up, go to the hospital where Mike was, lay hands on him, and expect a miraculous healing. Another person added urgency to this message – that we should go now. We all got pretty excited about this, and the prayer meeting came to an end. We got up to leave, with plans to get in cars and go to the hospital, when we were interrupted by a phone call. Someone answered the phone, conversed slowly, and then hung up. This person then announced to us that he had just been told that Mike had died at about 3 o’clock that morning.

We were surprised and perplexed. Mike had died before the time of the prayer meeting. So what were those directions from God all about? Had we misheard? We sat down and started praying again, and soon a new message emerged, that we should still go to the hospital and do as we had been told. In short, Mike would be raised from the dead! We emerged from the meeting, convinced this would happen…. We got in cars and drove to the hospital.

While we were still outside the hospital, as I recall, someone in the group pointed out that we had to get permission from Mike’s dad to see the body, so that we could “lay hands” on him. Others agreed. Someone called Mike’s father, made the request, and was turned down. We felt stymied. We stood around hoping something would happen to make our prophecy come true…. But, of course, nothing happened. We finally left, individually, to go to different Easter morning church services.

I think some of us met later that day or at night at the Christian coffeehouse, where one of the leaders of the coffeehouse expressed his belief that some miracle was still going to happen.

But, as we all could see, nothing had happened.

And as it became clear over the next several days that nothing was going to happen, we stopped talking about it.

Over the years, since then, I’ve reflected on how a group of apparently grown men and a high school student (yours truly) managed to dupe ourselves like that. We earnestly hoped Mike would live, of course, and so there was the motivation. But in the days that followed, no one seemed willing to talk about how childish we had all been – and how wrong we had been, about some so-called “prophecies” from God. I was shocked to realize how these apparently grown-up men, obviously devoted to their faith – men that I looked up to at the time, couldn’t acknowledge we had been absolutely wrong about everything we thought we had heard from God at that prayer meeting. I think, in the long run, it was an experience that eventually made it easier for me to step away from Christian fundamentalism, first, and then Christianity as a whole, later.

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  • lol Sorry, I don't mean to laugh, but I could not help but picture an insane small mob of people excitedly clambering over to the hospital. I could see the looks on the more sane people, if you all had voiced your desire.

    I'm glad you got out of that crazed mess.
  • summerbreeze5 hours ago
    Dear Greg, I am sorry to hear the story about your friend. The " believing in a miracle " is a sort of wishful thinking on the part of delusional believers of all religions. Of course rational people know that there are no such things as miracles, or angles, or demons, or Satan or God. " GROUP HYPE " is what sends religious people into a self-induced " I wanna believe, I DO believe " frenzy. They pick up the hype from each other. Welcome to reason, and welcome to using your brain for purposes other than the quick-sand of religious dogma.
  • oddbird19635 hours ago
    Bro. Greg,

    Powerful story! It really points out the glaring problem in faiths where the promises of miracles and answered prayers are taken literally.

    When the least little thing happens that can be interpreted as an answer to prayer, it gets blown way out of proportion as a "SIGN FROM THE ALMIGHTY!!" When the least little coincidence or statistically uncommon thing happens , the word 'miracle,' is redefined again and again until someone can stand up with a straight face and declare that a miracle has taken place. When a 'word of knowledge' is received and it has the least little association or correspondence with somebody or simply somebody that someone knows, 'GAWD has Spoken!'

    When a false "word" from god is received and the blessed miracle does not or cannot happen, as in the sad case of your friend, nobody says anything about it or raises the obvious question about whether god really is speaking to his people; or are his people wishing and guessing and only acknowledging those things that support the wish for god to be real and active in their lives?

    I anticipate that christian apologists and some trolls will come along and declare that the people in your group were "speaking out of the flesh," or possible weren't bona fide 'True Christians.' But how many people are they going to deny. How many characters are they going to have to assassinate before they admit that the emperor of christianity has no clothes?
  • epiccolo5 hours ago
    Thanks for sharing your interesting story.

    I, too, have a story like yours. But mine is a supposed successful healing story. I will never convince my friends that their mother just happen to get better while this hands on thing was going on. Oh yea, suddenly she started to eat while on her death bed. They had been holdiing vigil for days and she was very close. The priest had done his thing. The people kept showing up for the prayer mtg thingy. Well, sometimes things just happen. I don't suppose she got the strength from her loved ones there. No, had to be Christ himself. Oh for god's sakes.......

    Also, my father sent an email around when his wife recovered from cancer and told everyone that their prayers worked. She was better.

    But she died a few short months after that. Was he then to email the christians and say, hey, this time it did not work. They tried, lord knows they tried. Afterall, they saved her life before with prayer!!!

    The deluded continue to be deluded. The sane can see right through it.
    It is sad and insulting that they think it is something we just don't understand. Understand??!!! I understand how the brain works and how these things can happen. You don't have to be a scientist, just a clear thinking human with common sense. Yeah we all feel better when other's care.

    Anyway, sorry for the rant, good story and keep coming here.
  • Yeah. My family has a number of "miraculous healing" stories as well. The most prominent was my great grandfather's healing from epilepsy. He had epilepsy for 15 years as the result of a car accident but then, just as my aunt started having nightmares about him and shortly after he watched Oral Roberts on TV, he was healed. The epilepsy disappeared. When I tried to convince my aunt and mother that it was not a miracle, that people have been randomly healed of epilepsy by something as simple as listening to music or thinking positively, they told me that the timing must have been supernatural. The timing? Apparantely God's "timing" was off just a little bit when he got in a car wreck in the first place.
  • epiccolo1 hour ago
    Strange how they will just never give it up. My partner's family is a mix
    of different types of christians but they all agree they healed their mother
    with prayer. Or rather God miraculously healed her because of their

    Worse yet, they believe there is something spriritually wrong when you are
    sick for any reason. WTF? My partner just spent 8 days in the hosp and
    they were rude and nosey asking what she had been doing wrong lately. Oh
    please. I want to save her from them so badly. I have to leave the room or
    flip out. She really believes her suffering was a sign that she was
    spiritually messed up. Nope....she had a digestive problem and it clears up
    slowly. What suckers!
  • J. Allen5 hours ago
    Hey, at least you didn't sacrifice any virgins.

    Now *that* gets awkward when the prophecy doesn't come true.
  • Maximus Max4 hours ago
    Thank you for posting that story. It reminds me of another situation that may actually be worse.

    I once met a family of people through a mutual friend. The family (2 parents + 8 kids) were very devout Christians. The parents home-schooled their kids. The father believed God had instructed him to do that. Several of the older kids spent time as missionaries, but the rest were all living at home. Anyhow, the father had a close call with death one night. He started coughing up blood and was rushed to the hospital. He survived after getting more blood. The family believed God had intervened and saved their father. What they didn't yet know was the day had advanced cancer in the liver and pancreas. The family then created a website and asked everyone to pray. They actually drafted a specific list or prayers for God to answer. They posted updates over time as the father sought treatment. They kept saying they believed God would answer their prayers because nothing was beyond His abilities. Meanwhie, the father was unable to work and he was being fed through a feeding tube. He lasted about 9 months before he died. His inability to work left the family in a lurch, as they were asking people to bring them food during the ordeal. I have not spoken with them since the father died (last year), as I had only met them once and wanted to respect their privacy. I wonder what they think about this now. I wonder if they think God spared their father from death on the one occassion so he could then live off a feeding tube and be unable to work and then grow frail over 9 months and then die a horrible death. That story makes me cringe, but it is true.
  • It’s a first-class illustration of the supple and adaptable Christian virus. Several grown men, face to face with the reality of a false prophet(s) in their midst and each individual looks for rationalization, eventually blaming themselves. This dogma has survived for over 2,000 years for a good reason. It was ingenuously designed to take advantage of intrinsic human weaknesses – gullibility and trust being desirable attributes.

    You can exit a men’s washroom wearing tan slacks, with irrefutable confirmation of your appalling aim, but you will go on performing normally in spite of the fact that your walk is a little odd. I suspect much the same thing happened in your case – the stain was plainly evident to everyone, the walk was briefly affected, but in the end the problem dried up and vanished, and everyone went back to normal.

    How fortunate for you that your experience eventually had a happy conclusion, and your own body developed antibodies against the illness. Welcome to sanity and a new life!
  • Thankyou for sharing that. I have so BTDT. A lady in our church, wife of one of the elders, was gravely ill with heart problems, she had surgery but they said she wouldn't make it. We prayed, I prayed my guts out for days as she lingered between life and death. Everyone said she would be healed. I, praying at home with just my husband, felt that God has impressed upon me that he would heal her.

    She died. It is one of the main reasons I no longer trust my spiritual experiences to tell me anything about truth. I used to get these feelings which I interpreted as being the Holy Spirit and I believed that when it happened it meant God was affirming the thing I was praying or thinking about. That scares me now!

    Then everyone said she had died because revival was going to break out at her funeral. Did it? Nope, of course not.
  • It really illustrates the power of group think and how much people in general need to be validated by others no matter what level of insanity they are involved in.

    Glad to see you had the strength to step out and look at the facts and ignore the fantasies and self delusions.

    Glad to see you are free. Come visit us again.
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  • webmdave5 hours ago
    Re: A Friend Dies - Testimonies of Ex-Christians: Dear Greg, I am sorry to hear the story about your friend. The..
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  • webmdave5 hours ago
    Re: A Friend Dies - Testimonies of Ex-Christians: lol Sorry, I don't mean to laugh, but I could not help but pic..
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