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Technical Difficulties With Automated Blog Posts

[20100131] The blog is still refusing mail from gmail. I've stopped the forwarders. When the mail server stops trying to deliver mail (probably by the 5th). I'll try another strategy.
I'm trying to find the equilibrium between Google News Alerts, Gmail and Blogger to permit automated posting of Google News Alerts to the blog so I can have them for reference and work on other things. My goal is not to focus on one news topic, but to have the varied topics in the news feeds automatically posted in the blog daily or weekly because I can capture more unique data that way.

Suicide Bomb News Feed

The Jihad News Feed

Witch News Feed

Ritual Abuse and Killing News Feed

Faith Heal News Feed

Female Genital Mutilation News

Exorcism News Feed

Child Bride or Marriage News Feed

Church Abuse News Feed

Animal Sacrifice News Feed

Religious Exemption News Feed

Friday, November 13, 2009

How Do Theists Know That God Communicates With Them?

Recently I had a discussion with a religious friend and asked him what I consider to be a key defining question. I've tried to record the dialog here as accurately as I can, but obviously the following is not a transcript. During the course of the conversation the "relationship" topic came up.  Knowing that communication is an important part of a relationship I asked him "Does God talk to you?".

Does God talk to you?
He said "Yes".
I said "When?".
He said "Right now."
I said "Well, what's he saying?"
And he said "He wants you to know he loves you and he wants you to come back..." yada, yada, yada.

So I said "Harvey, my six foot rabbit friend standing here next to me says he doesn't believe you".
He laughed. So then I said "God, did you really say that?". Of course there was no answer.  Then I said to my friend, "That is exactly what I would expect to happen if he wasn't really there. You don't believe in Harvey, and if you ask him a question, he won't answer.  Either he's ignoring you, or he's not really there. You decide. But seriously though, how do you know the difference between the thoughts that normally occur to you and the ones that you think come from God?".
He said he didn't know, but he could tell the difference. 

What is the difference?
I told him that I thought he was just making stuff up, and that he didn't really know what was auto-generated by his brain and what came from God.  My point was that if there is no demarcation, no point of delineation then it should all be assumed to be auto-generated.  The reason why, and to draw a loose analogy, is that until a schizophrenic learns what schizophrenia is, they are quite certain they are interacting with voices and persons that are auto-generated by their brain.  And to a lesser degree, I know people that hear things that aren't there, I know I do, and I know that when I was in a band, under certain conditions I could hear a bass line that I would "copy" and use in our original songs. 

No one could hear the notes but me. That wasn't supernatural, I am sensitive to frequencies in a way that others aren't and I am quite sure that a spectrum analyzer would be able to detect them. Now that I'm older, when I'm in a noisy industrial environment, I can hear "beats", "partial melodies", "phones ringing", "voices", you name it. If it kicks off that portion of my brain that recognizes a sound, whether its the real sound or not, I hear it.

The Difference is Easy to See in Most Other Cases. It Can be Cross-checked.
This problem of differentiating between what is auto-generated and what is perceived is easy in all other cases.  When I communicate with people, I see it, or hear it.  It comes in through my eyes, ears etc. I know how I perceived it. The source of the information is known, and it is usually of a sort that is generally independently verifiable. It can be cross checked.  I don't have to resort to special pleading to get someone to believe that I have perceived the communication.  If I tell you that my friend told me something in the course of our dialog and if you knew who it was, you could ask him.  When I told my band mates that I heard the notes, then immediately played them, the possibility that hearing the notes might be supernatural never occurred to them.  We all understood feedback, resonance and harmonics so that was adequate to explain the way I could come up with the perfect bass line after listening to the song for a minute.  If it was from some spirit, let them take the bass out of my hands and show me like any other person would. A spirit appearing before my eyes and giving me a bass lesson would be incontrovertible evidence to me.

Not So With Gods.  
As I pointed out to my friend, if I ask God if he really said that to my friend, I don't get an answer, and other religious people are just as certain as he is that they have a relationship with their Gods, and when I ask those Gods to talk to me, they don't either. 

Special Pleading and Disconfirmation Bias
If God exists, and he talks to my friend, then my friend should be just as willing to accept that any other God exists, or that Harvey exists on the same grounds.  If not, then he's committing the fallacy of special pleading to support what he already believes and ignoring disconfirming evidence aka Disonfirmation Bias.

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J. Quinton said...

When talking with some theists who claim a personal relationship with their god(s), I always ask them to list some things that they know about their god(s) that they didn't read in a book or had a third party tell them. Which would be an absurdly trivial and almost nonsensical question for close relationships. In any other real personal relationship, this would be easy to do. They can do that with their best friends, significant others, parents, etc. but they wouldn't be able to do that with say Brad Pitt.

Usually they dodge the issue or say "it's too private" which just so happens to be way too convenient. I mean, how could an omnipresent god have any privacy?

It's not really a blow against the existence of god(s) in general, it's just an example of pointing out that their so-called personal relationship is all in their head.

Twilight Z. Clown said...

Hi J.
good strategy!
I looked at your blog and website. You do good work. Thanks for commenting.

Gandolf said...

Another interesting Post thanks Twilight.

As a kid for a long time the dark kinda scared me a little,somebody had given me the shits at somestage about belief of ghosts etc.So guess my problem was also with this disonfirmation Bias,i guess i was so pre convinced by sombody that ghosts were real...The fact that i never saw or heard anything of ghostly nature for evidence to suggest the fear had any good reasoning or not...Never crossed my mind much for many years..

Yeah i sure know how man can easily make himself so sure he seen or heard something,when the proof of reality is very different.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Never did understand that relationship with God stuff. What does that mean exactly?

Plus you mentioned my favorite movie (play) of all time! Love Harvey! So many great lines in that movie. Here's one: "Mr. Dowd, I would do anything for you." Beautiful.


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