My email 6

From [email protected] Thu Apr 15 00:15:41 1999
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 20:05:04 -0400 (EDT)
From: Reverend Jan
To: eva
Subject: Long overdue reply #2

On Fri, 26 Feb 1999, eva wrote:

I must begin by apologizing for my tendency to "commit typos", a somewhat annoying offense, but I assure you, unintentional. I am (sheepish smile) a bit embarrassed by it, and by my horrendous spelling as well. I must make a confession here. I am an adult sufferer of ADD, and although I do proofread

Don't let it bother you -- I quite understand.

What sort of activity do you enjoy during the weekend, Jan?

Sleeping, being with my husband, making stuff (sewing, jewelry, cards, etc.), cooking better than on the weekdays, staying up late, and sleeping some more :)

Let me continue at where I left off at my last e-mail.

Unfortunately, while you're correct that this sounds rational in theory, the fact remains that it is a difficult tenet (sp.:) to put into practice for anything but the relatively minor upheavals which occur in our lives. Can you imagine telling this to parents who watch in agony as their child suffers with leukemia...a husband who has just lost his only love and life-mate of 45 years, or a young woman who has just been told she has ovarian cancer and will never have the opportunity to bear children, that is, if she lives? (These being just trace examples of patients that I have encountered). I must tell you, that for these people their faith was the only thing that sustained them. Although you may argue that God was a coping mechanism for their grief, perhaps the truth of the matter is that God gave them the strength and peace that they so desperately needed. Indeed, to suggest to them otherwise would be the cruelest of blows to inflict.

If their faith was good for them in their circumstances, so be it. It worked for them... probably, in my opinion, due to the calming psychological benefits that faith has been shown to produce. I would never tell that to someone during the event, unless we had been very close before; I have no interest in bursting the bubbles of those who depend on them. However, years later, if they were trying to push me into their beliefs, I would have to counter them just as I would any others. I'm sure they believe 100% that their god gave them strength, and that's fine for them, but I won't have that as a "proof" of their god's existence.

Have you considered trying St. John's Wort at a therapeutic dose? (3% at 300mg at one three times per day?) I have recommended this to a few my patients who were suffering from mild cases of depression and have had several successes. In fact, I take it myself (at this dose) for the symptoms of PMS, and it has helped tremendously in alleviating the symptoms of mild depression and irritability.

My mom takes SJW like that, and it has helped her a lot. For me, just having a job I like is enough to keep me from being down :)

If a person seeks God only to alleviate a temporary problem, it is understandable that when the problem is resolved, they no longer have the need to continue to seek God . Their motivation for seeking him has been eliminated. The ideal situation for seeking God is when a person's motivation is simply knowing him and having a relationship with him.

How often does this happen, though? All of the folks in Campus Crusade for Christ at UNH (the group I joined) had "come to Christ" during a time of great personal upheaval, usually following some horrible personal event (death in the family, divorce of parents, drug use, bad sex, etc.). I don't think I've met a single born-again who became religious during a normal period in his or her life; there was always something bad going down. Now, a lot of them stayed with it, because (IMO) their families and friends were also in the church, so it was perfectly normal for them not to question all that went on. For me, there were always more questions than answers to be found, and that was another part of my loss of faith. The bible was supposed to answer everything, but was so very far from that if one scratched beneath the surface veneer.

Otherwise, seeking God to perform miracles and assorted other "tricks" reduces God to a commodity. Although God does use dire situations to get our attention, it is with the intention that a person will truly desires a relationship with him as a result of his help. By the same token, I do not believe God inflicts pain upon people, most of it occurs as a result of our human condition.

Humanity can indeed get into enough trouble without divine intervention. But, ah, what about the original sin? I wasn't in the Garden when it happened, yet according to Judeo-Christian theology, I was damned before I was even born because of someone else's sins... clearly a case of God inflicting pain on billions of people.

I am interested on how the bible led you to atheism, Jan.

I read a lot of the Old Testament, in which God is definitely not loving and forgiving -- thousands, possibly millions, were murdered either in his name or directly by him -- innocents as well as those who had a choice. The one that really did it for me was a story where one of God's chosen leaders sacked a city, killed most of the people, but left the children and infants... and then God was upset because he hadn't killed the innocents. These *babies* had done nothing wrong, had merely been born to the wrong group of people, but he wanted them all killed anyway. The chosen guy was making a moral decision -- a good one -- but was punished for it. This was not the kind of God I was about to worship. (I'm sorry I don't know the exact reference -- I think it's in Numbers or one of the earlier chapters.)

Jesus loves the little children? Then he and his father should get their stories straight.

There were other things that bothered me, too, of course. All the inconsistencies that can't really be reconciled (and I know many who have tried), Christ himself being rather irrational (i.e. the fig tree episode, I think in Acts), and the warlike and cruel Old Testament god who is supposed to be omni-benevolent, but seems to be just the opposite.

Yes, this is quite true. I do know, by the same token, that there are atheists who are atheists simply because their parents were, and have not bothered to challenge this. I think what we have here is a case of apathy. I would much prefer a passionate atheist (or theist) to the lukewarm variety of either.

Yeah, me too. I'm willing to bet more weak atheists than theists have given their beliefs at least a little thought, though, as this society is so biased towards belief in a deity.

Whether they eventually embrace the very same belief in all forms is not really the issue, though; I maintain that if, from a tender young age, you are told that there is a god, it will be extremely difficult to overcome those teachings.

Once again, I must counter that this is probably true for atheists as well. Whatever the indoctrination, both are subject to the same obstacle.

But what you're failing to recognize is that for atheists, there is *no* indoctrination. No coerced visits to Sunday School or church; no first communion; no baptism; no Passion Play at the holidays... there is no early childhood atheist version of what theists take for granted. When I was younger (less than about 7 years old), I was never told there was no god, never taught anything negative about religion. I started getting curious about it at around 7 years, so I went with a friend to her mom's after-school church program, and found it to be absolutely bonkers -- things that I knew weren't true (like stars being the windows of Heaven...) were accepted as literal truth by this woman and her kids. Then I went to a Catholic church with another friend, and was extremely disturbed at the robot-like way everyone acted there, while the sermon was stuff that I already knew was the right way to act (Golden rule, if I recall correctly). This was repeated many times in different religions -- either what they said was self-evident, or pretty much false. But if I had been brought up in those systems of worship, I never would have questioned their veracity at that age.

You might as well ask me to prove that there are no spiders in my room. It is logically impossible to prove a negative; I could only provide data suggesting that there were spiders (old webs, etc.) or list places that I had not found a spider. Prove to me that the Invisible Pink Unicorn doesn't exist, and I'll get back to you. Besides, as I said before, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim.

My response here is the same for my last e-mail. With all you know to be true of science and its laws, Jan, if someone you knew had died and physically returned to tell you that there most certainly is a God and life after death, would you toss all that you had previously accepted out the window? How silly, but of course you would. There would be no way to deny it. That is precisely why Christ rose from the dead.

I would *not* toss *all* that I had previously accepted out the window. One data point does not a truth make. Nor would I be inclined to accept this as a real encounter, unless it took place in a controlled setting, where I could be certain that I was not hallucinating or otherwise being misled. That, and how could I be sure this person was telling the truth? S/he would have to bring some pretty sturdy evidence with hir to make me believe that s/he wasn't merely an earth-bound ghost on a mission. If I believed anything about the encounter, it would merely be that some people "live on" after death. Colour me skeptical to the extreme, but that's the way I am.

To discover the truth about the existence of God, one must only decide if Jesus truly rose from the dead.

That, it seems, would tell one the "truth" about the existence of the Christian god, according to modern-day Christians. I've no doubt god's existence has many other facets according to other traditions and at other times in the history of Christianity: for instance, the salvation-by- faith-alone tenet does not occur in Christianity until the Nicene conference, at which time the necessary changes were made to the bible...

There would be no need to search further, especially since our knowledge of science, in all truth, is quite limited and ever expanding so that we may never discover all the secrets of nature.

So you are really suggesting that if one could prove that Christ rose from the dead, all other knowledge would be meaningless? What if there were unusual circumstances surrounding the event -- as Clarke has said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," and I would argue that might also apply to miracles. To the relatively unsophisticated population, it probably wouldn't take much to convince them that something big had occurred, and they would write about it as such. I'm afraid the only way I would accept that this event actually occurred would be to witness it myself, or through several independent *and trustworthy* sources, not just the admittedly biased bible.

Because this was an event in history, one must examine its validity, just as one would examine the validity of any other historical event...through eye-witness accounts and the documentation provided by them. You would also verify the credibility of the eyewitness accounts, and cross -reference other (non-religious) documents to concur whether these events took place.

And they do not.

You might even check remaining physical evidence, such as archeological ruins, to determine if the villages, inscriptions, buildings etc substantiated the information detailed in those accounts. You would put to the test the historical validity of this event in the same manner as you would any other historical event, and after weighing the evidence, reach a logical conclusion. It would be unreasonable not to do so merely on the basis of "I don't believe in God". Foolish even, especially considering what is at stake here. We could debate God and the origin of life ad infinitum from the scientific perspective, as the evidence for either is inconclusive. If Christ was not resurrected from the dead and you could prove this, I would throw all I believe out the window. :)) I would like to hear your views on this.

I cannot prove that Christ did not rise from the dead, just as you cannot prove that he did. Neither of us were there, and there is not sufficient evidence in your case to prove this event occurred. I cannot prove a negative for reasons already discussed. Tell me, can you prove that Christ existed at all? Do you have verifiable, external sources (besides the bible) that any of the events related to the alleged crucifixion took place? I think, in a court of law, none of the evidence would stand up.

Material possessions offer no spiritual component except for the reactions they might provoke in the possessor. I get a lot of meaning from playing my violin, listening to my CDs, and reading my books... not to mention learning by using the computer, the television, and my friends and associates. That's been enough for me so far :)

Ah, but will it always be enough?

No, because I and others change through time. Our interests change. So we try new things, learn, and grow as humans. When I have children, observing and aiding in their progress will become the most meaningful pursuits in my life. That has clearly not always been the case, because I will not have always had children; no doubt when they are grown, my interests will shift again, though I will still be involved in their lives and still cherish their development. But since life is never static, one need not fear for running out of interests :)

I am not quite sure what happened here, Jan. Frankly, I am confused. I am wondering how you truly accepted him, then un-accepted him. Perhaps you WANTED to believe, but never truly made a commitment. I don't doubt your sincerity for one second. When you fell in love with your husband, and decided to marry him, you made a commitment. That commitment was to put your heart and soul into that relationship, and, for lack of better words, work on maintaining it. I am sure that you would not desert your husband the moment you had an argument, when things weren't meeting your expectations, or worse, leave him if he became ill or maimed. Just because God wasn't providing answers for you on your time table, doesn't mean you weren't going to get them. You just didn't stick around long enough to find out, let alone give it much of a chance. In essence, you bailed out of your commitment.

Bullshit. If I may be so vulgar :) My husband and I work at our relationship, and we are able to, because we can communicate. I did my best to communicate with God, and he failed to do the same, and continues to do so (assuming your position that he exists at all). As I've said before, he is well aware of what goes on in my head (in that he is omniscient) and could intervene at any time. He does not. You mention a one-sided relationship: that side was mine. I would still be open to the kind of answer an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being could provide; being skeptical does not disallow that. Yet still there is no such thing.

Many, many times I have sought God for answers. Many times I have prayed for things. He has never failed to answer me. What I did discover, though, was that sometimes I had to wait, and (often) I didn't want to. In the end, though, there was always a reason for it, even though I was lost at the time and it wasn't apparent to me until much later. It often fit together like a puzzle, and I would say in amazement to myself, why didn't I see it? Often, if things had happened when I wanted them, the outcome might have been poor substitute, or even a disaster. Sometime, if you like, I will cite some of these experiences. (too lengthy to go on about in this e-mail)

Coincidence is an amazing thing. But it does not provide any more proof than any other personal experience. In the last three weeks, I have won a $50 gift certificate at my favorite fabric store, and my husband won $25 at our grocery store. Does this make us any more likely to win the lottery (as the owner of the fabric store seemed to believe)? No; it just means that out of all those who entered, we happened to win. In your situation, things happened a certain way, and in retrospect, your brain interpreted the events such that they seemed to fit your expectations. I'm willing to bet that if the events had happened in another way, you still would have interpreted them as God's answer or guidance, because you have come to believe that is the case for your life.

Are you suggesting that my experience was not a genuine one because I did not have this feeling,

What did you feel at the time, Jan? Where you suffering with depression?

I was, but not *constantly*. Just as during my other depressive episode, I had good days and bad days, though the bad outnumbered the good; and while I tried to make the good days fit into a pattern of some kind, they did not.

or that I did not truly *mean* it when I asked Jesus into my life? I have to say I am somewhat offended if this is what you are suggesting, as there was nothing at the time that I wanted more than to have Jesus as my savior and in my life. Really and truly.

I am sorry, I had no intention on offending you. I believe Jesus is still working in your life, as he is committed to you, although, from Christ's perspective, the relationship now is a little bit more than one-sided.:))

As above... he's still welcome if he chooses to make himself known in a way that I cannot misinterpret (as should be his duty, if he truly does love every single human being).

Yes, as heat energy, and as matter in other forms (in that our molecules mingle with others, in so doing, releasing more energy, and being broken down into different molecules). Not much spiritual about that, I'm afraid. When the brain dies, so far as we know, that's it. End of consciousness.

Or is it?:))))

Cute. I did qualify my statement, you'll notice, with "so far as we know." I do my best not to make sweeping statements without knowledge of my lack of knowledge.

Formed in the first few minutes after the big bang, after things cooled down (that is to say, after the universe had expanded) enough to allow their formation. I am assuming you mean neutrons and protons, here.

Jan, consider this. Since Einstein's theory of general relativity does accurately describe the dynamics of the universe, the space-time theorem presented by Hawking, Penrose and Ellis can be trusted. The space-time theorem tell us that the dimensions of length, width, height and time have existed only for as long as the universe has been expanding,... less than about twenty billion years . Time, therefore, has a beginning. By definition, time is the dimension in which the cause and effect phenomena takes place. Therefore, no time, no cause and effect. If time's beginning is concurrent with the beginning of the universe, as the space-time theorem states, then the cause of the universe must be some entity operating in a time dimension completely independent of and preexistent to the time dimension of the cosmos.

There is no necessity for an *entity* to be involved, although you are correct in your other assumptions. Let me repeat, however, that an *entity* is not necessary. Merely an event.

This conclusion leads me to what God is and who or what he isn't. It tells us that God is transcendent, operating beyond the dimensional limits of the universe. It tells us that God is not the universe itself, nor is God contained within the universe. This is why Pantheism and atheism do not square with the facts.

But because your conclusion is based on a faulty premise -- that an entity was required, it does not logically follow. Your further premises do not tell *us* anything; they are a convenient base upon which *you* can rest your beliefs, and little else.

Pantheism claims there is no existence beyond the universe, the universe is all there is, and that the universe always existed. Atheism claims that the universe was not created and no entity exists independent of the matter, energy, and space-time dimensions of the universe.

I can't speak for pantheism, as I have not studied it in great detail. However, all that atheism does is *not claim* what other religions claim; it makes no positive (that is, such-and-such must be true) assertions as to the universe. Atheism is just the lack of theism, nothing more. Now, most if not all atheists also don't believe that the universe was created, and that no supernatural entities exist, but this is not a claim of atheism itself.

BUT all the data accumulated in this century tells us that a transcendent Creator MUST exist. For all the matter, energy, length, width height and even time, each suddenly and simultaneously came into being from source beyond itself.

As above, this is not a valid assumption. Your conclusion was based on a faulty premise. In fact, none of the data accumulated in this century or any of the other centuries in which legitimate science has been carried out tells of the existence of anything supernatural. Science doesn't do that. Religion does that, and often -- at least in this culture -- twists scientific results for that purpose.

I believe Jan, that it is valid to refer to such a source, entity, or being as the Creator, for creating is defined as causing something--in this case, everything in the universe--to come into existence. Matter, energy, space and time are the effects He caused. Likewise, it is valid to refer to the Creator as transcendent, for the act of causing these effects must take place ousted or independent of them. Not only does science lead us to these conclusions, but so does the Bible, and it is the only holy book to do so.

That is an extremely lofty claim to be making, and dare I say, an amazingly condescending way of looking at other religions. Of course, for the most part, they all do the same as well, but still. As above, science leads us to none of these conclusions... and neither does an independent interpretation of the bible. Why, if God was transcendent, was Adam able to hide from god in the garden of Eden? Why would appearing on earth as Christ be even the slightest inconvenience to him, since he always has and always will exist? 33 years should be a blink of an eye for god, and what suffering he received on earth, a pittance. And yet he believes that humans deserve to spend an eternity in the depths of hell for not worshipping him? I digress, but the point is, the bible paints a picture of god as a spoiled child demanding attention, throwing unbelievable temper tantrums if he doesn't get his way... not of a transcendent being who can create universes.

You can say that, but assuming your whole biblical system is true, there is no real free will. God, being omniscient and omnipresent and infinite, knows exactly what you're going to do for the rest of your life. Since he already knows, your life has, in effect, already been planned out. He knows before you're even born whether you're going to heaven or hell; he might not interfere, but the result is the same as if he had. Free will is kind of a red herring.

Jan, while its true that God is omniscient and omnipresent, you are making an assumption regarding the will of God, and that is, because he possess these characteristics, he uses them irregardless. My contention is, although God is quite capable of knowing the "plot" of our lives, and could very well, if he chose, peer into it from the moment of existence, he has chosen not to.

This does not seem to follow from the bible: there are many suggestions that he does know exactly what each biblical character will do before it is done (i.e. Job) (though there are also plenty that he seems surprised at).

He made that decision when he gave us free will. Or else, what point would be there in a creation doomed to failure from the start?

Good question; wish I could ask him (and get an answer).

Let me make an analogy. Jan, you decide to rent a murder movie. At any time, you possess the "power" to fast forward the VCR to the middle of plot, or to the end to discover who committed the crime. Or, you could ask someone who saw the movie to tell you all about it, and then watch it. You possess the ability to discover the outcome, but you decide that you don't want to know it, as it destroys a good deal of your enjoyment of it in the first place. So it is with God.

It's a nice idea, but there is no biblical reference to this being the case, at least that I'm aware of. Do you have one, or is this conjecture (or revealed truth) on your part?

You're making a huge leap there. Just because I don't think consciousness (your "soul") is a supernatural phenomenon does not mean I don't think it exists. I am just as much a feeling being as a theist. Consciousness does not have to be divinely granted in order to have meaning; I hope that's not what you're implying.

No Jan, that was not what I intended to imply. What I was doing was applying your argument for the non-existence of God, which is everything can be explained by science. Consciousness would, by scientific explanation then, be a manifestation of a series of complex chemical reactions in the brain. We would be, in essence, biological machines.

Except that on the levels upon which our brains work, uncertainty plays a huge role. The microtubles in neurons are "ideal quantum systems" (according to the latest research): a single branch of microtubulin allows for four to the 184th different ground state energies (about 6^110). Many of them are similar, but given a single stimulus, that many outcomes are possible, even with everything else held constant. (Incidentally, this is the phenomenon responsible for the possibility of hallucinations in sensory deprivation conditions.) [This is not simple quantum mechanics -- it relates to superstring theory, and makes the brain a "quantum computer".] In essence, what this boils down to is that the brain is anything but a biological machine, and no divine intervention or even soul is necessary for its complicated function.

As for my parents, yes, they are atheists. It took a lot of soul-searching (if you will) for them to become atheists, as they were both raised in religious households; they decided that their children would be *truly* free to make their own decision on the matter once they were mentally capable. They did not indoctrinate us with *any* belief system, including the lack thereof. We were not raised as atheists; we were simply raised without religious teachings. After we reached the age of reason, we were encouraged to attend church with our friends, to explore different religious traditions, and the like. Having grown up in a rational household, we found modern religions to be remarkably similar to ancient mythologies. There were some neat stories and a few important moral lessons, but no divine revealed truths. My husband and I intend to raise our children the same way. They may end up experimenting with religion, perhaps even adopting one; but as long as they come to their decisions through reason and experience, I will consider my job well-done.

Using your own argument, though, Jan, children are directly or indirectly influenced by the views their parents hold. Although you may graciously allow them to search out their own spiritual destiny, what you do (or don't) teach them will have an impact.

This is true; however, not indoctrinating them early on will have a huge effect on their ability to later process religious information.

That is *my* kind of "faith". My "faith" is based the assumption that what existed today will exist tomorrow, barring any physical changes. My "faith" is based on direct experience and the knowledge that the physical laws of the universe will continue to hold true.

Faith, nonetheless. Any hopes in the future at all are merely faith. All we can be certain is the present. Even the past becomes dubious, as the more distant it becomes, the more people question its actual events . I am sure you have heard about the quacks who assert that the Holocaust never happened, that it is some sort of fabrication.

I guess, in the matter of religious vs. scientific faith, that we will have to agree to disagree. I know that the faith I experienced as a Christian -- that god existed, etc. -- was completely different from the "faith" I have that the sun will rise in the morning, or that my husband will continue to love me. You are perfectly free to define it differently if you like.

I am familiar with those who deny the Holocaust; I only hope that I can avoid ever being in the same room with one, as I'm not certain I could control my actions. A good portion of my extended family (my maternal grandmother's side) died at Babi Yar, and more in Germany and Lithuania as well.

The difference is, my husband is real, can talk to me directly; I can observe his mannerisms if I wish. (If god were to appear physically to me, I could no longer consider it supernatural, as it will have interacted with the physical world in a direct manner, and I would question my own judgement for having seen it.

Wow, you really are a cynical cookie!!!!

I prefer "skeptical" :)

This certainly wouldn't provide a very good test of love or faith in God, would it? How hard is it to love and believe something that you can see...doesn't require too much sacrifice... not much work...pretty easy to come by. Can you imagine how God considers those who love and honor him despite these obstacles? I would imagine he would find these individuals quite pleasing, indeed. Someone who simply accepts him at his word.

I would consider someone who thought of me that way... simple. No offense intended.

Wouldn't it be great if that was all love involved? People who just loved us for who we are, not for what they could get from us, what we could do for them. We wouldn't have to prove ourselves to them. I suppose God, as we are formed in him imagine, feels quite the same.

Love would be meaningless if it were given that freely; there would be nothing special about it. Love is special in part because it is rare, at least to the degree that humans enjoy it.

I often wondered why God sent us be born at all, why not just let us enjoy his presence in heaven and live it up there, so to speak? Well, in heaven, because we could see God, no need to ever have faith or trust him. In heaven, all is going great. No trials. It would be simple to love and have faith in God when all is going our way, but can we still love God no matter what, even when things are tough and we aren't getting our own way? Maybe that's what God is trying to find out about us.

And if we fail, we must bear everlasting pain and suffering? How thoughtful of him. In the good parent analogy... if I were to demand love and respect from my kids no matter how I acted, neglected them, sent them out on their own before they were ready... I would be locked up, and rightfully so. And imagine if I demanded this love and respect, and if they didn't give it, I put them in the basement to be forever cut off from my love. Monstrous? Damn right! Yet it's considered noble and generous for god to do the same thing.

Bzzzzz, sorry! In fact, when the brain is deprived of oxygen, it produces neurotransmitters that stimulate portions of the brain that may not have been stimulated before. Among these effects is the "tunnel of light" many use to "prove" the existence of an afterlife. In fact, it is simply a result of oxygen deprivation, and may occur even with a person is nowhere near actual death.

Yes, but there are other phenomena associated with this as well...seeing dead relatives, experiencing an all-consuming light of love etc. etc. Many people, of differing religions and cultures have experienced the same thing.

... which should suggest to you that it is biological, since cultures that do not have a tunnel-of-light kind of mythology also experience it.

I could understand someone who is in the process of dying having a bizarre, nonsensical experience, but the same experience, recanted by many others?

Biological. Influenced by their memories, experiences, and knowledge... much of which is shared by many cultures. I see nothing inexplicable about this.

I could relate to you some very eerie and unexplainable stories in association with this. One appeared in the American Journal of Medicine in the mid -eighties. A woman in Cans, France, was involved in a near fatal accident, in which her heart stopped, and where she required emergency resuscitation measures on the site. Because the accident occurred on a narrow roadway with no detours, it caused a heavy backflow of traffic. After she recovered, she related to her physician her near death experience of being "outside of her body" and viewing the scene from above. She told the doctor that a woman in the traffic tie up, who was aware of the accident, had prayed for God to "help whoever was hurt" . The accident victim then told her doctor that this was what "caused her spirit" to return to her body. The accident victim wanted to thank the woman who saved her. Her doctor told her that this was impossible, as there were many vehicles in the traffic back-up. (trying to appease her apparent delusional claims). The woman then said, yes, but while I was out of my body I could see her license plate, and I know the number. It was the correct number.

And no one around her at the time mentioned traffic conditions, and she had no other knowledge at all of the circumstances around her? People do hear things when they are unconscious; I experience that all the time when I am dreaming (sounds around me are incorporated into my dreams). Where was the praying woman's car in relation to the accident? Could a police officer nearby have read some of the license numbers? I'm not trying to belittle the woman's experience; I just want to make clear that there are other means for seemingly miraculous events to come about, which do not require supernatural explanations.

I would also be curious to know how many of the doctors came into the situation completely unbiased -- were they all agnostics, or, like most people in our culture and many others, were they religious?

Yes, this sounds crazy, Jan. I know. All I can tell you is what I read. The article explored the numbers of near death occurrences that were being reported to physicians by their patients. There are a lot of other similar stories, some that I have even been told by patients. I can only relate what they have said. I am sure, to an atheist, it sounds like mumbo-jumbo, but these patients are quite sincere about their experiences. Whatever happened was quite real to them.

I'm sure it was. Just as some of my dreams have been to me -- have you ever had dream paralysis? You mind is kind of half-awake, but you can't move, and you are still in a dream state. It makes for a terrible, terrible experience, as the dreams tend to be extremely realistic, and, for me, tend towards rape and theft while I am paralyzed. It seems so awfully real, even afterwards, that it is difficult to realize that in fact, nothing has happened. So-called "repressed memories" follow the same trend: a person in a semi-conscious or unconscious state can be made to remember just about anything, with the slightest suggestion, especially upon repeated sessions.

One might also argue that children of that age have amazingly active imaginations, and will take things they have heard before and may not consciously remember, and turn them into incredible fantasies. I know: I was a 5-year-old once :)

Perhaps. But during the traumatic phase of an illness, children are not consumed by the need to fabricate lies. Children are very centered on what is happening to their bodies.

However, they, too, are susceptible to the same biological and psychological quirks as the rest of us. I'm sure they don't consciously fabricate their stories, but as with adults, an untrue event can be "remembered" as truth.

You don't think her parents *ever* discussed this sibling when she was in earshot, even if she was asleep? I find that hard to believe.

Yes it is hard to believe. No doubt about it. But it happened. I read a book written by a one-time atheist pediatric oncologist, who cited her conversion as being related directly to these death bed "visions" by children.

She wasn't as skeptical as some of us, then.

God didn't stop speaking, although quite a few people have stopped listening. Do atheists try to hear from God? You mentioned a few paragraphs earlier that if God or some other vision appeared to you, you would then question your own judgement. How about if God drops a heavenly brick on your head? Just kidding here...

Hey, he's omnipotent; he can drop whatever he likes (literal or figurative) on my head.

1:1, apparently. If you came to my site through one of the millenialist sites (which have linked to my cloth menstrual pad instructions), I'd say the odds were pretty good someone with your propensity to argue philosophy would happen upon me. Same if you were surfing atheist links. Not an overwhelming coincidence; in fact, since others have written such things to me in response to my writings, I would say it's fairly commonplace. No offense to you, of course.

I still believe there is a reason for our connection. Perhaps it wasn't even to benefit you:) Since our discussion, I have been compelled to search the reasoning behind some my own beliefs, some of which, and I will be perfectly honest here, where I had been a little weak in the faith department on. It has been a great asset to me in strengthening my own convictions:))

Yes, me too :) How does it feel to strengthen the lack of faith of an atheist? (Probably the same as it does for me to strengthen yours :)

I have met people from many different faiths -- Jews, Ba'Hais (sp.?), Hare Krishnas, Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Catholics, Buddhists, Fundamentalists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Wiccans, Satanists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Unitarians, etc. etc. etc. All were utterly convinced that theirs was the One True Path. Would you say that these people were also sent by god to me, even though some of their beliefs were in direct conflict with yours? If god is trying to send me a message, he's doing an awfully muddled job of it.

Well, one thing I can assert for certain,that it wasn't God who sent the Satanists or the Wiccans...:)

You're positive? Did god himself tell you? Besides through the bible (which, as we have discussed, cannot be considered a credible source)?

As far as the" muddled job" business, I find it extremely hard to conceive YOU become easily muddled. I think you are playing with me here. I believe that you could walk into a room and discern immediately who was "full of crap" and who had an original thought in their brains. In the same respect, I believe if God was who you were seeking, you would have little difficulty in sort out the baloney from the truth. Besides, the Holy Spirit guides us in these things.

Hence my muddle -- nothing clear has been presented. Every single religion has numerous flaws and inconsistencies; if god really represented by any One True Faith, it's one I haven't encountered yet.

My husband and I are together precisely because we meet each other's requirements. I wouldn't have started a relationship with him otherwise. Of course there was no formal meeting to discuss exactly what we required of each other; we learned each others' strengths and weaknesses as we communicated. I think your analogy is flawed here. Anyway, your god, if he existed, would have known before I was even conceived that I would not be rationally able to believe in him (and presumably he was the one who gave me reason...) given the circumstances. If I go to hell, it is because of his shortcomings, not mine;

Blasphemy! Blasphemy!:) I am shocked by this, Jan. If you go to hell (which you won't) it's because you rejected him. He is not a "Ronald McDonald" God, a entertaining baffoon here to perform magic tricks for your amusement! If you sincerely seek him for the only motive of wanting to know the truth, you will find him, I promise you.

So again, you do not believe I am sincere? Don't be so shocked; it's all in my essays. If I had any evidence at all that was credible and made a shred of sense, I would believe in a second. I have none. I don't expect a baffoon; I expect a universal creator who can also respect *me* and my shortcomings, as you seem to see them. Nothing about this is amusing; I am aware that, if what you say is true, then my soul is on the line. But I cannot commit to a faith which is so utterly devoid of logic and reason, or a god who would make me abandon mine in order to be saved.

and I do not wish to worship a deity who would give me reason and then punish me for using it.

He gave you reason, but is not punishing you for using it. That's silly, Jan. If you choose to reject God, you are the one who has chosen your own fate. You are the one making the choice. You will be the one to accept the consequences.

But the thing is, he's the one who set the bar. If I tell my kids I will only love them if they never lie to me, never hurt themselves or others, never commit any of the sins that make us human, then I am damning them to never being loved, because they could never in a million years live up to those standards. If I demanded of them that they believe something that I cannot show to be true, or face the consequences, then I would expect them to face the consequences. I realize that this analogy is flawed in that I am human, and god is infinite, but though the scale may be different, the idea is the same. I can't live up to *his* standards; it's just not possible for me. So whose fault is it again?

An infinite number, apparently; he never sends the same message twice, and I'm not going to get caught worshipping the wrong god!

Well, I have a feeling you won't be caught worshipping any god, Jan. Back to my previous statement. You are intelligent enough to discern the chaff from the wheat.

Yes, and if that makes everything chaff... ?

He'd give life, a brain that can reason, senses that look upon the world and see no evidence of his existence nor any need for it... Oops. Do you know which, of all sins, the one God despises the most, Jan? Arrogance. The belief that you are "all that" :) and God is, well, weak compared to you. The arrogance that leads people to believe that they are superior to others runs a close second.

I was under the impression that in god's eyes, all sins were equal, as all are ways in which we turn our back on him? A shoplifter is just as guilty as a mass murderer. Besides that, I don't think that using my "God-given" senses is arrogant; it's just the way I am, and changing that would be as difficult as changing the colour of my eyes or the DNA in every cell of my body.

and then condemn me to spend ETERNITY in hell for it?

You condemn yourself by disbelief. There aren't many requirements for getting into heaven, but I am certain that that believing in God is on the top of the list.

Hell it is, then. I can't believe what can't be substantiated.

Nice guy, that Jehovah. The ultimate in forgiveness and benevolence. And who are you to say I don't care about my "soul"? If I thought I had one (something supernatural, I mean), I would; I just don't see any evidence for one.

A soul is not physical, therefore, there is no way anyone can show it to you. Back to the "love" argument. Can't see love either. Can you prove to me that you love your husband?

No, nor do I need to. Nobody's eternal existence is relying on it. I don't expect a soul to be physical; but if there's no impact on me or my world that I can discern, then I can't assume it exists.

There was a recently-discovered example of a "transitory" fossil, halfway between a small dinosaur and a bird -- had forelimbs with bird-like structure and indications of feathers, but was to bulky to actually fly -- the wings were being used for something else. In modern terms, you might examine the flying squirrel, and other mammals of its type: they haven't quite got wings yet, using the stretched between their limbs to glide, but given time, will probably evolve into fully-flighted mammals, as bats have done. You seem to be under the impression that transitory features have to be useless -- evolution doesn't work that way. What starts out as being useful for one function -- say, an ancestor of the flying squirrel uses its skin flaps for camouflage or warmth -- gets co-opted for another function with time.

Are you referring to Archaeopteryx? I term this a "mosaic" form, not a transitional form.

It's not Archaeopteryx. I wish I could come up with the correct reference, but I haven't had the time to do a thorough search.

That is, each of its attributes was full developed and functional, not incipient or atrophying. Its wings and feathers were completed and perfect, not half-legs or half-scales in the process of evolving into wings and feathers. It was simply a toothed bird, now extinct, just like dinosaurs and pterodactyls. It was not an evolutionary transition at all.

Not Archy, because that's not the one I was thinking of. That one did have features that seemed "half-developed" but they were perfectly good for what it was using them for.

Well, Jan I have been at this far too long, and I am sure by now you probably agree:) So, off to bed for me. I will be looking forward, as usual to hearing from you soon. Best to you, my friend. Eva

I'll try to get to your next letter soon -- please don't reply to this one or yesterday's just yet, as there's still more to come, and I don't want us to cross in the mail -- these are long enough without us repeating ourselves :)

Warm regards,

Jan

***************** http://members.xoom.com/Rev_Jan/ *******************
* Rev. Jan A.N. * Better a bleeding heart than none at all.*      
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****** Proud Atheist since 1974 *** Dare to think for yourself! ******

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