The original thread is gone. That would be my bad.

Here's what happened, told in my usual verbose parenthetical style. If you just want to get on with it, skip past the italics.

I originally registered for Atheist Nexus last Sunday after listening to a Chariots of Iron podcast where AN was mentioned, while on a bus from Wilmington NC to Washington DC following the Christmas holiday. Since I was using my Motorola Droid (which is cooler than shit, by the way) I actually registered on the bus using this hand-held computer, browser and Twittering system with GPS cabability with which, I'm told, you can also make phone calls with.

I have two Gmail accounts, one using my given name which syncs directly with Google Calendar and Google Docs and I use mostly for work, family and my capacity as director of the National Association of Hen Teasers (I can get a chicken from head-under-wing asleep to apoplectic in 30 seconds, but anyway...) and the other is associated with my site and the nom de guerre "Mykeru" (which is a story in itself). Being too lazy to switch accounts, I registered using the email for my given name and thought that I could fill in the pseudonym later. Which I did. What I didn't realize was that the underlying architecture of Atheist Nexus was a tool of Satan and used my initial registration to create a URL using my given name.

Now, keep in mind that I'm an atheist, a recovered alcoholic and an incorrigible asshole who tends to overshare anyway, so although I can't keep everything separate, I try not to make things easy for fuck nozzles who use Google as the groundwork for being complete assholes. Seriously, once I had right-wing nutbags get my name from the domain information on my site, when it was poorly protected by RCN and cause all sorts of mischief. I since changed from HTML to WordPress and moved the whole operation to Laughing Squid, who not only protect anonymity better, but just love a good bogus DMCA notice that they can chew up and spit back into some lawyers face.

Plus, and this is important, by using the Mykeru brand name, I can be even more of a pain in the ass than I already am.

I'm about to reboot my site and I would like to have the ability to link to my page on AN without giving the whole game away. I tried to change the URL in the settings, no good. I changed the email, but still the URL held my name. I sent a couple "issue" reports to AN, but no response.

I was spending more time trying to deal with this dumb quirk "through channels" than it really deserved in terms of redoing my profile. So before I added too much content I decided to just delete my registration and re-register making sure that the mark of quality that is "Mykeru" was used. I figured I would have to redo my profile, add my picture again and make friends all over again.
I didn't. Miraculously, when the re-register was approved, the page came back with all settings, links and what have you intact.

However, and I didn't expect this: The fucking thread "Religion vs. Spirituality" was gone. Just gone. I thought maybe, if anything, my remarks might disappear, making it sort of one-sided, but the entire thing was gone.

So, for everyone who contributed to that thread, offered their thoughts and opinions, whether they were really stupid or not, I apologize profusely. Although I don't have a problem with my writing in that thread being deleted, there is no way that I intended the same for everyone else who contributed.

I fully accept whatever punishment is coming to me, especially if you are anything from a 20-something girl to a cougar in the metro Washington DC area with an extensive latex wardrobe and really like horned guys with creepy lemur eyes.


So, where were we? The thread began relating religion to spirituality and degenerated into an exercise in lexicography and Howard's fuck-all worthless opinion.

So, taking it from there:

1. Does the term "spiritual" necessarily involve the supernatural? I claim it does and people who use it in any other way are just too lazy to use a dictionary. Is using the term for the non-supernatural just sloppy language? Is using it aiding and abetting the religious by at the very least seeming to be fellow travellers?

2. Can one be an atheist and not be a skeptic towards the supernatural? This is the reverse of the case I hear reported at the last The Amazing Meeting (TAM) where Matt Dillahunty of The Atheist Experience recounts that the "skeptics" in attendance were told to lay off those skeptics who were also theists. I can't disagree more with that, and think those kid gloves represents another example of religion getting a pass. But is the reverse true: Can one be a critical atheist, whose lack of belief is derived from rational grounds and not also be a skeptic when it comes to the "spiritual"?

3. Is Atheist Nexus' underlying architecture a tool of Satan?

Tags: boners, religion, spirituality

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soul, emotion
soul, aka talent
god inc. monopolizing fears and wonders of youth, money
common sense, makes sense
conscience, better have one (I realize because 'science' in part of the word it's tough to have for fundies)

anyhew, enjoy the debates
no god, no problem - strong atheist tiz I
"Goddess of the Vibes on December 31, 2009 at 9:21pm
...This is great: everyone is so absolutely convinced of being right. Everybody's got everybody else's reality figured out somehow.. hmm.. seems suspect to me."

I don't make this accusation lightly or often, but personally, I think she's a fucking blatant troll.
It's a seperate issue, but sometimes I wince at the debate being drawn as "science v. religion". As if the only opposition to religion is science. Science is just the most formal end of the methodology that could more broadly called "horse-sense".

Very often religious assertions fail not a scientific standard, but a mere informal logic, ie, common sense standard of, say, not contradicting oneself. One of the most frustrating things about religion and the religious, is that they have the art of contradicting themselves, often in the same sentence, without pause, down to a, well...science.

That one can't have a square circle or a ball that is both red and green all over at the same time isn't a scientific objection, it's common sense. Yet religions propound these sort of "mysteries" as part of their dogma.
I think she is supporting the right of people to expound nonsense provided they call it "spiritual", without big meanie absolutists like you bullying her by asking her what she means.

Nice work if you can get it, eh?
What I want is respectful communication and discussion. It's cool, it's actually great to be passionate. Just don't be abusive. Simple as that.

Hell yes, diplomacy and tolerance are necessary. Look at the state of things out there. Thank you for recognizing and acknowledging this.

I don't think anyone should compromise intellectually. I think people should respect each other's rights to different points of view provided no one is forcing anything on anyone. I think it would be extra cool if people would take an earnest interest in others points of view, how and why they got there, etc, without anybody on a superiority trip or feeling the need to be disrespectful. Those are the best kind of discussions in my book.

Again, disagreement: cool. Disrespect: not cool.
M: "I think she is supporting the right of people to expound nonsense provided they call it "spiritual", without big meanie absolutists like you bullying her by asking her what she means"

Of course it is not bullying to ask a person what s/he means. I wish you would do more of that than make the goofy assumptions you're making and then getting all upset about.

Bullying=flaming=trollism online. That's you, pal. And as I admitted, I got into scrap mode too there for a bit at your behaviour but have settled down now and would actually like to continue the discussion in a more respectful manner.

Btw, do you not see yourself as an absolutist? I'm confused.. because this is honestly how you come across to me. It sounds like you are denying it and/or not agreeing with this perception of you. Please clarify.
I don't support any particular spirituality and certainly don't support organized religion, but I do support (and apparently will fight for) anyone's free choice to believe what they like as long as they are not abusing others or shoving anything down anyone's throats, as I've previously stated.

I personally believe there are natural causes for everything. Nothing to me is "supernatural," but some things are very hard to explain (so far), even for science. I do not believe in seances, ghosts, or giant bearded guys floating on clouds up in the sky. I do believe in humility and think Socrates hit the nail on the head for mankind.. Despite being a great intellect, when he said, "The only thing I truly know is that I know nothing at all." He was talking about the necessity of a degree of uncertainty and the dangers of "knowing" (absolutism) and taking a theory to be the truth. They thought the earth was flat once.

I consider myself atheist, but I have also had experiences that can't be explained with most conventional sciences. Take quantum physics, however, and some of the "woowoo" might make some degree of sense. But some stuff just can't be explained away or ignored. Take intuition. There are both spiritual and scientific explanations for or interpretations of it. I experience intuition as a feeling of "knowing" that is both physical and somehow "spiritual" (for lack of a better word). I have often been hesitant to just trust my gut feelings about things because contrary to popular belief around here, I am actually very skeptical of woowoo stuff, even within myself. But I have found, through experience (ie empiricism) that my intuition knows what it's talking about. If I trust and follow it, things go well. If I don't, they don't go so well, but I learn an important lesson: always trust your gut.

I see "intuition" as a deeper part of our natural intelligence. It might be any or all of the following: acute sensitivity to emotional energies, perhaps via pheromones or perceiving and interpreting subtle body language indicators faster than the conscious mind can grasp, etc. It's proven that we have capacities for layers of consciousness (as has been extensively studied by the likes of neuroscientists, Jung, Wilber, etc) which can perhaps provide different sets of information, to which we can either tune into or out of to utilize the info or not. What still confounds me is the less explanable stuff.

Here's a little story: my sister and I discovered an ant's nest between two trees in our back yard as kids. There were ants going about their daily business in the nest and ant highways up and down the trees. It was pretty interesting.. my sister took a blade of dry grass and stuck it into the nest a few times on the ground (yeah, she was kinda mean), and of course those ants became upset and started running around trying to defend the nest and attack the intruder. But what we couldn't figure out was how the ants on the tree trunks, high up and far away from the ants on the ground, knew too, and started running around madly at the exact same time. Turns out, it's pheromones that are released from the poison and jaw glands that are the signal, and it's just that quick.

I get that, but what I don't get is stuff like: how do some people know about things happening to loved ones who are far away? Like that famous mountain climbing couple: he'd gone up Everest and she was staying with a friend many miles away. She awoke crying suddenly at precisely 6:15 or something screaming "Jim's dead!" and her friend was trying to console her and talk her down, but she just knew, she said. She'd dreamed it. Three hours later they got the call, that he'd fallen and died at that exact time. Same thing with the man I mentioned earlier who's Mom died. Exact time. Same thing for me when my nephew was born. Down to the minute. Can't be pheromones or body language reading in these cases. Can't be fallacy of selection or confirmation bias. Can't be "craziness." Perhaps something to do with awareness/consciousness? Individuals' perceptual sensitivities somehow? This is the stuff that is hard to ignore and harder still to explain.

I would love to see some serious and respectful debate or theorizing about this if we can handle that. Bet Mykeru's gonna totally cop out on this one and say I'm making it all up and/or attack me. Maybe a few of you will, because its too weird to get your head around. It certainly has been for me. I still don't freaking know how that happened, it just did. Hence my orientation as an open minded atheist.

I realise that not many (if any) people here have likely ever experienced anything like that and therefore understand it will be hard to believe. And it will be easy for you to write me off as some whackjob, because this is the land of online what I am saying may not fit into your understanding of things. Hell, it doesn't even fit into my understanding of things. The best I've come up with about it is, "Huh?!" BTW I'm not concluding anyone is psychic or clairvoyant here. These are clearly flukey occurrences and not repeated.. but still, how in the heck..?
Perhaps this will provide a benchmark for discussing woo:

"A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence. In such conclusions as are founded on an infallible experience, he expects the event with the last degree of assurance, and regards his past experience as a full proof of the future existence of that event. In other cases, he proceeds with more caution: He weighs the opposite experiments: He considers which side is supported by the greater number of experiments: to that side he inclines, with doubt and hesitation; and when at last he fixes his judgment, the evidence exceeds not what we properly call probability."

--David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Chapter X, On Miracles.

Fred, proponents of woo always throw out the accusation that skeptics are not "open-minded". This is no longer a discussion of atheism, per se, but of skepticism.

The accusation makes one glaring, unforgivable assumption: That the skeptic rejects the woo claim without prior investigation. That is, the advocate of woo is claiming that the skeptic is like one of those guys standing on the sands of Kitty Hawk watching the Wright Brothers expounding "flight is a scientific impossibility".

Nonsense. All the proponent of woo has to do is "get it in the air", so to speak, to silence criticism.

The fact is, proponents of woo always talk in vague quasi-rigorous language, like "emotional energies", but since its not specified what in hell this sort of energy is (electro-magnetic, kinetic, ATP, calories, spring-wound, sports drink? Who in fuck knows) they never demonstrate squat. And anytime woo has been checked under controlled conditions (Randi's Million Dollar Challenge) or against known fact for veracity (Larry Kusche's Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved) it has failed miserably.

"The many instances of forged miracles, and prophecies, and supernatural events, which, in all ages, have either been detected by contrary evidence, or which detect themselves by their absurdity, prove sufficiently the strong propensity of mankind to the extraordinary and the marvellous, and ought reasonably to beget a suspicion against all relations of this kind."

--Hume, ibid.

So miserably that proponents of woo fall under David Hume's description of proponents of miracles from Chapter X of Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, "On Miracles":

"The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), "That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish; and even in that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior." When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion."

--Hume, Ibid, emphasis added.

Hume isn't speaking about dismissing miracles (woo) out of hand, he is judging the claims in light of prior knowledge, past experience, and experimentation.

What's more, and this is the key thing, what he is rejecting is accepting woo on the basis of testimony. Christians even call it "testifying". Proponents of woo always have some story like "I had a friend who...". Well, we dismiss that not because we stamp our feet and say "that can't happen", we dismiss it because it either has never happened, and someone's claim isn't sufficient evidence that it did, or the underlying claim itself (such as claims of precognition) has been gone over a hundred times before and either come up lacking or has yet to address more common-sense explanations like the fallacy of selection.

I don't know if you are familiar with Charles Schultz's comic strip Peanuts, but there was one running joke about kicking a football. Every Fall Lucy offers to hold a football so Charlie Brown can kick it. Every year Charlie Brown protests that she's going to pull the football away and he'll land flat on his back. Lucy convinces Charlie Brown that this time it will be different and, predictably, he ends up flat on his back, with Lucy offering some ad hoc rationalization for pulling the football away.

The proponents of Woo are, at best, Lucy. Either they don't know that evidence for woo has been given, gone over and rejected for good cause, or they expect-- when they relate their personal woo-- that we are supposed to pretend that, say, precognition hasn't been done to death, and accuse skeptics of being "close-minded" for either not being as ignorant as they are on the subject or for not pretending to be ignorant out of courtesy.

Which is why I think proponents of woo fall into two broad camps of the "deceived or deceiving": They are either self-deceived as they are not qualified to have a discussion of the very woo they are propounding by virtual of not having the necessary background of prior investigation, or they are just, for some reason or other, lying, if only to themselves.
Eat me. ;)
Sorry, just a joke as you brought up civility.

I even used the winking smilie as required by the International Board of Just Kidding, Division of Practices and Standards.
My father is in his 70s. When I was down for the holidays he had a really bad cold and was hacking and coughing.

The other night I had a dream that he died.

Last I checked, post-dream, he was still alive.

This, of course, will continue until I can claim a psychic "hit".

After which, I will celebrate by going to the psychic casino where you never fail to win big, because they let you count the hits and ignore the misses, unlike those meanie "close-minded" casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
"But I have found, through experience (ie empiricism) that my intuition knows what it's talking about."

This is not "empiricism", it's subjective. Empirical phenomena is "information gained by means of observation, experience, or experiment", but, and this is the key point: It's observable by anyone and replicable by anyone.

A key way to see this is by looking at the history of "N-Rays". From the Wikipedia entry:

In 1903, Blondlot, a distinguished physicist who was one of 8 physicists who were corresponding members of the French Academy of Science[1] announced his discovery while working at the University of Nancy attempting to polarize X-rays. He had perceived changes in the brightness of an electric spark in a spark gap placed in an X-ray beam which he photographed and he later attributed to the novel form of radiation, naming it the N-ray for the University of Nancy.[2] Blondlot, Augustin Charpentier, Arsène d'Arsonval and approximately 120 other scientists in 300 published articles[1] claimed to be able to detect N-rays emanating from most substances, including the human body with the peculiar exception that they were not emitted by green wood and some treated metals.[3] Most researchers of the subject at the time used the perceived light of a dim phosphorescent surface as "detectors", although work in the period clearly showed the change in brightness to be a physiological phenomenon rather than some actual change in the level of illumination.[4] Physicists Gustave le Bon and P. Audollet and spiritualist Carl Huter even claimed the discovery as their own,[5] leading to a commission of the Académie des sciences to decide priority.[6]

The "discovery" excited international interest and many physicists worked to replicate the effects. However, the notable physicists Lord Kelvin, William Crookes, Otto Lummer and Heinrich Rubens failed to do so. Following his own failure, self-described as "wasting a whole morning", American physicist Robert Wood, who had a reputation as a popular "debunker" in the period, was prevailed upon by the journal Nature to travel to Blondlot's laboratory in France to investigate further. Wood suggested that Rubens go since he had been the most embarrassed when the Kaiser asked him to repeat the French experiments and then after two weeks he had to report his failure to do so. Rubens, however, felt it would look better if Wood went since Blondlot had been most polite in answering his many questions.

In the darkened room, Wood secretly removed an essential prism from the experimental apparatus, yet the experimenters still said that they observed N-rays. He also secretly replaced a large file that was supposed to be giving off N-rays with an inert piece of wood, yet the N-rays were still "observed". His report on these investigations, published in Nature,[7] suggested that N-rays were a purely subjective phenomenon, with the scientists involved having recorded data that matched their expectations. By 1905 no one outside Nancy believed in N-rays even as Blondlot himself is reported to have still been convinced of their existence in 1926.[1] Martin Gardner, referencing Wood's biographer William Seabrook's account of the affair, attributed a subsequent decline in mental health and eventual death of Blondlot to the resulting scandal,[8] but there is evidence that this is at least an exaggeration of the facts.[1]


The key point is that Blondlot was the only person who could observe N-Rays. No one else could replicate this observations and even after Wood tampered with the mechanism Blondlot continued to see N-Rays and continued to believe in their existence long after the debunking.

It does point out one of the key features of subjectivists (such as some present company on this thread), and that is complete close-mindedness to question their beliefs even when they are shown time and time again to be wrong.

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