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  •  So what? (5+ / 0-)
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    crose, tommymet, corvo, koseighty, 84thProblem

    I don't mean that as cruel or antagonistic.  As an agnostic, it seems to me that the first, last and always question is, so what?

    By definition, we don't and can't know if God exists, what s/he is like or what s/he wants or intends of us.

    So: So what?  what's the point of faith?  Religion started as rank magic and superstition:  to make life on earth better, pray for rain.  many many many people still use it for this purpose:  dear God, let me make this field goal, let my father survive his surgery.  I hope we can all agree that there is no reason to think that wishing and praying makes anything more or less likely to happen.

    So: once science came along, religion began to lean heavily on the afterlife:  That's why you have to behave in such-and-such way, don't touch yourself, don't steal, tithe to the church, whatever.  That's just more magic thinking: you're doing the program to get the reward.  That does not strike me as a good reason for going devout.

    So, does it make you a better person, does it make for a better world, does it provide crucial comfort?  

    Hey, it provides me a lot of suspended-disbelief comfort to indulge a belief in TV's Long Island Medium Teresa Caputo, when I think about my long-dead mother.  I'm all for that.  But, I cheerfully and happily acknowledge I have no idea one way or the other, and by definition, you can't know, one way or the other, til you die.

    It is a great comfort to me to know that, at the hour of my death, there is likely something, either physiological or otherwordly, that will make that difficult moment easier.  I'm glad to hear it.  If there's more, I'm looking forward to it.

    But for now, otherwise: so what?  What am I supposed to do differently with this alleged evidence, which by its very nature can never be proven?

    Plenty plenty plenty other things, imo, more worthy of my time, energy and heart, here on this earth, the only thing I do know is for certain.

    •  if nothing else, it's an interesting depiction of (4+ / 0-)

      a near-death experience from someone with a non-functioning neo-cortex.

      And written by a neurosurgeon.   That in itself, I think, makes it interesting--whether you believe his implications or not.

      •  It is very interesting (4+ / 0-)
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        tommymet, corvo, Quicklund, 84thProblem

        It is hardly new stuff, and--admittedly I have not read it--it is not proof of anything.  Similar experiences are reported from stroke victims (See, "My Stroke of Insight"), which have nothing to do with afterlife or near-death.  Clearly, there are powerful inklings of otherworldly truths, lurking in our intuitive brains.  It could be all physiology, it could be that within our brain chemistry lies knowledge planted by Him or Her.

        It is interesting stuff.  IMO, it does not prove a case for God.  You really can take it as proof either way--and me, perhaps just my biases, I take it as slightly more proof against the existence of god.  

        We now understand that visions and such can be produced by our powerful brains.  Joan of Arc did not know that.  Centuries ago, visions were decent evidence, reasonable reasons to pray or obey the voices in your head, or your prophet's head.  Today, that is no longer sufficient evidence.

        But, what's the point of knowing or not knowing?  What's the reason you choose to pray or go to church?  Test it against that test-- is this good or useful for what I can know and touch right now, or based on reproduceable evidence, can expect to know or touch tomorrow?

      •  Basic logical error. (5+ / 0-)

        Argument from Authority.

        Being a neurosurgeon does not mean that you can infallibly describe your own mental states when you were in no condition to bear witness to anything.

        As the saying goes, "The lawyer who argues his own cases has a fool for a client"

        "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

        by sagesource on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 12:12:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Afterlife, only when science came about? (1+ / 0-)
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      So: once science came along, religion began to lean heavily on the afterlife:
      This strikes me as entirely incorrect. Rewards in the afterlife are part of the very foundation of at least Christianity and Islam. Life in ancient times were miserable. A concept of afterlife probably made life's burdens easier to bear. "Life is hard but the afterlife is glorious" lies at the heart of most Western faiths.
      •  no to mention Egypt, Akkadia-- (2+ / 0-)
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        Quicklund, worldlotus

        'grave goods' are a central theme in archaeology.  The deposition of these in burial sites goes back many, many millennia...

        •  Which prompts me to reply (1+ / 0-)
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          With a big old "duhhhhhhhhh". How could I have skipped over them?

          Egyptians were pretty big on the afterlife thing. And they set the tone for quite a bit of what has come later.

          •  I don't remember my Egyptology (1+ / 0-)
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            all that well.  I didn't mean to posit that early religions had no concept of an afterlife.  Just that--especially in the Judeo-Christian tradition--the afterlife as a reward for good behavior became big with Christianity.  Early Jews prayed for good things here on earth, feared retribution for sin here on earth.

            My purely armchair take on all that is, as science--or, if you will, the neolithic revolution:  man takes more control over his earthly comfort, begins to see less connection with magic and more connection with repeatable cause-and-effect--then, religion gets into the afterlife business with more purpose.

            Or to take your point, about how hard life was in ancient times: the masses could see that no amount of praying was likely to return their investment with rewards on earth.  So, rewards in an afterlife became a more marketable stock-in-trade.

            Teh Egyptians, iirc, believed in an afterlife as a continuation of the current life, more or less.  Not where you got your reward or comeuppance.

            •  No professor here (0+ / 0-)

              It's just been my impression the afterlife deal arises from several causes. One being that making promises that are not paid off until the IOU holder dies are very easy to make and to keep. That's an advantage back in the eternally miserable days, if you are in a community leader role.

              But aside from those sort of things, the questions of life and death are ones which eternally fascinated mankind. Which still do, and which still remain at least partially unanswered.

              As to your point though, there is no question but that religions have marketed themselves to the masses in different ways during different eras. I'd say it's a chicken and egg thing. Does religion cause an interest in the afterlife or does an interest in the afterlife sow the seeds of religion? (C: None of the above?)

      •  Right, I meant (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Quicklund, 84thProblem

        with Christianity came the emphasis on rewards in an afterlife.  With early Jews, it was all about rewards (or punishment) here and now.

        Whether that shift came from science--the awareness that our efforts more than magic can make our lives more comfortable--or frustration--the awareness in the lower classes that no amount of praying was likely to make their lives here more comfortable.

        My point was, both are magical thinking.  Pray for a result, a reward.  And religion for that purpose, praying for a result either here or afterlife, that concept I have little purpose for.

        •  Thanks for the elaboration (1+ / 0-)
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          I describe myself as an agnostic too. Based on your other comments scattered through this section, I venture to say we are largely in agreement.

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