Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Logic, Religion and Spiritual Experience

For a very long time I have encountered attitudes such as that religion and spirituality are for idiots, lunatics and conmen. My response to that is that I do not have the luxury of such beliefs.

I am in no way a stupid person. I was very precocious as a child, and as a child I developed – through my own motivation – extensive knowledge of subjects such as geography, biology and astrophysics. I have an education in economics and psychology from a major American university, that I got at age 18. I also have extensive experience in computer industry. I can do logic well enough. However what I have found is that many people who claim to have logical worldview have adopted logic as a worldview rather than as a method; and that is a wrong conception of logic. Logic is about reasoning and evidence. When an experience contradicts one's worldview, the logical thing is not to deny the experience – as many who have this worldview are prone to doing – but to correct the worldview.

It is frequently thought by people who have this worldview that religious people are bigots. While some are just that, there are any number of others who have a very good reason for what they believe. I started out as a militant atheist. But I have had any number of experiences with less than a billionth chance of happening, whose only explanations are spiritual; and I am I no way the only one.

I will share some of these experiences here.

In 1995, I had a passionate relationship with a woman named Michelle, who had finished Harvard in three years and who was a poet. In 2000 I wanted to have it recapitulated. What happened was that I started corresponding with a woman named Michele, who had finished Caltech in 3 years, who was a poet, and who in 1995 had had a passionate relationship with a man from Bulgaria whose last name was similar to my middle name.

One day my girlfriend woke up in the middle of the night complaining that her ex-husband was talking to her in spirit. In the morning she decided to test this, so she said in her head, “OK Todd, if you have been talking to me in spirit then call me.” 30 seconds later Todd calls her and tells her that he has been talking to her in spirit.

One day, in a meditation, I saw an outpouring of sorrow in Argentina. Shortly thereafter I picked up a paper and found out that there was an outpouring of sorrow in Argentina because someone had died.

I used to see “master numbers” on the clock – numbers such as 2:22 or 5:55. One day I set up an experiment. I set four different clocks to four different times, and I recorded every time that I looked at the clock. One in ten of what I got were “master numbers” when by chance it would be one in sixty.

I was contemplating what kind of a woman I wanted, and I decided that I wanted the best artist. Soon after that, I met Julia, who was a magnificent artist as well as an especially beautiful woman, and she was in the middle of leaving her husband, which is the only time that a woman as beautiful as her would be single. I am neither especially attractive or especially socially skilled. When I met her, I wanted to introduce her to a friend of mine who is a successful businessman. But she told me that she had feelings for me. The result was me being with her and writing her a poetry book that made me – and her – the talk of DC poetry scene.

It would not at all be logical to deny these experiences, and many others that I have had. It is logical to use them to have a more complete view of reality. I do not deny chemistry or physics. I see it as being part of the picture rather than the whole picture. It is wrong to deny the validity of such things; but it is also wrong to deny the reality of spiritual experience.

I had a mathematics teacher named Henry Biddle, who was a devout Christian. Mr. Biddle was a brilliant and ethical man who continued teaching mathematics well into his retirement. He told me that there was nothing contradictory between Christianity and science. I know a distinguished professor at UVA, Roy Wagner, who talks openly about his and other people's spiritual experiences. I know a man who has written a book, sold in universities, showing how the paradigms of modern physics are consistent with the existence of God. I know a man with physics education who was able to tell my mother that her father, who was at that time across the country, had a pain in his arm.

Most people believe in something. The claim that all of these people are fools and lunatics – and the only rational people are ones who do not have such convictions – is narcissism and ignorance at its worst. Some people appear to have made a virtue of closed-mindedness. They think that they are logical and rational, but they aren't. If you haven't had such experiences, the logical solution is to investigate further. It is not to attack the people who either have had spiritual experiences or have religious beliefs.

When I was in high school, I had a conversation with a young mathematics teacher and talked to him about spiritual experiences. He told me that he ignored such things. This shows the basic dishonesty of the mindset. He disregards the things that do not parse into his view of the universe. That is not logic, and that is not reason. It is dishonesty.

Logic, once again, is a method, not a worldview. A logical person investigates things instead of attacking them or dismissing them. What I have seen on the part of any number of people who claim this worldview, however, is hideous conduct. They have assumed that anyone who has either spiritual experiences or religious beliefs is a fool, a lunatic or a conman. Out of this consideration they viciously attack anyone who has the preceding. The problem is, they will be attacking that way the bulk of humanity. And that is in no way a rational standpoint.

Now many of these people point to all sorts of cruelties that have been done by religious people. That has happened all right; but the religious people do not have a monopoly on such things. Stalin perpetrated much greater cruelties than either the Inquisition or Taliban. The ancient Romans saw Judaism and Christianity, as well as beliefs of the Druids, as superstitions; but they created an order in which three quarters of the population were slaves. The Chinese Communists – where do I start. I have seen much greater nastiness and cruelty in skeptics and 1990s feminists than I have seen in the Christians. Some recent beliefs in psychology claim that some people are evil and can only be evil whatever they do, which is a completely irrational standpoint. Christianity is much more reasonable on this subject. Christianity says that any sinner can be redeemed, and that anyone can act rightfully. This is consistent with the most basic human reality – the reality of choice and will. A person who actually is logical will recognize this reality.

Then there is the claim that religion is ignorance. No, it is not. It is ignorance to deny real science such as the science of global warming; it is not ignorance to follow the Bible or investigate Eastern religions or have spiritual experiences. In science itself, we see a succession of worldviews. That is especially the case in psychology, where we went from Freud to lobotomy man to humanistic psychology to personality psychology. A real scientist knows that there is always more there. A person who does not think so is not a scientist, nor is he a logical person. He is a bigot in every meaningful sense.

The bigotry of which he accuses religious people, but which he has in a much greater measure.

Once again, I started out as a militant atheist. My experiences have proven me wrong on that count. I keep seeking to reconcile what we know from science with what I – and many, many others – have known and experienced. Maybe Mr. Biddle was in the right; he most certainly was a better person than either these so-called “skeptics” or myself.

Now to be fair I've also seen keen intelligence in people outside Christianity, especially people of Hindu background. When I was in the computer industry I worked with many people from India, and most of them were highly spiritual while also being good at what they did. I have maintained friendships with some of these people, and both they and I have had useful things to tell one another. I have respect for these people. They were good enough at reasoning likewise. But that did not keep them from practicing yoga or meditation or from believing in Hinduism.

In short, it is time that correct conclusions be drawn on this subject. Logic is a method, not a worldview. Use logic to investigate things, which is the correct place for logic. If something contradicts the worldview, do not stomp it out but use it to investigate further. That way you arrive at a more complete understanding of reality.


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