He rises humbly above all of us poor suckers.
A slightly adapted resurrection from 2009 today. Inspired originally by an old article by Greta Christina.
What’s wrong with the hairy guys’ belief. I also may be like him except I’m not “spiritual”
“I’m not a fool, I’m an idiot”
Gotta love Greta. And yes, when people tell me they are spiritual it has a definite emetic effect.
There have been several callers to the Atheist Experience trying to expound this PoV
The fourth panel just screams out for a return of the “Blinking Eyes” for all involved, including our always unseen Barmaid.
I just LOVE Mo saying, “Jesus Fuck!” – my all-time fav curse!
I’ve been known to be somewhat spiritual myself at times. Usually sometime after the second bottle of gin…
I accidentally misread it at first as “I’m religious, not spiritual” … which was sort of funny for turning the cliché backwards.
This meme attempts to maintain the “2 party system” = less competition. The only time Fundamentalists and Atheists work together as they both like things all buttoned-up.
Holy Moses! It’s hard not to puke.
O goody it is to be spiritual
Religion has become virtual
Too kewl to commit
Another crock of trendy shit
Get a bucket to away with it haul.
OH NO! It’s the “other ways of knowing” syndrome!
Most of what is now considered “spiritual” will probably someday be explained as the result of observable phenomena. It’s an inevitable consequent of Clarke’s Third Law. I also venture to predict that most of those explanations will not only be the results of studies that have no apparent practical value, but also have profound effects. It will not be done by studying scriptures or omphalism, but by working in the real world; those who look to the supernatural for their answers will simply be left behind.
I think this is my all-time favorite comic of yours!
Spirituality is an often confused way of talking about emotions.
Love this one. It’s right up there with my all-time favourite http://www.jesusandmo.net/2006/10/30/suit/ , also featuring Moses, oddly enough.
I suspect that “I’m spiritual but not religious” could be translated as, I want to believe in an afterlife but don’t want to fast, go to church, etc etc.
Really funny! Best for ages.
“Supernatural” is of course an oxymoron.
And thanks for the link to Greta Christina … great stuff.
Go to YouTube and Goggle “Bad Vicar”. Mitchell and Webb did a hilarious take on this meme!
FYI In Greta Christina’s book WHY ARE YOU ATHEISTS SO ANGRY?, chapter six has an extended answer to this line of talk. She argues, among other things, that “S but not R” keeps many bad aspects of religion and leaves out the few good parts, such as community, shared ritual, charitable works, and a sense of belonging. It throws out the baby and keeps the bathwater, then pats itself on the back, saying “Look at all this wonderful bathwater I have!”
Being spiritual is just a way to pretend your religious without all the obligations of actually going to church and being part of an organized religion.
To be spiritual is to be not dumb enough to believe what’s in the holy books, but too dumb to understand science
SPIRITUAL, adj. – so open-minded that your brains have fallen out.
Now that’s what I call a definition, Hotrats.
If he would just replace “knowledge” with “guess”.
Another proud day for atheism as narcisists try to distance themselves from science
It’s almost as if certain ideological feminists beliefs are like a…oh…what’s the word now…tip of my tongue…help me out Ophelia…that’s it– “Religion”. That’s the word I was looking for. Thanks.
And folk looked at the “things you are not allowed to make jokes about” and the “list of permitted thoughts” and the “people whose opinions could be discarded because of their sex and colour” and:
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which…
Am going to enjoy atheism pluses extension. You alienated your natural allies. You adopted the methods of your enemies. The end never justifies the means. You lose. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Bl32n6-JXc
What if you have had a very convincing personal experience inclining you to believe there is a “spiritual” realm, but not enough to extend that to a belief in any kind of deity? I personally have had an experience of a poltergeist: very compelling evidence that what I had witnessed were indeed the activities of a restless, disembodied soul agitating for its undiscovered mortal remains to be buried. The activity in question took place in a shop premises, and greatly disturbed the shop assistant there. I personally witnessed the inexplicable slamming shut of the shop door on a totally windless, fine May morning. The poor assistant had to put up with much more than that – objects falling frequently from shelves, cash-register drawer suddenly shooting out to hit her in the stomach, her dogs refusing to come into the shop…lots of stuff. The “haunting” was even reported in the local press. Eventually a medium contacted the spirit and was given an address in Sunderland. Upon investigation, the body of an old tramp was discovered there (apparently a house in an abandoned and condemned terrace row); further inquiries revealed this man to be the uncle of the previous shop-owner, who had sold-up and emigrated to Australia many years earlier. I suppose the whole thing could have been a hoax, though to what purpose is very hard to explain, let alone the workings of it. Just too many corroborating facts and people, with nobody really profiting from any of it. Since that time I have remained a total atheist when it comes to deities and such, but I think I have every right to be a little less sceptical regarding what, for want of a better term, must be called “the Spiritual Realm”, though it does rather evoke table-rapping seances and Conan-Doyle getting sold on tales of garden fairies.
Hauntings and poltergeists often seem to be predicated on the torment of the soul for its unburied body, as in this story. Is there any good reason why this should be the case, especially as the whole point of the soul/spirit/ghost concept is that the corpse is no more than an empty, lifeless shell, from which the spirit is literally disembodied? Why should the spirit be any more attached to it than to a pair of worn-out shoes?
The story itself hinges on ‘a medium contacted the spirit and was given an address in Sunderland’. For a medium, this is oddly specific; whenever I have seen mediums in action they waffle as ambiguously as possible, while waiting for subtle cues from their victim to tell them when they are on a plausible track.
I can’t really answer your first question; why a “spirit” (whatever that entity actually consists of) should feel any kind of attachment to its mortal remains – although becoming impatient with them as an encumbrance when unburied doesn’t really surprise me. As far as your second comment goes, it was precisely the medium’s accuracy in locating the corpse that I found so compelling at the time. I believe she got the message from a Ouija session; I don’t really understand what you mean by “victim”, as she wasn’t actually interviewing anybody. When I talked to the shop-assistant later, she informed me that the medium had been alone in the shop back room at the time – the assistant, being of a nervous disposition, hadn’t wanted to take part at all. The medium then investigated the address herself, found the body and contacted the police. They did the rest of the investigation, discovering the link between the deceased and the premises where the haunting occurred. Again, the shop assistant knew about this because the police visited her as part of their inquiries – they wanted to check the lease of the shop to find out who the current owner had bought it from. I don’t personally know what kind of lead they had but that is what happened. I’m afraid this is one of those irritating experiences which can serve to convince only the person to whom it occurred. Again, I’m not seeking to convince anybody about ghosties and ghoulies, I’m simply asking, if this had happened to you, wouldn’t you personally feel a shade (ouch!) more cautious about dismissing…well, what to call them, “paranormal entities”?
Yes it’s true that 99.9% of those involved with “organised religion” are ignorant robots, and probably almost as many of the “spiritual” are equally risible. But ultimately the words don’t signify: there is something primary which you haven’t noticed, something which only empirical subjective enquiry will reveal.
When I talked to the shop-assistant later, she informed me that the medium had been alone in the shop back room at the time
…Where it is possible said medium found old paperwork giving a lead to the address of the deceased, while unobserved by the frightened shop assistant.
BTW I hope you’ve not been lying when you tick the box .
An interesting story but (and of course) far more easily explained as a set of coincidences embellished and sown together to make a story.
Why would that one undiscovered body cause so much disruption and the thousands (nay millions) of lost war dead never give a peep. The shops of Britain would have fallen down in 1919 and every year since if poltergeists of the lost dead commonly demanded burial!
What about others abducted and never found, children, political upheaval, etc.
Why would something that has never happened before or since happen this once and to such dramatic effect?
The account is not consistent with our normal experience and for that reason suspect from the outset. Any more rational explanation should be preferred.
Seems to be a case of what Greta C. calls ‘woo’:
“Any more rational explanation should be preferred”
Perhaps I should put the story on Greta’s blog too, though I’m not sure if it could be classified as “woo” exactly. Like most of you here I don’t have any truck with Homeopathy and suchlike either – one of the main reasons I stopped reading Huff. Post was its unquestioning promotion of this malicious nonsense. Anyway, the most pertinent response I could find on hotrats’ link was:
“…experiences like the one you describe need to be subjected to rigorous scientific inquiry — to screen out our minds’ tendency to be fooled.”
Which I can only agree with. Unfortunately, the experience I relate occurred back in the mid-eighties: Google maps reveals the shop in question is no more, and a phone call to a near-by, long-established hair-dresser, in the hope of contacting anyone involved in the events described, drew a complete blank. Anyway, rather than comparing the experience to “woo”, wherein the individuals concerned are generally actually primed, waiting and hoping for something “miraculous” to happen, I must point out that I had just walked into the shop to get my Sunday paper and a packet of tobacco. I wasn’t (and never have been) in any state of heightened expectation regarding poltergeists, though when the door suddenly and unexpectedly slammed shut, very loudly behind me for no apparent reason, I kind of joked to the shop-keeper “Have you got a poltergeist or something?” Just a silly harmless joke, but I will never forget the look she gave me by way of response… almost as if I had made a highly improper suggestion, or demanded all the money in the cash register. This was when she began to tell me about all the curious goings-on in the place up to that point. And this is where I have to take issue with the idea of a series of coincidences. As an explanation, it seems more far-fetched and incredulous than a supernatural one.
“…a set of coincidences embellished and sown (sic!) together to make a story”
Don’t your suggestions simply raise more questions than they answer? I suppose it is possible, for example, the medium just found such evidence (fortuitous event 1 – like, how many people have bits of paper lying around, waiting to be conveniently discovered, giving the final address of the vagrant uncle of the previous owner of their rented home?); for there then to be anybody, but especially a dead body, (fortuitous event 2) in the very location given, (an abandoned and condemned slum) actually looks very much like the beginnings of a murder mystery. Perhaps the medium was really a serial killer who then cunningly exploited the deaths of her victims to make a living as some kind of sham-exorcist…
I’ll change my moniker to NOTASPAMMER .
Perhaps I should simply sit down and write out the whole story from beginning to end, as faithfully as memory permits. Admittedly, in the end it is only one person’s uncorroborated account: I repeat though, I am simply asking “If this had happened to you, wouldn’t you be a little more open-minded on at least this area of the supernatural”? This whole post actually reminds me of the “Argument from Personal Experience” line which some individuals deploy to explain their religious faith. I actually have enormous sympathy for people who have come to believe via such an experience, and do not immediately denounce them as “deluded” or “hallucinatory” or “credulous”. On the other hand I wouldn’t, simply because of such highly convincing personal accounts, proceed to embrace their beliefs, but I might reflect on the version of Swinburne’s “Principle of Credulity” proposed by philosophers such as William Lycan, wherein we are more or less obliged to give veridical credence to personal experience, as obtained through cognitive and perceptive faculties, or otherwise descend into a hopeless saturation of sceptism which throws everything our senses tell us into complete doubt.
SPAMMER, an interesting story but, as with all the best ghost stories the details just don’t make sense. Before I go into details of the actual goings-on, there is the question of your involvement in the tale, and how you came to know the details you related to us.
Assuming that the ‘haunting’ took place only before the body was discovered (the assumption being that the ‘haunting’ ceased on discovery of the body), and that your experience of the slamming door was part of that same phenomenon, when and how did you come to learn the details concerning the actions of the medium and the discovery of the body?
@ SPAMMER – Occam’s razor!
This whole post actually reminds me of the “Argument from Personal Experience” line which some individuals deploy to explain their religious faith. I actually have enormous sympathy for people who have come to believe via such an experience, and do not immediately denounce them as “deluded” or “hallucinatory” or “credulous”.
Have a look at this Derren Brown experiment on how to give an atheist (with demonstrable limited susceptibility to suggestion) a religious experience.
The most important question is not what exactly happened to you in the mid-80′s and how it can be explained. The vast majority of the known universe cannot be explained and might never be.
The question that matters is whether or not you truly believe that a singular reality exists independently of our minds. No one can convince you of that one way or another, and every person must decide this for themselves.
If you accept this premise, then everything else follows. (I won’t elaborate on how or why, but I’m sure lots of people can. You first have to decide what you believe about the premise.)
Don’t your suggestions simply raise more questions than they answer?
Short Answer? No.
Coincidences happen all the time. As I pointed out hundreds of millions (even billions) of people have died their bodies not disposed of in accordance with the ritual of their culture.
Some of those will be followed by a series of events that are individually not exceptional but can be (ahem) woven into a surprising account told carefully.
If anything it’s mildly surprising how few such stories there are. Though, of course, they probably need the body to found to satisfy the supernatural explanation. Though all of them count as evidence that the dead don’t ask to be buried.
Since we know poltergeist are something that happens extraordinarily rarely if at all we do just wander back to the coincidences explanation and be happy with it.
Anything else is to contradict the evidence of our wider experience.
I’m an Empiricist and I know by experience ignoring experience is folly.
I’d be very wary about appealing to Occam’s Razor. Richard Swinburne argues for simplicity, but this doesn’t seem to stop him believing in God, you know…
Thanks for the link anyway. I’m a big Derren Brown fan so I’ll enjoy this one over a beer and report back l8r.
I agree with you about the relative triviality, all things considered, of my “encounter”. You speak of agreeing with a “premise”. As far as I know, a premise is an assumption that something is true; it’s just a little difficult to know, from your wording, to what particular premise you refer: that each person must independently decide whether or not reality is a truly external entity or a product of their imagination, that such a decision cannot be made for you? Is such a decision actually possible though? Won’t you inevitably tail off into the classic, unresolvable triad of Yes, No or Don’t Know? When you try to get to grips with this kind of issue, you end up vacillating, Hilary Putnam style, between your own “brain in a vat” hypothesis, for example, and outright refutation thereof.
@Acolyte of Sagan:
“…as with all the best ghost stories, the details just don’t make sense”
I call this the “Jesus and Pilate” syndrome – how does anyone know what was discussed between them when there was no witness. It’s a valid criticism, and in my case all I can say is that everything I know about later events came from the shop-keeper, who presumably was kept in touch with developments via the medium. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the police did visit in the course of their inquiries, trying to establish the identity/connections of the body discovered…or so she told me. Admittedly I never demanded precise details about the lines of communication, or incontrovertible evidence, or information about sources, or was able to personally verify that the deceased was related to the previous owner; in fact I never even saw any corpse or anyone who had seen it. I might add another weird little detail though; shortly after that initial contact, I rushed home to tell everyone about the poltergeist at our local shop. My flatmates were as sceptical and sarcastic as you could wish, but they got a bit of a surprise when the local free advertising-newspaper dropped through the letter-box a few days later. Apparently some cub-reporter had got hold of the story, interviewed our shop-keeper and put the “scoop” on their little front page. I was even mentioned thus: “A regular customer really shocked me when he asked me if we had a poltergeist…” blah blah. There was even a photo of her (can’t recall her name) weighing out sweets.
By the way, wouldn’t the worst – rather than the best – ghost stories, the least believable, suffer from inconsistency of detail? I’m not sure what inconsistency you believe you have spotted, other than the “weakness” of over-dependency on second-hand narrative. I find it really interesting how everybody here seems so anxious to pick holes in the story, but no-one seems to want to address the real issue why I am writing this: namely, can’t we allow somebody credit for believing their own empirically obtained knowledge, and where exactly do you draw the line at sceptical disbelief? Pursued to its limit, won’t one simply begin to doubt one’s own existence. This is a topic I found myself discussing with the philosopher Nicholas Everitt, after reading his excellent book The Non-existence of God. He too recommends a provisional acceptance of the revised Principle of Credulity I detailed above. It is my provisional acceptance of this tenet that leads me to take issue with Author here on this blog. I didn’t really come here to get bogged down in the details of a poltergeist encounter.
Thank you for promoting me to the same rank as Oliver Onions, Charles Dickens and M R James, though.
NOTASPAMMER, please don’t tell us that you thought you could post a ghost story, here of all places, and not expect us to pick it to pieces?
You see, you begin by telling us that you; ” ..personally have had an experience of a poltergeist: very compelling evidence that what I had witnessed were indeed the activities of a restless, disembodied soul, but the only ‘evidence’ that you personally witnessed was a door slamming; for the rest you rely totally on hearsay, which is neither compelling evidence nor personal experience. This alone makes me very sceptical of the story as a whole.
What also makes me sceptical is the idea that a medium could locate a body – a-la Alison Dubois – and bring it to the notice of the local police without the story making national headlines. Fair enough, ‘Body Found in Derilict House’ is no more than a local headline, but ‘Medium Guided to Body by Ghost’ would almost certainly attract more attention.
Then there’s the question of the body itself. You don’t mention whether the discovery itself made it into the local paper, just that the paper ran a story about the goings-on in the shop. Fow long had the body lain before discovery? I ask because I find it highly unlikely that a body could lay undiscovered in a derilict house for any length of time. Derilicts are a magnet for kids (or were, before the little shits got computers and laziness and forgot how to play out) and for the homeless, especially in areas with low incomes and high unemployment rates – such as Sunderland, of course. The point being that the body would in a all likelihood have been found quickly after death, unless of course the body were deliberately hidden from view. But a body hidden from view suggests deliberate concealment, which in turn suggests third-party involvement, which in turn suggests a higher media profile for the now-suspicious death.
I can fully accept that the shopkeeper experienced unusual but easily explained phenomena; I can accept that the shopkeeper might have asked a medium to investigate; what I find hard to accept is that the medioum was able to hold a seance, get the corpses’ address from the its disembodied spirit then tootle off to the house and find the body. So unless the seance and discovery happened on the same day, which apparently wasn’t the case if your slamming door was part of the ‘haunting’ and was therefore after the seance but prior to discovery, I find it easier to believe that the medium had somehow heard of the discovery and subsequent visit to the shop, and then gone to the shop to claim credit for the find. After all, if the ‘ghost’ had really revealed its whereabouts to her, why was there a delay before she actually went along to locate it? Again, that sort of success would certainly have made the national news.
sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. I’m not saying that the “encounter” was trivial. Just that our knowledge of the world is, by definition, imperfect. No ghost story can be fully disproven.
“whether or not reality is a truly external entity or a product of their imagination, that such a decision cannot be made for you? Is such a decision actually possible though?”
yes and yes. at least as far as I’m concerned
“When you try to get to grips with this kind of issue, you end up vacillating, Hilary Putnam style, between your own “brain in a vat” hypothesis”
this is my point – I, personally, don’t vacillate. Any arguments I can make will only make sense to someone who agrees or, at the very least, can work from the assumption that the world is real and external to us.
Once you agree, even for the sake of argument, that the world exists independent of our senses or feelings, then all you have to do is take your measurements and observations and do the math on the probabilities. The results are ALWAYS boring and simple.
Basically I’m saying that I can do the math on the probabilities until I’m blue in the face, but if the other person doesn’t accept that the world is not shaped by human thoughts, no matter how counterintuitive, then all the math is a waste of time.
What nik said. Except for ‘math’, there’s an ‘s’ missing from the end
@Acolyte of Sagan – *shakes fist* in Amur’ka we speak Amurikan!
I know, nik, but we don’t hold it against you.
I think @notspam raises a very pertinent point. It is to do with the black and whiteness of things. The Unbearable Greyness of Being.
I was brought up as an Anglican Christian and was even confirmed as a young teen. It had not been long before then that I had my first experiences with a ‘ghost’ in the form of polterghoost (to quote Neil form the Young Ones) that first visited me in Ireland and followed me to school in Essex and hung around until the school chaplain dealt with it as part of his routine pastoral care.
By the time I had left school I had largely rejected my specifically Christian upbringing but not yet spirituality per se; the hypocrisy and culpability had burned organised religion for me but I still had a faith in something beyond humanity – I didn’t so much dabble with paganism as allow druidism a voice in the babble of proselytising (favourite solstice spiritual dilemma of the time; to celebrate solstice dawn with the antics of Hawkwind or the Druids at the Stones but that was before the Police came).
Mostly I had a determined faith in humanity.
I was also particularly impressed by a couple of long hairs who ran a New Age bookshop in the porch of St James’ Church in Piccadilly where the incumbent rebel priest welcomed derelicts and even invited Souxsie and the Banshees to perform in front of the alter. (My favourite quote of the event: “She can’t play here! This is an holy place!” To this day I don’t know if that young punk’s deference was to the band or the spirit.) Anyway these two hippies (in the best possible taste) had re-discovered their faiths and were quite comfortable separating the man from the myth, celebrating the message of Jesus without bothering to believe in the nonsense of his virgin birth.
Through those associations I learned of Robert Lyle’s theories of The Global Brain (postulating that the next evolutionary leap for humanity when we have reached 10 billion consciousnesses).
And I still believe in the power of collective consciousness, that humanity will prove to be more than the sum of its parts. Is this a spirituality?
By and by Mark Twain’s ‘What is Man’ and Douglas Adams’ HHG2G became my bibles. However it was not until I read ‘The Salmon of Doubt’ that I concluded i was indeed an Atheist – and probably a radical one at that.
We celebrated the birth of a son with a Celtic welcoming ceremony (the forerunner of christenings whereby the godparents commit to providing the child with a specific education such as music or language rather than the narrow commitment to god). By the time a sibling was born we had moved and no longer had ready access to a pagan priestess but we too had moved on and it was unlikely we would have repeated the procedure.
However I would not be surprised to find our daughter has feelings of loss, or rather, of being left out. In a similar manner that a wedding marks a commitment and provides an opportunity for a party a christening or welcoming celebrates a new life. And she is not blessed with godparents of any description which I think I regret on the whole.
My point of risking boring you with a life story is that perhaps if I had not been through that inexplicable episode as a child I might have reached where I am now much sooner. Sure I always did romanticise it a little and embellish the story with bits that I knew would be willingly received and it did enable me to be a centre of some attention. But none of that negates the fact that I really did believe I had witnessed something supernatural. Indeed just the other day I was saying how of course it must have a rational explanation but some still preferred to believe my original interpretations even if I no longer did.
Many succumb to a human hankering for something else and that engenders a bias towards spiritual explanations for the inexplicable but not all these are the domain of charlatans. Some are clearly ‘woo’ (great post btw). Others are just weird.
Of the experiences I witnessed as a child there remain a couple that I cannot explain even when stripped of embellishments. I can see completely how they prolonged my journey towards a rational enlightenment.
And thus I can understand why Notaspammer has hung onto his position and even brought it to this forum. I now wonder how he rationalises his experiences. Certainly there can’t be a better place to test them. I rather missed FreeFox in this discussion – somehow I’m sure he’d have a penny worth.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s two main differences (for me) between spiritual and religious. Religious is a rigorous and hard line set of “laws” or “codes,” if you will, that are intended to keep you in line and discourage you from seeking out and expanding upon your own individuality. In other words, religion asks you to conform to the herd mentality, while Spirituality is about building upon the strengths and working on the weaknesses within yourself. It’s more about YOU than anything else… Religion always tells you you’re a sinner from day one, and are going to burn in hell/die forever/whatever your religious “death” is, while spirituality teaches that you have been given creative powers, and have control over your life via the choices you make and the way you frame your thoughts. I tend to see grains of truth in all religions, but once again, EVERY religion on this planet is MAN MADE… It’s some founder’s idea of what their fellow man should be doing and how they should be worshiping the god of their choice… I believe in the bible, where it says that god made man in his image, I think that was mistranslated… Surely god doesn’t LOOK like us, or have a humanistic form. I think it means we were given to a share of what the creator’s original function was… TO CREATE. And I’ve learned that by a constant mental effort, you DO create the kind of life you want to live. This I think is the greatest gift of all; to appreciate that, unlike what religions teach, YOU ARE POWERFUL. You have control over your life, and that’s the ultimate gift. Religions don’t want man to learn that, because then man doesn’t need religion.
I get that, VoD, it makes sense to me.
Still I find myself somewhat troubled by all this. I am absolutely content with my conclusion that there is no god but I also feel that there is more to humanity than a life. I don’t think it is a soul, or rather that the word soul carries too much baggage to be of service, but I do still believe that sum of a human is potentially more than the flesh & blood and nine to five.
I am struggling to decipher the relationships between conspiracy theory, woo and personal conviction. I want to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The scientific method cannot provide the ultimate answer merely the latest explanation. I still firmly believe in the likes of organic agriculture and natural health and wonder how many of my fellows at the Cock and Bull concur.
Such thoughts are less to do with religion or spirituality that with who I once was and what I believed quite passionately and rationally.
And they do keep me awake at night!
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