I am sure that most of you, weather you be Atheists of Theists have heard a whole lot about God's Will. This is thrown out like verbal diarrhea every time that someone dies or a natural disaster occurs. I have often questioned why people are so quick to say that a kid that gets caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting received a "gift" and that it was God's Will that she get shot and killed in a park. How is that a gift? What proof is there that she is in a better place? Who are you to make such claims? It may sound nice and comforting at the time, but it is not all that it is cracked up to be. As the title of this post implies, I am going to be talking about God's will and our own freedom. Does God's Will take away our freedom?
To start let us look at the Frankfurt Cases. This is a thought experiment that involves two cases that are identical, except for one part.

Case 1
There are two men: Smith and Jones. Smith is pointing a gun at Jones and is deciding whether or not to shoot him. There is also an evil demon that COULD control the outcome. In this case Jones decides not to shoot Jones, however the evil demon forces Smith to pull the trigger and kill Jones.

Case 2
There are two men: Smith and Jones. Smith is pointing a gun at Jones and is deciding whether or not to shoot him. There is also an evil demon that COULD control the outcome. In this case Smith decides to shoot Jones with his own free will, and the evil demon does nothing.

Take a good look at these cases. What do you notice? First off, they are identical except for one part, which is where the evil demon comes in. The other thing is that the outcome was the same, but the method of getting to that outcome was different. If it was Smith's choice to shoot Jones or if the evil demon commanded him to, the result was the exact same. So, my question is, if "God's Will be done" then the end result will always be the same. So are we really free to make our own decision? If we are, what is the point of making them if it is just going to achieve God's Will in the end?

Another thing that I question is how a person would know what God's Will is. I really don't have a concrete answer for how one would definitively know what God's Will is, but I can speculate as to why it would be appealing to chalk up the bad things in life it "it was God's Will".
The same sort of thing happens (in someone's mind) when there is a conspiracy about something like 9/11. Sometimes when something horrible happens it scares people, which is normal. However, being humans it is in our nature to want an explanation of why something happened. In the case of conspiracy theories Jodi Dean says,

People hate thinking about, in the flash on an eye terrorist bomber...

I think that the same thing happens in the minds of Theists when a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, occurs. It is much more comforting to think that there is a plan in place. People don't like to think that bad things can just happen, they would rather be optimistic about some plan that would take them to a better place (heaven supposedly, but I'll save that for another post). Michael Martin said it best in his book Atheism: A Philosophical Justification -

If pessimism is justified by the evidence, then we must be pessimistic. If we are optimistic when pessimism is justified, we are irrational.

If you are a Theist or an Atheist, please leave your comments and opinions, I would love to know more about the topic from all perspectives. Bear in mind, however, I will research what you say if I think that you haven't done your research.

Views: 1415

Comment by Unseen on March 19, 2013 at 10:40pm

@archaeopteryx  Hate to spring this on you Unseen, but humans ARE animals --

Since that was what I was saying, you're not exactly revealing anything to me.

Comment by Unseen on March 19, 2013 at 11:20pm

@Jimmy  A lot depends upon what you mean by "the source of religion." Do you mean historically where some dude founded Judaism or Taoism or do you mean the source of religion for an individual person long since then?

I discovered the source of my own religious belief by looking back at my own life. Back when I believed it was because I was raised around believers. They believed for much the same reason I did. I think the day I mostly lost my religion was the day I realized I could draw a map and pretty much predict with fairly satisfactory accuracy what people believed by noting where they lived, if not by the nation they lived in, then by the region or neighborhood. Religious choice is 90% geography. 

Comment by Jimmy on March 20, 2013 at 4:51am

@Angela Evangelia 

That's right. In Strassman's book, he speculates that there's many paths to this experience, psychedelics seem to just offer them with the least risk to the organism that's if you go about it cautiously. Fasting is one way, a near-death-experience can also induce this experience, in some instances, a stroke can cause this to happen as in the case of Jill Bolte Taylor, isolating yourself in a cave or even meditation is also speculated to cause a natural induction of N,N-DMT, so forth and so on.


The difference is that the proposed "God" explanation arises out of fanciful imagination in response to the "Whys?" and "Hows?" of the universe, the use of the word "God" as metaphor in the context that I used it in is  a word tiled over this very peculiar and colossal experience dubbed "ego death" which is purely an experience which truly has no name, but is a kind of  experiential, to use a Greek word, apotheosis in that your consciousness is transformed so drastically that one can have the impression of something transcendental, seemingly incomprehensible, and utterly terrifying.

Comment by Unseen 4 hours ago

"@Jimmy  A lot depends upon what you mean by "the source of religion." Do you mean historically where some dude founded Judaism or Taoism or do you mean the source of religion for an individual person long since then?"

@unseen Yes, I meant historically where the religion was founded. I mean that Christ, Muhammad, Gautama and so forth were all mortal men who underwent this colossal transformation of consciousness, and so religion was in a way their expression of what they had experienced. In the case of Taoism, it may be that Lao-Tsu had an induction of N,N-DMT during meditation.

Strassman speculates in "DMT: The Spirit Molecule" that meditation as practiced in ancient India may be a way to induce DMT in a conscious state of mind. DMT has been studied to be released during the REM stage of sleep which is when the heavy dream states are occurring. Well, meditation (ancient meditation) is the cessation of thought. To cease all thinking. In Taoism, the mind is equated to a pond of water. The ripples in the water represent your thought, and so meditation would be to have the pond to come a complete standstill, to be completely serene. It is the complete annihilation of intention or will, so one breathes involuntarily in meditation, not voluntarily. And the speculation of Strassman is that if you can do this quietism for a period of time, you will induce DMT naturally. If you've ever witnessed a monk give a demonstration of something like "samadhi," one of these states described in meditaiton, they will instantly undergo REM. When someone smokes DMT, they instantly undergo REM. Coincidence? I don't think so. I definitely think Strassman is on to something and that these things should be studied more thoroughly, as of today, despite the fact that DMT is produced naturally in your very own brain, DMT is schedule I illegal in the U.S. and highly illegal in most countries... even illegal for scientific study. Figures, doesn't it?

Dr. R. Strassman explains in his book that this is what may happen to us all when we fall asleep, it's simply that your subconscious thoughts take over, and this is cause for the dream, but nevertheless, the dream is a DMT hallucinatory experiential thing. Gurus in India have even said, "Sleep is unconscious meditation and meditation is conscious sleep." 

But to be clear, you don't have to be of any type of religion to have this experience as it is essentially a phenomenon in consciousness, meaning we all have the potential for this experience. It's simply that when this happens to you, and it doesn't happen to many people... Richard M. Bucke even wrote a book in which he titled "Cosmic Consciousness" where he discusses this phenomenon and famous people he felt who probably had this experience, but to continue before I digress, when this happens to someone, people for some reason gravitate towards profundity when describing this experience. So, that means Christ probably interpreted his experience through the most profound concepts he knew of which probably were the religions he grew up on such as Hebraism or Islam, maybe even a little Greek. Siddartha Gautama obivously relied on Hinduism as a resource to interpret his experience... If someone today were to undergo this experience, if they're religious, they may feel compelled to say that they met "God" at the height of this experience or witnessed the "angel," if you're a UFO nut, you may believe that you're consciousness has become fused with the extraterrestrial itself, if you're atheist, you may reach for a more mathematical diction, as in, "I glimpsed a higher dimension." In either case, what is intuit by the individual is something profound, transcendental, and a powerful feeling of interconnectedness.

Now, the skeptical and sort of cynical view on this is that you're "high," that this is simply a neurological chaos, but I assure you, the only people saying that are the people who have never had this experience. A great example is in that last link I left where Joe Rogan asks Michio Kaku, the famous astrophysicist, if he's ever tried mushrooms... If you're interested, I'll re-post the link below, but I only ask that you listen about two minutes in, unless you're in for the long haul as the podcast is over two hours long!

The Joe Rogan Experience with Graham Hancock

Comment by Jimmy on March 20, 2013 at 7:44am

Hey, Angela...

Yeah, I've heard similar accounts to Jill Bolte Taylor. Alan Watts had a friend who had this experience through a stroke. He told Watts, "I fear to tell this to my friends, but it was the most beautiful experience I ever had. I believe everyone should have a stroke." 

Maybe, but I don't think it's guaranteed you'll get the "sunyata" during the stroke, I think it happens in some instances, just as people who flatline don't always come back with tales of the "white light" and their "life flashing before their eyes." 

I agree that marijuana can be quite innocuous, however... I mean, if you combine it with alcohol, that could end badly. It's these synergies that cause problems, but by itself, it's pretty harmless.  There have been people that have overdosed on mushrooms, but you've got to take a very MASSIVE amount. We're talkin' a belly full of this stuff.

I'm not sure if you had taken the time to search Terence McKenna's talk, but his point there is that most people nowadays only dabble with psychedelics, but that's because they want to have a good time, you know. They want to still be able to attend the concert, the party, etc. But you don't get anywhere with those sort of doses. I mean, you may as well just have some cannabis, because it's quite akin to that. 

Now, at the doses Terence McKenna recommended, it is a shamanic dose. In other words, there's a certain threshold with psychedelics that will distinguish the dabblers from the intrepid, for sure. Because at the shamanic dose, walking is out of the question, sex is something you can consider, but it's out of the question, because you're are literally, as McKenna says, nailed to the ground grappling with a mystery so profound that cannot even be explained with our M-Theory and our contemporary neuroscience, etc. 

You see, a recreational dose of mushrooms is usually less than a gram to about two or three grams. A shamanic dose or what Terence McKenna called the "effective dose" or "full-spectrum dose", if you weigh about 140 lbs, is about five dried grams. The fatal dose is close to a pound. So, there's approximately 144 grams in one pound. So, the effective dose is well away from the toxic or fatal dose. So, it's safe in a physical sense or pharmacological sense, but what most experienced users know it's not really mortality you have to fear for, but your sanity.

With LSD, now, if you wanted to have the "effective dose", if you followed the general rule as with the mushrooms, considering weight, etc. would be about 200 to 500mcg. Today, people only take about 50 to 70mcg as a recreational dose. I don't really recommend LSD if the "effective dose" is what you're shooting for because it can last a very long time. Even on a light dose, LSD last about 12 hours. Now, Albert Hofmann's first self-experimental dose was 250mcg, and that lasted 3 days! Mushrooms, on the other hand, at the full-spectrum dose, you're looking at about 6 to 9 hours at the most. Now, DMT only lasts about 5 to 15 minutes, so it's probably the best, only it's very short-acting despite the fact that it's the most powerful of all psychedelics.

But I think that it should be emphasized that the so-called "religious experience" or "mystical experience" or "ego death" or whatever you'd like to call it only occurs when you exceed this threshold. Anything less, and you're lucky to even brush against it, otherwise the experience is quite different, tolerable, and may seem like a different drug altogether, so the dose range definitely makes the difference. Not many people are willing to take upon the "heroic dose," that's why I think the only people who are called to it are people willing to travel to the depths of consciousness, people who have a ravenous curiosity, so on and so forth.

Comment by Unseen on March 20, 2013 at 10:23am


@unseen Yes, I meant historically where the religion was founded. I mean that Christ, Muhammad, Gautama and so forth were all mortal men who underwent this colossal transformation of consciousness, and so religion was in a way their expression of what they had experienced. In the case of Taoism, it may be that Lao-Tsu had an induction of N,N-DMT during meditation.

Sounds like sheer speculation to me. "Well, maybe these guys didn't see God. Maybe they got enough DMT in their systems to make them feel they were in touch with some sort divine reality." Yeah, OR maybe they had mental or brain issues. Any way to take it beyond the imaginary?

Comment by Jorita on March 20, 2013 at 11:07am

The use of hallucinogenic plant and drugs are common under several cultures and used during rituals and in communicating with the spirit world. You also find that your Khoisan people native to Southern Africa uses the Trance Dance to induce this state of euphoria,DMT is also involved in this. The Malope cult uses alcohol and dancing until they fall into a trance state where they comunicate with there Ancestors and the spirit world. Extensive research is done on rock art in Southern Africa on Rock Art by people like Professor John Parkington and Professor David Lewis Williams who is professor emeritus of cognitive Archeology he is researching the link between rock art and the alterd state of consciousness. I find this an interesting topic .

Comment by Jimmy on March 21, 2013 at 8:03am


Maybe I was misunderstood. I didn't intentionally saddle it with "God." The point there was that I believe this very profound experience has had different names over millennia, despite the fact that it's truly nameless. God, Brahman, nirvana, satori, samadhi, moksha, Beatific vision, the shekhina, etc. 

However, I realize when most people hear the word "God" automatically think of that omniscient entity or deity. Well, obviously, by and large, it's because most people who speak English live in the U.S. or the U.K. where western religion is predominant. Call it "zork" if you'd like, that's fine with me, but... I mean, first undergo the experience before you give it a title, if you choose to give it a title. Alan Watts thought it shouldn't have a name. I think Lao-tsu said it best, "The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao." In other words, the symbol does not say anything about the essence, because the essence is in and of itself an experience.

However, if you look into the literature of these things, more contemporarily, this phenomenon has taken names like "Cosmic Consciousness" after Richard M. Bucke, "peak experience" by Abraham Maslow, in the psychedelic community it is referred to as "ego death," and I believe Romain Rolland called it the "oceanic feeling." But all these names point to the same thing, in my humble opinion.

@Unseen Of course, I think it would sound like sheer speculation to anyone who's never undergone this experience. I think if someone approached me with this concept, I probably would sneer at it as well. Why take it beyond the imaginary? Well, because... I mean, this is not an easy experience describe, but I think you underestimate it, but that's okay... Most people do.  However, if I were going to describe it... First of all, it's often said that this experience is "ineffable," nevertheless you get guys like me or people like Terence McKenna attempting to describe it. Well, I'll give it a shot, but I assure you, I will fail. Like I said before, in order to truly judge it, I believe it's something you must experience for yourself. 

You know, they say we use about 8 or 9% of our brain, supposedly, perhaps it's lower than that. But imagine for a brief period you were able to glimpse what 90% or even 100% looked/felt like, then that experience were to fade away in the same way that a dream fades away. Dennis McKenna (Terence McKenna's brother) once used the metaphor that smoking DMT is like taking the circuit board of reality and turning it over, and for a fleeting moment you understand completely, somehow, through some kind of powerful intuition how it's all wired together.

But this understanding, although it may be your own mind, but your own mind lit up to such a degree that the informational content becomes seemingly incomprehensible and mind-boggling, it seems as though it's something you approach, something you encounter. So, you know, if you're religious, you may believe that you're in direct contact with "God," or if you're a UFO nut, as I mentioned, you might be inclined to believe that you've fused consciousness with the extraterrestrial, or I've often said that if you're atheist, you might say, "I glimpsed a higher dimension," because I had friend who was a self-proclaimed atheist who had this experience and actually said this. In other words, anyone who has this experience always seems to gravitate towards profundity when describing it. So, if you think religion or "God" is the most profound thing that you're familiar with, then that's the only way you may be able to describe it. Likewise, if you're a Taoist, you may say that you're witness to the flow of the Tao itself, etc., etc.

Terence McKenna would often say in his talks of taking the "full-spectrum dose" of a psychedelic, "You are nailed to the ground wrestling with a mystery so profound and so bizarre that even as we sit here with Husserl and Heisenberg and Heidegger and all these clowns under our belts, it is still absolutely mysterious, appalling, challenging, boundary dissolving and unavoidably ecstatic. It is the living mystery. And I don't know how many of them there are in the world, but for my money there only has to be one to rescue the entire concept from, you know, the dirty claws of the reductionist, the materalist, the christers, the nothing-but-ers, the merely-this-and-simply-that-ers. Perhaps I'm preaching to the converted, but if I preached to the unconverted, I'd be hung from the yardarm." And, of course, you could change those names with any names you'd like, Michio Kaku, Richard Dawkins, Kurt Gödel, Stephen Hawking, etc. I'd put "place name here."

But let me be clear on this, no amount of words would ever convey the profoundness of this experience, because words are merely symbols that tile over it. Perhaps English is too dimensionally low a language to do so, who knows? But that's why I believe it's truly something that you must experience for yourself, and perhaps we all do at death. After all, DMT floods the dying brain. 

But my point is, before this is misinterpreted, that this experience may be the true culprit behind religion. That what "God" was all along was not some some bearded deity to describe how "the world" or "universe" was created, but a kind of metaphor to describe an ultimate state of consciousness. But don't let the word "God" fool you here. This is not about "God" or even "religion," although it's my opinion that religion is what followed as a kind of by-product thousands of years ago because of men who had this experience, but rather this is more about a phenomenon in consciousness that we all have the potential for, and I that I believe should be more carefully looked at by science, because today it's heavily overlooked and exists quite apparently in the peripheral and edges of our society. I mean, there may be studies just barely taking off on stuff like this, but we haven't made much of a dent yet.

But until someone tries it, no amount of words will ever convince them of the sheer, titanic astonishment  and the purely colossal overwhelming awe of this experience, they will continue to underestimate it even if it's considered, if not doubt it and disregard it completely.


Well, yes, I mean... I tried to avoid metaphors like "being picked up and glimpsing Alpha Centauri" or Zubenelgenubi (my favorite stellar point). Usually, when I'm discussing these things with atheists, I try and not to use words like "soul," "mystical," "supernatural," etc. They usually roll their eyes at these things, but if I do, I try and make it a point to define what I mean when I use these words, if I use them. But I agree, it's as though you're let in on a joke or the punchline of the universe or something. I've heard it described like that. Although not many people know about it, what's interesting is that they could know about if they so had the courage to avail themselves of these things. Because to this point, no one has been able to coin the perfect metaphor for it. But you've really got to be careful with your words, because as you can see, if you've seen some of the feedback I've gotten here, words can easily lead astray.

I'm sorry, I haven't read any Malcom X, I mean, I've read quotes, but that's about it, and nor have I came across Lester Grinspoon. Lately, I've been reading a lot of Alan Watts, Ramesh Balsekar, and Rudy Rucker. I want to leave you with a link to a couple of paragraph to someone who wrote extensively on this phenomenon. Richard M. Bucke wrote a book and entitled it "Cosmic Consciousness" which is a name he gave to this experience, and here's the link:

Cosmic Consciousness

Comment by Jimmy on March 21, 2013 at 8:11am

I want to add that not in a single episode of "The Atheist Experience", perhaps you guys are familiar with the show, has DMT ever been discussed. Not in a single episode! I've been tryin' to call, but I never get through. Coincidence? I don't know. I think Graham Hancock attempted to get Richard Dawkins to try ayahuasca. He asked him, "If you would not do this, why not? If you would, when would you be ready to begin?" The recording is on YouTube somewhere.

Comment by Unseen on March 21, 2013 at 1:59pm

@archaeopteryx  But don't you know that pink elephants can reveal cosmic truths such as...a half bottle whiskey can make a room spin.

Comment by Jimmy on March 21, 2013 at 4:16pm

@archaeopteryx Well, I don't have time to respond to this right now, but I assure you, I'll get to it. I will say this experience is quite different from pink elephants. I mean, the influence that the media has on people's opinions of these things is amazing. By the way, speaking as an alcoholic and someone who's been so desperate as to be hospitalized for drinking isopropyl alcohol 90% (rubbing alcohol), I assure you, there is NO HALLUCINATION. You black out, pass out and it's like a rock until you come to once again, and you have NO RECOLLECTION whatsoever from the point you blacked out to the point you awaken again.

I mean, most people don't know what a hallucination even is or have ever had one, especially concerning the tryptamine-based entheogens I'm referring to. I'm not sure if you got to watch about two minutes through of the video of Rogan's podcast where he interviewed Graham Hancock, but they discuss Kaku's opinion and how it's mere prejudice because he's never had the experience and truly doesn't know what goes on during this experience.

You know, if I could, instead of trying to argue for psychedelics, it would be much more easy for me to simply pull out a little glass pipe filled with about 70mg of DMT and simply had it over to you. Then, all argument would cease, but I can't do that, so until then words are all I got, and as I said before, words are insufficient to really describe this experience, but nevertheless I'm going to give it a shot.

@Unseen Precisely, I will say there are no pink elephants, dancing leprechauns, or anything like this within this experience. That's all just the influence of media, movies, cultural items on people and their reductionist opinion on this experience. The hallucinatory motifs relative to psychedelics are rather not projections of the personal subconscious, but rather impersonal or transpersonal in that everyone, in a way, kind of witnesses things which are quite similar. I mean, if you really want to know what a psychedelic hallucination "looks like," I'd recommend the work of Alex Grey. Alex Grey takes "full-spectrum" doses of psychedelics, then paints the visions from those experiences. And those paintings are quite akin to what you might witness in a psychedelic experience. In other words, they're universal. If I had to point to some Freudian or Jungian term that would be more accurate towards  describing this experience, it would definitely be something like tapping into the "collective unconscious" or something like that, but even that definition doesn't cut the mustard of what this may be.

Well, anyway, when I return from work, I'll have a better explanation for the so-called "hallucination." You know, Sam Harris has dabbled with psychedelics, and Rogan also has a podcast where he interviews Sam Harris and they discuss these things. Even Sam Harris claims, "Psychedelics seem to cash out the crazy claims of religion." That's a direct quote, but I love his way of reasoning and his metaphors of attempting to describe what it may be as it's all based in neuroscience, depth psychology, etc. 

I'll be back in about 9-10 hours with some of Harris' words on this.


You need to be a member of Think Atheist to add comments!

Join Think Atheist

© 2018   Created by Rebel.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service