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: 1310

Tags: Atheism, Conspiracy, Demon, Disaster, Evil, Freedom, God, Humans, Natural, Philosophy, More…Religion, Skepticism, Theism

Comment by archaeopteryx on March 20, 2013 at 10:10am

So, Angela, if, as you say, this experience "has no name," why saddle it with a misnomer by calling it, "god" - why not call it "zork"?

Comment by archaeopteryx on March 20, 2013 at 10:13am

Sorry, Angela, it was Jimmy, not you, who said that - I read it wrong - in that case Jimmy, the above question is for you.

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 archaeopteryx on March 21, 2013 at 1:11pm

There have been brain studies done, during near-death experiences, that have indicated that the image of moving through a tunnel toward the "light" is nothing more than an hallucination caused by the brain shutting down from the outside in, creating an ever-narrowing window of cognition. I'm with Dawkins, why would anyone want to willingly create an hallucination in order to experience an artificially-created condition. An alcoholic can see pink elephants, but that doesn't mean they're real either.

I can face reality head on, I have no need to escape to an artificially-created world, if I do, I'll read a good book.

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 archaeopteryx on March 21, 2013 at 3:34pm

That depends on whether it's the bottom half or the top --

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


The Elephant in the Room...

Started by Belle Rose in Small Talk. Last reply by Kairan Nierde 26 minutes ago. 12 Replies

East German Shame

Started by Davis Goodman in Law, Trials, and Decisions. Last reply by Davis Goodman 40 minutes ago. 14 Replies

Why do we tolerate this?

Started by Belle Rose in Crime and Punishment. Last reply by Tom Sarbeck 1 hour ago. 26 Replies

Ear-piercing a baby

Started by Simon Mathews in Atheist Parenting. Last reply by Unseen 1 hour ago. 27 Replies

Blog Posts

How did that happen?

Posted by Belle Rose on December 19, 2014 at 4:36am 6 Comments

Pabst Blue Ribbon to the rescue!

Posted by Ed on December 15, 2014 at 9:33pm 0 Comments

Services we love!

We are in love with our Amazon

Book Store!

Gadget Nerd? Check out Giz Gad!

Advertise with ThinkAtheist.com

In need a of a professional web site? Check out the good folks at Clear Space Media

© 2014   Created by umar.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service