Why Do Some People Experience Deities, But Others Don’t?

I have often wondered why some people experience gods all the time – indeed, can’t stop experiencing the gods even if they wanted to – and others don’t. Still others experience gods sometimes, in specific circumstances. There are various explanations available for this, and all of them have pros and cons. Let’s examine a few of them. I don’t really know which one is the right answer, though.

A “God(s)-Shaped Hole”?

Some have argued that people of religion have a “god-shaped hole” in our psyches – that our psychological make-up is such that we are receptive to experiences of the divine and/or deities. Christian apologists (starting with Pascal, who coined the phrase “god-shaped vacuum“) argue that only their god can fill this hole. The argument goes that their god created us for himself, and therefore our hearts yearn towards him (which is something of a circular argument).

Apart from the fact that I am automatically suspicious of any argument coined by Pascal, who also came up with the deeply unpleasant and frankly immoral concept of Pascal’s Wager, I would argue that it has been amply demonstrated that people are searching for meaning in their lives, but that that meaning takes a different form for different people, and that atheists can have equally meaningful and fulfilling lives as people who believe in god(s). Also, Adam Lee at Daylight Atheism points out that studies have shown that atheists have more enquiring minds and are generally happier than many Christians.

A Pagan version of the “gods-shaped hole” argument might draw upon the idea that because we and the gods were born of a single mother (Nature), and are of the same substance, we feel a natural affinity for each other.

However, if this were the case, then surely everyone would experience a yearning for the gods – and more importantly, all those who seek the gods would find them – which isn’t necessarily always what happens.

Hallucinations?

Many people might argue that those who see visions of deities are merely experiencing hallucinations. However, the quality of these visions and experiences is different than many hallucinations; they (mostly) appear to act on the psyche in an integrative and healing way, rather than in a destructive and damaging way. People who experience dreams and visions may be edgy and uncomfortable to be around – but they are  highly functional individuals, for the most part. Psychiatrists have begun to accept that people who hear voices and see things are not necessarily ill.

Rhyd Wildermuth has suggested that the difference between the “mad” who hear voices, and the sane, is that the sane person can make the voices stop, shut them out for a time, and the “mad” cannot.

In addition to this, there is a long Welsh tradition that anyone who sleeps alone on the slopes of Cader Idris will end up dead, mad, or a poet. Shamanism, poetic inspiration, bardic frenzy, mysticism, and madness, have been symbolically linked from ancient times. The word ovate comes from “Vates, Uatis, Euhages, which may derive from the Indo-European root uat, ‘to be inspired or possessed’.” (OBOD)

In the 1960s and 70s, the anti-psychiatry movement argued that “madness” was a matter of perspective, and that in many societies, those who have these experiences are valued as visionaries, not locked up and drugged. Michel Foucault, Thomas Szasz, and RD Laing promoted alternative communal methods of treating the mad. Some anti-psychiatrists pointed to the remarkably similar content of people’s hallucinations, and pointed out that these often consisted of symbols of wholeness, like the World Tree, or the World Mountain.

So, I don’t think we can dismiss every visionary experience of a deity as a hallucination. I would be prepared to accept the explanation that such experiences are a profound interior experience, but only interior, but then that doesn’t explain why people have the same dream or vision at the same time, or receive messages for others which they then pass on to them.

Psychic Powers? Extra-Sensory Perception?

Another possibility is that some people experience deities because they have a “sixth sense” that enables them to perceive deities and energy. Certainly, some people seem to be especially gifted at psychic perception and techniques, but then the less gifted can also improve our abilities with practice.

It is very difficult to test psychic phenomena empirically, so I would say that the evidence for this hypothesis is inconclusive. I personally feel that people only have flashes of psychic insight when it really matters, so it is hard to turn it on and off at will in a laboratory situation. (Skeptics would doubtless feel that this is because psychic powers don’t exist, but there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that there is something going on.

Some People Are Chosen?

Some polytheists have stated that they did not choose their gods, their gods chose them. So they might argue that people who perceive the gods are the ones who have been chosen to do so.

For those of us who really like deities but don’t necessarily feel strongly that we have been chosen by a specific deity, this argument feels like a kick in the teeth. Is my relationship with Odin any less valid because I went looking for him, rather than the other way round?

What’s more, I am tempted to argue that claiming to have been chosen by a deity is almost a self-disqualifying statement, because it is so full of hubris (in the sense of “excessive pride towards the gods”). It is one thing to be privately convinced that a deity has chosen you for a task; quite another to proclaim it from the rooftops.

The Charge of the Goddess states that “and know that thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou knowest the mystery: if thou findest not what thou seekest within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee” [outside of yourself]. Another way of looking at this might be that the gods we seek are the ones who were seeking us, because of some affinity between us and them.

Enchantment Goat, by Hodja Nasreddin

Enchantment Goat” by Hodja Nasreddin. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia. Io Pan!

Enchantment and Disenchantment?

Another possible explanation is that capitalism, rationalism, materialism, and reductionism have disenchanted the world. As our awareness of the gods returns, the world is re-enchanted.

Rhyd Wildermuth writes,

In Capitalist society, Gods don’t exist; just like homeless people don’t really exist; just like stars are really just large balls of flaming gas. But to this I must answer, the stars are balls of flaming gas if animals are mere food and trees are mere fuel, humans mere workers and puddles mere bits of water.

So, rationalism, capitalism, reducing everything to mere commodities with a monetary cost rather than any intrinsic value, forgetting about wisdom in the lust for knowledge: these are the things that disenchant the world, obscure our vision and make us unable to see that a star is not merely a ball of flaming gas, but also a source of beauty and meaning, maybe even a goddess or a god.

As W B Yeats wrote,

Once every people in the world believed that trees were divine, and could take a human or grotesque shape and dance among the shadows; and that deer, and ravens and foxes, and wolves and bears, and clouds and pools, almost all things under the sun and moon, and the sun and moon, were not less divine and changeable. They saw in the rainbow the still-bent bow of a god thrown down in his negligence; they heard in the thunder the sound of his beaten water jar, or the tumult of his chariot wheels; and when a sudden flight of wild ducks, or of crows, passed over their heads, they thought they were gazing at the dead hastening to their rest….

I do know that I want to live in an enchanted world, where everything has its own intrinsic value, not merely a price imposed by the market. I want to live in a world where everything has meaning and beauty, where all things are shining with the light of divinity.


Perhaps I am no nearer to an answer to my question, but hopefully this post has made the people who are sure about their answer to this question less sure about it. Question everything, that’s my motto.

 

 

Wiccanate Privilege and Polytheist Wiccans

I was not going to wade into the “Wiccanate Privilege” debate, but having read most of the posts on it, it seemed to me that one angle had been missed, and there was potential for misunderstanding.

Some Wiccans seem to have misread or misheard “Wiccanate” as “Wiccan”. As I understand it, the problem as stated is that the Pagan book market is flooded with “Wicca 101” books, which means that a lot of Pagan discourse is couched in the language of Wicca 101 books, and there’s a set of assumptions out there in the public domain about what Pagans do, based on these books – that all Pagans celebrate the festivals of the Wheel of the Year, that all Pagans think the deities are archetypes and expressions of a single underlying divine energy, that all Pagans do magic, and so on. And the complaint is that workshops at events are also based on these assumptions.

Whilst it is true that the market is flooded with these books, and that many people assume that Paganism means Wicca-lite, some of these assumptions are also problematic for Wiccans, especially Wiccans who don’t conform to general expectations and assumptions of what Wicca is about.

These 101 books often contain an assumption that you are a Wiccan if you have read one of these books and you do the rituals in them. If someone wants to identify as a Wiccan, but does not have access to a compatible coven and coven training, then who am I to stop them starting out on their own and doing what they can? That is why, in the UK, we refer to initiatory Wicca to distinguish it from the non-initiatory variety; and in North America, initiatory Wicca is referred to as British Traditional Wicca (this term does not really work in the UK, as various Cochrane-derived traditions are referred to as Traditional Witchcraft). There are also other forms of witchcraft, both initiatory and non-initiatory.

More problematic for me is the fact that books on Wicca often contain an assumption that Wicca is duotheistic; whereas most Wiccans I know are polytheists, pantheists, animists, or non-theists. But because it says in these books that we are duotheist, other polytheists often refuse to believe that a Wiccan can be a polytheist. But many Wiccans regard ‘the Lord and Lady’ as patron deities of the Craft, two among many; and many covens honour a different pair of deities as their coven patrons than the standard two, and honour a multitude of deities alongside them. I would really like never to hear “but you can’t be a polytheist if you’re a Wiccan” again. I have never heard it from a Wiccan, but I have heard it from polytheists.

Another problem is that books on Wicca are often heterocentric, and seem to have forgotten that the ultimate goal of the Wiccan mysteries (and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn before us) used to be seen as spiritual androgyny, or to put it in more Jungian terms, integration. So whilst one may perceive differentiated “male” and female” energies, there are energies of many genders, and (in my opinion) the ultimate divine source, which has no personality, both transcends and includes all genders.

Add to that the fact that these 101 books are often prescriptive about what Wicca involves, and you get the imposition of a set of norms which it is difficult to challenge in our particular culture (“but I saw it in a book so it must be true”) and assumptions from non-Wiccans that that is what Wicca is like. I often get asked by coveners to recommend a book about Wicca. It is really hard, because I disagree with most of the books out there. That is why I am writing one.

So, as a Wiccan and a polytheist, I think we should dismantle Wiccanate privilege as soon as possible. Let diversity flourish. If other Pagan traditions don’t want Wiccans representing them at interfaith events, then show up to interfaith events. Let’s not have Wicca-flavoured ritual at events. Let’s have devotional polytheism, liturgical Paganism, full-on Wiccan ritual, revived Eleusinian mysteries, Heathen blots, Druid rituals etc. And let’s not have assumptions about what Pagans believe – that way lies orthodoxy.

The ‘Wiccanate Privilege’ debate

(sorry if I have omitted your ‘Wiccanate Privilege’ post – please add it in the comments if you want it included)

UPDATE: Several people have asked me to define my terms better. The problem is that Wicca and witchcraft are very multivalent, especially in North America, and the terms used in the UK are a bit different. I am not trying to exclude anyone who wants to use the term Wicca.  I was just trying to make a distinction between different types of Wicca and witchcraft and the terms used for them in the UK and North America, not saying that one is better than another. If it works for you, great.

Also, for those who are new to this debate, I did not coin the term “Wiccanate”. John Halstead explains:

“Wiccanate” is a term coined by Johnny Rapture, and it refers to American Neo-Pagan theological ideas and liturgical forms common to large public Pagan gatherings and rituals, which are derived from Wicca, but are perceived to be “generic” or “universal” to Paganism. “Wiccan-Centric” is a related term. “Wiccanate privilege” is a phrase that has been going round in polytheist circles recently. It refers to the ways in which Wicca-inspired ritual and theology are assumed to be normative for Paganism as a whole.

Context is everything

The inner work and the outward sign

Viewed outside the context of their meaning and purpose, rituals can often look silly. When I first saw a CUUPs ritual online, I thought, why are they lighting a candle in a chalice? This was because I was viewing the ritual through a Wiccan lens, and in Wicca, a chalice represents water, and is used for drinking consecrated wine. Whereas if you view the lighting of a chalice through the lens of Unitarian and UU symbolism, it makes perfect sense. The chalice represents community, and sharing the wine with the laity, among other things; the flame represents inspiration, and connection with the Divine, among other things. It is a rich and complex symbol whose meanings are evolving all the time. So it is vital to view a symbol in its cultural context and find out what it means.

Similarly, a criticism often levelled at Judaism is that it has lots of nit-picky rules. One of these is that you can’t light fire on the Sabbath, so some Jews tape over the light in the fridge so that opening the door doesn’t turn on the light. To someone unaware of the context and the corresponding inner work, this looks a bit silly. Once you understand that the whole edifice of Jewish observant practice is all about remaining constantly aware of the presence of the Divine, and one’s relationship with it, the action of remaining observant even in such a tiny detail makes more sense. There is a prayer to accompany every action, so that the observant Jew remains in communion with the Divine at all times. Also, for this practice to make sense, you have to understand the deep affection in which the Sabbath is held in Judaism. It’s not like the dour Protestant Sabbath. First, on the Friday evening, when Sabbath begins, the lady of the house lights the Sabbath candles, which invites the presence of the Shekhinah. Then, on Friday night, the husband and wife make love, also inviting the presence of the Shekhinah. The whole family comes together for a meal and to spend time together. At the end of the Sabbath, the whole family sniffs a spice box, so that the loveliness of the Sabbath can be remembered for the rest of the week. In times of persecution, the Sabbath, taking place behind closed doors, would be an affirmation of Jewish identity and community, and the only time when you could be truly at peace.

Another example is the custom of covering the head, which is found in a number of different religions (and some Pagans have started wearing veils). This might look like oppression of women – and if it is enforced rather than voluntary, I think it is – but its original meaning was as a reminder that the Divine is always present (that’s why Jewish men wear a kippah).

I expect that some Pagan practices look a bit daft when viewed outside their context. The casting of the Wiccan circle, with its elaborate preparation, might look a bit over-the-top to outsiders; but in context, it makes perfect sense. The series of different actions prepare us for the inner work, stilling the mind and readying the body for an encounter with the mysteries. They also align us psychologically with the sacred directions; this alignment symbolises our connection with the universe. The thoroughness of the preparation also means that the circle feels like a safe space, which is important as rituals can sometimes be profoundly transformative. Another example which might look daft to outsiders is the Heathen practice of offering libations of mead. But of course, mead is a precious thing, and when making offerings to the deities, it is customary to offer something of value; and Heathens want to connect with their deities.

All of these practices  are aimed at cultivating our connection with the Divine; they are a reminder to live life in a sacred manner. Of course, some people practice the outer observances without managing to do the inner work, and this can lead to an over-emphasis on the rules at the expense of the inner work. Sometimes, when the practices have lost their inner meaning, and adherence to the tradition has become more important than the inner work, they need to be changed, and either a new religion results, or the existing religion is reformed. The prophet Amos criticised the practice of sacrifice, saying that God would prefer people to practice justice and righteousness instead –  so clearly the practice of sacrifice had lost its function of connecting with God, and become merely routine. Jesus criticised the rigid observance of Sabbath rules, and placed emphasis on being kind to people instead – so clearly, in his day, the Sabbath rules had lost their inner meaning. At the Reformation, Protestants criticised Catholic practices of praying to saints, and the concept of transubstantiation. They were viewing these practices through a rational lens and forgetting to look at their inner meaning, and the inner work that they represented.

Sound-bites

There is also a tendency to take sayings and quotations out of context. When Jesus formulated his version of the Golden Rule, he meant it to be a summation of the Law and the Prophets, not a replacement for them; he would have wanted it viewed in the context of Jewish practice and culture. When Gerald Gardner formulated the Wiccan Rede (“An it harm none, do what thou wilt”), he probably assumed that it would be taken in the context of the ritual which introduces it, and the whole body of Wiccan lore and practice. When Dávid Ferenc said, “We need not think alike to love alike”, he said it in a specific historical and cultural context, which needs to be understood in order to apply his saying effectively. Of course, these utterances are quotable out of context, but if we want to live by them, we need the whole body of lore and practice that goes with them, in order to implement them effectively. It’s all very well exhorting people to love one another, but then you need specific techniques to overcome things like projecting your shadow-side onto other people; the damage that can be caused by group dynamics (e.g. in-group versus out-group); and other aspects of human psychology.

The practice of taking quotes and practices out of context and applying them without regard to circumstances is one of the most damaging aspects of religion; and it is also one of the major causes of misunderstanding between religions. We need to look at the context of any practice, quote, or rule, and ask, what is the real reason behind this? If it is harmful, can it be reformulated in such a way as to restore the original intention (to remind us of our connection with the Divine), and remove the harmful aspect of the practice?

The argument from desire

I am currently reading a biography of C S Lewis by Alister McGrath. In the chapter on Lewis’ Christian faith, McGrath argues that Lewis came to believe in God because he recognised that there was something he desired that was always out of reach. This “argument from desire” occurs in Lewis’ well-known sermon The Weight of Glory; in his first novel, The Pilgrim’s Regress; and in his autobiographical work, Surprised by Joy. This desire is not simply a want, or a need for wish-fulfilment; it is not a craving for a particular transitory experience; indeed, it can be occasioned by a fleeting glimpse of beauty or transcendence. It is a desire for connection with, or experience of, the divine (which, for Lewis, came to mean the Christian God). The “argument from desire” is that we all have a “God-shaped hole” in consciousness, which can only be filled by the divine. Lewis writes (in The Weight of Glory):

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them.

Can this concept have any meaning in a Pagan context? What is it that Pagans desire? For one thing, most Pagans believe that the divine (whether it is perceived as a single underlying energy, or as many deities) is immanent in the world, and therefore available to our experience in the here and now. So that is a key point where we differ from Lewis, who may well have seen the divine as both immanent and transcendent, but certainly thought that a full experience of it would only be available after death.

For many of us, Nature does not merely reflect the divine glory: she is the Divine glory – in all her contrary moods and states. And we can experience the divine directly. As we have only finite and local consciousness, we cannot fully apprehend the (presumed) infinite and non-local consciousness of deities, but we can participate in it. That is one of the purposes of magic (in my opinion). I believe that the goal of existence is not to divorce spirit from matter, but to awaken matter to its full potential; to divinize it, if you like.

The aim of my personal Pagan path is to become divine, to achieve apotheosis (not to merge with the underlying divine energy, but to be infused with it). I think this will take several lifetimes, but I believe it is possible. The only obstacle on this path is one of perception. As Blake put it, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is, infinite.”

I do think that the “argument from desire” is quite a good argument for the existence of deities – but I do not think it is a desire for a realm that is beyond the world (ontological transcendence); rather I think it is a desire to connect with something beyond the ego, something larger, deeper, broader that already exists in our own depths and connects with all that is (epistemological transcendence).

Lewis argues (in The Weight of Glory) that every activity has its proper reward, and every desire has its fulfilment. It is mercenary to desire “the reward which has no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things”; but it is not mercenary to desire the proper reward of the action. The example he gives is that if someone marries for money, that is mercenary; but if they marry for love, it is not – because marriage is the proper reward of love.

In the same way, the fulfilment proper to existence is to encounter it fully; to experience it as the divine beloved. From my personal Pagan perspective, this does not mean to dissolve the self in the great all, but to experience the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) in one’s own depths, between the finite and the infinite, between manifest and unmanifest, matter and spirit.

From a polytheist perspective, even if one believes (as I do) in a single substance or energy from which all other entities (deities, spirits, humans and other animals, genii loci, etc) emerge, the underlying energy is plural and diverse, and so we cannot dissolve into it, and nor would it be desirable to do so (and interestingly, this is not the goal of Christian spirituality either). Becoming infused with it is not the same as losing our identity within it.

So yes, we desire meaning, joy, fulfilment, and the sacred marriage; and we can have them in the here and now, and they can be found through many spiritual traditions. But it does seem that there must be something (however we perceive it) that our desire is fixed upon – the goal of our desire is not merely imaginary.

Atheist critiques of religion

Atheist critiques of religion are mostly valid, insofar as they are true. I think the atheist critique does religions a great service – it’s like having an independent auditor to look at your work and check for shoddy bits. So how does Paganism measure up to the atheist yardstick?

Critique 1: “It’s all irrational”

Yes, of course it is. The emotions, spiritual experience, love, awe, wonder – these are not cognitive responses to the world, so are by definition not rational.

However, my religion has to be compatible with reason and experience. When it goes beyond the empirical evidence, those bits are marked “working hypothesis” and “conjecture”.

There are degrees of irrationality; not all “woo” is equally irrational. Just because I posit the possibility of earth energies as a working hypothesis to explain certain experiences that I have had, does not mean that I also believe in ley lines, homoeopathy, or other forms of “woo”. I’d quite like to believe in homoeopathy, but having examined the evidence against it, can only conclude that it doesn’t work.

Critique 2: “The moderates give shelter to the extremists”

That is not even true. The moderates do not “give shelter” to the extremists. The moderates get out there and protest against the extremists (e.g. Standing on the side of love; Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice). And get killed for it (e.g. James Reeb, and Tennessee Valley UU church).

The moderates and liberals try to present a more loving, inclusive, and reasonable faith, but most of the time it doesn’t even get noticed by the media. How can this be “providing shelter” to the fundamentalist nutters, when we call them out on their bullshit ALL THE TIME but are drowned out by their strident bigotry?

Critique 3: “Religions persecute non-believers”

The Roman Empire persecuted the early Christians; however, this was in the name of the state religion of emperor worship (because Christians wouldn’t make offerings to the genius of the emperor), rather than in the name of paganism as such.

Modern Pagans do not persecute anyone, and religion in general has made great strides in interfaith dialogue. However, there are still too many fundamentalists, and we need to guard against any fundamentalist tendencies emerging in Paganism.

This is a valid critique of religions. There has been far too much persecution over the centuries.

Critique 4: “The universe doesn’t look as if it was created by a deity”

Agree strongly. Deities (if they exist) are an emergent property of the universe, not the other way around.

Other liberal religions (such as the UUs) have redefined their view of the Divine to mean the ground of all being. Apophatic theology (such as that put forward by the Christian theologian John Scotus Eriugena in the 9th century, who pointed out that God doesn’t exist) has long stated that the Divine cannot be described by any physical terminology.

Critique 5: “Dogma and doctrine get in the way of experiencing the world directly and are in conflict with reason and empirical evidence”

Agree strongly. Pagan religions are non-dogmatic; it’s up to individuals to decide what they believe, based on experience and reason. I have occasionally heard people say, “We do it this way because of tradition”. That is completely bonkers when the tradition is only 50 years old. No-one should do anything just because it’s traditional; there should always be a valid reason behind it, like “because it works”, “because it makes me feel good”. (Always subject to the proviso that it harms no-one else, of course.)

Critique 6: Religions indoctrinate people

Fundamentalist religions indoctrinate people; liberal religions don’t. In a survey carried out by Covenant of the Goddess (an American Pagan organisation) in 2005, 49% of respondents indicated having no children, and of the remaining 51%, only 27% (i.e. approximately 13% of the total sample) said that they were bringing their children up as Pagans. 52% of those with children said they were bringing them up in a multi-faith environment; 9% said ‘another faith’; and 12% said ‘none’. Even those brought up as Pagans might not choose to practise a Pagan tradition as adults – I have met many children of Pagan parents who did not go on to be Pagan themselves, though many of them seemed to have absorbed Pagan values (of the sort mentioned above) from their upbringing.

Pagans are free to make up our own minds about how the world works. There are atheist Pagans, naturalist Pagans, humanist Pagans, pantheist Pagans, polytheist Pagans, duotheist Pagans, henotheist Pagans, animist Pagans… and unclassifiable / “it’s complicated”.

Critique 7: “Liberal religion is just moving the goalposts”

One aspect of the atheist critique of religion that has me completely baffled is the objection to classifying the obviously mythical aspects of religion as a metaphor. The philosophers of ancient Greece knew that the stories of the gods of Olympus were metaphors. The Eastern Orthodox Church was saying in the 4th century CE that the Garden of Eden story was a metaphor. It’s not dishonest to say that the obviously metaphorical bits of mythology are not literally true. I have always said that Pagan mythology is metaphorical, and so do most Pagans – indeed, I dare say the most devout hard polytheist would say that the stories of the gods are not literally true.

The tendency to insist on everything in the Bible being literally true is something that only became really popular in the late nineteenth century (according to Karen Armstrong, anyway, who admittedly sometimes looks at religion through rose-tinted spectacles). So the idea of seeing the stories of religion as allegorical is older than the idea of taking them literally. It’s not a new thing invented specially as a defence against atheist critiques. Indeed, the rise of atheism (which wants to take the stories literally in order to debunk them) seems to go hand-in-hand with the rise of fundamentalism (which wants to take the stories literally and believe them).

Many atheists seem to assume that in order to do religion properly, you have to take every last jot and tittle of its creed as part of a monolithic system, and if even one crack is introduced, then the whole edifice will come crashing down. But why shouldn’t people of religion also use scientific method, deductive reasoning, and so on in order to think about things? And if science successfully disproves a religious claim, then surely the honest thing to do is to admit that the claim is false? The Dalai Lama was once asked what he would do if science proved that reincarnation didn’t exist. He answered that he would advise Buddhists not to believe in it any more.

Any questions?
If you have any other critiques to offer, or questions, please post them in the comments.