I’ve several times written about a group of people who, for lack of a universal identifying term, I call atheist-skeptics.
I’m not exactly referring to all atheists who happen to be skeptics here, but a particular belief system and culture frequently held by those people. You’ll get a better idea of what I mean, I think, as you read this article.
These people tend to be rather certain that there is no God, no divinity, and nothing which could be classified as “paranormal”. “Paranormal” is hard to define but it includes things like telekinesis, energy healing, and so on. Some go so far as denying the existence of hypnosis and lucid dreaming.
I find this group interesting. I’ve noticed that a lot of them really like to argue with those people who they think have inferior viewpoints. They often tend to be extremely… convinced about what they believe. One could say arrogant.
Atheist-skeptics tend to defer frequently to the authority of Science. For them, Science is the ultimate source of knowledge. It is practically synonymous with truth.
It’s funny to me, because this looks rather like a religion. And atheist-skeptics get much of their identity from contrasting themselves with religion, so I think saying this would annoy many of them. However, I see it this way. After all, like fundamentalist religious people they follow an authority. And like fundamentalist religious people, they tend to see it as infallible.
I do believe that Science has value. However, unlike atheist-skeptics, I believe it is fallible. After all, I do believe that the paranormal exists. I believe that there is abundant scientific evidence that it exists. I would say that my own experiences, and the experiences of people I know, are enough proof to a reasonable person, so long as you can trust us not to be lying. (I also believe it’s unreasonable to assume so many people are lying).
I believe Science misses this proof because it is fallible. I believe stuff like this doesn’t get into reputable journals because the peer review of these journals is predominantly made up of people with certain beliefs. I believe that they violate good science in order to uphold these beliefs.
And I believe this is what is happening with atheist-skeptics. They are so invested in seeing things a certain way that they ignore real proof, ignore the experiences of people which, when examined objectively, cannot be reasonably ignored.
I think the atheist-skeptical viewpoint has a certain amount of logic behind it. First, it rejects fundamentalist religion. In that, I’m totally on its side (though I also don’t see why some atheist-skeptics have to make a point of picking arguments with religious people).
Second, I believe that atheist-skeptics observe the Universe and see that it doesn’t seem to be built for humans. Humans are so vanishingly small in the grand scheme of things, why would they matter? Consequently, the thought that our souls could live on, or that our minds could move objects, seems absurd. That would be assuming that humans have a set of laws of physics all to themselves. And humans are obviously not that important.
I believe the fundamental flaw here is as follows.
Atheist-skeptics believe that physicality created consciousness. In other words, we evolved out of the primordial mud to eventually take a physical form which allowed us to reflect on things. Consciousness has no real reality of its own; it could be called an illusion, the phenomenon of a self-reflecting animal thinking there must be something special about the fact that they can self-reflect.
People like me on the other hand – spiritual-but-not-religious or whatever we are – believe that consciousness created the Universe, including our physical bodies. Reality has the essential quality of a dream. So even the evidence that we seem to have evolved out of the primordial mud is part of the dream. In reality, we are not our physical bodies or our brains – even that is part of the dream. Only consciousness is really real.
Because we are all dreaming this Universe into existence, having physical explanations for why we exist as we are – brains to explain our thoughts and evolution to explain our physical bodies – is necessary. Otherwise the dream wouldn’t make sense.
However, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be manifestations of the primacy of consciousness. And there are. There are psychics, people with telekinetic abilities, ghosts, energy healing that works at a distance, and solid evidence of reincarnation.
These phenomena all hint to the fact that our minds and souls, as extensions of the consciousness which is dreaming this Universe into existence, have power and meaning within the fundamental laws of the Universe. They are not irrelevant, and they are not illusions.
Of course, if you don’t want to believe in the paranormal you will surely find ways not to. I’m not trying to really convince anyone who doesn’t want to be convinced; I’m aware that this is impossible. But for those who are open to challenging themselves, consider that atheist-skepticism can be just as much based on faith as any other religion: to be exact, faith in Scientific authority, and faith that physicality created consciousness and not the other way around.
As I said, there is ample proof of the paranormal out there. I’ve linked three items of it in the paragraph above. I won’t post more, because my intention here is not to defend my viewpoint to people who are not interested in listening. Those who want to challenge themselves can search for more.
Most of all, I’d like to suggest to atheist-skeptics that they think about the concept of respect. If someone explains a paranormal experience they went through to you, do you ridicule it, or do you really listen? I suspect that if you respected people enough to assume that they are not all lying, stupid, or hallucinating, then you might uncover a rather different perspective on how the Universe works. It’s also the case that if you listen respectfully to people’s experiences, they are more likely to share them with you. It seems to me pretty likely that you’re missing good evidence for paranormal stuff just because you are effectively pushing it out of your reality.
As a little post-script, I thought I’d post a link here, seeing as the reflexive response of almost any atheist-skeptic to the sort of thing I just said is “But what about Jame’s Randi’s million dollar prize to anyone who can prove the paranormal! Why hasn’t it been claimed?”. Here is a good explanation. In short: James Randi pretty much refuses to give out his prize, even when shown real proof, and the conditions for winning the prize are worded in order for it to be basically unwinnable. Here is an article outlining the experiences of one group of people who tried to claim the prize. Here is another.