Jul 29, 2013

Atheists' spiritual experiences

Philosophy professor Dan Fincke on the errors atheists make when they imagine they have no bodies:
When confronted with claims about immaterial spiritual souls or spiritual lives or practices, the first mistake is to imply that people’s experiences that they call 'spiritual' are not 'real.' 'Spiritual' experiences are real events that happen in the real world. Superstitious reifications are just hastily (and with all sorts of cultural and religious encouragement) naively misinterpreting them as somehow evidence for something otherworldly or something which puts them in touch with otherworldly things. It is useless and sounds woefully psychologically ignorant to question whether they refer to something real when they talk about spiritual experiences. We do much better to engage them about what their real experience really indicates.  
The parallel superstition among some atheists is a tendency to conceive of people as minds that respond to reason alone and that can only reason well if they are not being influenced bodily.
Finke concludes that atheists -- and he counts himself in that number -- should evaluate "emotional mechanisms" based on end results, rather than rejecting such mechanisms and practices altogether.

There's nothing inherently wrong, for Fincke, with atheists singing songs. Not singing songs, on the other hand, is often evidence of a philosophy deeply uncomfortable with human embodiment.