When Believers Say They Have “Experiences”

The following is how I tend to respond to believers citing their own personal experiences as valid evidence for supporting their god beliefs.  Since believers often resort to other fallacious arguments surrounding this concept, I have included those refutations as well.  The numbers merely allow quick reference when directing somebody to read a particular response.

1.  “I have personal experiences and amazing visions and realize god’s miracles. I know he is real because God revealed himself to me.”  – So you  claim to know that God is real, but still have nothing to demonstrate it (especially to yourself), despite your divine connection. You instead cite subjective feelings, experiences and mysteries as evidence, but always fail to show that a god caused any of it, let alone that it’s even supernatural!  There’s NO indication that your experiences aren’t naturally occurring events.  Our brains are not fully understood and may be capable of more than we realize… especially with a coercive environment.  Even if your experience were supernaturally manipulated, how did you verify, with a merely natural brain, that its not a deception?

2.  “How else do you explain vivid and insightful visions, miracles of terminal patients recovering instantly, the design in the universe, life coming from non-life and the universe coming from nothing, if not from an omnipotent intelligence?”Concluding that your God did it by citing the lack of answers for mysteries, is called an argument from ignorance.  It doesn’t logically follow that your imagined answer is right.  BESIDES did you appropriately research ALL the potential natural forces in the universe to be able to legitimately dismiss them as causes?  No, obviously not, but lets say you did… Okay, you’ve OMNISCIENTLY discerned, tested and dismissed ALL NATURAL FORCES in the universe as being the causes of your miracles, experiences and mysteries. Now you officially have no answer within the known universe, yet you still can’t conclude your one God even exists.  All you can say is “It could be faeries, intelligent ectoplasm or maybe one of those god myths.” …but the fact is there’s a universe of natural possibilities which you have willfully or blindly skipped over to arrive at an utterly unproven supernatural conclusion.  By the way, who confirmed that your experiences are indeed from the source you claim they are? … and how do they know?

3.  “If you’re wrong though, then the feelings, experiences and visions would be direct information from God and you are not taking it seriously!”IF it were supernatural in origin (which isn’t evidenced at all), the believer is merely the viewer of events and visions which s/he was permitted to see.  Not unlike a movie, the content NEED NOT indicate the truth about anything.  Its laughable to say that the visions must be reflecting reality or that it must be telling you about the sender!  Utter nonsense.  Would a vision depicting the Faerie King verify, in any way, that the Faerie King was real?  Of course not.  Even if you KNEW 100% that these sources were supernatural (and you absolutely don’t) you would be believing, worshiping and loving ONLY what you have been fed and have verified nothing about the sender.  The TRUTH is that unexplained visions, experiences and miracles could all have natural explanations, but you have prematurely and irresponsibly dismissed this likelihood in favor your favorite magical one.  The real concern here is… Why would you, an intelligent person, let anonymous and unverifiable messages dictate a truth to you, when they could easily be false?

4.  “You don’t know and can’t prove that experiences, visions and miracles ARE NOT God’s doing.  How do you know I’m not right?”Mostly because you simply guessed about the sender/causer based on your family’s, community’s and country’s influence of popular god myths, with zero validating evidence.  You probably relied on stories, authority figures or even historical conclusions to decide what your experiences and/or mysteries are revealing.  Further, your choice is merely one myth of thousands, while you conveniently and baselessly have excluded the possibility of natural causes (which are the only verified type of causes).  So its a joke that you attempt to justify your choice as anything but ignorant and blind.  You are much more likely to be wrong than, by chance, happen to be close to correct. 

Ultimately, YOU have made a claim and I challenge you to show the evidence that you are correct. Believers often say “Atheists can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, so I can still believe.”  but their claim still remains unproven and their belief unjustified.  Not being able to prove that the Faerie King doesn’t exist, lends no evidence of him existing and provides no justification for believing in him.

5.  “Why do you try to force me to abandon my faith?  It’s a form of oppression!  Don’t you believe I have the right to believe?”  – The reason most atheists, secularists and some theists even bother to debate stubborn believers is because dogmatic ideas and laws, based on faith alone, threaten the well being of innocent people.  Yes you may not be imposing the harmful dogma in question, but until you reject the validity of religious faith, you are at least in part supporting those who would impose by it.  This unfortunate situation regarding the imposing tendencies of religion arguably requires a reality check.  Enter the atheist, humanist, secularist and concerned theists to challenge the validity of stubborn, insistent believers and their religion.  And NO, its not oppression to question ridiculous ideas and to try to inspire changes through reason.  It’s dishonest to say we are forcing you to ditch your faith, when you are just being asked to think about your belief.  So, please understand the stakes and put forth some real evidence that your God exists and his inspired word is valid, or think about leaving it all on the curb.

6.  “God is beyond our perceptions, measurements and tests.  Doubters want to use human senses and empirical methods to verify God, but he is beyond such things.”  – If He’s in-perceivable in every human way, that’s the same thing as believing in and worshiping NOTHING!  Correct, God and Nothingness would therefore be indistinguishable from each other!  Further, any believer saying this is admitting that believers have zero evidence justifying their belief in God.  Worse for you, it also means that not believing in gods, (the atheist position) is the only justified position.  Well done.

Alternately, defending your lack of evidence by claiming God doesn’t leave evidence, is saying that miracles, visions, disasters and the whole universe IS NOT evidence of your God.  Care to revise your position?

7.  “You won’t know or prove God’s existence until you open your heart to Him.”  – So let me get this straight. You now contradict your position by revising God’s utter imperceptibility with the simple fix of having an open heart and just believing in him?!  So… to see “evidence” of God, I have to IGNORE the glaring LACK of empirical evidence for God, by SUPPRESSING my perfectly justified skepticism and disbelief?  Then I have to BLINDLY believe some virally popular myth and open my mind to it… for no reason other than your word?  Yes, let the brainwashing begin as follows:  I am to be compelled to accept the “truth” suggested by my family and community and not question it.  The more I blindly accept those stories of experiences, visions and miracles, the more likely my own brain will interpret events in that way.  My conditioned brain is even being primed to let me have visions of my own, which will likely relate to my constantly reinforced beliefs!  The evidence contradicting my belief system would be mentally compartmentalized and explained away by authority figures and fallacious arguments.  My position becomes solidified more and more until rational people sound absurd to me… just like atheists challenging beliefs based on somebody’s word with zero evidence.  No thanks.  That ploy may work on children and the emotionally needy, but I prefer to NOT open myself up to coercive influences and baseless claims.  If a god did make us, then he would expect us to use our advanced reasoning abilities to stay clear of such obvious manipulations.  As an atheist and skeptic I see right through your position for what it is… a baseless and outdated belief system.

Thanks for reading, @FreeAtheism on Twitter

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