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

Claim: “The universe is too perfect for life to be an accident. (finely tuned by design)”

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Refutation Links and Multimedia: Fine Tuning Argument Debunked (vid)
Debater Responses:
  •  *V*-“@tzioneretz: The universe is a total mess. If stars and planets were drivers, they’d all long have had their licenses revoked. they are born and they die every day, they bump into each other, they explode, they cause cataclysmic disasters to each other… – it happens over long period of time and is not readily visible… – until an asteroid hits us one day. Anyway, is it so inconceivable that on one out of trillions of planets during billions of years atoms and molecules aligned in just the right way as to give rise to a simple life-form, which then evolved over hundreds of millions of years into various species?
  • *V*-“@Auldshamen:  The universe is too perfect for life to be an accident. (finely tuned by design)
    Let’s examine this finely tuned by design premise. The universe is so hostile to life that to think we humans got this far is amazing. If we leave this planet, we die instantly unless we take our atmosphere with us. Cosmic radiation is deadly.
    The Earth is quite hostile as well. Seventy-five percent of its surface is covered with water that we cannot drink because the salt content will kill us. If we venture into the ocean or lakes, we have to take our atmosphere there as well. Just swimming in the ocean is dangerous to us from predators. Tsunamis are a danger if we live near the coast.
    Earthquakes and volcanoes constantly threaten us. We can’t live at the poles because it’s much too cold for our frail bodies and no food grows there. That leaves about 20% of the land mass that’s accessible to us. Of that 20% there are mountains that are much too high to support our inefficient air intake system. And there are many desert areas that are much too hot for our inefficient cooling system.
    We must be very careful about the foods we eat because much of the plant life is poisonous. We must thoroughly clean our food to prevent the intake of bacteria. There are predators on the land that will kill us.
    We are constantly being threatened by viruses, bacteria and poisons.

Common Sense, Using Ridicule and/or Requiring Proof:

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Claim: “You have everything to lose if you’re wrong about God, so why not believe just in case?

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Refutation Links and Multimedia:  Pascal’s Wager Debunked vid 
  • Debater Responses:*V*-“@atheistmel:  If I can fool god into thinking I believe in him when I really don’t, that’s fairly damaging to his credibility as an all-knowing being!”
  • *V*-“@DonQuixote1950: Pascal’s Wager ONLY applies if God is sociopath who demands blind allegiance based on: Bible? Koran? Book of Mormon? Which one?”
  • “@OldRifleman: There are 3,000 of them so far.What if you pick the wrong one?Pascals wager.”
  • “@Peter301164: which god and is this god really easily fooled by dishonest selfish protestations of belief?”
  • *V*-“@tzioneretz: You have everything to lose if you’re wrong about God, so why not believe just in case?”Pascal’s Wager. (1) Would “god” accept such opportunism in lieu of genuine affection? (2) Which of the thousands of “gods” should one believe in, and what if one chooses wrongly? Statistically, the odds of choosing the “correct” “god” are much worse than the odds that no type of “god” exists at all.
  • *V*-“@DonQuixote1950:  Believing in wrong god, just as bad as believing in no god (if only 1 god). BUT there r NO gods! Deal w/it! (Not u, them)”

Common Sense, Using Ridicule and/or Requiring Proof:

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Claim: “Complex things must have a designer and complex design is everywhere, so god exists.”

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Refutation Links and Multimedia:
(Also linked from: DNA and other creations, like our eyes, are too complex to be naturally developed.)
Debater Responses:
  • *A*-“@FreeAtheism: Complexity does not automatically equal design. Scientists have observed & explained natural processes which develop very complex systems. No magic needed.”
  • *A*-“@tzioneretz: ‘Complex’ is a normative term (i.e. can mean different things to different people).  Many things that could be deemed complex occur through transparent natural processes, without any external intervention.  In any case, if the Big Bang theory is true, then the origin of the universe was extremely simple: energy, which gradually and naturally converted into matter.  There is no need for a “god” to explain any of it.  By the way, which “god” are we talking about?
  • *A*-“Allallt–  You can assert that complexity equates to design all you like. But can you demonstrate it to be true?  Complexity comes from evolution (whether it be stellar, biological or galactic etc.) And that can be demonstrated. Stages of stellar and galactic evolution have been captured by the Hubble telescope. Biological evolution is one of the most tested and best understood scientific theories (up there with relativity and gravity).

    Take biological evolution, for example. It has certain limitations: it cannot create an irreducibly complex feature. A designer could. We don’t see an irreducibly complex feature anywhere in nature. Human designers have created more efficient versions of biological features (haemoglobin is the thing I’m thinking of). Whereas natural haemoglobin is representative of something that prior forms and… well… evolved.
    It seems desperate to interpret a Designer (let alone a perfect one) from this.”

    *V*-“FreeAtheism: Then, arguably something MORE complex would the designer need to be. So then there absolutely is a designer of your god. No?”

Common Sense, Using Ridicule and/or Requiring Proof:

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