For those who still believe in “God” or “after-life”, what are your reasons?

I hope to provide a contrast in this thread to the several threads about the FSM, Teapot, or other threads regarding the existence of a "God" (over on postmormon.org). As for me, I consider myself agnostic according to my "knowing" but I still have a belief that there's more to our existence and souls than what we can currently verify through our senses and science. I am not rigid in this belief though. What I believe is more or less under constant scrutiny as to what makes spiritual sense and also has something to back it up, even if just anecdotal.

As to the reasons behind my continued belief, let me just share a couple in hope that others will share what leaves them believing, or at least wanting to believe.

1. Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

This will raise an eyebrow or two from some of you but let me explain why the existence and phenomenon of NDEs contributes to my believe in both "God" and our immortality. Though science and/or studies conclude that NDEs are merely the effects or halucinations of an oxygen deprived brain, there seems to be something more to them than that. If depriving the brain of oxygen can induce an NDE, perhaps it's because the brain is the receiver (as in radio receiver) of our consciousness and once disabled, we tune out of the point of view of our body and see things from our conscious field or venture to other conscious realms.

Also, I find the fact that so many people(including atheists) do have NDEs indicative of an existence of life outside our mortal frames. Many NDE experiencers can recall the discussion and tools surgeons had while they themselves were technically brain dead and unconscious. NDEs have many similarities (and differences) in that many experience a life review that is non-judgmental and allows them to know how their actions made other people feel, good or bad etc.

One last point regarding NDEs which is that they support the theory of the universe being a conscious field and when one is out of their body, some of what they experience is due to their conscious programming, meaning the thoughts and beliefs they had in life are creating and contributing to what they experience outside the body. If they believed in Jesus, they often see Jesus. If they believed in Buddha, he appears instead. For more on NDEs, see http://www.near-death.com. This is one of my favorite NDEs which also explains a lot about the NDE experience itself, as well as the Universe: Link

2. Quantum physics/theory

This may raise even more eyebrows, lol. When you get down to the quantum level, or the level in which you're measuring the size, weight and dimensions of atoms, you discover that an atom is something like 97% empty space, meaning space exists in and through everything, unless this "space" is actually filled with something smaller which we are yet unable to detect, such as the Higgs boson or "God particle". Some believe and theorize that this "space" is actually a medium, such as water, that sustains and holds everything together. Also at this quantum level, everything is energy, vibration, electrical and magnetic etc. So this "space"/medium is the field and transport that not just holds everything together, but also allows everything to interact. But all of this "space" brings up the question, what is real? Is this reality just a conscious hologram that is supported by the common beliefs and definitions of the whole? In some studies and experiments, the observer can influence what is seen or the behavior of particles at this quantum level etc. Meaning, based on the thoughts and preconceived theories of the observer, the particle appears to behave accordingly. This seems to introduce the theory that our thoughts can influence reality to a small degree. Something to think about...

Well, there you have two bits of my reasons for still believing in both a form of "God" and immortality. I am certainly open to scrutiny, but I would prefer to have this thread focus on just the varying reasons some of us still hold out belief in a natural or supernatural "God" or immortality etc. Feel free to PM me on my errors and fallacies though.

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I'm an agnostic as well, but the example I use, and the thought that continually comes back to me, is that if this life is all there is, then why not live for the day every day, steal what you need, kill anyone who gets in your way, and when it becomes too painful to bear, kill yourself in the comfort of your own home? I've never heard an argument against this sort of behavior that is convincing to me, if indeed this life is all there is. If it's true that we simply cease to exist, then you have to admit that Hitler got away with murder. He died quite comfortably down in that bunker, surrounded by loved ones, after living it up on the suffering of countless millions.

Furthermore, what about a woman who dies with full faculties at the age of 95? She can remember all the way back to when she was a little girl. She has a wealth of experience, knowledge, wisdom, and progression through various levels of maturity... for what? If she simply ceases to exist, what was the point? This proves nothing about any afterlife, but I have never heard a convincing response from any disbelievers. Neither scenario I've pointed out has any answers at all, but the questions remain. I don't see how it's possible to refrain from confronting these dilemmas, neither to prove anything through them, nor to dismiss them. Both situations happen every day, somewhere in this world.

"If depriving the brain of oxygen can induce an NDE, perhaps it's because the brain is the receiver (as in radio receiver) of our consciousness and once disabled, we tune out of the point of view of our body and see things from our conscious field or venture to other conscious realms." That is a very provocative observation! I'm going to be thinking about that for a good long time: brain as radio receiver. I like it!
And yet millions of atheists live what would be deemed "moral lives." If you were to find out tomorrow that there was not any God who cared about your actions (still could be a God that wasn't suck a stickler on human behavior, of course) is that how you'd behave? Einstein, for example, was clear that he had no belief in an afterlife or even in a God that concerned itself with morality.
What you are giving is not so much a reason for "moral" behavior as a justification for it. That an all-powerful being will reward or punish behavior in the hereafter would be a strong motivator. But in the realm of human behavior such things tend to be justifications after the fact rather than motivators a priori.

The problem with the supernatural, punishment-reward-in-the hereafter viewpoint of morality is that there is no reliable way to know what behavior the alleged God wants. The 9\11 terrorists were not simply acting on hedonistic impulse because they found themselves in a meaningless universe. The constraint to behavior that supernatural beliefs can bring are often balanced by those same beliefs' motivation to behavior.

If you argue for a belief in God be warned there are numerous Gods to believe in, many of them not the kind of God you would want your neighbors to follow.
I recently read Robert C. Fuller's Religious Revolutionaries, a kind of broad treatment of the evolution of religious thought in the U.S. It helped put Mormonism in context, as well the other major religious movements of the nation from colonial times to the present. The book has helped me define my own beliefs (a mix of deism, Quakerism, and Buddhism, I think :-) and helped me to see that that my beliefs about God are not so new after all, and they are no longer circumscribed by a strictly Christian worldview.
Thanks, Micah, for the topic. For full disclosure, I consider myself an atheist, although I use terms like soul, heart, and holiness freely. And I pray to Cindy, the bikini goddess who inhabits a canyon just east of my house. (Really, I do. I like praying to her.)

The more expansive, less mechanistic claim--omniscient, all loving god versus just natural phenomena--is that of a personal, powerful god. So the burden of proof is with the camp that proclaims god. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence, sifted over centuries, that lends itself to belief in a higher power. What makes the evidence hollow for me is that the conclusions usually follow the biases of the collector. Sure, there are stories of the rabbi who converted to Mormonism or the Mormon who became a Jehova's Witness, or even the actor who became a Scientologist. But mostly we have Mormons becoming more Mormon, Moslems becoming more convinced of Islam, and Catholics perceiving ever more obvious evidence that they were right all along. In my view, the collected evidence attests most to the human capacity to see what we expect to see.

Near-death experiences are emotionally evocative to me. I want them to be true. I've talked with many people (I'm a psychologist) who have had them. No two experiences are the same. Some people are horrified by them. They do not point in a single direction. The stories I have heard resemble a collection of defective compasses pointing everywhere. I can sift through them and find evidence of a god, but only if I know in advance what I want to see. I remember a finding from 1950's research on memories. If you ask people what is their earliest memory, you will see three themes: trauma (e.g., a car accident or violence in the home), transition (moving to a new house, when the younger sibling was born), or trivia (Corn Flakes on the sofa). That sounds very impressive at first...until you realize that all memories--early or recent--fit into those categories. They tell us more about the person synthesizing the data than they do about the nature of memory.

What if the brain tends to find peace and relief in near-death experiences. Does that say something about eternity or it is a reflection of an organ shutting down, flashes of memory still operating as the capacity for suffering flickers off? The profound joy (which is not universal) might just be contrast effect; dying is not pleasant, after all.

I work with addicts. A common phenomenon among alcoholics and methamphetamine users is formication (with an M, not an N). That's a tacticle hallucination of bugs or other crawly things on, in, or under one's skin. Does the frequency of this hallucination actually give insight into some greater sphere than our own? Naw. I suspect it's just a common final pathway in neurons being damaged by toxins. And if we are inclined to draw inspiration from the hallucinations of people near death, why not also give credence to the frequent geriatric delusions that one's spouse is having an affair, that one's children are plotting to pilfer the retirement account, or that the nurses are coming in at night to do horrible things?

If we filter and sift through anomalous findings--those one in a million experiences--in search of truth, what we'll find after one billion data points is a thousand phenomena that fit our preconceptions. Take off the filter, however, and there will be a billion bits of data pointing nowhere.

I, too, yearn for something deeper, for some final result that makes life just, that fixes the Holocaust, that lets the meek inherit the earth. But my yearning doesn't make it so. It's just my yearning. The rest of my experience points the other direction: life isn't fair.

Does my fatalism deprive me of love, meaning, or morality? No. But it does mean that my life is my only eternity, that my current relationships are a portion of my forever, and that my moral choices are because I'm moral and not because I want a prize at the end. Humans aren't the only species to exhibit moral reasoning. It's just too unbelievably species-centric to claim that this whole universe is about us. Why should it be? There's incredible awe and marvel in looking around and contemplating, "I'm an artifact of an impersonal universe. Wow."

--Garyatrics
Your thoughts very much mirror mine, Micah. But then again, you were the one who turned me on to Mellen-Thomas Benedict's experience and I have found quite a few interviews with him on-line and have listened to them many times.

I too have thought of the brain as a possible receiver. If we do have a part of ourselves which exists outside of our bodies, this would explain how people with diseases such as Alzheimer's lose so much of their memories. Perhaps while their brains deteriorate, they cease to function as good receivers, and the patient then cannot access the part of themselves which holds their memories and experiences.

It will be interesting to see what further research in Quantum Physics turns up in the future.
There is but one reason to believe in God, without it all those who claim they believe are pretenders or self-deluding.

One must have an intuitive knowledge that God simply is. Logic, reason, desire, and emotion is not a part of this knowledge, it is as if you are in the dark yet instinctively know that if you reach out your hand, you will find another willing to take your hand. I don't think you can will yourself into this experience, nor beg God into giving it to you.

While I have had this experience, I have never had God tell me "the rules" or ever tell me to go and tell others that "God told me to tell you". In fact the opposite is true, God has consistency made clear to me that man only knows through the direct intervention of God himself. There are no men, books, tapes, religions qualified to lead others to a knowledge of God.

I have on occasion met others that (again I intuitively know) know the same God I do. Yet despite this knowledge we find God indescribable, even between ourselves. Trying to discuss God using words is like Ham (the fist chimp in space) coming back and, using chimpanzee language, trying to explain to jungle chimps what he experienced. We don't have any better words than they do, so those of us that have been through it, tend to be quiet about it.

I can tell you though it's very cool to find others that know.

It's frustrating to say the least, but when you consider the limits of mans intellect in comparison to the intellect of a being that created a Universe, it's understandable that words simply get in the way.
James, this reminds me of the conclusion of the Book of Job. After all the awful things that happened, there were simply no logical explanations. But then there came the voice, "I am." That was it, no explanation, no logic, no compelling evidence. Well, someone went and tried to make the story "all better" by giving Job a new wife, family, and fortune. But that pales in comparison to "I am." That, after all, is the question.

--Garyatrics
Thanks for your reply Patricia. This makes sense to me, but then again I've read into a lot of metaphysical stuff.
By agnostic I mean that I really don't know as far as what I have experienced with my 5 senses. However, I still hold a belief in what could be defined as "God", but it's not the typical definition of what most religions think God is. I definitely hold out the possibility that other races of beings exist in the universe who possibly have interaction with our planet. I wouldn't call them God though, just other life.

By definition agnostic can mean:
"a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience."

I'm not sure I entirely fit that definition or that you do either. But it helps others understand as to what I know, verses what I still hold a belief in.
Agnosticism (Greek: α- a-, without + γνώσις gnōsis, knowledge; after Gnosticism) is the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims — particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of deities, spiritual beings, or even ultimate reality — is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently impossible to prove or disprove and hence unknowable. [1] It is not a religious declaration in itself and the terms are not mutually exclusive. [2]
"It does not really matter how or what but what is most important is that everyone finds love and fulfillment in whatever they are pursuing."

I like and agree with this!
Patricia,

You are asking if people who have a spiritual experience should share it with others or keep it to themselves? Hmmm...good question. You can share and I would be happy to listen and take from it what I felt helped me in my search for truth...but until I have that experience myself I can't say ... it is so. So because I haven't experienced the things u seem to have experienced I still have to say, "I just don't know."

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