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Pete at Home
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THANK GOD FOR THE ATHEISTS
Sunday, August 4, 2013.

Thing One spoke at church today, so I went to church with Exie and sat in the front row. Afterwards, everyone at church kept telling me what a brilliant and spiritual young man I have for a son. It's not just the adults, either -- the teenagers at church, when they come to stay at the campgrounds where I'm currently caretaker (as I get ready to take the Georgia Bar Exam), refer to me as Thing One's Dad, and there's nothing I'd rather have them call me.

Standing in the Foyer, I'm hearing the same compliments, and I respond with what I think is an interesting and complimentary story.

"You know, Thing One did not always believe in God. When he was four and five, he was very fiercely atheistic." Thing One covers his face. Oh no, I didn't mean to be one of THOSE dads. "Thing One, you shouldn't be embarrassed. It's a good thing that you came to your beliefs on your own, rather than being brainwashed into religion."

The other church members around us agree and nod, but I can tell that there's no way I can get out of telling this story.

When Thing One was younger, he always heard us start our prayers like the Lord's Prayer, which addresses God as "Father." Since he called me "Dad," I don't think he realized that "Father" meant anyone other than God. One time, I told him, "Thing One, I am your father," and he got quite upset. He said, 'No! You my daddy! You not Father!" In fact, the one time I shaved my whiskers off, he said I wasn't even Daddy anymore, I was "momma's friend Peter."

I tried to explain what 'Father' actually meant, but Thing One was pretty stubborn. Once he had an idea what a word meant, it was impossible to change his mind. (see my earlier "Buddha Wept" posts.)

Thing One's theological crisis occurred in the middle of the movie 'Toy Story II' in the scene where the Evil Emperor Zurg tells Buzz Lightyear, 'BUZZ! I AM YOUR FATHER!

It occurs to me that Thing One hasn't seen the Star Wars series, so I look at him to see what his reaction is. His face is filled with horror. He looks back and forth at his mom's face and at my face, and points at Evil Emperor Zurg. "FATHER?" he asks?

Oh no.

Thing One would not join the family in prayers for more than a year after that. Didn't want to be part of any Evil Emperor Zurg cult.

I salute his independent spirit, wherever it may roam.

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DarkJello
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I love the title of this thread. What about "Thank Atheists For God"??

Interesting details, much enjoyed.

Would read again.

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Pete at Home
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I do thank quite a number of atheists for asking the hard questions that led me to God. [Big Grin]

Glad you enjoyed.

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AI Wessex
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You don't have to be an atheist to ask "the hard questions". We should all be asking them all the time, and especially when we think we know the answers.

[ August 04, 2013, 08:40 PM: Message edited by: AI Wessex ]

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Pete at Home
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That's precisely why I thank God for the atheists that have been among my spiritual teachers. I agree wholeheartedly with what you said, regardless of whether it is what you meant. [Smile]
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Pete at Home
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Seriously, what Al said is spot on. I hope he's not too offended that a religious person can agree with him so passionately about something.

As I understand the concept of FAITH, it thrives in doubt, but can be suffocated by smugness. I think that's why the laughing God plays hide and seek with us.

Jesus is very clear about how he wants us to deal with each other, and to love and honor God. I'm hard-pressed to find anyone -- Jewish, Buddhist, even Atheist, that can dismiss the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. On the contrary, Jews claim he stole them from the Talmud which was written 200 years later, and Buddhists have said, after reading the Sermon on the Mount, that Jesus was "close to Buddhahood."

But with other doctrines, God plays hide and seek with us. Best example I can think of is the doctrine, or what passes for doctrine, regarding the one unforgivable sin, "Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit," sometimes referred to as "shedding innocent blood." Jesus says he can forgive anything for love, but he can't forgive THAT. What's That? He doesn't explain. And every Christian preacher seems to have a different explanation of what THAT is. There's even a website where Atheists try to blaspheme the Holy Ghost so that Christian missionaries will get off their leg.

Somewhere, God is laughing.

I don't have any bleeping idea what it means to blaspheme the holy ghost. And I think that if God wanted us to understand, he would have been more clear. I think it serves his purposes to leave us guessing. That he wants us to know that he loves us, and will forgive almost anything, but don't get too smug.

Don't push your luck.

Not because God's love is limited, but because he knows too well our capacity for self-destruction, and doesn't want us to push the envelope.

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DarkJello
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Pete:

I understand that sin to be actively working against God when you 100% know Him to be the real deal. Judas might be in that category. Maybe. And yes, I too agree with Wessex's analysis.

[ August 05, 2013, 02:17 PM: Message edited by: DarkJello ]

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AI Wessex
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"Seriously, what Al said is spot on. I hope he's not too offended that a religious person can agree with him so passionately about something."

I have always maintained that the highest virtue a believer can exhibit is doubt. I trust anyone who asks questions and begin to trust them less as they become more certain of their answers. In other words, everyone can question equally whether God exists and in what form, but when people decide with certainty that they know the answer, then they begin to mistrust those who still question and those who no longer question but came to a different conclusion.

Pete, if you want to talk about whether God exists, I'm happy to engage But if you want to talk about the fact of God's existence, my interest fades along with my confidence that you can consider the question with an open mind.

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Pete at Home
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I never have asked you to engage in any conversation that required you or anyone else to assume that God exists, nor have I tried to prove God's existence to you.

But if we were to discuss WHETHER God is we would first have to determine what God is, since we need to determine what we're looking for before we can ascertain whether it is there.

That's just elementary logic. Otherwise if I were to introduce you to God over coffee, you could simply say, well, that's not God, and then define God as whatever is not sitting down with you at the coffee table.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by DarkJello:
Pete:

I understand that sin to be actively working against God when you 100% know Him to be the real deal. Judas might be in that category. Maybe. And yes, I too agree with Wessex's analysis.

I don't think that Judas knew that at all. I think that he was too afraid. But this is on the right track. I think that what it comes down to is that God will not turn us away but we are free to turn away from God. If, when in complete knowledge of God (which I don't think can happen while we are incarnate) we still turn away, we are allowed that.
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Wayward Son
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quote:
But if we were to discuss WHETHER God is we would first have to determine what God is, since we need to determine what we're looking for before we can ascertain whether it is there.
But wouldn't this entail first defining something you have not yet seen? Much like first defining what a unicorn is before finding out if there is unicorns? How can you do that? [Confused]

The only way I can see is if you create an idealized God, one that may or may not correspond to a real one. Then hope He exists.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
But wouldn't this entail first defining something you have not yet seen?
Yes, first we must pinpoint what it is we're talking about, before we can actually determine whether it exists or not.
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scifibum
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When you have a whole category of things that might exist, and the category is partly defined as being unfalsifiable, then I don't know how narrowing it down further is going to help.

That is - if your concept of God includes the notion that faith is required, and you're not going to be able to disprove God's existence - then God's other attributes aren't going to help you determine whether God exists.

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DarkJello
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
quote:
Originally posted by DarkJello:
Pete:

I understand that sin to be actively working against God when you 100% know Him to be the real deal. Judas might be in that category. Maybe. And yes, I too agree with Wessex's analysis.

I don't think that Judas knew that at all. I think that he was too afraid. But this is on the right track. I think that what it comes down to is that God will not turn us away but we are free to turn away from God. If, when in complete knowledge of God (which I don't think can happen while we are incarnate) we still turn away, we are allowed that.
You are probably right about Judas. I agree with the rest of your post as well. Where much is given, much is required. And free agency does cut both ways, for good and for evil.
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AI Wessex
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"But if we were to discuss WHETHER God is we would first have to determine what God is, since we need to determine what we're looking for before we can ascertain whether it is there."

As mentioned, that is the irresolvable dilemma. If you substitute bandersnatchi for God in the above you can see how absurd it is to attempt to find something that you don't know exists merely by defining what it is and then "detecting" its existence by a kind of inference.

But if you want to take a stab at a definition of God, we can wrangle that until we come up with a common definition that we can then attempt to prove or disprove the existence of.

You realize, of course, that if you offer a definition, I will quibble with it and offer a counter-definition [Wink] .

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Viking_Longship
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The Tao I can name is not The Tao.

You can come to agreement on what God is, but that doesn't mean that that it what God is.

[ August 06, 2013, 10:37 PM: Message edited by: Viking_Longship ]

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DarkJello
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Wait! Just wait!!

Wessex does not believe in the bandersnatchi EITHER?!?!?

I am shocked to the core by his brazen rebellion against all things future/past scientific.

"Frumious Bandersnatch are described as a slug-like herd animal with completely white, slick skin. A Sauropod-like neck, with no head, extends about as high as the bandersnatch's body. The tip is thick and rounded, entirely featureless, other than two tufts of black bristles (sense organs) and a large mouth adapted to scooping a form of mutated yeast out of shallow ocean-like yeast colonies."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandersnatch

the 2nd is as above but with "_(known_space)" immediately following /bandersnatch


It has 2 wiki pages, therefore it exists. But they also disagree on the details. Fits right into this thread.

[ August 07, 2013, 01:27 AM: Message edited by: DarkJello ]

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by AI Wessex:
If you substitute bandersnatchi for God in the above you can see how absurd it is to attempt to find something that you don't know exists merely by defining what it is and then "detecting" its existence by a kind of inference.

It may not be pure science, but it is not exactly absurd either. From what I understand, gravity is still inferred from detected effects, but I'm not a physicist. By defining gravity as a force that attacts matter to matter, I can show that gravity exists by point out that matter does attact other matter.
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AI Wessex
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quote:
"Frumious Bandersnatch are described as a slug-like herd animal with completely white, slick skin. A Sauropod-like neck, with no head, extends about as high as the bandersnatch's body. The tip is thick and rounded, entirely featureless, other than two tufts of black bristles (sense organs) and a large mouth adapted to scooping a form of mutated yeast out of shallow ocean-like yeast colonies."
Sounds like a vision sort of thing to me, as others reports suggest such sightings followed ingesting "holy water" and other seeming foodstuffs. Disqualified.
quote:
It may not be pure science, but it is not exactly absurd either. From what I understand, gravity is still inferred from detected effects, but I'm not a physicist. By defining gravity as a force that attacts matter to matter, I can show that gravity exists by point out that matter does attact other matter.
Um, I don't think you want to go down the path of asserting that a scientific method can be followed to provide a falsifiable proof of God's existence. Any plausible hypothesis could lead us to the FSM or more likely, a proof that we are living in the matrix. Either of those outcomes would be disappointing to some.

[ August 07, 2013, 07:11 AM: Message edited by: AI Wessex ]

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Viking_Longship:
The Tao I can name is not The Tao.

This. We can only imagine or cope with or have a relationship with aspects of God. One of our biggest mistakes in religion is to forget this and believe that what we imagine is the whole of God.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
quote:
But if we were to discuss WHETHER God is we would first have to determine what God is, since we need to determine what we're looking for before we can ascertain whether it is there.
But wouldn't this entail first defining something you have not yet seen? Much like first defining what a unicorn is before finding out if there is unicorns? How can you do that? [Confused]

Wayward, in absence of a definition of unicorns that says "white horse with dainty narrow horn protruding from its forehead," I can prove to you that unicorns do exist:

http://true-wildlife.blogspot.com/2010/10/javan-rhinoceros.html

Several languages including Mandarin Chinese have words for these creatures that literally translates to one-horn, i.e. unicorn.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
quote:
But wouldn't this entail first defining something you have not yet seen?
Yes, first we must pinpoint what it is we're talking about, before we can actually determine whether it exists or not.
EXACTLY! For similar reasons, when two parties engage in contract litigation, the order in which the court needs to solve the argument goes as follows:

1. Determine WHAT KIND OF CONTRACT IT IS.
2. Determine WHETHER THERE IS A CONTRACT.
3. ...

You might ask, how can you ask what kind of contract it is before you know if there is a contract? Because the rules-set that establishes whether a contract has been validly formed depends on what sort of putative contract has been made.

Whether God exists, or unicorns exist, or true love exists, or bandersnatchi exist, depends on how we define God, or unicorns, or true love, or bandersnatchi.

Obviously.

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Pete at Home
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"I don't think you want to go down the path of asserting that a scientific method can be followed to provide a falsifiable proof of God's existence."

I don't think you want to put money on your assumption that NO scientific method can be followed to provide a falsifiable proof of God's existence, unless you first define God. Otherwise you're going to lose your money.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Viking_Longship:
The Tao I can name is not The Tao.

You can come to agreement on what God is, but that doesn't mean that that it what God is.

I did not realize that you are a fellow Christian-fan-of-Lao-Tzu [Cool] Love the Tao te Ching. Very true.

[ August 07, 2013, 10:52 AM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
quote:
Originally posted by Viking_Longship:
The Tao I can name is not The Tao.

This. We can only imagine or cope with or have a relationship with aspects of God. One of our biggest mistakes in religion is to forget this and believe that what we imagine is the whole of God.
Nicely said. That's why we give God so many names, and I think it's the principle behind the JudeoChristian prohibition of idolatry, the "I am" names, etc.
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Pete at Home
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A serious question:

Was any atheist here offended by the thread title "Thank God for the Atheists"?

Thanks for your thoughts.

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TomDavidson
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I'm more offended by the idea that it might be offensive.
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Aris Katsaris
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Not offended at all.
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scifibum
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I'm deeply offended that the title is in all caps. Otherwise, fine.
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AI Wessex
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No, but it reads as a headline. Not Sure Why You Thought That Was Necessary.
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MattP
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I'm more offended by the idea that it might be offensive.

I'll go with this, but "more offended" is a pretty low bar given how little offense is happening at all.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I'm more offended by the idea that it might be offensive.

I am relieved that you would say so. I was shocked when Exie said she thought the title would offend atheists.

I don't want to accidentally offend anyone. If I offend Atheists, or anyone else, I want it to be on purpose. [Smile]

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DarkJello
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I'm more offended by the idea that it might be offensive.

I don't want to accidentally offend anyone. If I offend Atheists, or anyone else, I want it to be on purpose. [Smile]
Now that is illuminating, and in a good/funny way. [Razz]

(Above directed equally at Tom and Pete).

[ August 07, 2013, 01:44 PM: Message edited by: DarkJello ]

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AI Wessex
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
"I don't think you want to go down the path of asserting that a scientific method can be followed to provide a falsifiable proof of God's existence."

I don't think you want to put money on your assumption that NO scientific method can be followed to provide a falsifiable proof of God's existence, unless you first define God. Otherwise you're going to lose your money.

OK, provide a bullet-proof definition of God, then.
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Pete at Home
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I have no idea what you mean by a "bullet-proof definition of God," or why I would engage in such a discussion. I'm simply saying that if you should not place money on the proposition that God does not exist without first defining what God is or is not.

I will say that the only statements that I have ever heard that I would use the word "Blasphemy" to describe, are the ones coming out of the Westboro Baptist Church. God hates so and so, this group and that group. If God is anything, God is love.

I think that William Blake offers an excellent working description of God in his poem, The Divine Image:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172912

quote:
To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

I think that's why Jesus Christ gave more emphasis to knowing and loving God, than in believing in God's literal existence.
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AI Wessex
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Pete, if we're questioning the existence of God, poetry is a wonderful medium to talk about God's meaning, but I don't see how it helps us determine if God exists. I would nominate the Partita #2 Chaconne if meditative contemplation would help us, but it doesn't get me any closer to an answer than Blake.
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Pete at Home
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In modernist terms God could be described as the anthropomorphized image of all human hopes and virtues. In New Testament terms, the Word made Flesh. In modern scriptural terms, "Man of Holiness."
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AI Wessex
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But human hopes and virtues can be explained in terms of biology and evolution, which are measurable and observable.
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Pete at Home
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Aris, you are one of the most imaginative atheists that I have ever met, so I'll pose this question to you, but others feel free to chime in. Given the description of God that I just provided, what theoretically might be proven or disproven by MRI brain imaging and brain wave patterns of people in worship, meditation, and prayer?
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Pete at Home
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I wonder if persons who believe that they are receiving a message from God, or being comforted or encouraged by God, exhibit similar brain MRI and brain wave patterns. And if Buddist monks at meditation emulate these patterns or exhibit different ones from persons who claim to be receiving inspiration from prayer.

I don't think such a study could definitively prove that answers to prayers come from without or are generated from within as a form of self-deception. But it seems to me that study results might provide evidence that leans one way or the other.

What do you think? Would such a study be worth doing?

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