113. Atheist Ophelia Benson Admires the Pre-Deathbed Denouncement of Christopher Hitchens

Interview with author Ophelia Benson explores how a scientific understanding of life after death might impact an atheistic worldview.

why-truth-matters-bookJoin Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for and interview with the author of, “Does God Hate Woman?”, and “Why Truth Matters”, Ophelia Benson.  During the interview Ms. Benson expresses  her admiration for being an atheist to the very end, “…Christopher Hitchens, as we all know, is admirably insisting that he’s not going to change his opinions about the nature of the world and about whether or not there’s a God just because he’s mortally ill. And if there are any rumors that he’s done a deathbed conversion, he wants it to be on the record right now that that’s not what he considers the real Christopher Hitchens.”

When pressed as to whether one could decide to not have a deathbed conversation prior to having such a conversion Ms Benson replied, “I know, it’s sort of tricky in a way, but on the other hand, I kind of think we all do have a right to do that. If you’ve been a lifelong atheist and are continuing to be an atheist, I think you have a right to say, ‘Well, okay, if at the last minute I mumble something, I want to go on the record right now saying I repudiate that in advance.’ It’s ours, so I think we get to do that.”

Ms. Benson also discusses how advances in near death experience science and other research that suggesting a continuation of consciousness might impact the “new atheist” worldview.

Check out Ophelia Benson’s Website: Butterflies and Wheels

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Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris, and on this episode of Skeptiko I have an interview with Ophelia Benson, author, Atheist, and editor of the very popular and very well done Butterflies and Wheels website.

Now, this interview didn’t really go the way that I planned, but when I was editing it I realized that maybe it really made the point I was trying to make after all, and that’s just to demonstrate how this new science of consciousness that we’ve been exploring so much on this show in terms of near-death experience, medium communication, and psi phenomena, how that new science is making its way into the marketplace of ideas. So how a public intellectual like Ophelia Benson is processing this. And in that respect I think the interview is quite revealing. So listen in to my interview with Ophelia Benson:

Today we’re joined by the author of, Does God Hate Women? and Why Truth Matters. She’s also the editor of the very popular Butterflies and Wheels website, which espouses the view that truth is important and that to tell the truth about the world, it’s necessary to put aside whatever preconceptions–ideological, political, moral, etc.–one brings to the endeavor. Ophelia Benson, welcome to Skeptiko.

Ophelia Benson: Thank you.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, it’s very nice to have you on, and as we were just chatting about there, I really enjoyed digging into your writing and listening to a couple of interviews. Let’s start with this why truth matters question, because I think it’s going to be interesting to our listeners.

At first brush it might seem rhetorical, especially to folks who listen to this show since we spend so much time trying to tear apart the latest science and understand what’s real and what isn’t. But it’s actually a pretty deep question and it has some complexity that I was hoping you could flesh out a little bit. When it comes to scientific inquiry, especially about controversial science, unpopular topics, why does the truth matter?

And before you answer, let me stick another part on the end of that. At the same time, does it maybe matter a little bit less than we thought it did? I mean, do we have to make a little room at the table for our post-modernist friends in this discussion, as well?

Ophelia Benson: Well, we did talk about that a good deal, not surprisingly in the book, Why Truth Matters and I don’t feel much impulse to give room to our post-modernist friends, frankly. But I do feel some need to give considerable room to the idea that truth doesn’t always matter. There are times and situations and subjects on which it isn’t necessarily the thing one wants and it doesn’t necessarily hurt anything to be looking for something else.

I mean, sometimes the truth about our existential condition doesn’t make any difference to anybody else and isn’t necessarily the thing we want to keep a grip on at some particular moment. Sometimes you need to be excessively optimistic in order to act at all. Excessively optimistic in the sense that you’re somewhat inaccurately optimistic. So there are all kinds of life situation in which truth doesn’t necessarily matter more than other things.

Alex Tsakiris: Sure, sure and there’s the psychology of optimism and all that stuff. I just think I don’t find a lot of comfort in that, you know? I don’t know.

Ophelia Benson: I don’t either, but on the other hand, one can always think, ‘Well, I haven’t been tested in some particular way,’ and it depends on what you’re talking about. I mean, Christopher Hitchens, as we all know, is admirably insisting that he’s not going to change his opinions about the nature of the world and about whether or not there’s a God just because he’s mortally ill. And if there are any rumors that he’s done a deathbed conversion, he wants it to be on the record right now that that’s not what he considers the real Christopher Hitchens.

Alex Tsakiris: But I don’t know where you go with that, either. I don’t know how you can a priory say, “I’m not going to have a deathbed conversion no matter what I say at the time I die.” [Laughs]  I mean, that’s kind of…

Ophelia Benson: [Laughs] I know, it’s sort of tricky in a way, but on the other hand, I kind of think we all do have a right to do that. If you’ve been a lifelong Atheist and are continuing to be an Atheist, I think you have a right to say, “Well, okay, if at the last minute I mumble something, I want to go on the record right now saying I repudiate that in advance.” It’s ours, so I think we get to do that. [Laughs]

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, maybe. And I want to get into that because I think even that is kind of laden with some contradictions. I don’t know why you’d want to take a position-anyone who’s seeking the truth would want to take a position that ‘This is my belief and it can’t be changed no matter what the evidence.” And I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, but let me sharpen this up a little bit for people before we jump right into the middle of things, which I would love to do and usually wind up doing anyway.

But giving it a little bit of a framework here to what you’re talking about because one of the examples you use frequently-and it’s a good one-about this why truth matters is this Holocaust deniers, right? So we look at Holocaust deniers and it cuts through all the crap. They’re on one side of the truth equation and the rest of us are on another and that’s pretty simple. But the rest of it a lot of times isn’t that simple. One of the examples I’ve brought up on this show many times and you’ve written about and is really the first way that I even came across your writing, to be honest with you, was on Freud, you know?

So we take Sigmund Freud, we take the data, the truth in terms of him really being little more than a charlatan who manufactures cases to support very controversial, unsustainable theories that are now completely discredited. But the myth and the influence that he has-while admittedly it has declined-it persists. I’ve been surprised actually on this show in speaking with some pretty prominent guests and this topic will somehow come up and I’ll invariably get this “Well, I don’t know about that, but he’s still without a doubt one of the most influential figures in the 20th century.” And I want to say, “Yeah, isn’t that part of the problem?” I mean…

Ophelia Benson: Exactly.

Alex Tsakiris: …we’ve done everything we can to discredit this guy and he’s still very influential.

Ophelia Benson: Yes, yeah, I think that’s very interesting. I hear that and see that a lot, too. There is this kind of weird  clinging to something about him, some essence of Freud that we still have to pay deference to. And it has now boiled down to well, at least he was influential. Yeah, but all kinds of people have been influential, and that’s not really evidence either of the quality of their thought or of their ability to get at the truth of anything.

Alex Tsakiris: Exactly. And maybe that does tie into the other topic and the main topic I really wanted to talk about today. That’s how Atheists, progressives, critical thinkers, skeptics-and they’re different people. I’m not trying to unnecessarily label them together, lump them together, but whatever the term you choose, I see more and more, especially in the work that we’ve done on this show, falling into the same kind of Truth trap–that’s truth with a capital T-that they so rail against. Because really, at the end, it comes down to how do we really find out what’s true?

And I see this same in the news today. You know the guy who’s going to burn the Quran? [Laughs] We see some idiotic Fundamentalist religious belief, and in this case it’s not getting a total free pass in the marketplace of ideas. But underneath it it is because we’re kind of dealing with it seriously, and the White House is issuing statements saying, “Gee, I wish you wouldn’t do that,” and General Petraeus is saying, “That could harm our troops,” instead of somebody saying, “You’re a complete idiot. Anyone who’s following you is deluded.” So…

Ophelia Benson: But at the same time, people who get extremely upset about that, there’s a certain amount of idiocy in that, too. Now, I would give the guy the exact same advice that everybody else is, don’t do it because you know perfectly well that this makes other people’s buttons extremely red and get extremely upset. But if you draw back a few steps and think about it, both sides are bat loony. If you burn a book you’re just burning one particular artifact and it really doesn’t matter to anything. If there is a God, even God wouldn’t care that much. He would just say, “Oh, you know, the poor erring human doesn’t know what he’s up to.”

Alex Tsakiris: I hear you on that. I just think it does get us into this reactionary mode and whatever side you’re on, there’s this need to fight back. We’ve got to stop this. And that’s what I hear from Atheists or I see from Atheists. And as they spill over into the critical thinking, skeptical community it’s the same thing, you know? We have to stop these guys. To me, it really makes it harder to get at the really big question, which is what’s really true? What is science telling us?

So for me, the little journey that I’ve been on in my tiny little corner of the world here is to really look at the science behind some of these controversial science things that are on the fringe, really related to big-picture questions. When you talk to the scientists, when you talk to the researchers, here’s what I find out. I find two things that I think should be at the center of all these discussions, and yet are never even at the table.

One is that science is revealing that our mind, our consciousness, is not as we used to believe reducible to just brain function. There seems to be something more than just brain function going on. Number two, without getting into too much of the science of this, because I didn’t bring you here to have a real scientific debate, but really to have more of a dialogue about how these forces and ideas might work their way into or be rejected by our marketplace of ideas.

But the second major point is that consciousness in some way that we can’t completely understand or explain, seems to survive our bodily death. Those two things together have really, really deep implications for all these issues. Yet, they never seem to be tackled head-on in any way in terms of saying, “Gee, is there really something true at the heart of this guy who’s trying to burn the Quran and the guys who are going to be mad at the burning of the Quran? Is there anything about their experience, their spiritual experience, that might actually be scientifically credible?” Because if there is, even a bit, I think the dialogue needs to be really different.

Ophelia Benson: Yeah, that makes sense. I don’t know anything about this research that shows that some part of consciousness survives bodily death. Do you have any names off the top of your head?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, are you at all familiar with any of the near-death experience research?

Ophelia Benson: Yeah, a little bit.

Alex Tsakiris: So who? We’ve had virtually all of them on this show, so from Raymond Moody to Jeffrey Long to the people at the University of Virginia, Bruce Greyson, to-and a lot of the skeptical folks who don’t even do really a lot of research but are just kind of skeptical. And really, the state of the science is medically inexplicable accounts of something happening when it shouldn’t be happening.

I think the evidence, if you go to Point 1, which is that our consciousness is somehow not reducible to just our brain function, it’s even more well established. I mean, there are plenty of people who fight tooth and nail against this, but if you really go and look at the science and the majority of the cutting edge science, and even the people who get together at these conferences on consciousness, they would back away very quickly to the idea that this is all just our brain and we can reduce it all down to brain function.

Ophelia Benson: Do they back away from it or do they just say that we don’t yet have all the information about exactly how it works? I know there are a lot of people who think there’s a big gap there, a big gap between what we know and a really complete explanation of how the mind is, what the brain does, for instance. I mean, is it that or is it more than that?

Alex Tsakiris: It’s funny, Ophelia, because I spend an equal amount of time talking to Christian folks, religious folks, spiritual folks, and find out how their traditions and their ideas are just as resistant to this new science as people on the other side. And they are, you know? I just talked to Oxford professor, Michael Marsh, who is both a lecturer at Oxford in medical science-he’s a doctor-and also has a Ph.D. from Oxford as a theologian.

[Laughs] So he gets to object to the whole near-death experience science on both sides. He says, “Hey, as a doctor, I don’t buy it. And also as a theologian, they couldn’t be talking to God because Jesus wouldn’t talk like that to people.” Well, his arguments fall apart just like they do for all the other skeptics, but they fall apart on both sides.

What I was going to say about your last comment is that it’s this arguing from the gaps thing, you know? So if you want to take that stance in saying, “Well, we just haven’t figured it out yet,” the data that’s coming in totally contradicts our medical understanding and the model we’ve built of how the brain works. But you know what? We’ll figure it out in time.”

Well, that’s not really how the game is played. The science game is played that we have to come up with theories that incorporate in the data that we have. And when we have data that falls outside of that, we have to expand our theories to incorporate in that data. That’s just the state that we’re in, if you look at this.

Ophelia Benson: Yeah, sure, I’m just not aware of all this data that can’t be accounted for. But I’m not-you know, I don’t…

Alex Tsakiris: Well, are you familiar with Richard Wiseman? Dr. Richard Wiseman?

Ophelia Benson: No.

Alex Tsakiris: He’s a pretty prominent  skeptic. Even his quote is really telling. He says remote viewing, and then when he was pressed he goes on to say all these psi phenomena, ESP phenomena, telekinesis phenomena-and this is a paraphrase but it’s almost a direct quote. He said in any other field of science we’d have enough evidence to accept them as true. But that begs the question, do we need a higher standard of evidence for this kind of phenomena?

So here it is from an arch-skeptic. So that will give you a little bit of a sense of where we’re really at on this stuff. And you’ve got to admit, just from a philosophical standpoint, that’s not a very strong argument, to say “Gee, these guys have proven it by the normal means that we have, but do we need a higher standard for them since…”

Ophelia Benson: Well, I didn’t hear him say that anybody’s proven it.

Alex Tsakiris: He said that in any other field of science we would consider it proven.

Ophelia Benson: Proven?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, yeah…

Ophelia Benson: Not just backed up or justified but proven?

Alex Tsakiris: Aren’t we just splitting hairs there? I mean…

Ophelia Benson: No, because proof is a very high standard. You don’t actually prove things in science.

Alex Tsakiris: Right. Right. So if we say that something is well established scientifically…

Ophelia Benson: Yeah, okay.

Alex Tsakiris: …aren’t we saying…?

Ophelia Benson: That was the kind of thing I was asking about.

Alex Tsakiris: I mean, I can dig up the exact quote. I’ve used it several times on the show. It’s really easy to find. I can Google it and get…

Ophelia Benson: No, that’s okay. Because I haven’t seen any of this research I’m sort of not in a position to answer your argument because I don’t know the particulars of what it’s based on.

Alex Tsakiris: Right, right. There isn’t a lot we can really grab onto or talk about. To a certain extent it kind of proves my point. I mean, how can this stuff fly so far beneath the radar? So you look at the continuation of consciousness, and it comes from a number of different ways, right? So it comes from near-death experience research which they do in hospitals under highly controlled…

Ophelia Benson: It’s all within about two minutes after brain death, right?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, the brain can only-the whole resuscitation process is only really viable within a pretty short window. It’s not…

Ophelia Benson: Right, exactly. So that means that they’re not really showing consciousness survives death, doesn’t it? If they have only this tiny, narrow window to work in, they’re still working within the biological body.

Alex Tsakiris: Right, but Ophelia, in every way that we have of measuring brain activity, we can verify that folks are no longer-the brain is no longer working. So any conscious experience they would have during that time is completely medically inexplicable and beyond our understanding of what being conscious in our body means.

Ophelia Benson: Except that different parts of the body take different lengths of time to die. So the body isn’t completely dead yet. And by definition that’s true because you’re talking about people who have been resuscitated, right?

Alex Tsakiris: Right.

Ophelia Benson: Or does this happen during death and then the people go ahead and die?

Alex Tsakiris: Most of the research that folks like to quote most frequently is done when people are resuscitated in the hospital after cardiac arrest. But I’m not sure I totally understand what you’re saying there. The reason they do cardiac arrest is because we know the whole physiological experience of death pretty good when it comes to cardiac arrest. When your heart stops within 10 to 15 seconds we know that your brain is no longer active electrically. So we wouldn’t have any theory for how you could be having that conscious experience without your brain functioning.

This is the central scientific question, it would seem to me, that underlies all these issues is what is real? What is the truth? Even if you don’t accept what I’m saying, it still seems to me to be a central question, right?

And it is also the central question for theology, as well. I mean, if you have some kind of religious belief, and I think that’s why theologians are so resistant to accepting this science, too, because it violates their cherished ideas and beliefs about exactly how this stuff happens. The thought that science might penetrate this veil of death to any extent is very threatening because it adds a certain legitimacy that would trump, “Hey, my ancient book says it’s this way or that way.”

Ophelia Benson: But the science is on the radar, isn’t it? I mean, this stuff has been recorded and reported and discussed, hasn’t it?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, it isn’t on your radar. And I’m not singling you out. I’m a little bit surprised it isn’t more on your radar. But then again, I think this is the condition that we’re in. It should be. It should be central. It should be the thing that we need to most concentrate on and figure out rather than worrying about the guy burning the Quran, you know?

I mean, the question’s really what’s true about this? Is any of it true? It certainly passes the initial test of is there anything here? Well, yeah, there’s something here. There’s major doctors at major hospitals across Europe and across the United States who are observing, reporting, slicing and dicing the data in every way possible and all that. So there’s something going on. Why isn’t it the central focus?

Ophelia Benson: Well, because I think the reason is that the majority of scientists think they know what’s going on, which is that the body isn’t fully dead yet. And that parts of the brain are still generating visions, hallucinations, brain states of some sort.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay, I’m going to cut if off there for a minute. You can see that Ophelia Benson is kind of out there in the weeds a little bit. It’s logically inconsistent with what we just talked about. And you can argue that I should have sent her more information, more NDE research before this interview, but I kind of think not, you know? I think it’s interesting to see how someone who’s a public intellectual, obviously a very smart person, how they process this NDE science, which is certainly out there. I mean, it’s in our cultural mix and people have heard about it and know about it. So it’s interesting to see how they process it kind of cold.

And it’s equally interesting to see how they process it once they’re warmed up to it in that I certainly sent her follow-up information. I sent her the lit review from Dr. Bruce Greyson at the University of Virginia. I’ve published that before on the Skeptiko website and might provide a link to it again in these show notes. But it really is a nice, comprehensive lit review.

I certainly haven’t heard from Ms. Benson since then, and I don’t suspect I will. If you’ve listened to this show, you’ve seen this pattern over and over again. When skeptics get confronted with real data that they don’t like or is radically different from their world view, you don’t hear too much from them. I don’t suspect I’ll hear much from Ms. Benson on any of this NDE research.

But let me pick up the interview because we did touch on another topic that’s important to me. That’s how Christians and the Christian tradition is dealing with this new science of consciousness and how that fits into this science/religion culture war that we hear so much about. So here goes:

Alex Tsakiris: You know, the other part that I find fascinating about this, and maybe you can comment on, but the dirty little secret of the New Testament scholars. The new New Testament scholars. The folks who are more Atheistic, so the Bart Ehrman or the Robert Price, if you know Bob Price.

Ophelia Benson: Uh-huh (Yes)

Alex Tsakiris: He was on the show a couple episodes back. A very, very smart guy, funny guy, entertaining guy. Very competent New Testament scholar and also an Atheist. But the kind of dirty little secret, if you really read, is from a historical perspective we have to accommodate the idea that these visions, these kinds of experiences, these kinds of miracles, are well attested historically. Now, they’re not well attested in the way that Christians might want to fit them in, or they’d want to take this one and leave those ones out.

But from a historical perspective, even historians who are Atheistic agree that from the normal means that we have for looking at history-analogy, and how well the accounts are corroborated by different sources–we’ve got a lot of miracles there that we have to deal with. And this idea of…

Ophelia Benson: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Historians agree to that?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, the New Testament scholars like Bob Price and people of that ilk and I’d imagine other folks who you’d-I mean, this is really what you find from the Jesus Project if you really read what they’re saying. The arguments are over whether or not-for example, if you take the Resurrection of Jesus. You’ll take Bart Ehrman, who’s not a believer and one of the foremost New Testament scholars, or Bob Price, who’s not a believer, one of the foremost New Testament scholars, or you take somebody like Marcus Borg, who was on the Jesus Project, is still a Christian but accepts this reimagining of what Christianity is.

Well, all of them accept the idea that Jesus lived. They all accept that as a historical fact. And they accept as a historical fact-and we can’t say historical facts because historians, when they look back, they just say these things are probably true or probably not true. They don’t have a time machine where they can go back and say that. So they just say probably true, probably not true.

But what they say is probably true is that these different people had an encounter with someone who is dead. In this case, it was Jesus. They had some kind of experience that they thought was very real, with someone who died. So that has to be incorporated in and yet it’s kind of glossed over depending on which side. Glossed over if you’re of that ilk and you want to see things that way.

Ophelia Benson: Yeah, it doesn’t seem glossed over to me. It’s more a matter of saying that having an experience that you think is X is not the same thing as actually having the experience of X.

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, maybe.

Ophelia Benson: But the people who saw Jesus could have been hallucinating it. Plus, the record differs in different accounts. None of them are historical accounts as properly-as normally understood.

Alex Tsakiris: Now, there’s a couple different things to tease out there. Yeah, there’s differences. Yeah, there’s contradictions. But this is a pretty well-for that much of ancient history, we have pretty good records. We have pretty good testimony on the different accounts in terms of what historians would normally piece together. And…

Ophelia Benson: I’m not sure that’s right. The way I understand it is that Mark is the earliest one and Mark doesn’t say anything about a vision. And the other stuff came after that and was a development of it. So it was basically confabulation. It was storytelling.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay, I’m going to cut it off again here because on this show we haven’t talked too much about this New Testament scholarship stuff and it can get really geeky and really detailed. I think it’s interesting and I hope to explore it from some new, fresh angles. Particularly how it might relate back to these more modern scientific discoveries about consciousness. But since I haven’t gone into that too much in the past on this show, I don’t think it’s really appropriate to really dig into it here.

Now, I don’t really agree with Ophelia and where she’s coming from. We spent a good deal of time on the phone, talking about Catholic miracles and different New Testament scholars and whether the visions of the Resurrection were real or whether they were even attested and all of that. And let me reiterate: I don’t have any kind of theological dog in that fight. I just think it’s interesting and it is something we’ll cover again. But since we haven’t really covered it in the past, I think that the discussion isn’t all that interesting.

So, this interview, while it didn’t quite go the way I expected, I think may turn out to be a nice turning point in this continued dialogue I want to have with you about how these discoveries in consciousness are impacting both science and religion. So I hope you’ll stay with me for that. In the meantime, I want to thank Ophelia Benson for joining me today on Skeptiko. I sure hope you’ll check out her website, butterfliesandwheels.org. Very, very good stuff on there and I really enjoyed her writing style and some of the content she brings there is really excellent.

If you’d like more information about this show, please check out the Skeptiko website. It’s at skeptiko.com. You’ll find links to all our previous shows, an email link to me, and a link to our forum. That’s going to about do it for today. Until next time, bye for now.


This episode generated quite a bit of discussion in the Skeptiko forum including some interesting comments from Ophelia Benson:

Originally Posted by OpheliaBenson View Post
Alex – the main reason for the “long pauses” (and I don’t remember them as being all that long until the final one, when I just gave up and waited for you to end it) was your suddenly saying “I don’t know if I can salvage anything from this interview.” I figured that meant you weren’t going to use it; I also thought it was rather rude; both combined to make me undermotivated.But that was only the main reason. Another was that, as several people here have pointed out, you did way too much talking, right from the beginning. It wasn’t an interview, it was you talking and occasionally giving me a chance to say something.

Plus you kept saying you’d caught me flat-footed. That was irritating.

So yes, it was definitely a gotcha “interview.”

You’re right that I should have spent more time checking out your site. On the other hand, you should have been a lot more up front about what you had in mind. I didn’t spend more time on your site because, frankly, I had you confused with Skeptico, and I thought you were a genuine skeptic. Is that entirely accidental? Don’t lots of your guests expect something rather different? I’ve read a few transcripts now (yes, I should have done so before) and it looks that way to me.

Alex Tsakiris: Fair enough… I guess we each experienced the interview differently… I did do more talking than usual, but part of that was a growing nervousness as I kept waiting for you to say more.

The “salvage the interview” thing wasn’t meant as a dis (I felt like I had just as much of a part in it). I just didn’t know where to go… first time this has happened.

My mistake (as mentioned to you during the interview, but not published) was to assume you would have a little more of a feel for these issues and how they might shape the “new atheism” movement. My goal was to move the discussion of this science outside of the narrow band of folks who study it and into the larger intellectual community.

So, now that we have all that out of the way, I hope we can dig into some of the areas I was unable to adequately cover in our interview:


Originally Posted by OpheliaBenson View Post
I don’t know how atheists are going to process continuation of consciousness, because I don’t know that there is such a thing as continuation of consciousness [after death, I assume you mean]. I don’t know how atheists are going to process that any more than I know how I am going to pack enough books to last me for eternity.
Alex Tsakiris: So that’s it… after all this thrashing around about how I didn’t give you a change to talk, that’s your reply. I mean, come on… your kinda making my point all over again… that is:Atheists in general (even ones who write books with titles like Why Truth Matters) don’t seem to be very interested in truth (as science is revealing it) that challenges their world view.

And that the central question in the “God debate” can be reduced to — does some form of consciousness survive bodily death. If this is true (and it certainly looks like it is) then intellectual core of the new atheist world view crumbles because we have to take religious/spiritual experiences seriously (not literally, but seriously).

Or, maybe not… maybe this emerging view of consciousness doesn’t impact new atheists. Maybe being a “Bright” is all about social justice and human rights and is not rooted in any particular scientific understanding of the nature of consciousness/soul/person-hood.

Hope you will weigh-in.

Originally Posted by OpheliaBenson View Post

the central question in the “God debate” can be reduced to — does some form of consciousness survive bodily death. If this is true (and it certainly looks like it is)

It may look to you as if it is, but it doesn’t look that way to me. I think you’re rushing things a bit there.

Alex Tsakiris: Happy to have that discussion with you, but I think that’s outside your area of expertise (but again, we can go there… you could start by responding the literature review I sent you by Bruce Greyson… and by offering counter-arguments from qualified researchers)

Anyway I don’t see why that would be the central question in the god debate. Whether consciousness survives bodily death or not seems to be a question that’s quite separate from whether or not there is a god.

I’ll repeat what you left off when you quoted my last post:

If survival of consciousness is true then intellectual core of the new atheist world view crumbles because we have to take religious/spiritual experiences seriously (not literally, but seriously).

I also offered you an out:

Or, maybe not… maybe this emerging view of consciousness doesn’t impact new atheists. Maybe being a “Bright” is all about social justice and human rights and is not rooted in any particular scientific understanding of the nature of consciousness/soul/person-hood.
I do feel like were dancing around here (much like we did in the phone interview). I would expect you to have more well-formed views on this stuff… it seems like atheist philosophy meat-and potatoes.

see the forum for the rest…