It's been a lovely day. First, I surprised G-Rex at her classroom with pumpkin muffins for her class (a collaboration with her teacher... a GOOD surprise, not an obnoxious one, I hope... it wasn't my idea!). Then I spent a day getting knocked out of my isolated ranting place.
So at the moment I'm feeling a little humbled. A little less know-it-all. Temporarily free of my inferiority/superiority bipolar swing. Nice.
So, Mrs. Warmth. FINALLY I get you to weigh in! About time! ;o)
Seriously, though - I love it when you speak up because I know you'll present different views intelligently and provide a little balance (which we both know I sometimes lack). One particular gem in your last comment: "Why do you believe scientists? My opinion is that you've had repeated good experiences with believing things scientists have written or said and so now you continue to believe them despite you not actually being present and part of the physicality of their studies. I think for Believers, it is somewhat similar." In my case, you are right - although I can't speak for any other atheistic science groupies.
The difference between the two is the method. I am not sufficiently educated to prove or disprove all the science out there. But I understand the checks and balances of peer review and that the rigors of academic thought are likely to provide the best information.
To go with the brain analogy, no I have not seen my brain. But I could. Science has provided fabulous imaging tools. A doctor can safely say I have a brain and can provide mountains of evidence to back up his or her claim. Should the evidence not convince me, my head could be cut open to provide absolute verification. No belief is actually required.
With religion, everything is based on emotion. Do you feel something is right? Do you feel something is wrong? Do you feel you can trust the person who claims to speak for God? It's all about the feeling of hope and security.
Feelings are fickle, easily manipulated things which can color and corrupt thinking. It seems most people trust their feelings to be reasonably accurate reflections of reality.
The benefit of having had the experience of thoughts and emotions COMPLETELY out of control - and now having perceptions and interpretations of reality that generally stand up to corroboration - is knowing how faulty our senses can be. I know what it's like to hear and see things and not know until later that my brain made it all up... once I got over the terror (well, mostly... I don't know as I'll ever be totally over it... but I don't live every day with the fear of losing my grip, anymore) it was really quite enlightening. No matter how good or bad someone's intentions may be, no human can perceive objective reality except through subjective experiences.
Religious practices expect people to prefer emotional responses, and seems to consider emotional reactions to be more valuable than rational data. Feeling that something is right is more reflective of God than data. But quite often, idividuals' messages from God come at cross-purposes. Think of all the religious wars. Everyone thinks God is on their side and that the other is deluded. The truth? There is no truth because it's all subject to personal belief. God can not be proven to be or do or think anything. Why are your feelings right?
And what does it say (if anything) if something as simple as swallowing a pill changes how you feel? Which feeling is the correct one?
And what if God talks to you all the time until you take a medication that stops your hallucinations? Going from seeing bugs that aren't there and hearing conversations that aren't happening and feeling a deep, personal relationship with God to... nothing. What is the most likely explanation? Maybe the not the most comfortable, but the most likely is that the chemicals that manufactured a sense of "God" are the same that concocted all the other things that aren't there.
And yes, God/Goddess returns if meds go away and stress goes up.
So... does my subjective interpretation of that experience matter or do you want some science to explain stuff like that?
My favorite book on perception and belief is, How We Believe by Michael Shermer (really, anything by Michael Shermer is going to be good).