Not so long ago the wife and I were watching a TV program about a man who's "partner" was a lifesize female doll who was fully functional as a woman and had the flesh-like feel of a woman. This man talked to his partner constantly, groomed her, and bought clothes for her, often changing her outfits. She could set with him in the apartment or even take rides in the car with him. It was amusing but she was serving her purpose.

   Next we hear from a psychologist explaining what this is. He says that most of these people are non-violent but "having an imaginary friend that you talk to and attend to is delusional. People who have imaginary freinds should be watched in case they show signs of violence or other symptoms that would disrupt society where they could become a danger to themselves and others."  Yet, he doubted that this man was dangerous.

   This was when I blurted out that I'm not sure what the psychologist is talking about. I told my wife that over 90 % of everybody in the world "has an imaginary friend." She disagreed and wanted to know who my imaginary friend was. I remained silent.

   Then she says "not me. I don't have an imaginary friend." She seemed very puzzeled.

   I replied, "yes you do. I'm ending this conversation now but I want you to think about it. Most people have an imaginary friend. I used to, but no more."

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Oh, but I DO have an imaginary friend!  And so does my wife and our neighbors ... and our whole church congregation!  My friend IS real because we all believe he's real!!!

And if life worked that way, the guys from Publishers Clearing House would be on their way to my door, even as we speak.

Good one, Loren, and right on!

My friend IS real because we all believe he's real!!!

Well, this is part of the way that we decide the rest of reality is real. Because different people see the same things, usually.

Yeah, we all believe it's real ... but there's more than belief to the situation as it comes to reality.  Evidence and effects which are independent of belief make for a considerable difference.  I mean, you can believe all you want that the pillars holding up that building over there are nothing more than paper mache.  Try to confirm your hypothesis by KICKING said pillar and your belief may suffer a setback ... along with your foot.

Ah yes, but if you believe the pillars holding up the building are solid, and you kick said pillar and it hurts - all that shows is that your experiences are logically consistent, not that they are real.

We could all be brains sitting in vats of fluid, with electrodes feeding our experiences to us.  In some giant brain farm :)

Ah, yes, The Matrix argument.  To which I counter with the deja vu experience Neo had, roughly mid-movie.  The code which drives the interconnection between brains would be considerable and complex.  PERFECTING such code to the point where errors, glitches, and outright crashes are utterly eliminated would be unlikely at best and nightmarish at worst.

Occam's Razor cuts well enough under these circumstances.  The simplest solution remains the one I subscribe to.

Yes, it comes down to Occam's razor.  Both with the Imaginary Friend and with our sensory experiences. 

Occam's Razor isn't proof, just a way of selecting the best hypothesis.  Religious people think the best hypothesis is what feels best.  Nonreligious people prefer the least ornate and most logically coherent hypothesis. 

What an imaginary friend we have in Jesus ...

I have asked myself:  Human beings have an experience of divinity in common.  At least, many people do. 

Since people are having a common experience, what does it mean to say that there's a real object of that experience? 

All sorts of claims are made about this divinity - that it can do stuff for you, punish your enemies, etc.  Part of what it means to say that divinity is real, is to claim it can do stuff in the real world.  So it's a claim that this "real object of religious experience" interacts with other realities in people's lives.

Anything else?

"Human beings have an experience of divinity in common."

We do?!?  Not sure I got that memo.  I've had some experiences which I attribute to my former practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, and some of those were real whoppers ... but was there a divinity in there somewhere?  Nope.  And if others have had such experiences, can we be certain that their experiences match ours within a reasonable degree?  Considering the variation in the grasp of words and ability to describe, never mind of the experiences themselves, again, I have to say more than likely not.

I think this is what Sam Harris has talked about when he suggests separating such a class of experiences from the religions which lay claim to them and studying them utterly independently.  Whether you call them "numinous," "spiritual," "divine" or whatever, homo sapiens is indeed capable of such things.  What we have to do is separate the experience from the assumptions and presuppositions that muddy the waters.

What does it mean though, to say such an experience is an experience of a "real" divinity? 

It feels like an experience of a divinity, although I suppose it could feel like something else if the person is a nonbeliever. 

People can experience a sense of presence, which also may be part of that "experience of divinity". 

I've had that feeling of the presence of God, although interpreting that "God" that I sense as a being that created the universe, watches out for me etc., are ideas that many religious people add onto that experience without thinking twice about it.  I never made those added assumptions.  If I had grown up in a religious family, likely I would have made those added assumptions. 

The irony here is that the psychologist thought people who had imaginary friends were delusional and could be dangerous, but that self same psychologist might even be a theist.

I agree with the psychologist. "People who have imaginary freinds should be watched in case they show signs of violence or other symptoms that would disrupt society where they could become a danger to themselves and others."  Such as:

The Middle East Conflict
The current religious slaughter in the Central African Republic
Condemning people to death if they turn away from Islam
The bigotry and violence against gays in Uganda, fueled by US Evangelists
The religious bloodshed in Nigeria

I could go on, and on, and on, and.......




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