Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Video(s) of the Day: The Glass Pipe Fallacy

When it comes to defending the claims of various religions and supernaturalism in general, there are many awful arguments. But there’s nothing quite like a poor, religious person babbling a string of incoherent words to support wacked out beliefs.

Today’s three videos of the day come from the internet show The Atheist Experience, and they feature callers who base their religious beliefs on drugs trips that they’ve had, using these experiences to justify jumbled nonsense.

Read on for descriptions of these videos and links.

In the first clip, Matt and Jeff are confronted with a caller who is spouting nonsense. “The ethereal is like the surface,” he declares, “and the corporeal is like the stuff.” It quickly gets worse: “You can get a lot of information about what’s inside by looking at the surface, but the surface is not real.” The caller stumbles through a particularly painful word salad until the hosts finally react.

In the second clip, Matt and Jen talk to a young man who asserts that “consciousness precedes the material,” that “yoga masters” “clear out their minds” so that their “minds are, like, in the background” so that they’re just “in touch with consciousness itself,” that there are “frequencies of consciousness,” and that we are all “one with everything.”
Matt explains to him very clearly that just because a person has an experience and an epiphany – whether drug-induced or not -- it doesn’t mean that the epiphany is true. One would need a method to confirm it over and beyond merely interpreting one’s experience in a certain way.

In the third and final clip – humorously entitled “Dude, I’m Trippin Balls!” – Russell and Don spend a little more time making more or less the same points Matt did in the second video. The caller believes in a “spiritual force,” which is “just, like, the truth – it’s hard to explain.” He objects to the idea that “science is the only way to truth,” and he promotes the idea of “psychonautics.”  

What is striking is how the language used by these callers echoes the “new agey” type of buzzword nonsense that often gets thrown around by plenty of people, including many people who consider themselves Thelemites. Of course just a few decades ago, Thelema attracted quite a number of burnt-out hippies, and even today one will frequently find Thelemites suggesting that mystical experience – whether in the form of trances induced by meditation or drug trips or both – reveal some kind of truth.

I recently pointed out to someone in a discussion that tripping out on drugs doesn’t necessarily reveal anything true about the universe. This caused my rather strange interlocutor to leap to the conclusion that I was therefore condemning drug use. It should be obvious that pointing out that drugs don’t necessarily reveal truth is not even remotely close to saying “don’t do drugs.” But this sort of emotional overreaction shows how, in the minds of some people, at least, the religious conviction that drug trips reveal truth is so deeply held that anyone questioning it must be some vile agent of repression.

A serious student of Thelema needs to let go of the childish belief that trips reveal truth.

I’ll transcribe part of Matt Dillahunty’s response in the second video because it makes the point I want to make very well and succinctly:
First of all, you assert that oneness with the universe is s fact; that’s not something you’ve actually demonstrated….second of all, you are asserting that the pathway to understanding this is by chemically altering your brain so that it is working in a non-standard method and that this opens you up to truth. That may be the case – but you’d actually have to demonstrate it. All you can do is say that “This is the experience and this is the understanding I gained from this altered state of mind.” You haven’t done anything to demonstrate that this is actually true and that’s all that matters.
Matt points out that we don’t specifically have to talk about drugs – any so-called “understanding” gained by means of a “spiritual experience” achieved through, say, meditation, must equally be demonstrated:
The mere fact that you’ve had some experience or epiphany or that you have a view of the universe does not demonstrate in any way that the view is true, no more so than Paul’s Damascus Road experience demonstrates to anybody else that Jesus exists and is the Son of God.
I would add that Paul’s Damascus Road experience equally does not demonstrate to Paul himself that Jesus exists.

Anyway, that's all for today. Hope everyone's enjoying the weather.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You may find it useful to study the work and lectures of the academic psychedelic-mushroom proponent Terence McKenna. There are many talks done by him on youtube.