Mental Secret: How to believe anything

By | November 11, 2006

Mental Secret How to believe anythingI liked this comment from author and researcher Mark Robert Waldman about the “Speaking in Tongues” news article I blogged a few days ago:

“The longer you focus on any concept, other parts of the brain will respond as if that idea was objectively real. Focus on peace, you become more peaceful; focus on your anger, and your anger will feel justified and real. If you believe in God, God eventually becomes real. So be careful about what you believe!”

7 thoughts on “Mental Secret: How to believe anything

  1. xeno735

    The map is not the territory. Mark is not saying that thoughts create physical reality. He is saying, I think, that your focus creates your mental reality.

    Distinguishing external reality from our internal reality is difficult for humans, because the only way we experience reality is indirectly.

    We have only our brain’s map of the territory of reality.

    That map includes real physical things like Nazis and butterflies as well as abstract things like natural selection and God.

    Our maps are partially imagined and they are often wrong. We extrapolate. We fill in the blanks. People once had a faulty mental map which said the world was flat. That didn’t *make* it flat. They just lived their lives and carried on for years as if it were flat. They made some wrong decisions due to their incorrect perception of reality.

    So, yes, racism and hate are real internal experiences. And yes, one assumes that if the Nazi’s weren’t blinded by hate and fear, if they weren’t fooled by blind patriotism and xenophobic flag waving drummed up by Hitler’s tricks, there would have been no action (holocaust) based on these insanities (internal perception not matching external reality).

    You and Mark are saying essentially the same thing about reality, but you are speaking from different life experiences which give you different implicit beliefs, different mental filters. Please define God, Steve.

  2. Steve

    Interesting. So if I focus on something absurd long enough, my brain will treat it as real. And if
    I can convince others to focus on it, they will treat it as if it’s real also. So by the same measure
    that’s being used to “debunk” God, can we not also debunk science? No one can prove string theory. No
    one can prove many tenets of quantum theory. No one even prove evolution. But if you focus on it long
    enough, your brain will treat it as real. So really, what I take from this isn’t that God isn’t real,
    but that nothing is real. Hate isn’t real. It’s just people focusing on the idea of hate. Prejudice
    isn’t real. It’s just people focusing on prejudice. Racism isn’t real. It’s just people thinking
    about it too much. Those poor Nazi’s. If they had just spent more time contemplating happy butterflies
    rather than Darwin’s theory of natural selection, then we never would have had a holocaust. Of course,
    there really was no holocaust. There are just too many people thinking about it and therefore making
    something false into something real.

    Mr. Waldman, with all due respect, the fact that I think about something doesn’t make it real. I can
    believe that I’m not 40 pounds overweight all day long. But that’s not going to make me a pound thinner.
    Likewise, I can doubt the existance of God, aliens, or the oppression of the Bush administration. But
    that doesn’t make any of those things less real. Some things in life are real regardless of what you
    believe about them.

  3. xeno735

    You are articulate and I appreciate the comments. This debate is of critical and universal human importance in my view. It is played out in great detail on many web sites and blogs.

    The definition of God matters to me, because if God is your label for all that we do not know, then I agree with you: God certainly exists. Thus, if defined as the unknown, then God is the creator, because we do not know our origins.

    If, on the other hand, God is man-shaped extra-terrestrial entity, perhaps with a white beard, omnipresent and omniscient, defined by the amalgam of conflicting oral traditions which were finally written down as the bible, then I’m skeptical. I think man made this God.

    This God seems to have evolved from stories about older gods. Does Thor still exist, for example? At the root of it all I think humans labeled the unknown as “God”, anthropomorphizing this vision for their comfort. Nothing wrong with comfort, but religion leads at times to humans abusing other humans. I object strongly to this.

  4. Steve

    Well said, Xeno. I understand Mark’s point that when we believe something, we act on it as if it were
    real. It can be seen easily in the actions of a child who fears monsters in the closet. And it can be
    seen in the actions of citizens who give up their liberty because they fear terrorists who “hate our
    freedom.” Neither are real, but we act as if they were and in some regards, that’s all that matters.

    But my argument is that there are realities that are not bound by our beliefs. They exist whether we believe
    in them or not. If God is in our mind, then if we die, will God still exist? Berkeley addressed these
    issues in his “Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous.” And I would side with Philonous that it is not our
    mind that imagines God, but it is God’s mind that imagines us. If you remove all the theists in the world,
    God will still exist. Just like political corruption will still exist, even if you remove all the

    I can define God for you, Xeno, but what good will that do? My intention is not to advance my idea of God,
    but rather to play devil’s advocate to those who say He doesn’t exist.

  5. Steve

    I agree that this issue is critical and of universal human importance. But in defining the limits of what
    we deem as an acceptable understanding of God, we impose an unnecessary prejudicial view on others.
    From your standpoint, if God is broadly defined, then it’s acceptable. But if God is more specifically
    defined, then it’s not. While appearing open-minded, this is nonetheless the same attitude that separates
    Jew from Muslim and Hindu from Christian. It says, “My view of God is superior to yours.”

    I have my own view of who and what God is. And I can tell you in specific detail why I believe it. But will
    that serve to unite us or will it be a point of contention? If it’s the latter, why must that be so?
    If I am a Hindu, will you think less of me? And if I am a Catholic, will it make it that much easier for you
    to disregard my views? And yet I am neither.

    You ask if Thor still exists. I would say that no spirit ever dies. Anthropologists like to create a notion
    of man before the 19th century as primitive and superstitous. Like a dumb ape, unable to comprehend his world
    and filling it with myth and legend to try to make sense of it. Of course, today we would never do that. We
    would never create popular myths to try and make sense of our world. Unless it’s religion. But
    state-sanctioned myths of science and “education” are perfectly acceptable and above reproach. But in
    reality, it’s all the same. People have not changed much over the past 10,000 years. And I am not one
    to believe what I’m told simply because it comes from an established organization such as a university or
    church. Both have interests that are not necessarily in my own best interest.

    It should be clear to anyone that follows independant media that we still create popular myths. And it’s not
    just religion that’s doing so. We create popular myths in politics to allow inexcusable behavior at home
    and abroad. We create popular myths in education to avoid ethical and moral responsibility. And yes, we
    create religious myths in many cases to control the masses.

    Xeno, I respect your opinion about God. I think you’re wrong, but I still respect your view. Yes, religion
    has been used to abuse other humans. But it’s not just the Muslims, Jews and Christians doing all the harm.
    It’s important to remember that Hitler took the occult notion of a pure Ayyan blood line and combined it
    with Darwin’s argument of Natural Selection to justify the Holocaust. The Reichstag didn’t give Hitler his
    power. It was a tool, but it wasn’t the only tool. Also key was the rejection of the Christian faith
    and a fervent belief that German blood contained pure Aryan DNA. The German people were fighting because they
    truly believed (to get back to the original point of this discussion) that they were superior humans, born
    to be masters of the world. If anythign, religion isn’t the enemy. Bad ideas are.

  6. xeno

    You are saying basically, “I’m right and I won’t tell you why, I just am.” This is a faith based view. Science, on the other hand, can tell you why you can believe things in terms that involve observations you can make about your world.

    The only observation religion offers is “Look here, see these relics, these symbols in clay. Someone wrote this stuff and it makes us feel good to believe it.” That is superstitious and naive because it neglects the fact that humans imagine things and pass on things that are not true.

    Repeatable experiments form the basis of science. Religion has no such foundation. Religionists like to pretend that science is based on faith by pointing out that certain things are “just a theory”. Major theories in science, however, are based on hundreds, even thousands of repeatable observations of the physical world. The physical facts led to the theory of Natural Selection, and these facts can be directly observed.

    If not for the fact that scientific method works, we could not even have this exchange because there would be no computers. It’s absurd, really. You are using tools science has given you to denounce science. The same observational methods that allowed scientists to create your computer also led to the scientific belief in evolution.

    Change the brain, you change the personality. Change the brain, and you leave your body. Change the brain, and you lose your consciousness. Where and what then is the soul?

  7. Steve

    I’m not denouncing science. I’m denouncing the religion of science and those who claim that science has all
    the answers. The scientists I know all went to a University where they were told what to think and told what
    to believe, just like religious zealots who went to Synagog and came away with a head full of thoughts that
    weren’t their own.

    I’m not denouncing Natural Selection. I’m denouncing the idea that one animal can magically transform into
    another. Developing an immunity or adapting to an environment is not the same as trans-species evolution.
    Scientists have never watched one species become another (unless its through deliberate genetic
    modification). The overwhelming lack of evidence (transitional forms) in the fossil record is what led scientists
    to develop the notion of punctuated equillibrium. They didn’t see trans-species evolution take place and
    they were missing the evidence from the fossil record. So they came up with a theory that said “no
    fossils were left because species changed into one another quickly, thereby leaving no trace.” But that is
    an argument from a LACK of evidence, not observed evidence. It’s like me saying that my patio is keeping
    away elephants and pointing to the lack of elephants as evidence it’s true.

    I’m not saying that science hasn’t brought us great developments in terms of medicine and technology. I’m
    not saying that science is bad. I’m saying that the scientific community claims to have all the answers
    but they don’t. The “facts” they so vehemently argue today will change. And then, what will they do? Will
    they admit they were wrong? No. They will say that based on new “evidence” they have refined their theories.
    But if you challenged those theories while they were still sacred, you would be ousted and denounced as
    a heretic. Any casual study of the scientific community over the past 150 years will show that to be
    unquestionably true.

    Scientists are told what is right and how they should interpret the data. Any dissent or questioning will
    cost you your diploma, your grant money, your reputation, etc. Consider the case of the questionable link
    between HIV and AIDS.

    Esteemed doctors with expertise in retroviruses have denounced the link between HIV and AIDS.
    The facts certainly seem to suport them. But the scientific community has refused to even consider their
    claims. Why? Isn’t science supposed to be the quest for the truth? Isn’t science supposed to be an
    unbiased discipline that’s based on observation? And yet these scientists researching AIDS have observed
    the fact that HIV does not appear to cause AIDS. And for saying so, they were censored and their federal
    funding was pulled. Why? Because science IS a religion. And when you speak heresy, you are punished in
    the scientific community just as you would be in the religious community.

    Consider the problems the Big Bang theory is having with redshift:
    Consider the problems of anomalos archeology:

    I’m not saying science is bad. But Xeno, come on. Science isn’t the bastion of intellectual purity that
    you are trying to make it out to be.

    Xeno, you try to paint religion as superstition. But you fail to recognize the miraculous. I was having
    dinner with a friend who just had a baby. She said that her mother had just left after a week long visit.
    I asked when she had arrived and she smiled. “My mother arrived three hours after the baby had been born.”
    I said that was good timing. She said, “No, that was God.” Apparently her mother lives three states away
    and the baby was not due for another week. But early one morning, the mother said God woke her up and said
    “It is time. Get up and drive to your daughter. She is having the baby early.” So she packed her bags and
    got in the car and drove for two days. My friend went into labor unexpectedly a week early. And her mother
    showed up three hours after the delivery because God told her two days earlier that it would happen.

    You can write that off as coincidence, but I could tell you stories like that for days on end. After awhile,
    you have to suspect that it’s not just superstition or luck. It’s not just some old parchment that people are
    trying to make sense of. If that’s all it was, then I wouldn’t be a part of it.

    I was having lunch with a friend one day when a strange man walked up to us. He addressed my friend and said
    that he was instructed to meet him during an out of body experience. The stranger had been dabbling in TM.
    During one experience, he witnessed a tremendous battle taking place. One of the beings protected him during
    the battle and told him that his life was in danger and that he must go to this cafe at this time and seek out
    a man named Rob (my friend). He was told by the being that Rob had the truth and could save his life.

    I watched a man last week who was on a breathing machine after being in the hospital. His lungs were failing
    due to a disease that I can’t recall the name of. But it was genetic and incurable and his younger sister
    had already died from it. This man was a R&B sax player. When he was diagnosed with his disease, the doctors
    told him that he would have to give up his music career. But God told him that his playing would bring Him
    glory. So while the man was in the hospital, he had his wife bring in his sax. When he played, his lung
    capacity went up to 95%. But as soon as he stopped, his lung capacity went down to 10%. The doctors have
    no explanation. They claim it is a miracle. Today, he is on a breathing machine struggling to breathe and barely
    able to speak. But if he starts to play, he can breathe just fine.

    Let me ask you, Xeno. Have you ever watched someone being posessed? Have you ever sat inches away from them
    as their spine contorts and their hands curl up and they start speaking in a voice that’s not their own?
    Have you ever smelled the red and yellow bile that they vomit? And have you watched as the spirits loose
    their grip on the person and they come to their right mind, completely unaware of what has happened to them?

    There is more to this life than science can explain. I’m not against science. I’m against thought control.
    I’m against the psychological warfare that’s being used to control people and supress the truth. I’m all
    for science when it truly is science, not religion masquerading as science. I believe that all the facts
    should be considered, not just those that our knowledge filter allows through. Not just those that institutions
    tell you are correct. Not just those that will maintain control for those in power.

    You seem like a bright guy, Xeno, and your blog contains information that most “legitimate” news sources won’t
    let thorugh (for the exact reasons I’ve stated throughout this post). So I expect you to have an open mind.
    Don’t let a narrow view of religion that’s watered down and “safe” keep you from experiencing the grand
    mystery that’s going on all around you.

Leave a Reply