An Open Question For Believers

This is a question I have often had for believers, but I’ve never really gotten a straight answer.

If you believe that people can talk to god (like Moses, Noah, etc) and/or jesus after his death (the apostles, Paul, etc)

How do you know who REALLY talks to god, and who is just delusional?

For instance I think we’d both agree that somebody who claims they speak to Napoleon has a serious mental illness.

But if somebody tells you that they speak to god, or jesus speaks to them, how do you know it’s “real” as opposed to a chemical imbalance in their brain or some other problem which really should require hospitalization or at least counseling?

Is it based on WHAT they say (i.e. if it agrees with your understanding of god, then you assume it’s god and if not you assume mental illness)? What if their illness just happens to manifest in an idea that you find to be correct? The whole idea of “even a stocked clock is right twice a day” comes to mind here. Somebody can say something true (or something you perceive to be true), for the wrong reason.

Is it based on how they act? By all accounts Ted Bundy and Dennis Rader acted very normal in their lives. They both also just happen to butcher people as a “hobby”. So seeming normal doesn’t always mean people are normal.

As somebody who doesn’t see any evidence for a god or gods, an afterlife, spirits, etc I would start with the assumption that they are ALL mentally ill if they are talking to dead people or imaginary people, but if you accept that it CAN happen, how can you tell the difference between the real thing, and a delusional person?


About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
This entry was posted in Debate, Psychology, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to An Open Question For Believers

  1. poietes says:

    Intriguing question, one that I cannot answer as I don’t happen to believe that people have talked to god, or a black dog, or a reincarnated Shakespeare. It’s all too weird for me.

  2. writerdood says:

    How do you know who REALLY talks to god, and who is just delusional?

    What’s the difference?
    What’s real and what’s not?
    We perceive the world and reality through our senses. If what our senses tell us is different from person to person, is one person wrong and one person right, or are they both hopelessly lost in their own illusions of what it and is not?

    Real is relative.
    Reality is relative.
    Sanity is relative too.

    • Jeff Randall says:

      Yes, our senses tell us about the world, and our sense can be different from person to person, but that does not mean are senses are always correct.

      If you and I both look together at an area on the floor in my kitchen.
      You say “there is a table there”
      I say “there is NOT a table there”

      Only one of us is “right”. There either IS a table, or there is NOT a table, but there certainly is not both a table and not a table there at the same time.

      I don’t ascribe to this idea of relativism when it comes to reality that you seem to be espousing. There is one physical reality, and your perception of that reality may be correct or may be flawed in some manner.

      • writerdood says:

        I don’t ascribe to this idea of relativism when it comes to reality that you seem to be espousing.

        Well then, maybe you’re not crazy.

      • Jeff Randall says:

        Well then, maybe you’re not crazy.
        I wouldn’t go that far… 🙂

        To me, relativism just seems like an asinine concept. Some things are obviously true or false, some things are obviously good or bad. A person’s perspective is not needed to make judgments on certain actions.

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