After abandoning and rejecting Christianity, I endeavored to maintain belief in a spiritual realm; but this, from a philosophical perspective, not a religious one.
The primary cornerstone of my system was accepting science. This has several consequences:
After analysis of the various relevant topics I finally conclude:
The arguments for these conclusions:
Having wasted five decades as a spiritual seeker, I now assume the following:
Revealed religions and revealed spiritual paths are untrustworthy sources of knowledge and truth.
Therefore, any views about the supernatural must be derived only from fact-based philosophical considerations.
Is there a spiritual realm, a supernatural world? In this website I first assume there is, then explore the ramifications. My conclusions are within this article (and here).
I postulate two realms:
The spiritual realm contains:
I assume tight correlation between the brain and mental activity. In other words, every tiniest conscious experience has corresponding brain activity.
Why should we think there is a spiritual realm at all? It's because certain phenomena seem to be spiritual, not material. Such things as:
These things clearly exist, but there are no laws of physics controlling them. For example, there is no quantum field called consciousness.
Before the advent of modern science, it was easy to explain weird things as being from the gods. Such things as: the sun and stars, lightning and thunder, animals having personalities, hypnagogic hallucinations, effects of severe mental disorders.
It's justified to postulate a spiritual ream. But to believe it as a true fact; this requires explaining how it works, how it integrates with the physical.
Do miracles even exists at all? I don't know of any.
It's easy to create a miracle; here's how: If winning the lottery is a miracle, then start a lottery. Every time someone wins; it's a miracle. Many miracles are of this type; probabilistically rare for a particular person.
In religions, the power of prayer sometimes triggers miracles. You pray for something, and it happens. It's a miracle. But what about when the prayers aren't answered? Are these anti-miracles?
People get miraculously healed. But why are there no credible reports of people regrowing limbs, or of severed spinal cords reattaching? All the miracles are explainable as psychosomatic, or things magicians could do, or things that are possible but rare, or hallucinations, or just things that would have happened anyway.
So, in my system, I reject miracles. No need to find supernatural causes for them.
Evolution and the origin of life seem hard to explain as caused by mere randomness. An intelligent designer must be working behind the scenes designing and creating all the impossible functioning and structure of biological life.
But there is a fatal flaw to this. Since conscious creatures suffer, the intelligent designer is evil.
Maybe God, who is good and beautiful and loving; maybe he/she created the intelligent designer, not realizing the destruction that this evil intelligent designer would unwittingly unleash. But the suffering is inherent in the fabric of the universe; and so, the evil intelligent designer would therefore be the creator of the entire universe. But this is what God is; the creator of the universe. So, therefore: (1) the intelligent designer is God, and (2) God is evil.
Similarly to the intelligent designer, conscious creatures have souls guiding their behavior. But where did these souls come from?
If mind-body dualism is correct, and the soul resides in the spiritual realm, and this leads to several conclusions:
In other words, the soul must be operating at the sub-atomic level, just as the brain does.
I envision the soul growing along with the brain. As each neuron develops, the soul develops along with it, gaining the same control as the neuron. So in a sense, the soul is just the information embedded within the physical neural network of the brain — and that's all it is.
If there is a soul or God, or an intelligent designer, there must be a way for these entities in the spiritual realm to communicate with the body (and the physical universe). The only way I can think of for this is via the inherent randomness of quantum mechanics, by guiding the usually random wave function collapse (so that an electron, for example, appears on this side of the atom instead of that side).
How can randomness be guided? Here's how. If you repeatedly toss a coin and it comes up with the pattern HHTTHHTTHHTT etc, unless you notice the pattern, you will say it's random. No matter how many tosses, it lands heads 50%.
How the soul communicates with the brain:
The intelligent designer also fiddles with the quantum fields, choosing where and when particles and forces will appear upon wave function collapse in guiding the evolution of life and the universe.
In biological evolution, the intelligent designer observes what is happening within a species and notices that a certain mutation would be able to thrive. He/she triggers wave function collapse to nudge the interactions of the electrons causing mutations.
But note: souls and God and the intelligent designer; these are extreme micromanagers, operating at the subatomic level via quantum mechanics. This kind of control would be pragmatically unmanageable in practice, impossible really — and so, I must ultimately reject this option.
The functioning brain generates: consciousness with its contents (ideas, feelings, emotions, cognition, etc), mind, mathematics, rationality, the sense of self, and etc. There is no soul in a spiritual realm.
It seems odd that a physical organ generates seemingly non-physical phenomena, and especially subjective experiential phenomena such as consciousness. But it's also odd that the behavior of matter and energy can be described via mathematics.
Certainly the neural network of the human brain has adequate connections to allow for all we experience. Just as the resolution of smart phone cameras keeps improving but will never come even close to that of high-resolution high-quality cameras; so also, the brain has immense capacity.
Science and neuropsychology demonstrate the tight correlation between brain function and conscious experience. I assume that in the future they will find the specific web of neurons (neural network) corresponding to and triggering the experience of the color red (for example) — but I doubt they will ever discover why it subjectively seems red.
Speculating about the nature of consciousness:
Are different aspects of experienced consciousness based on the specifics of the complexity of the interactions? Do flowing electric charges or flowing information trigger the experience of consciousness? If so, it's easy to understand why the consciousness of the human brain is so rich; because the neural network of the brain and the flow of electrons and information through the neurons is more complex by far than anywhere in the universe. Do other less sophisticated flows of electrons also result in a consciousness experience, although duller and dimmer ?
Can only brains be conscious? What about ganglia of nerves? What about molecules moving about inside a cell? Perhaps there is a brain kind of consciousness, a nerve ganglia kind of conscious (in creatures having no brain), and a moving molecule kind of consciousness? If the brain generates consciousness from the network of neurons, perhaps it is merely the tight choreographed flow of electrons, of electric charges, that triggers the experience of consciousness. But all matter has electric charge and is moving. So perhaps all matter generates consciousness. Or does consciousness only pop into existence when the flow of electrons through the neural network of the brain gets sufficiently complex?
The universe has incorporeal aspects such as energy, entropy, information.
Biological chemical organisms are animated as if possessing a life spirit.
Perhaps these incorporeal aspects of the universe such as energy, entropy, information; perhaps these are what life is; perhaps these are the life spirit? No need to look within a spiritual realm to find life and consciousness.
The existence of the universe containing conscious biological creatures is a mystery. Whatever this ultimate reality is, it consists of everything that is: this includes consciousness, morality, mathematics, and etc.
Postulating God and souls residing in a spiritual realm doesn't resolve the question in the least.
The universe is self-reflective; that is to say, conscious brains are able to ponder reality. These aspects of reality are not yet understood by science, and may never be.
Proposing a spiritual realm containing all these mysteries doesn't help with understanding them — they still remain mysteries. In fact, even the spiritual realm (if it exists) is, by definition, mysterious.
. . . . .
We cannot ever know why the universe is as it is, having conscious creatures who suffer.
Things have an appearance of design, of purpose, of meaning. This implies the existence of an intelligent designer. But, for reasons I have mentioned above, there is no such thing/person as an intelligent designer. The brain generates mind which generates consciousness which generates the sense of design, purpose, meaning. Why this is, can't be explained.
Atheism (non-theism) is merely the belief that there is no God. Atheists have no obligation to prove this; it is theists who must prove there is a God. This, because revealed religions and revealed spiritual paths are untrustworthy sources of knowledge and truth.
. . . . .
Religious theists often insist that atheists must rigorously prove there is no God. This is an absurd demand. It's like demanding that you have to prove there are no unicorns, or any other of the infinity of imaginary kinds of things the mind can invent. How is it even possible to disprove each one? Do these religious theists feel obliged to rigorously disprove unicorns, or fairies, or gremlins? Of course they don't, but they should.
I reject the truth-claims of Christianity and of all religions. Inevitably, these overlap with science and philosophy; such fields as: archaeology, history, textual criticism, cosmology. Contradictions within the scriptures, and conflicts with science demonstrate that religions are man-made, and do not correspond with reality.
I am not interested enough in this topic to discuss it further; so, I merely assume it, and move on.
The day by day, hour by hour busyness of living is more important than the knowing of scientific and philosophical truths. But where to find fellowship with like minded people?
Even if there is no spiritual realm, we as humans require "spiritual" fulfillment, connectedness with others and with the world.
For example, after listening to lectures by atheists for a while, I feel "spiritually" empty, depleted. It does no good to listen to religious sermons or spiritual talks, based as they are on error. Pop psychology and self help topics neglect to feed the "soul".
Studying physics and biology and philosophy is fun, but sharing in relationship and fellowship with others is far superior. Sadly, it is religion with its churches that provides for opportunities to interact with others. Neither atheism nor secular humanism provide such social institutions.
I doubt I'm doing a religious person any favors in suggesting they deconvert; they will be dropped off into a social void. Sitting around with atheists mocking religious people is no fun.