Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On Religion

I implied a post about my religious affiliation in the comments of the previous post, so here it is.

As if being a pedophile wasn't bad enough, I'm an atheist. That may not be completely accurate, but it's probably the most accurate label for my religious affiliation that I've got at the moment. I'll be elaborating below, but it's actually sort of amusing that studies have put atheists as the least trusted demographic in the United States. I'm not sure what the other choices were, so it's hard to say whether I'd be more mistrusted for that or the thinking little kids are sexy.

Anyway, I grew up in a fairly nonreligious household. The only times I saw the inside of a church were weddings. Of course, it's impossible to grow up in the United States and not learn at least the fundamentals of Christianity.

I find the Problem of Evil convincing as an argument for the nonexistence of an omnimax God. The Problem of Evil is formulated as follows:

1) If God is omnipotent, He has the power to prevent evil.
2) If God is benevolent, He has the will to prevent evil.
3) Evil Exists.
4) If God is omniscient, He knows about evil.

God is either not omnipotent, not benevolent, not omniscient, or nonexistent.

I'm willing to entertain the idea of a divine figure not fitting the qualities of omnimax, mind you, but such a being is both falsible and actually demonstrated to be false by the reality we currently inhabit. I've read the apologetics purporting to resolve the Problem of Evil, but none have actually done so. I'm always willing to hear new arguments if anyone cares to present them, but at this point, it's looking pretty airtight.

Now, while I don't reject dieties who lack omnimax characteristics as strongly as I reject omnimax ones, I'll need convincing on two points before joining a religion purporting to have a genuine diety. The first is I'll need convincing of the existence and purported abilities of this diety. I'm willing to accept the evidence of my senses and interpret claims about a diety the same way I interpret claims about other human beings. If someone can meet that standard and demonstrate the existence of their chosen diety by objective standards, the second point on which I'll need convincing is that this being is worthy of my worship.

Moral superiority is not determined on the basis of might makes right, so supernatural power can't bolster the claims of such a being's demanded way of life being morally correct. I'm willing to grant that a superhumanly intelligent entity with greater access to information might make better ethical choices than I would with my more limited prospective, but there is zero reason those commandments cannot be broken down and explained to we mere mortals. Any entity who claims I can't understand why it's right is an entity I won't be voluntarily arranging my life around.

Now, I'm perfectly willing to accept that such a diety might not need my worship to be voluntary. I'm as vulnerable to threats and intimidation as any other human. A credible threat of Hell, for example, might well inspire me to go through the motions of Christian worship, even as I silently hate the being that's threatening me with it and look out for ways to usurp and cast down such a tyrant god. Alternately, I'm susceptible to bribery to modify my behavior if not by beliefs. Again, I evaluate gods the same way I evaluate other humans.

Now, I do have a problem with the materialist interpretations of human consciousness. Unfortunately that problem is simply that I don't like the idea of dying. Specifically, I don't like the idea of my consciousness ceasing one day, as the materialist interpretation says must happen. I very much want to believe in an immortal, immaterial soul, and I keep an eye out for information confirming that hypothesis, even knowing that that is not how you handle seeking the truth. I so very much want to not cease to be, I find myself quite often ignoring my normal requirements for standards of evidence so that I can believe there's a way out of it.

If, when I die, I find there is some diety who's been running the show and who waits to reveal itself until we die, I'm going to have a lot of questions, and whoever it is will have a lot to answer for. If the answers are good enough, we might even come to an understanding and become friends. Like I said, the same way I evaluate other humans.


  1. There are two things science cannot and will never explain. One is the origin of all things that we are perceiving and the other is the means by which we are perceiving it. The origin of the Big Bang is something that astronomers admit cannot ever be verified scientifically, the reason being it occurred before any of the physical laws upon which science is based were formed. Consciousness cannot be scientifically explained because it is made of subtle matter, not gross matter. It does not perish with the body. There are thousands upon thousands of documented Near Death Experiences to verify this (people tend to ignore numbers when it comes to unexplained phenomena).

    These are the two most fundamental things that should get you to begin asking questions. Anybody who has seen The Matrix can see my point. If we cannot explain where the universe comes from or why it exists, and the means by which we are perceiving it is also a mystery to us, then what use is the material observation?

    You may say that material observations have led to many technological and scientific achievements in the fields of medicine, computerization, etc. It has lifted people from poverty (while putting others in poverty) and has led to an infinitely more convenient lifestyle. But the question I ask you is this: How has it set us apart from animals?

    All animals are driven by sense gratification. It is the necessity of life to carry out activities that grant pleasure. It is nature's way of ensuring a creature's survival - by creating a reward circuitry in our brain to signal when a desirable action has been achieved.

    All human creations are based in some way around sense gratification. Whether that is simply having food to eat, indulging in sex pleasure, having time-saving possessions to allow us more time for such activities or having a secure environment within which we can enjoy them. All of our institutions are centered on having the liberty to enjoy material sense gratification. Even the noble philanthropist aims at lifting others from poverty. For what purpose? So that they can experience a life of properly indulging the senses rather than being deprived.

    So why is all this technological development based ultimately on the four animal principles of eating, sleeping, mating and defending? Why are we using our immense intellect to attempt to oversupply ourselves with the things animals already have?

    The answer lies in the misconception that we are this body. When we believe that consciousness is a symptom of the material body rather than the soul, we mistakenly believe that this body's senses are an intrinsic part of us. That is what animals believe, and so it is natural that without leaving that mindset we cannot leave the animalistic level.

    These senses exist to demonstrate to us what it's like to attempt to be the enjoyer. We are in a situation where we can lord it over material nature, like a child in a sandbox. Everybody in this world is trying to mimic God in some way. God - who is described in the ancient Yoga texts as all-powerful, all-attractive, all-wealthy and all-loving - is the source of our desires and the reservoir of all pleasure. Though we do not like to admit it as that would imply that there is a supreme enjoyer, and we all want to be the supreme enjoyer. So we imitate him.

    This does not bring us satisfaction, however, as we find that pleasure and distress are dualities in the material world. No matter how hard you try you cannot have one without the other. That is the reality of this world. People also don't want to accept that, so they devote their whole lives to chasing after that fleeting, temporary sense fulfillment. In their pursuits they may achieve 99% fulfillment, but never complete satisfaction. Complete satisfaction can only be achieved through a connection with the complete entity, therefore we are left frustrated in our endeavors.

  2. (continued)

    It is only when we realize our constitutional position in relation to the Supreme that we can actually enjoy. It is like the hand trying to be the enjoyer. A hand cannot enjoy on its own, even though it may hold food. The food needs to go into the stomach, and then the whole body will be satisfied. A leaf cannot flourish by being watered directly. The water must go to the roots of the tree, then the nutrients will be distributed to all parts of the tree. Similarly, we are not meant to be individual enjoyers. But when we send everything to the source, to the supreme, then we automatically enjoy through the reciprocation process. But when we try to enjoy on our own we are left frustrated.

    Again, apologies for the exceedingly long post, but I have still only scratched the surface. Vedic knowledge, which comes directly from the source Krishna, is so deep that Prabhupada spent his entire life translating and still could not finish. It is truly infinite knowledge.

    1. You've put a lot out there, and there's no need to apologize for that.

      Let's start with the two things science can't explain. We actually have several competing theories about the nature and cause of the Big Bang. The problem is that there's sort of a huge ass explosion that erased a lot of evidence around that period. Add to that our relatively limited scope for viewing the universe while we're restricted to a single planet, and I'm not really ready to rule out the idea that we might push our knowledge of how far back we can trace existence past our current limits.

      As to consciousness, while I do find NDEs compelling, I find I can't escape the evidence we have that brain damage alters the mind and personality of people suffering it. Memories can be erased by physically tampering with the brain without simply removing consciousness as a whole.

      I'm always on the look out for NDEs which produce verifiable information that couldn't have come to the deceased individual through other means. Contents of conversations of people not in the room, but through which their astral forms traveled while out of their bodies. That sort of thing. That sort of thing would at least prove extrasensory abilities in a dying brain, but the presence of an etherial soul would be another perfectly valid hypothesis, though that hypothesis would need to deal with how that soul can be impacted by damage to the brain prior to death.

      Additionally, if we're going into the possibility of material observation being unreliable as an information gathering tool, we end up being able to say no more than Descarte. I think, therefore I am. All else could be an illusion, whether cast for the benefit of a brain in a jar, an immaterial soul being tormented by a demon, or a computer intelligence inside a simulation. Thus we can't really even start talking about the big bang or origins of the universe, since we can't even confirm the existence of one another, the computers we're communicating through, or the chairs we're sitting in.

      Now, let's talk about reward circuitry. That's a good way of thinking about pleasure in a philosophical sense. I've done some AI research, and written more than one myself. (One of the reasons I'm not even slightly concerned about a robot rebellion is knowing how far away Strong AI is.) Reward functions are the only way to make an AI do anything. Positive rewards can be considered analogous to pleasure, while negative rewards can be considered analogous to pain. Remove these reward metrics from an AI and the resulting program does nothing. More specifically, putting one in a maze, and it won't ever attempt to solve it, because pleasure is its reason for doing so.

      We seek pleasure because it is not just our animal nature, but because pleasure, at its most abstract, IS motivation. But, you say, what of our ability to delay gratification? What of our ability to refuse pleasure in pursuit of a long term goal? We can teach a computer to do that too, and our current artificial intelligences are less sophisticated than an individual ant. Delayed gratification is nothing more than weighing current pleasure against expected pleasure in the future, and deciding that the later is greater.

    2. Regarding your described God, it seems to me that this entity runs afoul of the above mentioned Problem of Evil. All powerful and all loving, and yet we here in the material world suffer.

      It seems to be victim blaming to claim that people who are unaware of this entity, who presumably designed our bodies and consciousness to have the design flaws that hide it from us isn't responsible for us not acknowledging it's presence.

      Now, I think that this entity is somewhat useful as a metaphore. Human beings are social creatures. Our self-awareness most likely an emergent property of our attempts to figure out other human beings by attempting to model their thought processes. Thus it should be obvious that we would be at our most satisfied as part of a social group in which we are in perfect harmony.

      I've often imagined a conception of Heaven where the only thing God did was logistics, making sure that whenever we wanted to do something that involved another person, another person who wanted to be involved in that exact activity would be paired up with you. One who wants to learn paired with one who wants to teach. Each motive, gross and subtle, in perfect synch with everyone around, each choosing freely their own actions and desires, yet no one left wanting. A kind of beautiful clockworks of free willed beings, all giving pleasure to those around them. Heck, find someone who finds joy in the task and you can eliminate God from the logistics angle as well, leaving the clockworks to run on their own.

      This would seem to be somewhat akin to your reciprocation process if I'm understanding you correctly.

      I must say, I don't see why this is any different than the pleasures we experience in the material world, except for degree and side-effects. It seems to me that if we could construct such a utopia on our own, it would be no less positive a development than allowing a diety to handle it.

    3. Apologies for the late response.

      The reason I say that the Big Bang can never be completely explained is because prior to the Planck Epoch the temperature of the universe was so hot that not even the laws of physics existed. It was before even the Cosmic Microwave Background was formed - the blueprint of the known universe. Even if we were able to trace things back further than the Planck Epoch, we would still only be looking at the consequences. Unless we can replicate it in some way, there is no method in our capacity to know what actually caused the Big Bang.

      Here is a video about one of the most compelling cases of NDE regarding Kimberly Clark, at the University of Washington Hospital in Seattle. This one has not been scientifically explained.

      I agree with the existential claim that everything could be an illusion. It is entirely possible that we are actually higher beings playing a simulation or running a test. If you’ve studied astronomy (or not) you probably know that the speed of light has changed drastically over the past 70 years. It is only recently that the scientific community decided to “set” a speed of light for universal use, despite the fact that evidence is popping up to contradict that speed, indicating it is probably still incorrect. This means we still don’t 100% know how far away most objects in the universe are, upon which most of our theories rely. Again, this attests to the imperfection of our senses.

      Yes, pleasure is what motivates us. That is the same for animals and humans. However, unlike animals, we have two different sources of pleasure. One is the illusory pleasure of the material world that is only temporary, and one is the transcendental pleasure that is everlasting. Our actions in the material world are fueled by motivations of material desires that does not satisfy us when fulfilled, which is why the human order is structured around maximizing that temporary pleasure. Those who are motivated by transcendental pleasure do so because they have experienced it, and they too want to maximize it. The difference, however, is that those who are motivated by material desires place themselves at the centre and effectively attempt to convince others that they are the supreme, whereas those who are motivated by the transcendental pleasure do so in full knowledge that their constitutional position is not the enjoyer but the enjoyed. Their pleasure is gained from placing their love in the Supreme where that place may have otherwise been occupied by an imperfect partner, or a dog. And so the reciprocation they receive is far greater.

      Now, regarding the “Problem of Evil”, that seems to be based on the Christian conception of God, which is not necessarily wrong, but they seem to believe that God gave us this world for our enjoyment. This is incorrect. The world is full of suffering as it is a place where enjoyment is only one side of a coin. It is a duality.

      Does a father who disciplines his child when the child acts out of line love the child any less than a father who spoils his child with gifts? Loving is not necessarily the same as spoiling. We are in this world because of what occurred in one of our infinite previous lives.

      Now I don’t expect you to believe this (I don’t expect you to believe any of this, as it took me several months of butting heads with the devotees to even begin to accept it), but I will tell you what I believe. At some point in our past, all of us were in the abode of Krishna (a Vedic name for God), surrendered totally unto him and serving him in all possible ways, and in exchange we were given the highest pleasure. Like a hand suddenly realizing that it’s role is to serve the body, and it becomes satisfied by feeding the stomach, we were totally satisfied.

    4. At some point, we started to become envious of him, thinking “why is this person Krishna the centre of all things? Why can’t I be the centre of attention?”
      And because Krishna gives us what we want, we are sent down to the material world to take on a body and see how that works out for us. Krishna is like the Sun and we are the Sun’s rays - qualitatively we are the same but quantitatively we are different. The material world is designed to simultaneously teach us our constitutional position and see for ourselves what happens when we try to be the Sun.

      Now, it is true that this world seems unfair from our perspective. Some people are born into terrible conditions while others are in good ones. This is due to a mechanism called Karma (a concept so horrifically misunderstood in the West that most people don’t even know what they’re talking about). Karma is the force that binds us to the material world. To sum it up, Karma has three forms pertaining to the three modes of material nature: The mode of goodness, which is gained from pious activities of the material world - such as philanthropy; the mode of passion, which is from working to lord it over material nature - such as wealth acquisition; and the mode of ignorance, which is shutting yourself out from spiritual reality through strong material indulgence through alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, etc - the opposite to spiritual realization.

      Your birth in the next life is determined by your Karma “package”, if you like. Most people are in a mixture of passion and ignorance, which is perpetuated by our world which is both set up by, and facilitates, such actions. Your birth is also not necessarily tied to the human form, or even this planet as Karma will send you to wherever in the material realm you are best suited to take your next life. This is why there can be an imbalance of prosperity and suffering in this world. The moral “formula” for Karma, which is a hotly debated area, cannot be measured by material senses as it exists as subtle law rather than a gross law. Because the existence of Karma was taken for granted in the ancient Vedic society, the mechanism was not needed to be explained in depth. To them it was like breathing. It is through the process of personally experimenting with Bhakti Yoga as a whole that you accept Karma as it is, and by spiritual practice you automatically cleanse all Karma - good and bad. Even if we were able to perceive the mechanism and its formula, it would do nothing other than give us the means to abuse it.

      Now, getting back to the “Problem of Evil”. I’ve explained that this world is a prison for our spiritual self - it is designed to give us the chance to get back in touch with spiritual reality if we, on our own and with the help of others, find it in the sea of today’s overstimulating material sense gratification. Because Krishna loves us, he gives us many opportunities for spiritual realization, but he does not spoil us by directly placing us all in a situation complete pleasure, just as you wouldn’t reward the child you love if they acted out of line. Krishna loves us so much, however, that he counts everything that could be conducive to spiritual realization. This means that all people who even remotely attempt to perceive God, in whatever way, are minutely making progress towards spiritual realization that will be completed after many lifetimes. Simply by having this discussion, in which we have questioned material nature and discussed spiritual concepts in depth, will likely guarantee you at least a human or intelligent form for your next life - whether you want to believe in this or not. You never lose spiritual progress - and even Karma submits itself to somebody who is spiritually realized.

      I’ll stop here since I’ve written quite a lot. I’m more than happy to continue this discussion though.

    5. We aren't in a realtime format. I don't consider there to be any urgency on any of this.

      I think it's more accurate to say that we don't have the math to describe how physical reality operates at those temperatures, rather than to say that the physical laws were nonexistent. We just don't fully understand what the laws are. We are operating on a relatively young theory which is still in the process of refinement. Once we get a handle on a unified field theory and a way of describing quantum gravity, I'll be a lot more inclined to think we're approaching the limits of the knowable rather than just looking at the not yet know.

      Watched your video. I've seen several like it. The most compelling evidence presented is her claims about the tools and conversations in the operating theater, though given what I know of human memory, if her subconsious mind guessed at what might be said in a dream state, it's unlikely the doctors would have an accurate enough recollection to notice any errors, unless the entire event was recorded. The tools were another interesting detail that she might well not have had any other way of knowing about. On the other hand, there are other explanations available for how she could have gotten that information prior to going under the knife.

      It's definitely interesting, just sadly not airtight. It's one of the ones I mentioned in the main post where I tend to give these more credence than I would other extraordinary claims. I do need to be actively looking to poke holes in order to see them, which bothers me a bit when trying to accommodate both that behavior of mine and my general belief in myself as a rational individual.

      I don't think you're correct about the speed of light radically changing within the past 70 years. Lightspeed being a constant is one of the more fundamental aspects of our current understandings of matter, distance, and energy. Einstein's famous equation actually requires the speed of light in a vacum to remain constant. Likewise, our measures of distance across astronomical distances become absolutely useless with a variable speed of light, and any prediction about the Big Bang becomes utterly meaningless, since without a constant light speed, we can't even accurately place ourselves within our own galaxy.

      I'd be interested in reading where you got the idea of a variable speed of light from, and where this idea that a number of convenience was chosen, since that's actually less believable than the idea that changes had been observed to light speed in a vacum. This sort of upends all physics as we understand them. The fact that the physics community doesn't seem to be scrambling in the face of this sort of revelation seems suggestive to me on that front, but again, I'd like to read what you saw.

      Regarding the Problem of Evil, it isn't actually restricted to the Christian God. It's applicable to all dieties that purport to have the properties mentioned in the sylogism. An all powerful, all loving being is incompatible with the existence of suffering.

      I applied the problem of evil to the diety you mentioned explicitly because you described it as having the attributes of omnipotence and benevolence. Now, with just those two attributes, there are other explanations for the existence of evil. That diety might simply be unaware of it if it is not omniscient.

    6. To look at your parent analogy, can you think of a loving parent who wouldn't wave a magic wand and cure their child of muscular dystrophy if they could? Parents allow their children to get hurt and learn hard lessons because they know they can't make the world perfectly safe for their children, and that the pains they experience now will help them deal with the harsh realities of the adult world. Parents behave this way because they are not all powerful, and so they do the most loving thing they can within their power in an effort to minimize the child's suffering. Spoiled children are a problem because they will be unable to cope with the outside world, and thus it will hurt them, but given the ability to make the outside world perfect, that ceases to be a concern.

      Your description of a sort of amiable rebellion is interesting, but if we're dealing with a properly omnipotent entity, why would it need to allow the rebellion expecting it to fail and to see a return to the status quo rather than simply impart the knowledge of why this won't work directly?

      The presence of extraterestrial modes of existence does seem to shore up the obvious questions that arise from a durable form of spiritual currency like the way you describe Karma in the face of a world that quite obviously has varying amounts of it present at any given time.

      Now, we can measure "subtle" qualities. Much of my occupation involves creating software responsible for shifting around numbers that are abstractions of abstractions of economic activity, which is itself an emergent property of behaviors on the more familiar level of the physical world.

      I don't actually see how being able to understand the rules could be classed as a bad thing. Nor do I really understand how conscious manipulation and exploitation of those rules would be worse than what we've done consciously exploiting the physical laws we've already worked out. We use those exploits to keep our children fed, our families warm and dry during bad weather, to cure the sick, and generally raise the quality of life for people. Yes, we also use what we've learned to fight for resources or ideologies, but on the whole, I'm actually quite positive about the gradual expansion of human knowledge and power and would like to see it continue infinitely.

      Now, as to the idea that this mode of existence is a road back to unification with God, it seems to me that if this initial rebellion was meaningful, and the lessons to be learned from the process so important as outweigh all the suffering from all the worst atrocities in human history and then some to account for the pain experienced by animals and experienced on other worlds, wouldn't God deciding to cheat the system and tally up our progress using a weighted scale like that defeat the purpose?

      As to my next life, assuming that's how things operate, I'm not sure I see the value in coming back as an intelligent creature. My identity is defined by my experiences, and reincarnation doesn't seem to come along with any method of keeping those memories that make me who I am. If I die, my soul is reincarnated as a duck, and a computer simulation of my brain is produced as it was at the moment of my death, I identify the computer as ME and the duck as not meaningfully different to the worms eating my corpse who have a part of what used to be me inside them, but are distinct entities in and of themselves.

  3. There are of course theories with some scientific basis that attempt to explain all supernatural phenomena, and it’s good to be skeptical as there are a lot of falsified claims out there. Overall I find much of the evidence compelling as, such as in this particular case, it would have to be scientifically orchestrated in such an unlikely way that you could not reasonably attribute it to chance alone.

    I have to apologize for I was not very clear on the light speed thing. What I meant was not that the speed of light itself has changed over the past 70 years, but that our measurement of it has changed. Measurements that were made using older methods were overturned with newer findings. Therefore our measurements of the distances to other systems and astral bodies, which are based on a single speed of light, have also changed. A quick google search has shown that there does appear to be some sort of theory regarding a variable speed of light though.

    I understand your point on the parent analogy, however there is a difference in our situation with Krishna. It is true that a parent is not all-powerful and therefore cannot make the environment perfect while God technically can, but the reason for our falling down (which occurs on the individual basis, by the way, and was not a single united rebellion as you perhaps got the impression, but occurs with different living entities at all times) is not related to the environment. Krishna’s abode is naturally full of absolute pleasure and satisfying activities, but even that does not reduce our propensity for envy. Krishna offers us a situation in which we can be eternally happy, but he does not force us into it. If Krishna were to eliminate our own flaws, that would be taking away our free will. Although it is not outside his capacity, Krishna does not believe it is right to take away the free will of a living entity, therefore he gives us the best possible situation in which we can discover our constitutional position on our own.

    Again, even if we have the knowledge of why such an action is ultimately doomed to failure, that does not reduce our propensity for envy. If, in our one-on-one relationship with Krishna, we begin to desire being in his position, we immediately descend to the material world so that that can be attempted. The soul does not retain the memories it accumulates across lifetimes when moving between vessels, so it is not the experience or knowledge alone that brings us back. It is the complete realization and subsequent surrendering to Krishna that allows us to return to his abode.

    For this next point, allow me to clarify. The three modes of material nature which I mentioned do not represent the path to spiritual realization. In fact, Karma is not even a direct product of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The responsibility is delegated to individual entities called Brahma - a lord of a universe, who is one of Krishna’s many expansions that serve him. Karma is designed to be conducive to spiritual realization by ensuring that reincarnation does not occur randomly. Those who act piously are rewarded with opportunities for spiritual realization - such as being born in an aristocratic family or on a peaceful planet, however it does not necessarily mean that they will take the opportunity. If they decide to abuse the opportunity to indulge in material sense gratification they will go down to the animal or sub-animal species, and will have to endure many more cycles of birth and death before taking birth in a human/intelligent body again, which is the crossroad between the spiritual and the material. To also clarify on this, animals do not accrue Karma, but gradually it is lost over the period of many births and deaths. To go into the animal form is therefore simply a tiresome and time-consuming endeavour.

  4. The modes of goodness, passion and ignorance exist only for the ultimate goal of realizing your constitutional position. By taking up spiritual practice you directly rekindle your relationship with God, and therefore automatically transcend all three of the material modes. Just as you may see the sun more clearly after washing your windscreen, by washing away the material contaminations of Karma we begin to see God more clearly.

    I’m not quite sure I get what you mean with this last point. It is not possible for you to become a computer simulation because you cannot simulate consciousness. As H.G. Wells said: “I am not a body with a soul, I am a soul with a body”. If your Atma (consciousness or soul) passes into the body of a duck, then you are consciously a duck. The worms that are eating your corpse are eating the vehicle of your previous life. They are not actually eating you because the soul (the actual you) is eternal and imperishable. The soul cannot be destroyed with fire, nor can it be replicated by a machine. Aside from that, as I have explained, the value of coming back as an intelligent creature is that you have the capacity to perceive spiritual reality. Animals cannot even question their own existence, only humans have that ability. Incarnation in the animal species is just a tiresome exercise, therefore there is really no value in coming back as anything less than a human.

    1. Let me clarify. If my soul does not contain my memories, I don't define it as me. It is merely another component.

      To use your quote, I am not a soul with thoughts and memories. I am thoughts and memories with a soul.

    2. Ah, I see. You're of the Ghost in the Shell philosophy. It's quite logical, but I simply refuse to believe that, when my thoughts and memories perish, I as an individual entity also perish. Your thoughts and memories, which are determined by your environment, are what determine your actions and personality, but even if I had a totally different personality/body/environment, I would still be me - i.e. it would still be me experiencing the pain and the pleasure. I simply don't find it possible to comprehend anything other than taking on another body after death - and this I believed even before I'd come across Krishna Consciousness and was relatively atheistic.

    3. Good, I was worried I wasn't explaining it particularly clearly. I recognize that you have a different philosophical position, and respect that. I just don't find value or comfort in the same things you do.

      I will note that one key element about the NDEs that I find particularly compelling is the fact that such individuals report retaining memory and thoughts throughout. It's that element that grips me.