I saw this question on another forum, and I just want to see who you agree with and why. And to the one you disagree with, how would you rebut? Here's the question, followed by a short conversation between an atheist and a spiritualist.. Question: Can atheists believe in magic? Atheism is the just the disbelief in god(s), right? So, atheist are free to believe in ghosts, souls, heaven and hell, reincarnation, aliens, chakras, wars going on in space, the power of music, and any other paranormal and/or supernatural phenomena/belief... right? Atheist: Sure, there are a few atheists who believe that nonsense (save perhaps aliens. There is a high possibility of life on other planets), but the vast majority of atheists are rational and intelligent, and thus realize that magic is just not real. Spiritualist: It's not about "rational and intelligent" and if you think it is, then you are woefully ignorant. What it's about is one's core metaphysical stance -- or Ontology -- of which there are three main choices: * Physicalism/materialism: the idea that the only real fundamentally real things in the universe are physical things -- matter, energy, forces -- and the only form of causation is physical causation. Most atheists subscribe to this stance, which is a philosophical ASSUMPTION; not any kind of science, nor any kind of conclusion derived from science. According to this unproven and unprovable assumption, there is no possibility for non-physical causation and/or spirits in the world. (And, if they're perfectly consistent, it eventually leads to a denial of human consciousness as well.) Physicalism is incoherent, for several reasons. One of which is: how can the physical universe be ruled by the non-physical Laws of Nature, which take the form of non-physical mathematics?? * Idealism: Consciousness is the foundational reality, and the physical universe is somehow an aspect or expression or emanation of consciousness. This stance is perfectly compatible with science too, and also compatible with various religious and spiritual ideas. * Dualism / Dual aspect theory: Both physical and spiritual (consciousness) things exist in the universe; either as twin aspects of a greater wholeness, or else as separate things that interact somehow. I repeat: ALL of these metaphysical stances can be compatible with science. But physicalism cannot be compatible with most paranormal phenomena, spirituality or religion. Most, but not all, atheists tend to lean towards physicalism. Why? Perhaps because they're not just not religious, but anti-religious. Therefore they subconsciously gravitate towards a metaphysical position in which Gods are impossible and religion meaningless. However, they like to pretend that it's the only "rational and intelligent" position, or the only one that's compatible with science. But they are very wrong in that. There have been good scientists of non-materialist persuasions; and ever since quantum theory hit the big-time, there have been some physicists inclined to draw parallels between quantum theory and metaphysical idealism as found in some eastern religions. (Read: The Tao of Physics, or The Dancing Wu Li Masters.) As for your oh-so-smug arrogance in implying that you're more "rational and intelligent" than us poor benighted folks who are NOT atheists or materialists, a question: My degree and grad school is in physics, along with a lot of philosophy and comparative religion in college. How about you? Atheist: You're welcome to delude yourself into believing you're something more (i.e. a "spiritual being"), but wishful thinking won't change the fact that magic/the supernatural isn't real. Take, for example, the concept of life after death. Believers of life after death think consciousness can transcend death (i.e. a "soul" or "spirit"). But the simple fact that people can dramatically change after extreme brain trauma proves that emotions, feelings, thoughts and everything else believers want to call a "soul" or "spirit" comes from chemical reactions in the brain and from nowhere else. And once those chemical reactions in our brain stop, we cease to exist. I suggest you honestly read any freshman level biopsychology textbook. And I, too, have a physics degree. I went to UGA. I also have studies in astronomy and philosophy. And after I graduated, I attended a photography program. Spiritualist: You're confusing correlation with causation, in relation to the brain and consciousness. (A common beginner's error in logic.) The fact that there is a CORRELATION between the neurophysiology of the brain and the contents and activities of our minds does NOT prove that the brain causes or creates consciousness. (In fact, the arrow of causation could well go the other way.) Likewise, the fact that there is a correlation between the settings on your television set, and what program you are watching does not mean that your television set caused or created that particular television program. Rather, the program came from elsewhere, and it is present in the airwaves all around us. The television set just RECEIVES the program, by tuning into a specific frequency, and transforming the signal into something that you can perceive. Analogously, the brain does not create consciousness. But it does act as a receiver of the all-pervading universal consciousness, by tuning it into your specific body, and thus allowing you to function in physical space and time. And: the reason why I believe what I do is not because I just felt like it. I spent years as a militant atheist, until I started to practice deep meditation, which opened up my psychic centers and allowed me to perceive what I had been blind to before. When you have premonitions that come true, and when the Gods regularly give you signs of their presence in the "real" material world, and when "amazing coincidences" start to happen to you all the time, then it becomes no longer tenable to maintain a physicalist philosophy. An idealist (or perhaps dualist) metaphysics starts to make a lot more sense. I reached a point where I could not honestly keep dismissing all of the remarkable things that were happening as "just coincidence" or "selective awareness." Now, I have no particular need or desire to prove any of that to you or to convince you of its reality; no more than I have to try and "convert" people to my religion. I don't really care what you believe. But you are being both dishonest and annoying by going around claiming to "know" what you cannot possibly know -- namely, that there is not consciousness apart from physical stuff -- and to keep insisting that people who don't happen to agree with your unproven assumptions are somehow "unintelligent" or "irrational." Try to grow up, and realize that if you're the one pushing your metaphysical (ontological) philosophy onto other people, then the burden of proof is on you, not on them. And, of course, you cannot possibly prove your position. (Due to the well-known impossibility of proving a universal negative.) And: So you got your degree in physics too? Huh, what an interesting coincidence. I would think in that case that you would be able to think about all this with more clarity than you have been expressing thus far. Here's a question for you: Why do you suppose that electromagnetic phenomena are subject to mathematical laws that are describable in complex vector analysis? Div, grad, curl and all that? Where do the laws governing electricity and magnetism, as expressed in Maxwell's equations, come from? Why do electric and magnetic fields and forces obey mathematical laws? What is mathematics anyway? And where does it come from? It's not a physical thing, so what is it? And why does Nature follow the ways of Math? Those are easy questions for a philosophical idealist to answer; but they are very thorny issues for a materialist/physicalist. Is mathematics a "supernatural" thing -- which literally means above or outside of Nature -- since it does not have its basis in physical matter or energy? That's what would seem to be implied if you think that Nature consists only of physical things like matter and energy and forces and fields. I don't think of mathematics as supernatural, but then that's because I conceive of Nature as being, first and foremost, a vast field of universal consciousness. And that's where Math lives: in that consciousness. Math does not come from human consciousness, obviously; because the number pi was always the number pi, and the number e was always the number e; and the universe was obeying mathematical laws long before humans evolved. Atheist: The origin of math is not that different than the origin of words. You shout, "chair," and the sound is a word that stands for an object we have come to know by that name. When you shout, "two chairs," that is better than shouting, "chair, chair." Imagine if you have ten chairs, shouting "chair" ten times would not help. So words standing for numbers were invented to make those descriptions compact. That's the origin of counting, and by de facto, the origin of math. And it's not that nature obeys laws, but that we can successfully describe the universe in terms of laws, that is, in terms of words and numbers.