• The Nature of Consciousness Vs. Religious concepts

    April 11, 2010 4:28 pm 62 comments

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    A certain class of beings is claimed to exist by modern religion. These entities are described as being “purely spiritual.” This means that they are a type of consciousness, a mind, without a body. There are several creatures that have been described this way, among them God, the Devil, Angels, Demons, and even the human mind is explained by religion to exist independently of the brain in the form of the “immortal soul.” Indeed, this class of entities make up the foundations of religious thought. Without them the claims of religion in regards to human existence are baseless. But, consciousness is a specific attribute of individuals with certain, known properties. I will show that the nature of consciousness invalidates any claim to the existence of beings of “pure spirit”

    “Purely spiritual,” beings are claimed to be minds without a body, to include the absence of a brain. Charnock writes “If we grant that God is, we must necessarily grant that he cannot be corporeal, because a body is of an imperfect nature. It will appear incredible to any that acknowledge God the first Being and Creator of all things, that he should be a massy, heavy body, and have eyes and ears, feet and hands, as we have (1).” But, can the mind exist without the brain? The facts of the relationship between the mind and the brain are well known and easily demonstrable. What is the effect on the mind if one cuts off the blood supply to the brain, as opposed to if one cuts it off to an arm? In the case of the arm, one does not necessarily lose consciousness, but if the blood supply is cut off to the brain, a loss of consciousness is imminent. This fact demonstrates that the mind is inextricably tied, in fact derived from the brain. What is the effect on the mind if one introduces alcohol or drugs into the brains blood supply? The state of the mind is altered by these purely material elements. What is the effect on consciousness if the brain experiences blunt force trauma? If the arm or leg is destroyed, consciousness remains. Even the heart can be transplanted and yet the person’s consciousness remains. When the brain is damaged, however, consciousness is altered, or goes out of existence all together temporarily, in the case of a “knock-out” or permanently, in the case of death. The idea of a consciousness separated from the brain contradicts observable fact that the mind is dependent on the brain. The result is that any theories that suggest a “purely spiritual” being are ultimately refuted by such facts.

    The second point to be made concerning an alleged consciousness with no body is the lack of sensory organs. Imagine a man born with no senses, no touch, no hearing, no sight, no taste and no smell. Would he have a thought? If so, where would it come from? The fact is that he wouldn’t be capable of thought, because to be conscious means to be conscious of something, and the only way to gather material for the mind to process is through the senses. Without them, our minds would be blank. We would possess the means to think, but there would literally be nothing to think about, no way to be conscious of anything at all. Such would be the state of a “purely spiritual” being such as God, angels, demons, or a soul detached from the body. For from being omnipotent, as God is often described, it would not have the ability to know anything at all. Again, the idea of a “purely spiritual” consciousness is incompatible with the facts of reality. A “consciousness” conscious of nothing is a contradiction in terms; if it is conscious of nothing, it cannot be described as conscious. It would be “not conscious.”

    In connection with consciousness relying on the senses for it material, there is also the issue of the existential material for consciousness. In addition to having to possess the proper equipment to be conscious, something must also exist to be conscious of. It is claimed by religion that a being of “pure consciousness,” God, created everything: all matter. If such a being existed before matter existed, it stands to reason that there would have been nothing for it to be conscious of, and as discussed in the previous paragraph a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms.

    These are three ways in which it can be demonstrated that any “purely spiritual” beings cannot exist. Consciousness depends on the brain to exist; therefore all conscious being must have physical bodies. Consciousness depends on the sensory organs to provide it with the material necessary for its functioning, therefore a being without sensory organs cannot logically be described as conscious and any hypothetical being described as such cannot be said to exist. Further the idea that a being of pure spirit created all matter is impossible, because to be described as conscious, something would have to exist for it to be conscious of in the first place, nullifying the idea that said being created everything which exists. The hypothesis that there exists any beings of “pure consciousness,” which means consciousness separate from matter, contradict known facts of the nature of consciousness, and is therefore invalided by those facts.

    (1) Charnock, Stephen and Symington, William. Discourses upon the existence and attributes of God. New York : Robert Carter. 1853http://wedontneedgod.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/the-nature-of-consciousness-vs-religious-concepts/

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