In Universally Preferable Behavior: a Rational Proof of Secular Ethics, Stefan Molyneux challenges the existence of god or any kind of spiritual realm:
The scientific method requires that every thesis be supported by evidence and rationality. Since there is no evidence for gods – and the very idea of gods is innately self-contradictory – the thesis “gods exist” cannot stand. Inevitably, the religious … attempt to defend their thesis by trying to split reality into “two realms” – the scientific and the spiritual. However, there is no evidence for the existence of this “spiritual” realm in the present.
I agree that as science, the hypothesis that a god or god’s exist in the objective physical realm has little supporting evidence. Said evidence would have to itself be material, be it direct or indirect. Visions of the virgin Mary (or the risen Christ) are subjective, no matter how many subjects testify to their veracity. If we had tangible physical evidence (for example, a photograph of the Betania apparition), it could be examined as evidence.
What is less clear to me is how the idea of gods is self-contradictory. There is ample evidence that the spiritual realm exists, but it is subjective, rather than objective. This makes it difficult to study scientifically with the tools we currently have. Here are just a few examples of subjective experiences that we don’t understand:
- Near death experiences like the one described by Dr. Eben Alexander in Proof of Heaven. Are these simply some last gasp of the dying brain, or are these people experiencing some deeper phenomena?
- Altered states of consciousness like the one Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor describes in My Stroke of Insight. These same states of consciousness have driven religious mystics to seek within through meditation and prayer.
- UFO abduction experiences. I personally don’t believe that aliens are among us, considering the resources that would be needed to visit another planet. If it’s merely an artifact of sleep paralysis, why do so many people report such a similar experience?
Perhaps in the future, we’ll be able to look behind the veil, to understand what is going on in the brain. For example, we are beginning to be able to monitor the visual cortex with MRI. Using magnetoencephalography, much higher resolution scans should be possible. What will we find? Are there subjective phenomena that go beyond anything that is happening in the biological hardware of the brain? I think anyone who claims to know the answer is being as dogmatic as Church authorities who ‘knew’ that the Sun orbited the earth.