Do gods exist? 4 Is god a pure mind?

Photo – Spiral galaxy NGC 2608 from ESA/Hubble & NASA

Is god a pure mind without a body? This is the fourth of a series of short posts about whether gods exist and why the question is an important one.

Many theists believe that their god is a pure mind without a body. But we have no evidence that a mind can exist without a body or a brain or a source of energy. And we have a lot of evidence to suggest that it can’t.

There are two broad theories of what the mind is. Either reality is made up of physical particles moved around by force fields, in which case our minds are the workings of our physical brains, or else our minds exist in a separate spiritual realm independently of our bodies.

But there is no evidence that a separate spiritual realm exists, or how it could interact with the physical realm if it did exist. How could a mind in a different realm cause our physical bodies to move around? What mechanism would it use to move the particles in our body?

Instead, neurological experiments suggest that the cause and effect is the other way around. Our physical brain can activate the process of us pushing a button up to ten seconds before our conscious mind is aware of what button we have decided to push.

It seems that our consciousness is a biological process of our brain, just as our digestion is a biological process of our digestive system. Our brain gets new information from outside of it, processes it along with stored memories, and sends signals to the rest of our body to respond.

We also know that parts of our thinking are related to certain neurological processes or pathways in our brains. And if we close down particular pathways in our brain, then the related parts of our thinking stop working.

If follows from this that, when we die and our entire physical brain stops functioning, then our entire consciousness stops functioning as well. There is no evidence that it continues to exist in an imagined spiritual realm or that it can interact with your dead physical body.

The same applies to the idea of a god as a pure mind without a body. It is is an invented convenience that explains nothing about how such a thing (or such a nothing) might exist, or how it might interact with the physical universe of particles and force fields.

Like this article? It is one of a series on this topic.
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Do gods exist? 4 Is god a pure mind?

10 thoughts on “Do gods exist? 4 Is god a pure mind?

  1. I agree with the above and I don’t believe in a life hereafter. I’ve read fairly well into paranormal “events” such as ESP, remembering former lives, messages from the other side etc. It’s difficult to make sense of it. It’s pretty obvious that other animals besides us have “minds” it’s just that they don’t have our kind of mind. On occasions our minds disintegrate before the body – we get dementia and there are some who have the mind of a three year old all their lives.

  2. The available evidence is clear: consciousness, memory and personality are all products of the brain. Any impact on the brain such as by damage or disease can affect change sufficient to demonstrate the total dependency of mind on its physical engine, the brain. If science discovers anything that sheds new and different light on this subject, then I’ll review my conclusion. Yet, the more we learn, the more unlikely that ever-diminishing possibility becomes. Ditto for the existence of gods: not a shred of plausible evidence in any of the places where traces of their existence should be found.

  3. PJ, I agree with you about other animals having minds. Theologians tie themselves into knots over that by inventing souls that the other animals don’t have!

  4. Two separate thoughts about this…

    After I had surgery and received a General Anesthetic, I became more convinced that the mind depends completely on the brain. Having spent half an hour with no consciousness whatever, no sense of the passage of time, quite unlike the experience of sleep, was “eye-opening” for me. A physical substance acting on my body, was able to shut down, albeit temporarily, the essence of “me” and turn me into a virtual vegetable. It also, incidentally, helped me to think about my eventual non-existence and the fact that, while the process of dying maybe painful and frightening, the state of death itself is nothing to fear.

    Theists often point or the existence of the laws of physics – and their making it possible for matter and life itself to exist, as evidence for a god. But a god would itself resemble in some ways the laws of physics: coherent, unchanging and omnipresent. Which begs the question: why is a god necessary? Why go the extra step? If such a god “just exists”, why couldn’t the laws of physics just exist?

  5. Finbarr, that last step is one of the places where theism flounders. They try to rely on the big bang showing that the universe had a beginning. It doesn’t show that (it only shows that the expansion of our universe had a beginning) but even if our universe did have a beginning, and that beginning had a cause, that would still just push the question back a step. Why would the cause have to be supernatural? That’s an assumption based on no evidence.

  6. My belief is that we are born with certain aptitudes and beliefs. I lean towards Nature rather than Nurture forming the personality.
    I believe that we are born with the tendency to believe in the supernatural, as a first choice.
    What I mean by that is that at a young age we believe in Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy etc., without question, but as we get older and start to develop reason, we choose to discount these “childish” beliefs !
    I was 10 years of age before I overcame my fears of dark, empty rooms. That was when I realised that ghosts etc., were fictitious. By age 12 I had realised that there was no such thing as a god — but it took that long to overcome the belief in the supernatural that I was born with.
    I can readily see that others, who were not born with the power of reason, can still find solace in belief of the supernatural. And that is good for them — and to rob them of their beliefs would be to destroy them entirely.
    In my 82 years on this Earth, I have seen many die with the profound belief that they were going to a better place — and that belief made their departing from this existence, pleasant.
    If I had acquainted them with my beliefs of life and death, they would have departed this existence, terrified !

  7. Thanks, Paul. I think that evolution has given us a tendency to see patterns and ascribe agency to those patterns, and when there is no obvious agent we invent a supernatural one. Though it may seem unlikely, studies have shown that atheists are least anxious about death, followed by people with strong religious beliefs then people with weak religious beliefs.

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