Hotlines to God

The Trace of God, a book I helped publish, was released about a week ago. I posted this related piece on Facebook a few days ago:

I remember an interview with Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which he claimed, in essence, to have a hot line to God. The Creator was his personal adviser. My reaction? “He’s a loon. Hot line to God?” When someone says they’ve had “an encounter with God”, “a mystical experience” that’s the common reaction. When it happened to Barbara Ehrenreich, an atheist, she didn’t talk about it for decades out of fear it would get her labelled as crazy. Most Fundamentalists Christians have that reaction. Miracles, holy fire, burning bushes… that stuff ended back, you know, with the Disciples.

Funny thing is, I keep backing into studies about the effectiveness of prayer, stories about meditation changing people’s lives and so on. The assumption I’d picked up didn’t jive with what researchers we’re finding. When Joseph Hinman approached me about publishing his book, The Trace of God, I was definitely of two minds. I’ve never been involved in publishing a book about God, let alone one making a sane, rational argument that mystical experience is real?

But, what I found is someone who took all that research, looked at all the arguments floating around and made a case that needed to be heard. He shows that when someone has one of these experiences, they’re part of a very very large group, probably the vast majority of people, and that they’re not crazy. He pulls together research that shows that these experience, again and again, change people’s lives for the better. You can’t prove God. He says so right up front. Instead, he says that the evidence meets a legal standard: Looking at all the evidence (including your experience) and concluding there is a God is “rationally warranted”.

Do I still think Ahmadinejad is a loon? Yes. And I’m convinced there are a lot of people who’ve had experiences that justify concluding there is a Creator, a God.