Testing Non-Material Religious Claims
Within some of the conversations we have been having in the comment sections the last few days I thought I would change the focus a little and talk about a religion other than Christianity, and focus more on Science of Mind or New Thought. Science of Mind was founded by Ernest Holmes and the religion practices three spiritual disciplines.
One of the disciplines is a five-step affirmative prayer called spiritual mind treatment. The five steps are:
1. Recognition—know that God is all there is.
2. Unification—know that you are one with God.
3. Declaration—state your word for the circumstance you want to manifest.
4. Thanksgiving—give thanks for your word being acted upon by the Law of mind.
5. Release—“And so it is!”
New thought practitioners “share a set of beliefs concerning metaphysics, positive thinking, the law of attraction, healing, life force, creative visualization, and personal power.”
I have had some experience with the beliefs in this groups as my wife’s family have several persons who congregate at the Edmonton Center for Spiritual Living every Sunday morning to discuss their woo. In explaining the power of their faith I had one family member say to me, “What does it matter if you say that truck is white, or if a 100 people do, if I say it’s black then it’s black!” The same person also tried to convince me that they could light candles with the power of their mind, “if they really wanted to.”
If I had to put their formulations into a nutshell, basically, they access the power in the universe through their oneness with it… and make magic things happen through attraction and the force within them.
All very new-agey, anti-intellectual (which is ironic with words like science and though in their titles), and relying heavily on ignorance and confirmation bias.
So, let’s say that today we are talking about the miraculous and metaphysical claims of these persons. How would you go about establishing the veracity or ‘truthiness’ of their claims? Would this process be any different than a similar investigation into charismatic Christian claims? The claims of those who profess to be involved in the occult? Or would a similar process be viable? What would that process look like and be called? Could the claims of one group be established over another using this process?