Monday, July 25, 2011

Open Letter to the People of Norway

Dear Norwegians,

You have just gone through a national trauma that should never be visited upon any nation, but especially not a free and tolerant nation such as you have. It is going to take some time for you to heal, but you will.

The thing to remember is that these acts of terror, although perpetrated by one of your own, do not reflect badly upon your country or your way of life. They reflect only on the delusional and twisted mind of the one responsible.

As everyone knows, on September 11, 2001, the U.S. suffered its worst terrorist attack in its history. It resulted in two wars that have lasted now for ten years. But this won’t be your fate because you were not attacked from the outside based on ideological differences between your national policy and the radicals in another country. All you will need to do at this point is decide whether your terrorist was really a lone wolf or if he had collaborators. Chances are, he’s a lone wolf. And he’s been caught. Your courts will deal with him.

Although you will never forget this tragedy, it is best not to dwell on it or its cause too much after your original period of mourning. It does not in any way change who you are as a people. You are a free, happy, tolerant, and progressive society. You use the term undertrykkelse (oppression) to describe situations in other countries. It does not apply to you. Your problem is not systemic within your political system. Rather, it is systemic within factions of the various religious regimes that exist in every country in the world. As such, the same thing can happen in any country that is tolerant of those who do not ascribe to fundamentalist religious sects.

In this case, the terrorist was a fundamentalist Christian. How do I know he was a fundamentalist? It is because only fundamentalists are deluded enough to do anything in support of their dogma. Fundamentalists of any religion cannot tolerate openness or diverse opinions.

The only cure for this kind of terrorism is to wipe out religious fundamentalism. That cannot be done through legislation or oppression, because that would, by definition, mean that your society has become less tolerant of diverse opinions. Even most fundamentalists would not stoop to terrorism, so they should be free to believe what they want. But it is the fundamentalist mantra that leads those who subscribe to the faith to act in an irrational and radical fashion. Fundamentalism provides the delusion that leads some people to do crazy things. Some people just behave crazier than others.

In the U.S. for example, some Christian fundamentalists murder abortion doctors. These murderers carry their religious beliefs to an extreme end, but had fundamentalism not deluded them to begin with, there would have been no reason to carry out their violent acts. Other fundamentalists in American are not violent, but they seek to overthrow the current form of government through legal means, such as infiltrating Congress, state legislatures, and school boards. Their common goal is to turn America into a Christian theocracy. Your terrorist also had the goal of overcoming your government and way of life and thus promote a more fundamentalist, reactionary form of government more in line with his delusions.

Most Christians will denounce him as a bad apple that is not a “true” Christian. But to fundamentalists, nobody is a true Christian unless they are also fundamentalists of the same stripe, unless they harbor the same delusions. To Pentacostals, Catholics are not true Christians. To the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Presbyterians, Methodists, even other Baptists are not true Christians. A “true” Christian is only a person who believes the same brand of Christianity as the one doing the judging.

Religion in general is a dangerous concept because it breeds fundamentalism. And fundamentalism feeds delusions which lead susceptible people to perform violent, antisocial acts. Fundamentalism of one kind or another is free to thrive in an open, tolerant society such as yours.

So don’t blame your way of life or form of government. It is a model for the world. But as with other nations who have free societies, there is a price. The price is that highly deluded lone wolves can thrive, unnoticed. The lesson is to increase your vigilance. But don’t become paranoid. This degree of terrorism has not happened to your nation in modern history. There is no reason to believe that this strike is part of a trend. It is most likely an isolated case that can be treated as such.

Your nation is now in deep mourning for those who were killed and for the survivors that were traumatized. That is a natural process that will run its course. Your nation does not have to make any drastic changes because of it. It is not the fault of your system, but the fault of fundamentalism in general, and the only way to combat fundamentalism is through education, and your educational system is among the best in the world. There is little more you can do but live life as you always have and hope that it never happens again.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Reduce Political Gridlock with Term Limits

Politics is a dirty business. It was so even back in the days of the Founding Fathers. But I can't imagine what is going on in Washington now over the national debt is what the founders had in mind when they created this nation. The Republicans in the House have painted themselves into a corner. They made promises to the Tea Party knuckleheads that they cannot keep. Some of them wish they could be released from that corner but they also see that if they do what's right, they may no be reelected. So they do what's best for themselves instead of what they know is best for the country.

There is one very simple solution to political messes like this and it can be summed up in two short words: term limits.

Here is a proposal for a Constitutional amendment. First, limit the term of the office of president to one, six-year term. Some say that six years is too long for a really bad president to be in office. So, along with the six-year term, allow for a mid-term disapproval vote. In this election, if 60 percent of the voters dislike the way the president is doing his job, they could vote him out. If they do, the vice-president would then become president and a special election would be scheduled to replace him.

The the congressional representatives, limit them to a single six-year term, but stagger the elections so that members will begin their term every two years. That way there will always be a majority in the House that are not rookies. This is currently the way the senate is elected. And, for the senate, its members would be elected in the same way as now, except that they would be restricted to one term.

For those who want to serve for more than a single term, the law could allow them to run again after setting out for one election cycle. That's two years. This would also apply to the president.

With no hope of getting reelected without setting out for at least two years, there would be far less political grandstanding. The president and Congress would not have to stand firm on a bad promise because they would have nothing to lose politically.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Knowledge is Greatest Threat to Fundamentalism

Christian apologist Josh McDowell has a problem with the Internet. He sees it as anathema to Christianity. Why? Because it allows children and young people to gain knowledge and information, and to be skeptical. And McDowell sees this as a big problem.

This is what McDowell said in a speech, as reported by the Christian Post: “Now here is the problem. I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened.”

So the Internet leads to the abundance of knowledge and information, which in turn, causes people who have learned that knowledge and gained that information to become more skeptical. And that’s the problem?

Perhaps McDowell should partake of the Internet more himself so that he can learn how to be more skeptical instead of clinging to an ancient myth that is hopelessly out of touch with anything anyone needs today.

McDowell is right in his conclusions that the Internet has opened more young people up to skepticism. But his conclusion that this is a problem is laughable. Read what he is saying: Skeptical inquiry into the things we have always accepted without question is something to fight against. That shows the mindset of fundamentalist Christians. Never mind the facts; never mind that their beliefs might just be superstitious nonsense. We must protect our kids from learning anything they might use to work out the real solutions to life's problems. We must keep them deluded with dogma. We must fight against information. Facts and critical thinking skills are evil. And that's what they are learning on the Internet!

People like McDowell are anti-intellectual. And it’s people like him that compel me to keep blogging about the evils of fundamentalism. It's not that I think that somehow anything I say might cause a true fundamentalist to convert to reality. No, they've already drank the Kool-Aide. It's that I know young people who are still impressionable, along with those who are maybe Christians or from a Christian family but who are still open to reason, might still be persuaded by rational thought and reason.

I tell you the truth. Having faith in God means you have abdicated your powers as a human to understand the way nature works, especially if you have the faith of a fundamentalist. It means you will not be open to enough knowledge and information to make things happen. And that is the best lesson that young people can learn, that they have the power, they have the initiative, they can make real changes. A reliance on prayer and God is for those who have given up and are grasping at straws.

McDowell and those like him are worried that too much knowledge will weaken their cult. And they are right. Fundamentalism is a cult, just a very large one. And like other cults it has the potential to be very dangerous. Fundamentalism hampers progress, quashes innovation, and condemns critical thinking. Fundamentalism is like a virus or a malignancy that spreads until it pervades society, devouring human’s natural tendency to explore and find answers to things that matter. The cure for fundamentalism is knowledge and critical thinking skills.

Before young people become indoctrinated into the delusions of people like McDowell, it is up to the freethinkers and to more liberal believers to provide them with the tools they need to resist. And one of these tools is the Internet. Fundamentalists are right to fear the free exchange of ideas. It is the only thing that will, in the end, win out against the repressive dogma of fundamentalism.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Christian Taliban in America

All across the country states are passing laws that restrict a woman’s reproductive rights. In state after state, including Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, New Jersey, and Texas states have passed or are trying to pass legislation that would restrict or eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood. In other states, such as Kansas and South Dakota, Republican legislatures have limited when and how a woman can get an abortion, even if she pays for it herself.

Republicans ran on a platform of job creation during 2010, yet none of them has done anything at all to improve the economy. But they can pass bill after bill that restricts the rights of people they believe are somehow less moral than they are. They happily pass constitutional amendments against gay marriage and they are more than eager to pass laws restricting a woman's right to free choice concerning her own body. This is government interference to the extreme (and from so-called small-government conservatives no less).

When reasonable people can disagree vehemently over a principle then neither side should be able to force compliance by the other to its own view. The progressive opinion is to allow a woman the right to choose, regardless of one's own belief about abortion. The conservative opinion is to restrict her freedom so that it complies with the views of the conservative philosophy. It's mad and it's not right.

Even the name of the organization that seeks to outlaw all abortions is a misnomer. They call themselves Pro Life. I don’t know of anyone who is not pro life, even those who favor abortion. Those who favor abortion are pro abortion not anti-life. Those who would prefer to leave decisions on abortion up to the women involved are called Pro Choice. So what the Pro Life crowd really needs to explain is why they are not called what they really are, anti-choice. But they prefer the euphemism.

And don't give me this crap about they're only protecting the rights of the baby. That's kind of what the reasonable people on both sides of the issue are disagreeing about. First of all, it's not a baby; it's a fetus, or an embryo, or a zygote, depending on how long it's been since conception. And it has no rights, other than the right the host grants it. If she wants to take it full term, then it has rights. And that’s the way it should be.

Conservatives are running roughshod over women’s rights because they are stuck in this Christian dogma that informs their actions. But even a Christian can use the bible to prove that the life of a person does not begin at conception. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7) So according to the bible, the soul is planted at first breath, not at conception, not even at birth. This is not to confess any personal respect for what the bible has to say about modern life. Is has nothing at all to say about it. But since fundamentalist Christians use the bible to inform all their actions then if they understand their own bible, they should not have a problem with abortion.

It brings up an interesting question. Are conservatives REALLY all that concerned about the rights of an embryo? They seem to no longer give a crap about it once it is born because then they are more than willing to take away mother-infant programs that would help it survive its first few months as a real human. They care not whether or not is has health care insurance. No, once it's born, it can take care of itself for all they care. No, it’s not really about the life of the unborn; it’s about power, power over women and power over everyone who does has a different view of morality than their own.

Fundamentalist Christians have an agenda: To turn America into a Christian theocracy. They want a Christian version of Iran or Pakistan. And if we keep electing these conservative fundamentalists with their twisted view of morality and revisionist take on history, one of these days their desires will be met.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Is the Bible the Word of God?

In a recent Gallup poll, nearly a third of all Americans (30 percent) say they believe that the bible is the literal word of God, that is, the bible is word for word what God meant to say. Drilling down into the poll results, though, it is revealed that those who are most likely to believe that the bible is the literal word of God are those who have the least amount of education. That's not surprising, since even a modicum of higher education requires a certain amount of critical thinking, and when one applies critical thinking skills to the bible, it becomes abundantly clear that God could not have written it (or dictated it).

First of all, if you believe the bible is the literal word of God you must answer the question, Which bible? Is it the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version? The list of bibles goes on and on. They all differ in important ways, but they certainly are not word-for-word translations of the original texts. None of them are. So which bible is the literal word of God? If you say it is the original manuscripts, fine. But we don't have any of the originals. The best we can do is translate copies of copies of copies. So if the original manuscripts were God's word, all we have is an approximation of what he said, and that's even before we translate it.

And as far as translations go, it is almost impossible to translate any document word for word and still come away with a coherent sentence. For example, take the French expression, "Tu diras bien des chose chez toi." Translated literally, it becomes "You say well some things at your house." The meaning, however, is closer to, "Give my regards to your family." So a word-for-word translation of any document, including the manuscripts of the bible, would quickly lose all semblance of meaning.

Some will claim that it's not the individual words that matter but the meaning, just like in the French translation above. That's fine for simple, non-doctrinal phrases, but what about the more important matters of doctrine. Who gets to decide what the authors really meant? Once a translator writes down what the original author meant, his own understanding of that original meaning becomes part of the translated meaning. So the information you get is a mixture of the original author's meaning and the translator's interpretation of it.

But it's even worse than that. Even before the translators got their hands on the manuscripts, scribes were charged with making copies of them for publication. Most scribes did a good job. But, in addition to the normal transcriptional errors, some scribes also added words of their own. Most meant no harm by it, but sometimes a manuscript they were copying became so worn or damaged that they couldn't make out what a word, a sentence, or a whole passage said. In those cases, they would make up what they thought it said. Occasionally, the parts they made up were embellished with bits and pieces of their own agendas. Given these problems in copying and translating the manuscripts, even if we assume that the original was God's literal word, we can't even come close to that with our modern English translations. And given the doctrine that God is perfect and omniscient, God would have seen that coming and made allowances for it. Somehow, he would have made it known what his word is today. Any god worth his salt would have the power to do that. Bottom line: The bible is not the literal word of God.

Another 49 percent of Americans believe that the bible is the inspired word of God. The stories, they say, can't be taken literally, but the meaning is there. The bible is a book of spirituality that reflects the meaning of what God intended for us to know. This is what most of the more educated Christians believe. But there are problems with this view of the bible as well. One of those problems is the same one that dogged the literalists' view of the bible, and that is which translation best reflects what God meant?

But just as important, no matter which translation one uses, it becomes clear that even in matters of doctrine the bible doesn't even agree with itself in many places. Taking just one example, look at two accounts of what happened during the Crucifixion, one account from Mark and one from Luke. Mark says that the curtain in the temple was torn right at the moment of Jesus' death. This symbolism is generally taken to show that the author of Mark was bracketing Jesus' ministry between the times of his baptism, when the heavens split open, and the time of his death, when the curtain split open. (For the purposes of this comparison, we can ignore the fact that, in an age when they didn't use clocks and didn't have cell phones how anyone could have known when the curtain was ripped.) It also symbolizes that God is now accessible to the people directly instead of through a Rabbi once a year. (The temple curtain was meant to cordon off a room where God resided once per year in order to send messages to the people through the Rabbi in Chief, so to speak.)

But the Gospel of Luke says that the curtain was torn before Jesus died. This symbolizes that Jesus' ministry is a more powerful testament to God than the whole of Jewish tradition. It's one last attempt to nullify the powers of the Sanhedrin. So the same event is described by two authors and embellished with two different symbolic meanings, both doctrinal. Which one did God actually mean if he inspired the meaning? Of course this is just one of many such inconsistencies in the bible that have significant differences in doctrine. And that is one reason why there are so many different denominations within the Christian religion.

So the bible certainly cannot be the literal word of God, but there are problems in interpreting it as the inspired word of God, too. So what is the bible? The most likely answer is that it is a book of fables and legends. That is the answer given by 17 percent of those polled by Gallup on this question. It is the minority view, to be sure. In a country where Christianity runs rampant, it is no surprise that 80 percent of those polled believe that the bible is in some way the word of God, whether literal or inspired. But when looking at it from a perspective of reason and logic, and not merely devotion, one can see that the bible is most likely just a collection of fiction mixed with a bit of ancient history.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

What is Moral is What You Feel Good After

The title of this post is a quote from Ernest Hemingway. It evokes a sense of personal conscience. If you perform some act and then feel a sense of regret afterwards, chances are what you did is not in line with what you believe is moral. Contrariwise, if something you do leads to a feeling of accomplishment or if it somehow enhances your self worth, the act was probably moral to you.

But is it possible for two different people to complete the exact same action or set of actions and come away with opposite feelings about having done it? The answer, of course, is yes. Consider this example: A young man who was raised Baptist goes on his first date with a girl he met in church. She is very attractive and very sexy. She also is very open about her sexuality and convinces the young man that’s she is ok about having sex with him, even though it is only their first date. He initially resists, but his hormones kick in and minutes later, the deed is done. Afterward, he feels intense guilt. He feels dirty and even betrayed. He vows not to give in to temptations of the flesh again.

Compare that with another scenario: A young man who was raised by freethinkers decides to attend a Baptist church service with his Christian friends. While there he meets a very pretty girl. They hit it off and he asks her out on a date. She accepts and the next night they go out. Afterward, she lets the young man know that she is ok with it if he wants to have sex with her. They do the deed and afterward they feel spent but happy. They each have found a new friend and both agree to get together a second time.

In the first example, the young man felt guilty because he broke his moral code. In the second example, there was no guilt, because the young man’s moral code did not include having sex outside of marriage. Therefore, he felt good afterward.

At this point the Christian (at least the fundamentalist Christian) will say the first young man should have felt guilty because he violated God’s moral code. The freethinker might counter that since God does not exist, the Christian’s moral code is based on a faulty premise. But since neither side can prove their premise, one side’s moral code is no better than the other’s. In such a situation, it would be inappropriate for one side to restrict the behavior of the other side based on their own view of what is moral.

So what should we base our moral code on? According to Christians, the bible is important for morality because we need a basis by which to judge what is right and wrong and the bible provides that basis. Without it, they claim, any act can be rationalized as moral.

But why does it have to be the bible? If we do need a benchmark for morality, why do we need to pick something that not everyone agrees is valid? Isn’t there a more universal benchmark we could use?

As it turns out, there is. Morality is simply a set of codes that direct behavior. In a social species, such as humans, it is important for individuals to behave properly when interacting with other individuals. Individuals who behave badly are often shunned by the group and do not get to participate in activities such as hunting or feeding rituals, which means that in harsh times, those who are shunned may actually perish because no one will help them through. In essence, then, good behavior is evolutionarily selected for and bad behavior is selected against.

What behaviors are selected against? Those behaviors that tend to diminish cooperation in a society or behaviors that tend to favor the individual over the group are probably marked for elimination. In a social species, behaviors that enrich the society, or at least those that do not diminish society, tend to be favored.

Taking a page from natural selection’s how-to manual, we can apply that same sort of criteria for determining what is moral and what is not. Morality is simply a code of behavior that limits a person’s actions to behaviors that are not detrimental to society as a whole. Prohibited behaviors, those that tend to disrupt or harm society, will be actions such as murder, rape, theft, perjury, embezzlement, assault, battery, or child molestation. The prohibition on less heinous behaviors must be weighed against the limitations on personal liberty and personal privacy that we all cherish. So we can debate whether or not something like public drunkenness should be a crime, or whether that decision should be based on connected behaviors.

But behaviors such as having sex outside of marriage, paying for sex, marrying more than one person, gambling, having an abortion, or marrying someone of the same sex should never be banned by law based on morality because reasonable people will disagree on whether or not they are harmful to society. There might be many reasons to believe that in certain cases, not having an abortion would be more of an encumbrance to society. There might be evidence to support the notion that gambling helps the economy and is thus good for society. There might be reasons to think that having sex with someone to whom you are not married is none of anyone else’s business. And there might be reasons to believe that allowing two people of the same sex to marry will not bring irreparable harm to society but instead make it more tolerant.

The majority religion in this country is Christian. But not even all Christians share the same moral code, because the bible can be interpreted many different ways. But even if all Christians agreed, that would be no excuse for restricting the liberties of those who are not in the majority. The Constitution was set up to protect minority interests from the oppression of the majority.

Having a set of moral principals based on a belief of what is good for society and not on what is found in an ancient text does not in any way prohibit individuals, families, or social cliques from restricting their own behavior further. If a family believes that having sex before marriage is wrong, then members of that family should refrain from doing it. Similarly, if a pregnant woman believes that abortion is a sin, then she should decide not to have an abortion. If a church group believes that gambling is sinful, then the congregation should avoid that activity. But no individual, no family, or no group should ever have enough power to restrict the behavior of others based on the more narrow morality of those who are offended. The Constitution does not provide anyone the right not to be offended. If some behavior offends you then avoid it, but don’t prohibit it. What offends you might uplift someone else. If after performing an action you don’t feel good about it then don’t do it again. But don’t prevent someone else from doing it, because they may feel differently.

Isaac Asimov once wrote, “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.” It’s good advice. I would just add don’t let your sense of morals prevent others from doing what they think is right, too.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Can there be Consciousness after Death?

I often ruminate on matters of the conscious mind. I find the topic fascinating. Another topic I find fascinating is the belief in a god and existence after death. As anyone knows who has read my blog, I'm not a believer in God, especially the personal god of the bible or any other holy book. But I can't rule out with 100-percent assuredness the existence of some kind of entity that could be called God.

If there is any kind of meaningful existence beyond death, it has to be tied to what we call consciousness. Without consciousness, any existence after death would be pointless, even meaningless. So what is consciousness anyway? We can describe it, but can we really define it? Consciousness has a certain ineffable quality that prevents an easy definition. We know what it is, but we don't know how to define it in any satisfying manner.

At its base consciousness is the ability to perceive with the senses and then to act upon those perceptions. It is the ability to think and understand and to control those thoughts, as opposed to the unconscious or subconscious dream state. While that is at least partially a description of what the conscious mind is, it certainly isn't a very satisfactory one. There are lots of questions that need to be answered. In what part of the brain does consciousness reside? What is the brain doing that results in consciousness? Will it ever be possible to create consciousness in a computer or robot? Even if it is one day possible to replicate a human brain can someone's consciousness be downloaded into it? And if so, can it be done in a way that will transfer consciousness, thus allowing for the body to be discarded, or will it merely be a copy of the conscious mind with the original still intact? These are questions I would really like the answers to.

Science does not have a completely cogent theory on consciousness yet. It has been the subject of philosophical debates for centuries. Is there a dual nature to the mind allowing for one part to be composed of matter and the other part to be spiritual, or non-matter? And is it possible for the non-matter part of the mind, the consciousness, to live on after the brain is dead? Medical science seems to answer that in the negative. The brain is made of cells and if deprived of oxygen long enough, the cells die and all activities associated with the cells die with them.

But what if consciousness has a component that is not dependent upon living matter? It might not actually be spiritual or supernatural. It might be something that is perfectly natural and explainable, but something that just hasn't been explained yet.

There is a world of science in which physics and neurology overlap. Granted, it's not a major course of study in most medical schools. Nevertheless, there are some scientists who have posited a hypothesis that might help to explain consciousness without evoking the spiritual. It involves the strange world of quantum mechanics.

Ever since Isaac Newton developed his laws of motion, philosophers and some scientists have been pondering the notion of free will. If Newton's equations can solve the path of a cannonball in flight could it also, in theory at least, solve equations that would predict thought processes within the brain? After all, the brain is just chemistry and physics - moving atoms that have a projectile of their own. If we had enough data about the speed and location of every atom in our brain, wouldn't we be able to predict where they would be in a year, or 10 years? And if thought process are controlled by these particles, then might we not have free will, since each atom, once set into motion, would have no choice but to follow its prescribed path as predicted by the math?

But then, in the 20th century, quantum mechanics came along and rescued free will, sort of. It all started with Werner Heisenberg and his Uncertainty Principle. It states that you can never know the precise location and momentum of any subatomic particle with precision. If you know the location precisely you can say nothing about its momentum, and vice versa. Or you can know a little about both quantities. This is a limitation in principle, not in the equipment. No matter how good the equipment will ever get, the limitation will persist. Think of it this way, if you want to measure the temperature of a cup of hot coffee, you could stick in a thermometer. But in the act of measuring the temperature, the cooler thermometer will affect the temperature of the coffee, so what you end up getting is an average. Since the thermometer is much less massive than the coffee and has a much lower specific heat, the effect will not be great. But what if the cup of coffee was a tiny one, say only a few drops? Then the temperature of the thermometer would make a huge difference and it would not be possible to measure the temperature of the coffee itself. So the act of observation will always affect the quantity being measured.

What does all that have to do with brain cells and conscious thought? Well, in the brain, it has been known for some time that the synapses, the small gaps that connect neurons, are the locations where thought processes occur and memories are stored. But neurons are made of atoms, like everything else, and atoms are made of subatomic particles which follow the laws of quantum mechanics. Because of the Uncertainty Principle, the exact locations of these particles can never be known for sure. For that reason, their paths cannot be predicted with Newtonian physics and, thus, free will is intact. What is known, however, is that they follow the rules of probability. They behave randomly within certain constraints, and those constraints involve the length of the quantum wave function. According to quantum theory, a particle is not really a particle at all until such time as it is observed. Once it is observed in some way, the wave function collapses and the particle materializes. But it can materialize anywhere within the scope of its wave function.

For macroscopic objects, such as a football, the wave function is much tinier than the ball, so a thrown football always appears to follow Newtonian mechanics, and passes are caught. But if the football (and the receiver) were to shrink down to the size of an electron, all bets are off. When the receiver looks back over his shoulder to catch it, it will materialize into a ball, but it could be anywhere within the stadium, or even outside the stadium. The probability of it materializing far away is small, but finite.

Researchers have performed experiments using imaging technology on people's brains that indicate a reaction can occur to a certain stimulus that is on the opposite hemisphere of where the stimulus occurred. And it's an instant reaction. The neurons are not directly connected. So what causes the stimulation? They suspect it might be something called quantum entanglement. In quantum theory, it is possible for two paired particles to send information to each other, even if they are very far apart. And the information sent is not bound by the speed of light. Einstein called the phenomenon "spooky action at a distance." Some scientists speculate that this could be the root of consciousness.

If quantum entanglement can act at distances within the brain, there is nothing in quantum theory that would prevent this sort of action at greater distances, outside the brain. This neurological quantum entanglement might be responsible for the out-of-body experiences some people claim to have had, especially during a near-death event. Taking it to the extreme, some could also speculate that this quantum entanglement could exist well beyond death, and at cosmic distances, since subatomic particles do not rely on a beating heart for their existence. The consciousness that was trapped within the brain while someone is alive might be free to float freely through the universe, as sort of a unified cosmic consciousness after death.

Keep in mind this is all highly speculative, but it is within the realm of science to explore. It also means that it might one day prove plausible as an explanation for some kind of conscious existence after the death of the brain. And it also does not rely on a supernatural god.