darkestgarden asked me: have you ever felt that you were just plain wrong somehow about prior [spiritual] beliefs?
Yes. I used to believe in an afterlife, because I believed human bodies contained one soul and that soul left the body at death and went to another existence. Then I began to think about the fact that I am made up of literal billions of creatures, and I see all creatures as having a soul, so there is more than one soul in my body. I don't remember the conversation, but sometime after considering that, Topaz and I were talking about an afterlife and I realized my previous beliefs no longer made sense with my understanding of myself.
"I know that I am not currently a singular whole, that this is an illusion and I contain multitudes of living beings. I am a planet for microbes, who have significant impact on my thinking and desires. What happens when we are separated in the death of my body? what parts of me are microbe and what parts are human?" (from where I first talked about this)
Since I have only ever lived together with these billions of souls, what makes me think I would be the same creature if I was no longer influenced by them in incomprehensible ways? The logical thought is that I would not. So, poof, an afterlife as I had imagined it doesn't exist. I am frankly very disappointed to realize this, as my perception of afterlife involved getting to create from the raw stuff of the universe. But I can't believe in it just because it sounds nice, it has to make sense to me.
However, I do believe all memories are stored in a shared consciousness, and so in some ways I would still exist, just not as a singular consciousness in a recognizable configuration. I think that sometimes a pattern of thinking matches previous patterns so closely that one can recall them easily (past lives). And sometimes a pattern is imprinted on a place or person so strongly that people coming near it are faced with that memory (ghosts). And I believe that when people die their memories are 'uploaded' and in near-death or technically-resurrected experiences, a person's consciousness is observing their memories be uploaded. I think that the reason that they often experience a transformation is because they can feel the interconnectedness of all things in that moment. I think they see their deity many times because that is a pattern of many memories that is really important to them. I think that it is possible to access this feeling without dying, but I have not done it.
Also I consider ideas to be a kind of energy which can affect other things, and I consider deities to be thought-beings, sort of like clouds -- they're not really an individual THING so much as they are a collection of things that seem like a single solid thing. I think that deities evolve gradually into being as people begin worshipping them and die when people stop worshipping them. They cannot exist without people.
However I don't think that the only deities that exist are ones which are acknowledged as such. For instance I consider the largest deity for the US to be Capitalism; people fight and kill and die for this deity, suffer their whole lives in holy servitude to the idea that if they sell their labor long enough and hard enough they will be rewarded with an afterlife called wealthy retirement. People who worship Capitalism and call themselves non-religious -- or claim to have some other deity as their only god -- are fooling themselves.
I believe these things because they make intuitive sense to me and they help me understand myself and others without contradicting anything I know to be fact. If anything I believe ceases to make sense to me as my knowledge grows, I will stop believing it.