see Metacrock's Blog today for debunking of Daren Brown's alleged debunking of religious experience.
Perhaps nothing scares atheists like feelings. They scared to death of religious experience arguments. Nothing raises their hatred like talking about religious experiences. Daren Brown is some sort of British stage magician who has a new stage act supposedly inducing religious experiences. Atheists waste no time in arguing that this is proof that such experiences are just accidents that mean nothing. He states "I examined the Placebo effect and proved just how powerful fear and faith can be." Of course he assumes that because there is a psychological process that produces faith that then there's no object of faith beyond that process that has any real bearing on life. This is really no different than the one's who claim to stimulate parts of the brain to induce religoius experiences.
In calling it "placebo" he's trying to set up the suggestion that it's unreal, it's unnecessary, God is the great cosmic sugar pill. Then he totally ignores the nature of real placebo. It's only for medicine, there's no evidence that such suggestive keys can manipulate us apart from expectation. All the things that he does in relation to evoking the psychological process are manipulative means of setting up the association. Yet most religious experience of the sort called "mystical" is not expected. In about half the time it's experienced in childhood, and much of the time mystical experiences contradict the doctrine of the experiencer . If it was a real placebo it should confirm expectations. Placebos work by expectation. They don't work by challenging expectations. Calling it a placebo is wrong and improper and it's probably only done to evoke the concept and prepare the atheist to be inoculated against emotion by making her suspicious of religious feelings.