3/14/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~
Most Christians, it seems, are quite willing to accept their feelings about their religion as proof of its truth, and are thus uninterested in evidence to the contrary. They have taken the leap of faith and thereby found the “Truth.” They think. . .
I find it both absurd and amusing that many, perhaps most, otherwise rational human adults believe they can feel their way to truth. It seems glaringly obvious to me that whether something feels true is irrelevant in the search for truth. Hasn’t almost everyone felt certain about something in his life which later was proved to be false?
But, the obvious must surrender when it comes to matters of religion, because believers want to believe, despite the fact that nothing of significance can actually be proven about any religion’s foundational dogmas. If the “spiritual-minded” can’t find any useful facts – or, if the facts argue against their beliefs - then they go with feelings and take that leap of faith – even the smart ones.
For example, the noted apologist William Lane Craig has written, “No Amount of Evidence Could Ever Convince Me I’m Wrong!” Craig explains:
"By that I mean that the experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable (though not necessarily irresistible or indubitable) for him who has it; that such a person does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know and to know with confidence that he is in fact experiencing the Spirit of God; . . . such an experience provides one not only with a subjective assurance of Christianity's truth, but with objective knowledge of that truth; and that arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit for him who attends fully to it." (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-witness-of-the-holy-spirit )
So, Craig claims that one’s feelings can provide one with “objective knowledge” of something. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds; he is saying that if it feels true, very strongly, then it is true. You know, “Damn the evidence, full speed ahead!” Or, alternatively, “Faith means never having to say you’re wrong.”
On Craig’s theory, it would seem that one must assume that it is pointless to tell the delusional mental patient that he is not really Jesus Christ, because the patient’s feelings obviously prove that he is. If you feel something deeply enough, says Craig, you may safely ignore any contrary evidence.
So, here we have a trained philosopher, one of the preeminent theologians of our time, an exceptionally intelligent man with a PhD. and author of over 30 books, telling us that feelings are actually more important than the evidence of the world. Christian brainwashing techniques are truly extraordinarily powerful.
If believing something deeply is sufficient to prove the existence of a god, then how do we explain the feelings of those billions of people who believed sincerely in their gods before there was any mention in the world of Jehovah or Jesus? Approximately 50 billion people lived and died on this earth before Christianity came along. Nearly everyone who lived in those days believed in one god or another, or several, often with sufficient feeling and conviction to offer their neighbors or their children as blood sacrifices to those gods.
What we have here is a test, this “feelings test,” that not only can give different results at different times for the same person, but also can give different results for different people.Those people clearly felt the “spirit,” yet no one today would claim they felt the spirit of a real god. Their feelings did not lead them to the truth. Their feelings didn’t come from any supernatural spirit. It should be obvious that their feelings were just emotions generated inside their own heads. This fact, in itself, should be sufficient to counter Craig’s assertion that a person’s feelings can provide objective evidence of a god’s existence.
But, Craig is saying that while we all know those people’s deep spiritual feelings were false, his own feelings provide “objective evidence” that he has the truth. His ego is only exceeded by his arrogance.
Then there are those living today who did not feel any spirit within themselves until they were convinced by someone, a parent or pastor usually, of the existence of a god. If their feelings were supposed to reflect the truth, then why didn’t they believe in the first place? Doesn’t it seem like their feelings on the matter may have been manufactured by their teachers?
And what of those who once believed but later changed their minds? There are dozens and dozens of testimonials on this site written by people who felt the “indwelling spirit” deeply, genuinely, yet later felt nothing. Some of them devoted their lives to their god as missionaries, priests, pastors, nuns, or other religious “officials.” It would be absurd to question the sincerity of their beliefs. And yet, those beliefs, those feelings, changed. Obviously the world didn’t change, only their feelings changed. Thus, over their lifetimes, concerning the existence of god, their feelings have been both accurate and false, at different times. And, let’s not forget that there are those who have never been convinced of the existence of a god.
What we have here is a test, this “feelings test,” that not only can give different results at different times for the same person, but also can give different results for different people. What good is a test like that? It’s either giving a whole lot of false positives or false negatives (or both) and is thus totally useless.
Now, you may be thinking, what if that conviction of the “indwelling spirit” is a gift from god that he sometimes bestows and sometimes doesn’t bestow? This is irrelevant. Without external evidence, how could you possibly know that your feeling is more valid than those 50 billion who “felt the spirit” of their ancient gods? If they got the same feeling as you, does that prove their god was a true god? And how could you be sure their feeling wasn’t exactly like yours, just as deep and just as convincing? Without external evidence, you are merely assuming, guessing really, that your feeling is true and theirs false, because that’s what you want to be true.
Think about those who were once absolutely convinced by their inner convictions of the existence of their god, yet later lost those feelings. They KNEW, with the same certainty that they knew their god that they would never change their minds, but they did. And you can never be certain the same won’t someday happen to you, even if you’re William Lane Craig.
It should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for a bit that no emotion can tell us anything about the world external to our own brains; this is why different people will often react differently to the same external stimulus. It isn’t the stimulus that really matters, it is our response to the stimulus. Emotions, all emotions, come from inside our own heads, and all any emotion can prove is that we are emotional.
In the end, if your best argument for the truth of something is how it makes you feel, then you have nothing, your “truth” may be totally empty of external content, and you’re just a victim of wishful thinking - just like those 50 billion dedicated worshipers of the pre-Christian era. Many (if not most) of those people believed just as strongly as Craig in the existence of their own god or gods, yet every last one of them was wrong.