9/02/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S ~
How often have we heard the assertion, “I know in my heart” that God, or Jesus, heaven, life after death, etc., etc. is real? End of discussion. The “know in my heart” is so often casually invoked as an explanation of last resort that you might wonder if it is an indoctrinated response common to all religions. (Such “knowing,” by implication, denies any necessity for evidence of such knowledge.) Can't you imagine similar words spoken by ancient Egyptians in reference to their own gods, their own promised eternal lives guaranteed by their priests? Didn’t they also pray to their gods and have their prayers answered, conﬁrming what they knew in their hearts? After all, their religion would not have lasted without their sincere beliefs in these things. (And didn't their gods exist from circa 3000 BCE to 64 CE, a lifespan longer than the god of Christianity?)
For thousands of years, believers have known in their hearts that what they have been taught to believe is true. Some have known so strongly that they sacrificed their lives or the lives of their children to their god or gods. Didn't the torturers and executioners of the Inquisition know in their hearts that they were doing the Will of God? Did not those who tried, tortured, and executed women as “witches” know in their hearts also that witches were real and in league with demons, which they also knew in their hearts existed?
In The Book of Job, cited as a lesson of humility and virtue, trust and reward, Job proclaims, “Even if he kills me, yet will I love him.” What better example is offered here but that of a lover who knows in his heart that he is loved, no matter what horrors are inflicted on him, or of the deaths of those he loves, by the one he loves? Job resembles an abused spouse, making excuses for the abuser he loves in his heart. His heart may honestly believe, but he is deceiving himself.
The heart, in all societies, is referenced as the most sincere and honest gauge of real truth; even more than evidence itself, which is most often unromantic, uncomfortable, or unacceptable. Individual gods are romanticized, their shady, cruel and immoral actions ignored in every faith. And when the realities of life become too stark to accept, the heart creates myths and symbols to glamorize reality in favor of fantasies. (There is something to be said for this, as the individual's way to cope, to survive.) The accepted alternate interpretation of reality may be fantasy, but it's comforting to the heart while denying what the mind suspects may be true.
The heart is the most vulnerable and therefore the first to be lied to. ”Do not seek Adolph Hitler with your mind,” Nazi officers were told, “but with your heart.” Every dictator appeals to the heart and not the intelligence of his following. What are the words, “I love you, I'll never cheat on you again,” or, “I know in my heart he wouldn't harm me,” but appeals to the heart , over contrary evidence to the brain?
We are told to “Follow your heart,” and that “The heart knows what the mind does not.” Every con artist is charming, and often charismatic and convincing with their “heartfelt sincerity.” They sell by heartfelt appeals to the sincerity and egos of those who would also own their product of special access to wisdom. Every televangelist and clergyman preys on those who know in their hearts that they speak for the god they know in their hearts and love to have conﬁrmed; as priests of all gods do.
Would you, accused of a crime, willingly place yourself in the hands of a jury who “know in their hearts” beforehand that you are guilty? In the ages of faith, this is often how your fate was decided. Courts today give daily evidence of the results of those who knew in their hearts that Mr. or Ms. Right was their best choice, yet ended up divorced, betrayed, or even murdered by them.
These examples are not meant to totally negate the importance of the heart (my own heart is involved intensely in helping to relieve and end suffering), but as a warning, for the heart is easily exploited. If, as it is claimed, the heart knows so much, why is it then so often betrayed, conned, and just plain wrong when making important decisions?
One must use the mind, thinking of the evidence before you, along with the heart. You must acquire “street smarts” by learning from mistakes of the heart. You have to let go of the innocence of trusting so easily, which is noticed and exploited by the users. You must be willing to face the fact that your heart has led you to be used. (Is it easier for those who have been often disillusioned and/or disappointed to do this?) You should teach your children to trust their minds.
Those of us freed from religion know the experience described by author John le Carré in his book, “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold:” “And suddenly, with the terrible clarity of a man too long deceived, Leamas understood the whole ghastly trick.”
Those of us free of religion, having acquired street smarts, may ﬁnd ourselves asking ourselves, “How could I have been so stupid, trusting, and gullible?” And when did that realization begin? Did your heart catch up to your mind, or was it the other way around?
You need to respect both your mind and heart to answer those questions.