"Debbie," in the discussion here, insists that her feelings are justification for the "knowledge" that God is "real." One of her posts seemed so insane to me I was sure it was sarcasm, until I read more posts by her. It's worth copying here:
I care and seek to know the truth. Jesus claimed to be the Truth. To know Jesus is to know the Truth. He is the answer to the Big Questions of life. So it seems to me.
This is posited like some kind of logical argument but in the end she waffles with "So it seems to me." That's the key. The rest is baloney. She trusts her intuition, so the rest is irrelevant.
Later she posts: "Truth by it's very nature is narrow. A fact is a fact period. Broad is the road that leads to destruction. Narrow is the gate that leads to life. Isn't it interesting that Jesus claimed to be the Truth?"
Yes, very interesting. We all care to seek and to know the truth. It's human nature. SO ... of course if you want people to follow your religion you need to convince them that it's TRUE. And apparently SAYING it's true is enough for some people.
So "Jesus is God" is true because I feel good about Jesus, and Jesus supposedly said it's true, and there can only be one truth. Therefore, any other truth claims must be false.
This kind of thinking drives me crazy. But the "thinking" is irrelevant because she really wants to 1) respect a predictable authority figure, 2) belong to a social group that validates her feelings, and 3) believe that her feelings are facts. "A fact is a fact period." Debbie believes that her feelings are facts. She has positive feelings about authority figures, her church spokespeople & writers, the Jesus of her imagination, and of positive feelings themselves.
If Debbie were the only one, I'd just reply to her rather than blogging about this. Sadly, she's just one of thousands, possibly millions, of people who think that her feelings justify her faith. It's more likely the other way around. Theologists with Ph.D.s call their beliefs "properly basic," which amounts to the same thing.
Believers who pepper me with questions after finding out that I'm an atheist often start by questioning my answer to uncomfortable feelings, such as fear of death, fear of a chaotic society, fear of nothingness... All bogeymen invented by the church to keep the fearful in the flock. It's simple: create good feelings for insiders, create bad feelings about outsiders.
But it really just comes down to feelings. They "feel the spirit," or so they believe. If I felt the "spirit" of Heidi Klum enter me and started doing runway walks in my underpants, I'd be considered "insane." If I said I felt the spirit of Jesus enter me and started speaking in tongues, I'd be welcomed into a few cults.
Feelings aren't facts, and they are no proof of the supernatural in any way. This is why atheists can't reach most believers: we don't manipulate people via an opposition of positive and negative emotion. And being the moral people we are, we find it difficult to ramp up the rhetoric the way that religions have done. Many of us self-identify as "free-thinkers" and resent others' attempts to impose their beliefs, so of course we wouldn't commit that offense either.
The irony for me is that after decades of non-belief I find that there are some emotional benefits. Life means more because it's limited to time on Earth, and death is less scary because I've accepted the inevitability of it.
Many of the "comforting" parts of Christian theology have actually become anathema to me:
- ritualistic cannibalism (yech!)
- penal substitution (how unfair!)
- "original" sin carrying through to every human (yet we're "innocent" at birth?)
- eternal existence without a body (how boring!)
- "bad" people going to hell (somebody loved them!)
- God listening to our thoughts (if he didn't like them why give them to us?)
The rest of them were distasteful to me even while I was trying to be a believer! Fortunately for the ticket-takers at the Pearly Gate, most Christians don't think too hard about these things. They've been offered a self-centered fairy tale future, and it feels pretty good to them.