Religious Feelings

This is a pretty a compelling write up. I've always said that I am spiritual, but not religious. Interesting read.

Religious Feelings


02 Mar 2011 05:00 AM PST

I was chatting with some missionaries the other day.

In due course, our dialogue about the “truth” of spirituality arrived at the same place it always arrives: religious beliefs are ultimately given credence on the basis of personal experiences. The divine is not replicable or demonstrable in a test-tube hypothesis: it must boil down to some kind of personal encounter or feeling of God.

But this was oh so extremely difficult for my missionary friends to admit. Why? Because if a believer declares their spiritual experiences and emotions exclusively correspond to one true God, they also inherently declare that the experiences and emotions of people in other religions are delusional fabrications. This leaves many believers (in any religion) in an awkward, circular, unavoidable logic position that nobody wants to get stuck defending:

My experience affirms the truth. Their experience is an emotional hoax. The truth about Yahweh/God/Allah has been predestined for me to discover in the Tenakh/Bible/Quran… and I know this is true because I’ve experienced it. Since their experience does not match my experience, I know their experience is false. End of argument.

This is why most religious debates disintegrate into this kind of rhetoric: “Our community is enlightened. Your community is brainwashed.” Everybody is using the profundity of personal, spiritual experience, and the emotive conviction of divine revelation to prove the same point: the “other people” are lost in a blinding sea of fallacy and deception.

The only way forward in religious dialogue (and therefore, arguably, the only way forward to peace on our planet) is to nurture a kind of discussion that transcends this fruitless banter about who is right and who is wrong. Yes: everybody thinks that they are closest to the truth. Ok, good. Check. Now how do we live together peacefully? That is the question.