Written by Bob Greaves : THINK is a good word.
There is absolutely no claim on my part that I know god to be actual. I have no such KNOWLEDGE. God is basically a theoretical explanation for something that begs of explanation. But the issue is far more commingled than that. There are many reasons why a person might believe in god. Not all of them are sustainable. Let me mention only two.
Some people believe in god for no better cause than that it is the assumption they have embraced in their paradigm of their perceived circle of social discourse. It is to some, the apparent social default in the society or sub group to which they feel they belong. This sort of believer can be a life long believer, and will not only believe but probably also buy into the entire package including most, if not all, of the theological claims. They will do so uncritically using their powers of thought only to go deeper into defense of their belief system. But if they are moderately intelligent and offered numerous valid objections they often abandon their faith partially or entirely. Sometimes becoming quite hostile in response to thinking themselves having been victimized by a lie.
In my opinion the believer described above is usually very vocal or at least connected with a religious organization with various highly vocal proponents. Their presentation and defense of their doctrines is central to their faith and if it fits well with their personality they become immovable and devoted to “THE TRUTH.” Furthermore, I am of the opinion that such believers keep their organizations going with a passion but can be unloving and unthinking bigots. For these people, that they believe is important but what is most important is specifically WHAT they believe. Doctrine is key.
But in every culture and no doubt in every religious movement as well as in the general population unassociated with any movement is the mystic. Yes, the word “mystic” has several definitions, but I am talking about the person for whom god is basically mysterious. The believer mentioned previously also claims god is mysterious but that for them is a defense against the nonsense of their doctrines. The true mystic has little loyalty to doctrine. They have no clue and only a few settled notions. God for them is an inexplicable presence.
They “feel” god. As with all of us, feelings are private. They are also infallible in this sense: If you have a toothache you cannot be certain that you have a cavity but you are infallibly certain that your tooth hurts. And if the feeling is dominant your pain is inescapable. No one could ever seek to logically prove to you you can’t possibly be in pain. Your pain is a private experience known with certainty by no one but you. This isn’t a matter of logic, it requires no proof. It is pure qualia. Your tooth hurts, it is not subject to debate, but not because of stubbornness but rather because the pain is undeniable to the one whose pain it is.
The mystic I speak of feels god. God is a sentient presence they feel. The feeling dominates, the feeling never goes away. The reason their faith becomes mystic is because they understand all of the logical and intellectual problems, but the damn experience just won’t go away. Others don’t seem to have this experience nor do they understand it. To the mystic, doctrines seem overly ambitious. But they might go along with the group because of certain social needs to belong. Nonetheless they are very aware in the quiet moments that many of the doctrines do not resonate at all with them.
The feelings and the philosophy remain incorrigible to the mystic. None of the answers and none of the objections remain compelling. But unlike the toothache, the dominant constancy of this sentient presence by necessity becomes a part of their world view. Who is God? They don’t really know the answer to that question. God is whoever or whatever god is. What is god like? How the hell could they know the answer to that question? It seems God is present, other than that it’s just guesses.
It is almost impossible to believe in God in the face of all the problems that can really be raised if you have no awareness of a dominant presence. You’re simply left with no reason to believe. But if you are a mystic, you don’t believe reasons, you believe because of cognitive causes related to the qualia. The dominant sense of presence is undeniable. It could have several alternative explanations. Maybe it’s really just funny blood chemistry. You can be aware of all of these explanations. But in the end this presence feels personal and sentient. The idea that it is a God of some sort seems to have the best fit. You have no proof, and you realize you could be wrong. But as you are attacked by all the arguments the atheists might offer, you find yourself also attacked by the believers who demand that you accept their doctrines. That is when you discover that the fundamentalist and the adamant atheists are both all about doctrine. They think this is an issue that can be resolved by what you know and your justification for claiming to know it.
Maybe your authority is science, maybe your authority is the biblical text. But science doesn’t speak to anything but the physical material reality that can be observed and examined through verified methodological tests. The question of God has absolutely nothing to do with science and if you think so you’re not a real scientist. Now of course, many of these silly doctrines are absolutely up for criticism too because many of those doctrines fly in the face of science. Claims of a young earth, claims of the infallibility of the biblical text, claims of demons to explain certain psychiatric problems are all subject to scientific cross examination. But the question as to if there is something out there disembodied and both personal and intelligent is a question outside the purview of science and logic. Logic can neither claim it so nor claim it not so. But the mystic has no way to deny it. To the mystic the idea that it is not God is no more tangible then the Cartesian possibility that I am really somewhere in a test tube in “heaven” and everything in my reality is but a mental prop and does not really exist. Sure it is a possibility, but it just does not seem likely.”