Friday, November 16, 2012

Trying to deny the undeniable: Why can't God come down like gravity?


"You'll definitely know it when it happens to you." 

It's the trope that I am hearing more and more nowadays as believers tell me that my conversion moment will come and it will be so emphatic that my life will instantly be transformed. God has a special plan for me and I better had be ready for him when the time comes. But there is an element of contradiction in this, because they will also say that I have to accept it, have my heart open to it in order to truly be able to experience it. But an undeniable experience is just that, it is what it is. It is one that by definition just can't be denied. Hearts open, closed, half way locked or on the floor there is just no other way of interpreting it. How could you possibly deny the undeniable, even if you wanted to?

The more in depth the discussions that I enter into with my theist friends, the more it appears to me that if and when I become convinced that a God exists, it will be in a single spectacular event. Something 'experiential' as one person put it. The kind of  'Saul on the road to Damascus' experience which I won't be able to deny. I have to admit that this worries me . It suggests that revelation comes from God knocking me over and beating the belief into me, rather than by just standing back and letting the evidence speak for itself. 


Tampering with the lab equipment


about.com - chemistry
I see it like if you go into the lab to do a chemistry experiment and you don't get the concentration measurement of the acid that you were expecting. Rather than looking at the mixture under review and making sure you prepared the chemicals in the way you were supposed to, you recalibrate the burette and tamper with the pipette until you get the result you want. 

In terms of evidence for God, Christians treat us like that burette. Instead of looking at the compositions of the solutions they want us to accept, they spend all their time trying to bias our 'readings', so we can give them back the 'right' results. What they forget is that just like in chemistry, tampering with the lab equipment is not going to change the nature of the reality under test. Reality is reality whatever the dials on our heart meters may tell us. Pulling my emotional strings to get me over to your side really doesn't prove anything one way or the other. That's why I am unimpressed with the claims of death bed conversions even if they are real. It is telling that a change from non belief to belief even under duress counts as evidence for God, for them. They never take into account that meters often malfunction in extreme conditions.

However, when when we change colours from a red blooded believer to a shade of grey agnostic atheist during the course of our lives, the theists want to dismiss our experimental conclusions as flawed. They insist we throw out all the chemicals that may have affected us, clean out all the beakers and start all over again from scratch. A change from belief to non belief they will argue means nothing, as they will say that God still exists whether we believe in him or not. I tell them that bringing such clear personal bias to an experiment could not get their findings published in any respectable journal but they tell me that the only publication that matters to them passed peer review by their saviour centuries ago.

Still, I am really trying my best to be open and understand what this 'experiential' evidence that theists talk so much about could be like. In trying to construct this idea, I am taking the key aspects of what these believers tell me. I have heard that this revelation is just something that hits you inside, when you feel it you'll know it is there. It is undeniable, impossible to explain from a scientific perspective but you just know that you know that you know.

Ok, I think we can use science and what we know through that method to study this concept of undeniability. I am not trying to compare types of evidence here, just the way that human beings react to something they consider undeniable. The type of reaction we have to something undeniable should be the same regardless of the way we come to the conclusion that we have experienced something we can't deny.

The closest thing to undeniable that I can think of in the natural world is the law of gravity. Sure, the purist will say not even that is strictly speaking certain, but it is as close to it as you can get in science. What the religious people are telling me is that the thing that they experienced, manifests itself in such a way that they can be as certain about it as we as general human beings are that gravity is real.

So, whatever it is that these people who have this personal experience go through, it leaves them with gravity-like certainty. Clearly the difference between the two examples is that the spiritual revelation is not something experienced by everyone, at least not yet. People experience this gravity-like spiritual awakening at different times in their lives. So I am quite open to the idea that God just hasn't gotten around to given me my heart jolt yet. Why God would have some of us wait decades while giving some others revelations at  age four is of course another of the mysteries in this convoluted novel that is God's, but we can wait for another day to explore that chapter.

The point I want to make here is that I would expect the reaction of those religious people fortunate enough to have the spiritually undeniable experience, to be similar to my undeniable experience of gravity. Curiously, when I look further, there are some differences when it comes to undeniablity in this spiritual realm.  Here is a look at some of the things that Christians and theists in general will say about their undeniable experiences that just don't measure up to me and my gravity.

1. The God I believe in turns up regularly

I could perhaps say the same thing about my gravity. Actually no, I would put it more like he came at the beginning of time and never left. Gravity is truly impossible to ignore. He is in our face from the time we walk out the house in a morning and see a leaf fall from a tree, to in the evening when we drop a fork into the sink before washing up after supper. Gravity is indeed so omnipresent that it is difficult to remember when was the last time you saw evidence of him. I mean, how many times did gravity reveal himself to you this week? You can't count because you don't even notice him, that's how eternal and ever present he is.

Compare this to how the believers speak of their 'undeniable' experiences with God. Ask people about how God has touched them and they will inevitably provide you with a list of events. A story about something that happened yesterday, or last week, last year, ten years ago. Some will tell you God has made his presence felt so many times they can't count them, but the fact that they can pinpoint specific God moments is telling.

I don't sit down marvelling about the time when gravity revealed itself in all its glory twenty years ago when I saw a coconut fall on a pavement. I don't have a journal set aside to remind me where and when I saw gravity at work. Even though I see gravity every day, I can't give you a single gravitational testimony, because he is always there.

If the spiritual experience of God was as undeniable as gravity, you would expect that theists would have similar difficulty in pinpointing specific instances of a God manifestation. A god that is always there should be always obvious to the believer. I can provide evidence of my gravity at any moment. Wake me up in the middle of the night and I can pick up a pen on my night stand and drop it. I don't need to give you anecdotes our point towards epic stories of how gravity moved through history.

The spiritual is different, but it shouldn't be. Sure, since I am not in their special club, I cannot expect them to provide evidence to my satisfaction, but they should at least be able to give immediate God examples to convince themselves. I know that people will say that the religious do see God in everything. That not even a breath can be taken unless God gives his say so.

That may be so, but they never go for these trivial arguments when they want to convince us through personal experiences. Whenever I have asked Christians to tell me of their evidence or experience that convinced them God was real, they give me something far more telling. A life transformed from drugs or prostitution, an illness defeated against the odds, a surprising job opportunity that came out of nowhere, or an indescribable super feeling that one day shot them deep down in their hearts. When it comes to convincing us our convincing themselves the more spectacular the evidence the better. But why the need to even bring these up? If God is the one who gets you out of bed everyday why do you need to reach further by bringing out these majestic accounts.

Indeed by emphasizing these major God moments they are in effect saying that the 'he woke me up this morning' proof does not cut much ice.  Interesting again to compare with my gravity. I don't need to look in to a meteor shower or some other once in a lifetime event to strengthen my belief in gravity. A  drop in the bucket is more than enough.

If the evidence is all around, you don't need to look beyond present time and place to prove it to yourself. You can't detect the presence of God without recognising the absence that immediately precedes and follows it. If you have to wait on something to show up at specific times it means it is spasmodic and that's not what you expect from something undeniable. That ex boyfriend that shows up regularly in your life, leaves you standing on your own just as often.

2. You need to understand (insert religion here) in order to understand your experience

Spiritual revelations tend to have a strange mix of the intellectual and the emotional, even as God supposedly can speak directly to the heart. It does make me scratch my head when I hear religionists tell me that it's so obvious that God made the world that even a five year old can see it, yet Prof. Richard Dawkins is unqualified to speak on whether there is a God or not because he lacks a PhD in theology.

Yes, God can move any heart, but you need to read up and learn exactly what he is going to reveal to you before he reveals it. God miraculously manages to reveal himself with a message identical to that which his followers told you in advance. I suppose God is like a lazy university lecturer who has his Teaching Assistant  hand out notes with worked examples on the first day of class and then brings back every one of those questions in the final exam. Not surprising then that students in every religion come back with 100% regardless of the name of the God that does the grading.

Again my gravity seems to beat out all of the religionists. Sure I can present references, resources from all branches of physics and cosmology and even at the quantum level to explain how my gravity works throughout the universe. I can give you all the differential equations that will make your head spin. But you know what? None of that is necessary. You can experience gravity without any prior knowledge in any field.

You don't need to speak ancient languages, you don't need to know Newton or Kepler,  you don't even need to be literate. You don't need to be at the age of reason either, a toddler in a pram understands that her favorite toy drops when she opens her hand. In fact even if you live alone on a desert island and never had a single human interaction, you can notice that things high up tend to fall. So universal is gravitational revelation you don't even need to be a human. You could be a chimpanzee or a primate on a branch of any evolutionary tree, but you know that when you let go of that twig you will fall.

Yes, the revelation of gravity has the ability to come down from on high and touch everybody, everywhere in the same way. But spiritual revelations not only seem to be open only to the privileged X %, followers apparently need to come with specific pre existing conditions as well.

3.  Sometimes in moments of weakness I have doubts

Doubts!!!? Doubts!!? How on earth can you have an undeniable truth and yet readily admit to moments of uncertainty. But this is exactly what believers who have this experience with God will tell you. They will speak of dark, desolate hours where they wonder what God is doing or if he is even there.  Then they will tell you they will get through after prayer or directly through a revelation of the same God.

I know they always have an explanation, but remember we are speaking of the UNDENIABLE. If something is clear and certain to you there is just no way you can doubt even for a second. Again I have never had this issue with my gravity. Not once in my life have I gone to bed with nagging feelings that things may not fall for me tomorrow the way that they did today. And it's not only me, nobody has ever taken me aside to tell me that they have worries over a drop in their gravity faith. You can only have doubts if you have some evidence that is in opposition to your certainty. Doesn't matter how fleeting or rare, doubt in any form means you have something that can be denied. Once again the spiritual experience falls flat in the face of gravity.

4.  You can never get the experience if you don't want it.

This is another very strange condition of an undeniable truth. This statement is a variant of 'your heart must be open.' When it comes to undeniable truths, there is literally no way you can reasonably come to another conclusion when presented with the facts. It doesn't matter how much I don't want to gravity to be real. How much I wish I could just take off in the morning and fly to work over the traffic. I can rationalize about how much better my life would be without gravity. The benefits of a life without gravity at least some of the time can easily be seen. If only we could turn off that earth attraction for just a moment.

But no matter how much we dream of these things, how many sci fi movies we come up with where this is possible, how much we wish upon a star or pray to a fairy, we can't will ourselves into becoming anti-gravitationalists. We would indeed feel justified to lock away in a mental institution, anyone that denied the existence of the law of gravity.

It's strange that in the spiritual realm, desire can have such a telling effect on the experience that you get.  No alarm bells go off when someone says no to their undeniable experience. No move to throw those who don't accept the revelation into an institution for the spiritually crazy. In fact, many believers have told me that to have a spiritual experience and not accept it as real is quite reasonable. Undesirable, but reasonable just the same. But it just doesn't follow, it's like telling someone you're a bit sad they don't believe in gravity, but you can accept it so long as they don't impose their anti falling dogma on you.

So I am left in confusion. I am to expect an experience straight to heart from an all powerful God that I have no power to deny and yet I have to make a decision to be open that heart and allow his omnipotence in.

Whatever the case, I simply wish God would leave my heart alone, it seems a bit of a cheat to circumvent the brain he gave me and just go inside and turn on some magic switch in the ventricle.

I would prefer if he left my internal organs alone and just provided the evidence for me like my gravity does. You would think that a deity that has dropped the ball so many times in the past would have grasped this simple concept by now.

3 comments:

  1. umm god is a vampire apparently, don't you watch True Blood, he must be invited in. If you don't well he'll just linger around outside your door, or in this case your heart until such time as you extend the invitation...yup there it is lol

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  2. God could be vampire, zombie, spirit, anything and everything. He's not much of a landlord though if he doesn't keep at least an extra key to the apartment he owns. I guess it means that anything can go on inside, tenants can do whatever they want, even if they destroy themselves and the entire property in the process. Not much of a steward if you ask me. Don't think I would even want to live in God's neighbourhood, would not want him knocking on my door asking me to do all those difficult tasks he refuses to do himself. :)

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