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>Conversations

>     So today I had a rather interesting conversation with some fellows in a bar. There we were, gathered around a table, having a few brews when the topic of “faith” came up, as it usually seems to nonchalantly “come up” with these guys. Anyways, the conversation took on an interesting twist, in my opinion, when we got on the topic of a personal, “spiritual”, experience that happened to a once-holiness-sect-now-atheist individual. He recounted an instant when he came to the realization of the magnitude of suffering that Jesus went through. He described this manifestation as one that brought him to the point of tears. I questioned him about this experience (as I have never personally experienced anything like it), and he quickly remarked that this particular experience occurred before he became self aware, realizing now that the “spiritual encounter” was just a matter of emotional state mixed with a particular combination of chemical reactions occurring in the brain. Furthermore, another interesting point was a comment that he made about this encounter; he stated that it was quite possibly the most pure feeling he has ever felt in his entire life. What a peculiar statement to associate with a chemical reaction in the brain. What made this particular “chemical reaction” different than any other reaction to the witness of the suffering of innocence? Why was this moment so pure in comparison to what one would assume to be countless others that would universally give similar chemical reactions? I wonder if this is possibly a very personal God trying to reveal himself or if in fact there is just a rational explanation for the occurrence. Of course, an atheist is going to deny anything extra-biological taking place, but why hint at the possibility of something more? Other than a chemical reaction, why was this moment so pure? But therein lies the problem; for an atheist to acknowledge that something greater than a chemical reaction might have taken place in a personal experience would be to render all amount of knowledge gained on the topic pointless, for personal experience trumps outside observation. So it would seem, based on this conversation, that this person is denying himself a very real experience in order to maintain a faith(the trust in a set of beliefs) in certain beliefs (a set of propositions). This is known as cognitive dissonance, and this dissonance is what makes so many people in the world ignorant. We see here that it can happen to anyone regardless of belief. This is what renders intellectual conversation on the topic pointless; if one is so ingrained in what they believe that they deny circumstantial evidence (in this instance, personal experience) that would show otherwise. Think for a moment if we allowed cognitive dissonance in intellectual pursuits. We would still be thinking that the world was flat or that the universe centered around our planet, Earth. Now introduce cognitive dissonance into the debate of theism vs atheism. Is it any wonder why we have gotten nowhere! Both sides are so convinced that they are absolutely right, and that the other side is absolutely wrong, that each denies crucial evidence to show that a part of their belief may be wrong. Bur rather than change that specific belief (remember a belief is a proposition) which would not change the outcome of faith (the trust placed in beliefs), they commit the absurd and deny the evidence. Imagine if each side were willing adjust their beliefs according to the evidence; I think each side would find that they really wouldn’t be that different from one another. The logical thing to do is to adjust the belief to fit the evidence thus it would, or at least any logical thinking person would assume would, strengthen the faith by knowing that the belief is based on factual evidence. But until those arguing each side can hold loosely to belief, the only productive thing that could occur from such jabber is an intellectual tug job to boost one’s idea of a falsely perceived reality.

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