Thursday, July 23, 2015
The Subjective Christian Experience
While the subjective in an argument is anecdotal at best, it still bears weight for the individual in why they continue to believe. If someone tells me they experienced X,Y & Z, that means nothing to me because those experiences cannot be verified. If I say I experienced A, B & C, it won't carry a logical impact on another's decision, but for me it can still be significant because of my first hand account. One of the reasons I continued to have "faith" for many years is due to my subjective experiences.
There were countless times that I would be worshiping God and feel euphoric, as if I had taken a drug. This was not an isolated experience but rather ubiquitous as most of the other believers were familiar with the same feeling. This was widely attributed to the presence of the Holy Spirit and is commonly referred to as being high in the spirit. After awhile I began to notice certain things. For example, at the beginning of a church service the air conditioning would barely be running and then during worship they would crank it up full blast. I noticed this trend in at least five other churches. I also took notice that most visitors help themselves to the free coffee prior to the service. I had a nagging suspicion that these two may have had something to do with what I was feeling but I wasn't convinced that they were wholly responsible.
I began to wonder if the very act of singing can create an euphoric effect upon the individual and my research came across some very interesting information. Time magazine released an online article found here that talks about how researchers discovered that group singing, whether in a religious setting or not, causes the brain to release endorphins and oxytocin, creating an euphoric effect. If this is the case, combining caffeine, endorphins, oxytocin and cool blowing air can make anyone feel like they are floating in heaven. This discovery has confirmed my suspicions and completely nullified most of my subjective experiences.
I can even think back to my conversion experience, where Pastor Greg Laurie was giving his end of sermon altar-call. The air conditioning was pumping, and while he made a plea for us to get right with God, he had the band behind him slowly play some sappy music to play on the emotions of the listener. Since that day, I have seen that same scenario play out over and over. I thought to myself "if the Holy Spirit is sent to us to be a helper, then why does He need our help?" "Why try and stir the emotions of the listener if the Holy Spirit is truly drawing them?" The altar call conversion experience has become a formulaic church process guaranteed to increase attendance.
The remaining experiences have to deal with encountering "demonic possession," but in hindsight, I can see how the individuals I witnessed were likely trolling. There were no strange multi-layered voices, superhuman strength or projectile vomiting. Just screaming and cursing and some flailing arms. I think there is a tendency to want to believe and experience the supernatural, that believers do not stop to think objectively about what they are seeing or feeling.
With all of this in mind, I know that I cannot count on my subjective experiences to help prove that Christianity is not bullshit. From this point on, I will focus on objective, scientific, measurable information and data to support that it is either true or not at all.