Welcome to tomthinking.com Thursday, July 19 2018 @ 07:30 PM UTC
I Feel A Personal Relationship With God
In Armin Navabi's book, Why There Is No God, the author states that a person's experience with God is not a valid proof for God's existence. Navabi states, "Personal relationships as proof of God's existence [are] inherently subjective experiences. A person's experience and the emotions it causes can be genuine without the cause of that experience being based on anything outside of his or her mind."
There are two problems with Navabi's ascertain. (1) A subjective experience does not mean invalid or unreal, and (2) His position mistakenly implies that a genuine religious experience must originate outside the mind.
Something may be subjective, but it doesn't mean it is invalid. Many people who argue against something like to pull out the "subjective" trump card. Wielded in this way, saying something is subjective is the same as saying it is false. But subjectivity isn't necessarily false. I have a personal relationship with my wife. The experience and interpretation I have of my love for her are subjective, but not in any way invalid. In fact, because she experiences the same thing we can say that our feelings are proof that we have a relationship and that relationship is real. So too, a person's relationship with God is a two-way experience and is valid. Just because the atheist has not experienced it does not make the Christian's experience invalid or unreal.
In one sense, we might say that all experience is subjective. Even the atheist who uses his experience to say God doesn't exist is using his subjectivity to make a case against theism. If subjectivity is to invalidate something, then it must also apply to the atheist's experience. And where does that leave you?
More interesting to me, however, is Navabi's claim that "Studies have show that near-death experiences are caused by chemical reactions within the brain. This can be true for many religious experiences." In making that last statement, Navabi is making a leap in logic without the necessarily definitive proof that religious experience is caused in the brain. But, what constitutes a religious experience? Navabi leaves that undefined. So, how can an argument for subjectivity invalidate an undefined religious experience?
I'd like to argue, because of Navabi's statement, that religious experience must have a corollary in the brain in order for us to experience anything at all. In fact, there are some religious experiences that the Bible shows to be only in the mind. These are dreams and visions from God directing his people in the Bible. People in the Bible who had these experiences include Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Solomon, Daniel, and Paul.
I don't know if he realizes it or not, but Navabi is implying that for a religious experience to be a legitimate sign of God's existence that there should be no brain activity to correlate with. This is foolish. The brain is the organ through which we experience the world around us and within us. If our brains had no functions regarding spiritual things then we would not experience them or know them. It is simply common sense that if we experience God's love, there should be brain activity for that experience just as there would be for the love of anyone.
In Deuteronomy 6 we are commanded to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul [mind] and with all your strength." Our feelings and our minds are centered in our brains. Any outside expression is also controlled from our brains. It is God's very command that we love him with our brains, in all of our experience and expressions. That is what the brain is for. Therefore, all religious experience is centered in the brain, exactly where we would expect it to be.
A person's relationship with God is a valid proof for God's existence because his experience is not exclusive. Millions of people regardless of age, race, health, location, and experience all report the same thing: they have a personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. It is the combined experiences of millions of people throughout history that validate that experience as real—just like multiple eyewitnesses in a trial. Just because the atheist doesn't have this experience doesn't make the experiences of others unreal.