My contribution to a LinkedIn discussion thread entitled, “Does Adherence to Rationality Lead to Atheism.”
John: I am not sure if this relates to your issue, but I should clarify that, though I see feelings and thinking as closely related, in my view, feelings always precede thoughts. Feelings of romance must occur before there is reason to think about getting together. Also, my thoughts here are not just an intellectual exercise. There is a reason, that only my instincts really know, that inspires me to make myself more clear.
Changing the subject a bit: Having noted in my previous entry that each feeling represent’s an aroused chemical state of the body, the way the conscious mind serves the body is figuring out to return the body to its unaroused chemical state. Consequently, the conscious mind’s only test for truth is: Does it satisfy my feelings? If eating potatoes satisfies feelings of hunger, then to the mind, truth is that eating potatoes is one way to satisfy hunger. Conversely, if eating potatoes didn’t satisfy hunger, then, that it doesn’t, would become the mind’s truth.
That’s a very ordinary example. However, some people’s aroused chemical state, as expressed through feelings of loneliness and insignificance, are satisfied by the belief that a caring Jesus is always with them. In those instances, the conscious mind presumes that that Jesus is, in fact, with them, with the same certainty that it believes eating potatoes satisfies hunger. That such an idea can satisfy feelings, and thus the mind with absolute certainty of its truth, is the basis for, not just religious, but all beliefs, be they political, ideological, or in science. These are all beliefs through which spiritually estranged people satisfy feelings of insignificance and loneliness.
I am not pointing fingers. Without an extended family of brothers and sisters to take care of, how am I to satisfy my feelings of insignificance and loneliness, other than by sharing my beliefs. Not that I am in any way suicidal, I basically have two choices. I can either put a bullet through my head, which would eliminate all my concerns, or I can satisfy my feelings of insignificance by sharing these thoughts—many of which, unbeknownst to me, may not even be true—with you fine folk. I hope you don’t mind, but I choose the latter.
The problem with beliefs is, they have nothing to do with reality—Jesus is, in fact, not really there, and the belief that through progress mankind will eventually inhabit the universe, in fact, attaches no real significance to our present existence. The other problem with beliefs is they possess us with such certainty that they eliminate our ability to communicate. Consider the gap in comprehension created by differences in ideological beliefs in this nation. Belief systems, it seems to me, are the basis for the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. We are involved in all these grand enterprises through which we hope to get to Heaven, or to some ultimate state of grace, and, because of differing beliefs, we can’t even speak to or be friendly with one another. Our “Towers of Babel” will surely stand abandoned someday, only, like the original, to be leveled by the winds of sand and time.
By the forces of evolution, we were created to serve life by taking care of one another in accordance with our deepest sensibilities. When we functioned as a social species—as members of extended families—we never felt lonely nor insignificant. We satisfied all feelings by reacting to the needs of our brothers and sisters according to instinct. We were thus never forced to believe in something in order to renormalize our body’s chemical state. There is one exception: To satisfy our curiosity about our origins and destiny, we needed a story. Not realizing these stories were untrue, they succeeded in satisfying our curiosity while they remained innocent—they did not contain the concepts of good and evil, and thus didn’t affect our ability to communicate
The concepts of good and evil, it seems, are the unavoidable consequences of spiritual estrangement.