heart vs head

I am a brand new atheist (the true meaning of which I only discovered this week). My parents, my wife, her parents and siblings are all died-in-the-wool christians. Of them I have only revealed my lack of faith to my wife and her brother. As for what happened when I told my wife, it's a scary story, but things have calmed down, and in spite of the plentiful confident threats of "I could never be married to a man who doesn't love God more than me", which she has used liberally throughout our relationship, she appears content to continue living with me. I was having a chat to her brother about it last night, and his advice to me as I understood it was essentially this: The reason I have come to this point is that I have relied on reading the bible, and listening to the advice of others, but have no experience of God or Jesus. Unfortunately, as a rationalising human, I attempt to use the mechanism of reason to understand this experience, or at least to know where to look for it. This is insufficient, as just like trying to put a floppy disk into a cd drive, reason cannot make sense of the question of Gods existance (or non-existance), or experiences that would prove it. This is the "head" mechanism. Now, he says from his experience, in a way that he couldn't explain (because it's a floppy disk ;-)), there is a second "heart" mechanism, that sits next to the head mechanism, which can handle floppy discs (overusing metaphors or what?). He didn't call it faith (heck, when I defined faith using Hebrews 11, he accused me of using my head, and relying on a book!), but I think that's what he meant it as. His final thoughts were 'Test God, make your own decisions, but leave a space for him to reveal himself, in whatever way he chooses.' I don't know why, but none of this sits right with me. Can anyone clear away the fog?
Atheist Answer: 

I'm glad you and your wife are still getting along despite your difference of opinion.

The gist of your brother's argument is that God is beyond logic and rational thought, and cannot be understood or accepted with these approaches alone. Therefore you must use your emotional side when considering Him.

The first part is an admission that God doesn't make conventional sense even to your brother. He himself has tried to reconcile the whole idea, and failed. The reason he's still a believer is the emotional experiences he's had while worshipping. He's probably attributed them directly to God. The power of these experiences, regardless of their source (my guess: himself, with the help of semi-hypnotic preachers) overrides the apparent irrationality of belief.

To use an old, casually religious expression, it's a case of "there but for the grace of God go I". If you were to go to a service with him and have a "religious experience", knowing full well that your own brain could have produced it, it would still be hard for you to dismiss the idea of God so easily. Don't think that your brother is somehow weak because his experiences have admittedly affected his judgement. His emotional state is working against his own logic. That's hard on anyone.

I agree with your brother in one way. We must all be open to the unknown, or as he says, "leave a space for Him to reveal Himself," if He exists. However, that does not mean falling to your knees as soon as something extraordinary happens to you. It means honestly examining all the evidence, interior and exterior, and comparing different explanations.

- SmartLX


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Thanks. That is pretty much

Thanks. That is pretty much the conclusion I have come to as well. My wife and I have always been able to set aside our differences and love each other, even when those differences mean the world to us.

For anyone else who is in a similar situation, the best thing you can do for the both of you is come out.

Wish me luck, I'm about to tell my parents.

Good luck.

Good luck Blot, let us know how you go.

wow... so that was tough.

wow... so that was tough. They said they expected it, and were glad that I was "hot or cold" rather than "lukewarm", to use biblical terminology (it never fails to amaze how the bible can justify every human experience, if you really want it to). However, my dad, being a pastor by personality, tried to argue with me (although when told off by my mom, insisted he wasn't arguing), then continued to justify his belief to me so that I wouldn't try to convince him. It got kinda frustrating, but I know he's just that kind of person. My mom, clearly emotional, had the same response to my brother in law, and accepts the fact that nothing she or the bible says will convince me (didn't stop her from saying it).

All in all, it feels so refreshing to be honest, and I can continue to have a relationship with them in an open and loving way, free of pretense.

Oh, and now I have a headache...

Take an ibuprofen or a

Take an ibuprofen or a paracetamol, mate. Well done. Your choice now is whether to take your father up on his justifications (which obviously didn't convince you), or to leave it at that for the moment.

The "hot or cold" passage (Revelations 3:16) is terribly misleading. All Christians are meant to be "hot", because "cold" people are supposedly bound for Hell. It's just easier for Chrisitans to spot "cold" people, and preach to them to make them "hot". "Lukewarm" Christians pass under the radar, which they must find annoying.

argument? .... might need to rephrase

this is your argument: "The gist of your brother's argument is that God is beyond logic and rational thought, and cannot be understood or accepted with these approaches alone. Therefore you must use your emotional side when considering Him."

God is beyond logic and rational thought alone
Therefore use (that and) emotions to consider Him

you have proved nothing...

"reality is not endlessly plastic"


Blot's brother certainly thought this was an argument for God, because in his ideal world Blot would have said, "Oh, okay. Now I believe." In truth it was an attempted justification for his own belief, in the face of the apparently illogical nature of God (by his own reckoning).

Basically you are to know

Basically you are to know God with your mind and your heart. It's not just an emotional attachment as those can fade away and leave one numbed only longing for the experience they once had. Those experiences can (and ususally do) cause resentment due to the fact that they are not lasting. That is why so many turn or supposedly walk away from the faith.....because they didn't actually have a saving faith to begin with, just some sort of experience.

God reveals Himself to those he chooses. That is how one comes to know God. God opens up their intellect and heart and once He causes this revelation then one becomes a true believer, there is no falling away. You can attend church all of your life and attend as many bible studies, etc. as you want, but unless God calls one to faith and repentance they will never become a believer.

There was a time when I didn't necessarily believe and when God chose me, my "mind" and "heart" were awakened. You can't have one without the other.

That's one perspective.

What is the "heart" part of a person's psyche, I wonder, if it isn't the emotional component?

If God himself is the one who makes people believe, then firstly you might wonder why he doesn't do it to everybody and solve the whole existence-of-non-Christians problem. Secondly, if Christians believe this I wonder why they bother trying to convince people with arguments, when they might create more believers by praying for God to do it for them.

I have had this "emotional

I have had this "emotional experience" that you are supposed to have when you get a glimpse of god and his mighty awesome powers!!... its the same feeling i get when i watch a good movie, or that feeling when you get when you finally ask the girl of your dreams out and she says yes. its literally the same thing.. the deep rush of emotion that is almost unexplainable.. you can bring that feeling upon yourself..i once believed in god.. i truly did at one point, when i asked jesus to come into my heart.. i got that over-whelming feeling in my gut.. and thought it was god.. but over the years my mind being an intelligent one ruled out the possibilities of a "god" being our only truth.. there is so much more to this universe, we shouldn't be determining the right and wrong of the universe with our feelings. its all based on observation.. humans are getting to far ahead of ourselves.. we are only monkeys for christ's sake!