new atheist.

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

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