I guess a lot of people find something they want to really believe as being fantastic, and then reinforce those beliefs with actions and justifications. I have been pondering a lot on how there are certain ideas that appeal to us because they are warm and fuzzy. The prescience of the afterlife as being happy and peaceful is an idea that would appeal to anyone, much like the idea of being wealthy or living forever or having the power of flight. When you think about your desires, or envision yourself having them, you naturally feel good. The power of visualization is extremely potent, and can make us feel as if those things were happening to us or would happen to us in the future.
On the flipside, thinking that there is no afterlife, war and genocide, death, or monsters, have the same effect with different accompanying emotions. Visualization of these instances yield solemnity, melancholy, fear, and sadness to the same degree our desires yield more positive emotions.
So, we have established that certain ideas we think about can infuse us with certain emotions. What do our emotions tell us in these instances? They tell us what we like to think about and what we don’t. Do they provide insight to what is real and what isn’t? No, because we can feel good about flying but it doesn’t mean we can, and we feel bad about monsters but that doesn’t make them real. It also doesn’t show what is make-believe, since we feel good about being wealthy, (which is within reach via the requisite amount of effort), and we feel sad about genocide and war, which are both happening virulently throughout human civilization. Our emotions, being consistent for both true and fantastic situations both positive and negative, tells us nothing about either set of circumstances.
For this reason, it is difficult for me to understand how religions imbue communication from God with these types of emotions. It is a natural procession of thought and of human nature to want to believe in things that perpetuate or increase our happiness. It is natural to want to avoid the opposite. Couched in other terms, if I knew that there was no afterlife, I would still feel good thinking about one existing. Therefore, assigning the reality of a particular set of circumstances to the way one feels about them is irrational and frankly unfounded.
This does not mean that feeling good or bad about something that is unknown automatically means it isn’t true or is, it just means we have no reason to use our emotions as a truth-meter.
I understand that this is a controversial idea, and accept fully that I could (nay, probably) am wrong in supposing this (see my blog on C.S. Lewis’ convincing evidence that emotion IS the way god communicates).
Using an example from my own religion, early on in the church Hiram Page had a seer stone that he used to receive faux revelations from God. This led many people to follow him, including Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family. People obviously felt strong emotions that what was presented to them was in fact real. We know they couldn’t have felt bad or doubt about Hiram, since if they did they wouldn’t have believed him. Therefore they felt warm, good, and positive feelings that what he was telling them was from God. As the church history goes however, Joseph Smith corrected their mistake and they eventually acknowledged they had been misled. To me, this seems a prime example of emotions leading us astray.
It just seems wrong to me that emotions, being fuzzy, nebulous, sporadic, and unclear, are the primary way that a supreme being would communicate the most important truth to his subjects or creations. I just think there should be more than that.
Comments are welcome from any of my four faithful readers who trudge through my musings.
The Seer Stone