There are three factors that seem to play a large role in shaping human experience and perception. I’m particularly interested in how this plays out religiously and in the area of potentially muddled interpretation. The human brain and the bodily experiences that it interprets is rather susceptible to incorrect interpretation of the facts when it deviates from objectivity and consensus from others. In other words, this mind/body dichotomy that we wrestle with as well as a common factor implanted into the mind known as expectation can be rather misleading.
The best examples that I can think of relate to my own subjective past experiences. One particular phenomenon that fueled my former religious zeal was what I will call spontaneous moments of intense goosebumps and euphoria during times of posturing myself in prayer and worship of the Christian deity. This became an especially intimate and meaningful phenomenon to me when I was between fifteen to twenty years old.
I associated these experiences with what I came to believe was an undeniable connection to my God. It was never accompanied by audible voices, visible signs or messages, or really anything that happened outside of my own experience. It became my sacred place, what some Christians probably call their hiding place. This becomes most relevant to people with a Charismatic background or openness.
My friends, I want you now to picture what intimacy does within your mind? Certain feelings can often surface just by focusing on this subject alone. It doesn’t have to even be toward a God. Many of these euphoric moments have been created among family and our closest friends. Now, let’s hold this image and now expand it to a larger gathering of like minded people. Going to a good church where one feels accepted and a part of the larger family is a pretty great place for heightened euphoric moments to occur.
Let’s now get someone going on the piano, and that fellow over there with the guitar! This is perfect. Can we adjust the lighting a little bit so this feels just right? Ah yes, and the song content. This is so very important. This is not the time to be lulled by various Old Testament laws and geographical contexts. Let’s narrow in on the very best moments between Jesus and his disciples, between God and His creation. Let’s emphasize His greatness because He must be behind the majesty of the sun, moon, and stars. Also, we have all made grievous mistakes! This God is said to erase them and remove them from us as far as the east is from the west.
When one is part of an established community of people that believe this then is it any wonder that there will be times of tears, joy, euphoria, and yes, even goosebumps on occasion? When confirmation comes from so many other wonderful people that are banking on the same ideas as you, it’s probably going to feel quite electric at times. This is what happens and occurs within almost every religious community structure on the planet regardless of its truth claims.
This is why I want to warn people not to bank on subjectivity and confirmation bias. If you are comfortable not questioning what is at the very core of your religious experience then you are probably not as concerned about the truth as you would like to think. Being concerned about the truth and adapting a skeptical mindset toward ideas that do not bear out with any measure of consistency is not only a tough process, but it may in fact be a challenge to let go of comfort and embrace uncertainty. Embracing uncertainty is rather unsatisfying if you are desiring the green fields of a heaven over the ground you are standing on as we speak.