I have heard in the past of people feeling the presence of God during church services or prayer etc. What i want to know is what makes this supposed prescence of God different from other feelings that can be produced as a result of dopamine and how do we know it is a divine presence at all and not just mere effects of dopamine?
I’m not sure you can, but I don’t think it has to be one or the other. Even a divine presence would result in physical effects, like dopamine.
William James has a neat approach to mystical experiences and physiological causes: “So what?”
So what if a heightened presence of dopamine in one’s system causes them to have a religious experience? According to James, it is the content of such experiences that makes them religious… not some airy-fairy thing happening in the causal chain.
For instance, long periods of fasting or meditation have been known induce religious experiences. But, to the haver of such experiences, they retain a religious meaning.
That fits with my theory that what gives rise to God belief is something built in, not something separate. James had a lot of good insights. Direct religious experience used to be role within hunter gatherer societies or sometimes a transitional experience. But with institutional religion religious experience is always of the third person variety, never the first. Probably promotes more stable so societies though you wouldn’t know it lately.
I have heard in the past of people feeling pain. What I want to know is what makes this supposed feeling of pain different from other feelings? How do we know it is pain and not just a mere effect of chemicals?
Feeling the presence of God is feeling the presence of God.
To insist on explaining it as anything else is practically a denial that there is any such thing.
Feeling the presence of God doesn’t seem like such a complicated or abstract thing to me. Can you feel the presence of some other person you know without seeing them or having them speak to you? Perhaps some people cannot, though I am not speaking of something supernatural but just the other ways we perceive things such as by the persons effect on other people.
What do you mean by “insist on explaining”? I think it’s healthy to explore alternative explanations concerning any given phenomenon. Even if God exists and does in fact bestow visions upon people, we needn’t assume that every “feeling of God” comes from God.
Likewise (which may have been your point) non-believers ought not “insist” that they know a given experience isn’t from God. I would certainly never insist on such a thing. But by the same token, “chemical causes alone” is a distinct possibility in my book when considering any specific case.
Well, can you explain as to what you feel during this prescense such as peace, or stillness etc?
Those are feelings of peace and stillness, and others might feel euphoria, sadness, repentance, awe, fear, etc… and those are those feeling also. These things are only side effects or signs, just as when you feel the presence of some other person because of some effect they have. The effects are not the feeling of their presence. It is your mind/brain that interprets all sensations and psychologists have established that this is not something independent of your beliefs. Beliefs play a role in how the data of the senses are experienced and meaning attached to them in the process of perception. In this the feeling of the presence of God is no different than any other perception.
I am not sure that it does come from God??? I don’t think this is different than any other feeling such as the feeling of love. How about you try to analyze that one and watch it go up in smoke. Where are you going to expect feelings of love to come from? To question it is to deny it. Not everything in life is for the microscope of objective observation!
Occasionally perhaps, but persistently no, I would very much disagree with that. Some doubt and consideration of other possibilities is healthy but universal skepticism is a disability worthy of the consideration that perhaps you should be skeptical of skepticism also.
Humans (and animals) need hormones (a variety of them) to feel any emotion at all, even love. There is no fool-proof test to see if the feeling is from God or not-- people can certainly be fooled. Some leaders even exploit feelings to keep their flocks from straying. But if the feeling of the divine presence persists and you can’t explain it any other way…
Wise words from a church leader to me, our feelings aren’t our friends, and from a brilliant clinical psychologist to me, who feels what you feel? The latter in response to being told by someone else that I made them feel bad. Feeling numinous is common humanity. God is not present that way. He’s always present, as close as our carotids as Muslims say, and He doesn’t make us feel anything. We do.
Nothing.Its just hype.There no such thing as “presence of God”
Have you ever tried to explain light to a blind person?
Thank you again, for making me think. Actually, I’ve been thinking about this rather a lot lately. If the Holy Spirit is going to commune with us, it’s going to be with our limited, physical selves, because that’s what we’ve got to work with, it’s what we use to sense our world.
In general, I think human physicality has gotten a bad wrap over the centuries. Often “the spiritual” is seen as far more valuable and lasting, and also separate from our bodies. However, Christianity is bold and blunt about our human bodies. They will be resurrected as our conscious selves. For eternity. Because human physicality has been so underrated for so long, this basic Christian hope that runs through the New Testament and shows up even in the Old Testament, sounds foreign or pagan to a lot of us. However, looking around this place we occupy, I think it’s safe to say that God really values the physical.
So, yeah. I think God uses the physical biology He gave each of us to make himself known as He sees fit. We also have some guidelines about how we use these bodies to glorify him, and what uses do not bring him glory. So, we are not free to use our bodies any old way, for example like the pagans of the Greek and Roman worlds.
John 14-17 (Jesus’ last evening with his disciples) is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. The Vine and his High Priestly Prayer are so beatiful and tender, they go straight to my heart. It’s probably dopamine in my brain that’s creating the sensation, but I’m convinced the Holy Spirit is the one using those texts to allow the experience and build the connection.
Jesus People talked about “getting high on Jesus.” They were honest enough to just go with it.
What do you think, Kevin (@Trippy_Elixir )
Yes, feelings are fickle and not to be counted on as portraying reality.
Mine too. I think 14:21 is an important verse that doesn’t get much press. I like the present continuous tense of the YLT (the last one at the bottom of the page).
Would you like to hear about somebody who felt the presence of God after walking into a church?
But we rely on feelings all the time, and most times for good reason. What should children do if they feel that something is off or not right?
Maybe I was mostly speaking to adults.
Feeling are part of reality. But they can be mistakes in many different ways. Feeling angry because of a misunderstanding, for example. But since God is omnipresence I don’t see how a feeling of God’s presence can be mistaken. Of course you can be wrong if by your feelings you attribute something to God or some other portion of reality which isn’t the case.
Feelings are also subjective.