This short article talks about how readily one can envision an intangible and/or mystical companion and find it lurching or gliding into apparent life.
"But Jack’s story also makes it clear that experiencing an invisible companion as truly present — especially as an adult — takes work: constant concentration, a state that resembles prayer.
"It may seem paradoxical, but this very difficulty may be why evangelical churches emphasize a personal, intimate God. While the idea of God may be intuitively plausible — just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are atheists who have prayed for parking spots — belief can be brittle. Indeed, churches that rely on a relatively impersonal God (like mainstream Protestant denominations) have seen their congregations dwindle over the last 50 years.
"To experience God as walking by your side, in conversation with you, is hard. Evangelical pastors often preach as if they are teaching people how to keep God constantly in mind, because it is so easy not to pray, to let God’s presence slip away. But when it works, people experience God as alive.
"Secular liberals sometimes take evolutionary psychology to mean that believing in God is the lazy option. But many churchgoers will tell you that keeping God real is what’s hard."
First, as a matter of fact, my experience of the divine isn't one that seems to require any heavy lifting to speak of. For me, it's not that unlike acquaintance with a human being. (I acknowledge being abnormally aware of the mind-body problem.)
My immediate responses to the article, though, are:
- Of course that could be the whole deal. Insofar as there's deal.
- A thing is that I am more and more struck-- belatedly-- by how difficult human beings as a species seem to find it to pay attention to much of anything.
And, from sections of the article I haven't really talked about above:
- When I was an agnostic I wasn't going around any more or less shivery than I do now. And the many atheists and agnostics I know as such seem to be quite comparable, as a group, to the theists I know as such, in terms of competence, intelligence, and so on. And to the very large group of people I know without knowing their a/theism. Maybe the people who let me know they're theists look a bit less competent-- though there's less contrast than there was before I was a pastor. So I have some doubts about theism's adaptive qualities. Though I realize evolution isn't necessarily the johnny-come-lately of the period since the Enlightenment.
And as for this:
"In 2011, an Associated Press poll found that 8 in 10 Americans believed in angels — even 4 in 10 people who never went to church."
Assuming that this means roby-feathery Victorian sentimentality angels and not "messenger," which is what both the Hebrew and Greek words mean: it gives me the screamies.