Atheist Meme of the Day: Feeling is Not Knowledge

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Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day, from my Facebook page. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

“I feel it in my heart” is not a good argument for God or religion. Human intuition is important and useful, but it’s very far from infallible: it often leads us to see intention and pattern even when there isn’t any, and it’s heavily biased in favor of what we already believe or what we want to believe. Pass it on: if… we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

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Atheist Meme of the Day: Feeling is Not Knowledge
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12 thoughts on “Atheist Meme of the Day: Feeling is Not Knowledge

  1. 1

    I get that response all the time. Usually at the “end” of a discussion. They’ll say, “I just know it’s true in my heart.” I have yet been able to develop a good response to that.

  2. 2

    “I have yet been able to develop a good response to that.”
    Here’s what I think are the good responses to that:
    (a) Our feelings and perceptions are not totally accurate. (insert rant about cognitive errors such as confirmation bias, seeing patterns and intention where none exist, etc.) They’re important and valuable, especially when telling us what’s subjectively true for us; but they’re way too flawed to rely on as sources of information about the external, non-subjective world.
    (2) What about people who “know in their heart” things that are the total opposite of what you “know in your heart”? Religious beliefs are different, and even completely contradictory, all over the world. Some people “know in their heart” that God hates homosexuality; other people “know in their heart” that God couldn’t care less about it and just want people to love each other. If religious faith is a real perception of a real entity, how do you explain that?

  3. 3

    You could be a smart-ass and point out that all the heart actually does is pump blood, and if they do feel anything at all in their heart, they should call a doctor, because it’s probably a heart attack.

  4. vel
    5

    the “I feel it in my heart” argument for God is alway amusing when the theist claims that they somehow “know” int their heart what their god “really meant”. Usuall, through some magical “holy ghost” speaking to their “heart”. Funny on how the good ol’ HS always agrees with them.

  5. 6

    Not that he needs more traffic, but PZ just delivered a stunningly beautiful metaphor which is somewhat apropos:

    Science’s job is to fill up the silos of the world with the grain of useful information, and we’ve found that applying the principles of the scientific method and operating under the guidelines of methodological naturalism means we’re productive: we can keep trundling up with wagonloads of corn and wheat and rice. The creationists are showing up with broken-down, essentially empty carts, containing nothing but chaff, a few dirt clods, and some fragrant manure, and they’re being turned away because they have nothing to contribute. You’re not being excluded if you have nothing to offer.

    (I wish this comment box had a preview button; I hate getting an angle bracket wrong and looking incompetent in public.)

  6. 7

    Hey, I somehow stumbled onto your blog through the wonderful world of facebook.
    I am a believer in God and I think “I feel it in my heart” is a “good” argument, but only if you believe in God, an all-knowing, powerful creator who transcends “human intuition”. I believe that when God really wants to tell me something, he will put it in my heart or use some other way to show me. But that sounds crazy to you because: you don’t believe in God. The only thing you can do is call me crazy or insane because there’s no way to dispute something so personal and internal; you can’t see what’s in my heart and I can’t show you my heart and prove that God told me something. The only thing you have is simply my word, and in that case, there’s no reason to argue because it’s just a difference in opinion.
    I once felt like God was telling me that a friend of mine had cancer. But I ignored it and forgot about it. A couple of months later, my friend goes to the doctor and finds out she has cancer. Coincidence? Could be. But I know “in my heart” and in my mind that God revealed that to me before we actually found out. How can anyone dispute that without questioning my sanity or intelligence?

  7. 8

    But that sounds crazy to you because: you don’t believe in God.
    No, that is not why! It’s because the heart is an organ that pumps blood, not a reciever of signals from supernatural beings!
    Even if the Christian god existed it makes not much sense why he would only talk to some human beings in such a very unaffective way, as to vaguely contact them through “their hearts and minds” where his very vague messages (that conveniently can be interpreted in a million ways to fit anything after the fact) would most certainly be mixed up with all the other things a human being feels and thinks. How you can you know exactly what is his messages and what is only your own thoughts, feelings and opinions on things? Ohh, yeah, you feel that in your heart as well of course… and round and round in circles we go.
    Why would an all powerful god simply not let his will be known to everybody in a clear unmistakable way, that can not be misunderstood and doesn’t have to be interpreted? Why would an all powerful god be so highly ineffective?
    And why would a god like that just send vague messages to some people’s hearts in such a way that it will look like their own thoughts and feelings to any person who uses their head? Does god think it is funny that his followers will look a bit… mislead, incredulous and gullible? The big practical joker in the sky, eh?
    Don’t you see how weird your argument is? We have to first believe in one highly unlikely, interally inconsistent story of a highly unlikely internally inconistent and highly unpleasant fictional character – to also believe that he is doing these weird stuff? Uh.. DUH!
    I guess you also have to believe in fairies first before you buy that they are magic, yes. I guess believing that your teeth are collected by a magic being who leaves you pennies instead, yeah, you would have to first believe in the tooth-fairy.
    Your last paragraph is… I don’t question your sanity, or your intelligence. I am very much questioning your ability for critical thinking, and your knowledge in things like ‘coincidence’. Who hasn’t been thinking about if their relatives, friends, loved ones or nears and dears might get cancer? That is an awful thing to happen, something that worries us, and so we sometimes think about it, and sometimes it happens! Coincidence? Uh… YES! The odds of that happening isn’t even close to as small as you think, and certainly does NOT indicate a god whispering to your blood-pumping organ.

  8. 9

    But that sounds crazy to you… , The only thing you can do is call me crazy or insane… , …without questioning my sanity or intelligence?”
    Why do you seem so intent on that we should think you are crazy? Is this some sort of martyr complex? A chance to get to suffer persecution for Christ? We usually don’t think that the general believer is especially crazy or unintelligent (though some sure are, but so are some atheists). They are often ignorant about many things though, live under social pressure, are too emotionally invested in their beliefs to question them, and a number of other such factors.
    there’s no reason to argue because it’s just a difference in opinion.
    Many of these things are not merely a difference in opinion at all. We actually do know a bit about the organs of the human body for example, enough to be able to say with a certain degree of certainty that some things ARE in fact not very likely to happen to them – recieving messages from a god is one of them! Believing in such a thing is not an equal opinion.

  9. 10

    “Even if the Christian god existed it makes not much sense why he would only talk to some human beings in such a very unaffective way”
    – It’s been affective to me because I have experienced it. I can’t tangibly prove it you because it’s MY experience. I didn’t post this to try prove anybody right or wrong, I’m only speaking of my own experience. I believe that if you are truly and sincerely open to God and to hearing God, then he will reveal himself to you. I realize this probably sounds like a bunch of religious jargon, but again, this is based on my personal experience.
    “How you can you know exactly what is his messages and what is only your own thoughts, feelings and opinions on things? Ohh, yeah, you feel that in your heart as well of course”
    – That’s a good point. And there have been times when I’ve realized that I have mistaken or sometimes intentionally classified as ideas from God when in actuality, they were ideas from myself, things that I wanted to do but felt like I needed a “godly” justification for it. I agree that it is confusing sometimes. And I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand it. But I’m willing to accept that there’s just some things about God that I won’t understand, at least not right now. If I believe in a God that created the universe, our complex bodies, the oxygen we breathe, and everything else that no human can duplicate, then I have to accept my limited understanding.

  10. 11

    “Why would an all powerful god simply not let his will be known to everybody in a clear unmistakable way, that can not be misunderstood and doesn’t have to be interpreted?”
    – I believe in the bible and that it reveals God’s will. Is it clear and unmistakable? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. And I think one reason for that is because some things have been lost in translation. I would love to be able to read the original scriptures, but even if I did, I’m sure there would be things that I didn’t understand. What I do know is that I get everlasting life by believing that Jesus came to earth and died for my sins, thereby restoring a broken relationship with God. And I believe that the bible was inspired by God and shows up the way he wants us to live. It’s probably pointless to even mention the bible because you probably don’t believe in it. We can choose to follow it or choose not to. That’s the great thing about free will.
    “Does god think it is funny that his followers will look a bit… mislead, incredulous and gullible?”
    – I don’t think God cares about how unbelievers see us as long we’re truly following him and not misrepresenting who he is. I know I don’t care.
    “Don’t you see how weird your argument is? We have to first believe in one highly unlikely, interally inconsistent story of a highly unlikely internally inconistent and highly unpleasant fictional character – to also believe that he is doing these weird stuff? Uh.. DUH!”
    – Why is it “highly unlikely” and what makes it “interally inconsistent”? And why do you believe God would be “highly unpleasant”?
    “I guess you also have to believe in fairies first before you buy that they are magic, yes. I guess believing that your teeth are collected by a magic being who leaves you pennies instead, yeah, you would have to first believe in the tooth-fairy.”
    – I don’t believe in the tooth-fairy or any other kind of fairy for that matter. Clearly, this discussion has absolutely nothing to do with fairies, yet you decided to throw that in to be funny, mocking, etc. Why? You asked “Why do you seem so intent on that we should think you are crazy?” It’s because of responses like that.
    “Is this some sort of martyr complex? A chance to get to suffer persecution for Christ? We usually don’t think that the general believer is especially crazy or unintelligent (though some sure are, but so are some atheists). They are often ignorant about many things though, live under social pressure, are too emotionally invested in their beliefs to question them, and a number of other such factors.”
    – There are way many generalizations in that response that it’s pointless to even address all of them. A glimpse of who I actually am: I’m 23, just graduated with a degree in civil engineering, and about to leave for Jamaica next month to be a Peace Corps volunteer (so freakin excited, by the way). I don’t claim a specific Christian denomination because I think it only causes division and misrepresents God. I often disagree a lot with some of my friends who are believers because it seemed as if they were just following what their pastor or parents said instead of investigating their own beliefs. I personally grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, investigated more as I got older, and found that I disagreed with some things, so I chose not to be one.
    Believing in Christ has given me the most freedom that I have ever experienced in my life. I’ve tried not believing in God, and just can’t do it. I can’t explain why, all I can say it that I can’t stop believing. You would probably say that you just can’t believe in God. That’s fine! I’m not trying to bring anyone to my side. And no matter how much scientific evidence or human logic is presented before me, I’m still not changing my mind. My beliefs are deeply ingrained in me. It’s what I live my life by. Again, all I’m doing is telling you what has been the case for me, in my own life. No one can speak for me except: me. No one can see or experience my relationship with God except: me. I would never dispute what you have personally experienced because I’m not you.

  11. 12

    It’s been affective to me because I have experienced it. I can’t tangibly prove it you because it’s MY experience. I didn’t post this to try prove anybody right or wrong, I’m only speaking of my own experience. I believe that if you are truly and sincerely open to God and to hearing God, then he will reveal himself to you. I realize this probably sounds like a bunch of religious jargon, but again, this is based on my personal experience.
    I’m sorry about that, that was a typo. I didn’t mean unAffective, but inEffective. He talks to human beings in a highly ineffective way, and he only “talks” to some humans. Why would he not talk to all people in a way that there was no question about what was going on? Why would a god play all these silly games of vagueness, choosing people for this “almost communication” who already have faith, or are prone to faith based thinking, being unclear and evasive, being mysterious and hiding?
    Why would I not be open? I think it would be very interesting if there was a being such as that who could speak to you telepathically, so I am definitely open for that, but he still seems to only want to “talk” to people who already believes in him, and he still seems to insist on using only methods that can’t really be separated from perfectly natural things (like people thinking and coincidences and similar things). What else than people wanting it to be the voice of god is there?
    That’s a good point. And there have been times when I’ve realized that I have mistaken or sometimes intentionally classified as ideas from God when in actuality, they were ideas from myself, things that I wanted to do but felt like I needed a “godly” justification for it. I agree that it is confusing sometimes. And I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand it.
    These are supposedly messages from a GOD! But it’s so vague that it could be a god, it could be your own wishes or it could be a random thought
 There’s no real objective way to ever tell which is which for real
 Seems like a highly ineffective guide for anything at all. I would make sure that I understood these things very well before I concluded that there’s a god involved, and started to base my whole life on it. I mean, figuring out if there’s really another intelligence in your mind is only the first step, then you’d need to figure out who it is? How can you know that? What if it isn’t your god? What if it’s aliens
? It can be anything, how can you be sure it’s the god of the bible? It would seem to me that if god is SO much more powerful than a human, it would only take a being that is merely a fraction as powerful as god to easily fool any human ready to receive messages from god, using such methods as you describe. How can you be sure that there isn’t such a creature?
    But I’m willing to accept that there’s just some things about God that I won’t understand, at least not right now.
    Why? You let something inside your head, not knowing what it wants, not knowing for sure what it is, not knowing how he does it, not knowing for sure how to separate him from your own thoughts, and you’re happy with not even asking yourself every question you can think of to find out more?
    If I believe in a God that created the universe, our complex bodies, the oxygen we breathe, and everything else that no human can duplicate, then I have to accept my limited understanding.
    Why? Why would a god stop you from understanding things? I am very sure that what you think is a limit to your understanding is actually not. Don’t sell yourself short!
    I believe in the bible and that it reveals God’s will. Is it clear and unmistakable? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
    If it is sometimes clear and sometimes not, then it is as a whole NOT clear and unmistakable.
    And I think one reason for that is because some things have been lost in translation. I would love to be able to read the original scriptures, but even if I did, I’m sure there would be things that I didn’t understand.
    An all powerful god is not powerful enough to overcome such a simple problem? Keeping his own words clear and unmistakable over a few thousand of years, should be no match for a god. He’d rather look down upon millions of people quarreling over interpretations, splitting up in ever more fractions over the smallest things, even starting wars over it, countless people suffering and dying, just because he didn’t bother to be clear when he could have been so, with no effort on his part at all?
    If there would be things that you couldn’t understand than what is the whole point of the bible? ‘Here are my words for you, they are so important that if you don’t follow them and understand them right, you might end up in hell forever, but I’ll make them so weird and confusing that you won’t understand it, and I’ll let you screw the texts up anyway, so it’ll be even more confusing!’ What is he, a sadist?
    What I do know is that I get everlasting life by believing that Jesus came to earth and died for my sins, thereby restoring a broken relationship with God.
    How do you know this? And why would you want everlasting life anyway?
    And I believe that the bible was inspired by God and shows up the way he wants us to live.
    So, god want us to sacrifice animals, stone your kids if they are disrespectful and keep slaves, sell all your belongings and give to the poor
 And that’s just for starters!
    It’s probably pointless to even mention the bible because you probably don’t believe in it.
    I believe there is such a book, yes. I’ve read it, I own several of them. Do I believe it’s inspired by a god? No I don’t. If it was then that had to be a rather small god, since the bible is really not that impressive. The maker of the universe can’t write anything greater than what a Bronze Age desert people could accomplish?
    We can choose to follow it or choose not to. That’s the great thing about free will.
    I highly doubt you have chosen to follow it much more than I have.
    I don’t think God cares about how unbelievers see us as long we’re truly following him and not misrepresenting who he is. I know I don’t care.
    I asked why he would deliberately make his followers look like that when there are so much better ways! I would maybe not care either if someone made fun of me or thought I was kooky, but if someone I loved and trusted deliberately set me up for it, when there are other ways, yeah
 that would make me question his “love”!
    How can you know that you are not misrepresenting who he is? You just said you don’t understand everything about him, and that the bible is not a reliable source, and that you don’t know which of what he speaks to your “mind and heart” is his words and what is your own wishful thinking.
    Why is it “highly unlikely” and what makes it “interally inconsistent”?
    The fact that god, as he is described in the bible and by most believers, is a contradictory character – he can not be all powerful, all knowing and all good at the same time for example – which is only one thing that makes it highly unlikely that he exists.
    And why do you believe God would be “highly unpleasant”?
    Have you READ the bible you claim are his words? The god of the bible is one of the most horrible characters ever described in the history of fiction.
    I don’t believe in the tooth-fairy or any other kind of fairy for that matter. Clearly, this discussion has absolutely nothing to do with fairies, yet you decided to throw that in to be funny, mocking, etc.
    Why do you get so threatened by this comparison? Regardless of if I was mocking, it’s still valid. God is a fictional and mythological character like all the rest. There is no more evidence for a god than there are for Santa Claus or Superman. And your argument made absolutely no more sense than the tooth fairy one. If you say that ‘you have to believe in god first before it makes sense that he would talk to you’, then that IS the same thing as saying that ‘you have to believe in the tooth fairy first before it makes sense that teeth turn into pennies’. What is the difference other than that you think one exist and the other not? Some people DO believe in the tooth fairy, ever as much honestly as you believe in god.
    Why? You asked “Why do you seem so intent on that we should think you are crazy?” It’s because of responses like that.
    Uh? That makes no sense. It was you who kept saying that we think you are crazy. I said that I usually do NOT think that. You think that I trying to show why an argument you made was not good by using the same argument you did but with another fictional character instead of god, in an effort to show why said argument was in fact not very good – that that was me calling you crazy?
    There are way many generalizations in that response that it’s pointless to even address all of them.
    The only generalization I made was that I said that in general theists are not crazy or unintelligent! You want me to take that back, or what?
    A glimpse of who I actually am: I’m 23, just graduated with a degree in civil engineering, and about to leave for Jamaica next month to be a Peace Corps volunteer (so freakin excited, by the way).
    That’s nice!
    I don’t claim a specific Christian denomination because I think it only causes division and misrepresents God.
    Which god could have easily avoided. Didn’t he know the creatures he created? Didn’t he know what would happen?
    I often disagree a lot with some of my friends who are believers because it seemed as if they were just following what their pastor or parents said instead of investigating their own beliefs. I personally grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, investigated more as I got older, and found that I disagreed with some things, so I chose not to be one.
    Thinking for yourself is always good! But your investigations seem to have only lead you to stop that investigation a step higher up, so to speak. In your words:
    ’but even if I did, I’m sure there would be things that I didn’t understand’, ‘then I have to accept my limited understanding’, ‘But I’m willing to accept that there’s just some things about God that I won’t understand, at least not right now.’
    Question your parents and your pastors are good, now why not question this god as well?
    Believing in Christ has given me the most freedom that I have ever experienced in my life. I’ve tried not believing in God, and just can’t do it. I can’t explain why, all I can say it that I can’t stop believing.
    I’ve not said that you have to. You can do what you want. But if you make a comment here, I can answer to it and argue against it. And this time I felt like doing that.
    You would probably say that you just can’t believe in God. That’s fine!
    Why would I say that? Of course I can. It would be very easy. Just show me some proof that actually stands up to scrutiny. I would believe in god then. I would however NOT worship such a horrible thing!
    I’m not trying to bring anyone to my side.
    Me neither, I argued against your arguments. That often happens when you post in the comment section of a blog.
    And no matter how much scientific evidence or human logic is presented before me, I’m still not changing my mind.
    Now, that is the epitome of a closed mind! Most atheists don’t think like that, we care more about what is true. If the god of the bible is proven true then we’ll believe in him. And then we’d probably start to investigate the possibilities of how we can make this horrendous creature take the responsibility for his many crimes, but that’s another story. Belief =/= worship, and all that. What YOU are saying here is that you don’t care if god actually exists or not, if the whole thing is true or not, you will keep believing anyway.
    My beliefs are deeply ingrained in me. It’s what I live my life by.
    No matter if it’s actually true or not?
    Again, all I’m doing is telling you what has been the case for me, in my own life. No one can speak for me except: me. No one can see or experience my relationship with God except: me. I would never dispute what you have personally experienced because I’m not you.
    So, in essence, how dare I argue against what you choose to say in a comment on a blog
 or?? What’s your point?

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