Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Social media is all abuzz with people sharing “their” truth and what they know is right. I think it is good to own your truth and even share what you think is right within reason.
Do we go too far when we try to convince people of what we believe is right? I think we may, when we tell people they are wrong. This can easily be seen within belief traditions. My God is better than your God. I am chosen or my doctrine is true inferring that you or yours is not.
We don’t usually tell people they are wrong flat out, instead we couch it in softer terms. You’re confused or mistaken. Some are dismissive, duh! Others are downright rude saying things like "not true", "liar" or my pet peeve, "you’ve been deceived by Satan". Deception is a topic for another day.
How can you hold one truth and still hold space for someone else to hold a conflicting view? Hint, it is not easy.
How does one determine if something is true or not? Is it by feelings?
The Bible teaches "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good." 1 Thes 5:21. Yet, some faith traditions will tell you that the only way to know something is to feel it. They give the feeling a name and a personage of God. It is called the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. In the Latter-day Saint scripture, according to D&C 8:2 – It will tell you “...in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost...” Moroni 10:5 claims that "...by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." This is referred to as the spirit of revelation. People will bear testimony of truth based on these spiritual experiences. I certainly did this. Children are raised to accept these feelings as a way to know that God is speaking and confirming truth to them.
Is that really a reliable way to know truth? If so, why do people from all religious traditions have these spiritual experiences yet differ in what they claim is truth? Why did followers of Heavens Gate bear witness that they knew they were right shortly before committing mass suicide?
As I have searched for understanding on why I had experiences that I believed confirmed truth, I have had to be humble and be open to another possibility. I learned that our mind or subconscious is a powerful mechanism. When we feel joy or experience a strong pull at our emotions, the brain releases chemicals into our body. This can manifest in “goose bumps” and warm sensation in our chest. Tears can well up in our eyes and our voice or body can tremble. Scientists have called this phenomenon “elevation emotion” or “confirmation bias”. It can happen with music, nature, sex, and other media.
Religions are especially designed to give us these types of emotional experiences. Instead of calling them emotional experiences, they are dubbed “spiritual experiences” due to their doctrine or belief in where these feelings originate. They DO feel good to us. We want to feel them again and again.
That does not prove the underlying trigger to the emotional response as truth. People have been known to lie or tell a fabricated story and we still feel these emotional responses in our bodies. I believe that feelings alone are not reliable.
I honor the many spiritual experiences that I have had in my life as special. I no longer hold them out as a confirmation of truth. Most, but not all, were in a religious setting or context. I recognize that others of many faiths still hold their experiences as a confirmation that they are on the right path. It is not my place to tell them they are wrong.