For some reason I've been reflecting on the idea of believing something 'in your heart' compared to believing it 'in your head'. What happens when heart and head don't agree on what they believe? Can your heart-belief cause your head-belief to shift, and vice versa?
Fundamentally, and this is an issue I've been struggling with for several years now, what happens when you believe something passionately with your heart, yet become convinced that it can't be true in your head? What happens, as far as I can tell, is that the heart simply has to follow the head eventually.
Christianity makes emotional sense to me. So many things that are done in church seem to work on an emotional level. And not just on an emotional level, but on a practical level too. When the church gets it right, being part of that church is a real blessing, it provides real community, real emotional and practical support, real companionship, conviction in unity, a reason to be altruistic, for some a reason to keep living at all, it gives a real sense of the presence of God and an apparent pathway into transcendence which is almost impossible to convey to someone who has never experienced it.
Put simply, as I have said on this blog before, worship works. Church works. Corporate prayer works. All of this can be a great and life-enhancing experience. Put together, it is more than enough evidence to make the heart believe in the truth of Jesus and the claims of Christianity.
But. Is there a reality beyond the psychological experience? Christianity makes promises for what you can get in this life, and in the life to come. Indeed, Christianity promises a life to come. For a great many people in 'good' churches, Christianity delivers on its promise for this life. But, of course, what it can't do is demonstrate - at all - that it can deliver on its other promises. Good feelings now cannot imply anything about whether there is a post-mortem existence or reveal any aspects of that existence, good or bad. This disconnect is a problem for my head.
Meanwhile, my head has been looking at the evidence for the historical reliability of the claims in the bible. And the claims are simply not historically reliable. Indeed, the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that there is just as much of a disconnect between the historical claims of Christianity and contemporary experience as there is between contemporary experience and the promise of life to come.
To summarise, Christianity seems to work in practice in the present, but it is wrong about the past, and it cannot demonstrate that it knows anything about the future.
Inevitably, the shifting beliefs of my head have pulled my heart into a disconnect with its former emotional beliefs. I no longer feel the unity of church or feel the transcendence of worship. But to get that back would mean having to simply switch off all my critical reasoning and reject or forget what I believe to be true about reality.
If you've never been at this crossroads in your life, you really can't know what its like. Any comments from confirmed atheists about it being a clear and obvious choice are irrelevant. Because they don't know. I can totally understand the situation of that character in the original Matrix movie who chose to opt back into the Matrix system, because he wanted the taste of the food there, even though he knew it was false. I've taken the red pill, I've seen what the outside is like, yet the fiction of the inside is very appealing still.
No conclusion to all this. Not yet... Even if the end is inevitable, there's still some wrestling to be done.