Christianity: 5% Brain, 95% Emotion. Yeah, Baby!


I think those of us who believe in God are sometimes too reluctant to acknowledge that first and foremost the religious experience is about emotion. It has an intellectual aspect, of course—but the intellectualizing of religion comes way after the swooning, singing, crying, hoping, and repenting it inspires.

First you cry; then you write a book. Even if you’re an atheist writing about religion, that’s the order. First you get upset about how wrong and harmful religion is—and then you cobble together an outline and call your agent.

Everyone operates the same way. Feel First; Think Second. That’s the Human Motto, for sure.

We Christians should consider spending less time debating, rationalizing, and trying to logically defend our faith. And though it’s true we’re kind of stuck doing that—since we know that breathlessly crying, “Can’t you just feel the truth of Christ?!” isn’t likely to move non-Christians to take us particularly seriously—maybe we should still declare some sort of moratorium on endeavoring to rationally “prove” the validity of our faith.

Religion addresses our emotions. Emotions are as personal as personal gets. When we Christians use the term “personal savior,” we mean that to a degree that … well, that we should fully and readily acknowledge.

To put it brainiacally, the story of Christ contextualizes our emotions.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

It’s more than enough.

On this same General Topic, see also my posts Extra! Extra! Atheists Whip Christians In Debate! Again! And Again! and Rationalists/Atheists: Don’t Too Readily Dismiss the Believer, and Atheists of America Agree: Christianity Makes Eminent Rational Sense!. Or don’t. You know. Whatever.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Stupidity is a choice.

    Jesus was not stupid, and we are commanded to be like him.

    So people should wise up a little.

  • ??

  • More and more people are leaving religion behind and are describing spiritual experiences. All of the dogma is gone. All the do this and don't do that is gone. All the belief systems have disappeared. Guilt and fear and emotion – all gone. All that is left is this one beautiful communion with God. That is one awesome experience.


  • Marianne:

    I would state it differently: Ignorance is a choice. Stupidity is not.


    Your Utopian description is all a non-believer could possibly ask for. Remove the dogma and the man-made rules and edicts and you are left with the contemplative individual deciding how to best figure out their place in the world. Unfortunately; as long as there are 'holy' books, humankind will always formulate dogma.

  • Mike: I thought the exact same thing on the ignorance vs. stupid. Though, of course, if you've simply never been exposed to knowledge, I suppose remaining "ignorant" is also no choice at all. Let's say refusing knowledge is a choice. That sounds right, right?

    And, yes, David, the trend you reference is fantastic. Not sure a "beautiful communion with God" and "free of emotion" can exist in the same place—but who cares. It's great, as you say.

    Mike: Are you SURE it's not possible for people to have holy books/religion, AND not be viciously or blindly dogmatic? I hope that's too cynical. (Though I suspect it's not. But without hope, what have we?)

  • Given that the descriptions of heaven never describe it as being devoid of emotion, I can't buy into David's statement, really.

    Great post, John. I realized a while ago that trying to persuade others of my faith to an unbeliever is a waste of time for each of us — s/he can't believe in what I'm saying without believing in God first, and I can't just drop God to speak a language that the unbeliever would understand. Rather, what we're called to do is show what God has done in our lives and make it available to the rest of the world.

  • Your take on ignorant/stupid is right on.

    Re: holy books…

    It seems an inevitable thing and I would be happy to be proven wrong. 1) Someone has thoughts they deem important, 2) They write down those thoughts…because they are important, 3) other people read the writings and interpret them.

    Does not interpretation breed dogma? I suppose it is left up to random chance as to how vicious that dogma happens to be at any point in time. It is my position that the dogma will fall precisely as follows: It will hate the same things that the interpreter hates and support the same things the interpreter supports.

    Were it any other way; wouldn't we have the bible buttoned down after 2000 years of interpretation?

  • Kelly

    John, John, John….really? 5% brain.

    I'll be honest with you. I spent the first 36 years of my life as a non-believer, then 7 as a believer who did "not" question doctrine and the last 2 as Thomas the doubter.

    Their simply are not enough apologists out there, and sadly NO, all Christians are not apologists for Christ (which is what many Christians like to say which causes them to lose my respect because they don't even seem to know what they believe and "why" they believe it. It's like you said….95% emotion. I want what all of you have but attaching the word "truth" to it is the primary reason why I tend to intellectualize it. I must investigate this "truth." I love Jesus but I'm not even sure He would be a Christian as we know it today.

    btw…I like a lot of what you right about. Your blog "Jesus on personal wealth and Paul on homosexuality" was right on! Keep up the good work and God bless.

  • Kelly:

    I am not sure whether you are saying "No amount of apologists could make a compelling argument" or "Christianity needs more apologists in order to make the argument". Re: 'truth' (or 'Truth')…my assessment is that in theistic discussions, 'Truth' is to 'factual knowledge' just as 'Gay' [as in homosexual] is to 'happy'. They ain't related.

  • I’m reminded of the man who many consider to be the greatest Christian apologist of our time: CS Lewis. I love Lewis, not the Narnia stuff, but all his other more philosophical writings. But I never read him when I was an atheist and I doubt many were converted on the basis of his rhetoric, as good as it was (although his wife, Joy, claimed it was his writing that helped bring her to Christianity). I think Lewis is, like most other apologetics, preaching to the choir. And we singers love it because it helps to confirm our decision to hitch our wagons onto this Jesus fellow.

    His most famous ‘proof’ for Jesus’ divinity is the Trilemma – Jesus was either God, or a liar, or a lunatic. But this line of reasoning is terribly flawed because it is founded on a mutual acceptance of the Bible as literal fact. It could be that the stories about Jesus were just made up – that he never actually said the things attributed to him. I think a lot of skeptics believe this (and often with good reason).

    The only way, I think, one can come to believing IN Jesus is experiential, which is usually pretty much emotional in the beginning. But at some point we need to mature in our faith, leaving that self-gratifying ecstatic candy habit behind, and develop deeper, more thoughtful emotional connections with God. Sort of like how a good marriage will grow stronger and deeper after all that romantic ‘in-love’ giddiness has finally worn off.

  • When I cited Lewis in my post, I certainly did not mean to say it was compelling. I have read Lewis and Strobel and pretty much anything else I am challenged to read. While Lewis is certainly be best ‘writer’ of the bunch; every apologist tome that I read falls into the chasm of circular logic and invalid presuppositions.

    Honestly, I am embarassed for those that cite them…and I pity those that actually believe them to be good arguments (at least the ones that I have read).

  • Jesus would not be a Christian as we know it today. There are a number of works that helped me understand what Jesus is saying and what he really meant when he said the things that he did.

    For example The Gospel of Thomas which was discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt never did make it into the Canonical Gospels. Many scholars believe that this Gospel was written before the others. These are simply the sayings of Jesus as Jesus said them to his disciples including Thomas.

    The term Doubting Thomas can be attributed to the Johannine Community. That group believes in the bodily resurrection and dispute Thomas assertion that Jesus entire message to us was about a spiritual resurrection. In other words the body does not matter. After all, is God a body or a spirit? Think about that and mull it over for awhile. I did and it completely changed my life.

    The Gospel of Thomas are simply the sayings of Jesus and does not include the storybook of his life, miracles, relationships, bodily death and then resurrection. There is no guarantee that every saying in the book was said by Jesus but for the most part they ring true for me.

    This Gospel never did make it into the New Testament because Emperor Constantine at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 was sick and tired of the dissension in the early Christian church (sound familiar?) and had it banned and burned. It was interesting to me that many of the mystical elements of this Gospel appear in the works of Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross neither of who were even aware of the Gospel of Thomas and relied on the then existing New Testament as we know it today.

    When I encounter something that resonates with me deep in my gut it usually means for me that I am on to something. Is that emotion? I think that it is much deeper than that. For me it is not the rock star quality Divinity of Jesus that matters. It is his teachings to me that are changing my life and there lies the proof that he knows what he is talking about.

    I have dropped the label of Christian as my identity. But do I have a relationship with Jesus? Yes I do. A very real and very deep relationship that is helping me get closer to Heaven everyday. I don’t talk about it much in my real life or in my cyber life because there is really nothing much to say. Except, Wow!

    With love,


  • Vivian Hernandez

    Hi! Your response was interesting. What do you mean guilt and fear and emotion are gone? Do you mean dont pay attention to them (ya know– sweep them under the rug) and just pray? For example what if I am really experiencing guilt and fear and emotions of all sorts? Just negate them? I would really like to hear from you!

  • Hey Vivian! Quite a lively discussion we have going on in this thread. I am not suggesting that guilt and fear be "swept under the rug". I have found that the only way to get past those negative emotions is to get past them. I'm not talking about a form of denial, but rather forgiveness in the way that Jesus taught me to forgive.

    My experience has been that simply my willingness to forgive anything that is negative or makes me feel bad is enough. The Holy Spirit does the rest. I am not enlightened enough yet to understand why or how that works – but it does. Every single time.

    How I know it works is by realizing (many times long after the feeling or event) that something that would normally push my buttons, or make me angry, or feeling guilty – simply never had the effect that that kind of thing would have in the past. It's just not there!

    The simple act of forgiving a person, event, situation or myself is nothing short of a miracle. There is no denial. It is just gone from my consciousness. Jesus rocks!

    With love,