Why We Should Trust Reason Over Emotion

Jennifer sent in this question:

Why is logic so much more superior to an emotional way of thinking? I was raised in Pentecostalism, and I always witnessed amazing miraculous acts – people getting “healed” right in front of me, speaking in tongues, and general “proof” as given by the Holy Spirit. What, is it all a big scam and lie? People I’ve known for years that I’ve known with diseases and cancer suddenly don’t have them any more for no reason? I mean, you can’t explain that. Am I a blimey ignorant fool for assuming that it’s God when there is no other explanation?

I think dismissing miracles, especially after you witness one in person or see the intimidating practice of Pentecostalism in action — is extremely ignorant. Also, one thing that really irritates me about agnostics is the demands of proof.

Why Trust Reason?

When it comes to finding truth, reason is superior over emotion because it works. It’s really as simple as that. Emotion can only tell you that you’re experiencing emotion — it cannot tell you anything about the cause of the experience, nor any truth claim behind it.

I once argued with a pair of Mormons on my doorstep. I thought I had thoroughly decimated their arguments, but they kept pleading with me to “just read the Book of Mormon” and it would tell me it was true. How would it do that? They said I would feel a burning in my heart, and that was evidence the book was really from God.

Bullshit. It could be indigestion. It could be anger. It could be I like the story — or hate it. But a “burning in my heart” does not mean their claim is true. It just means I had a burning sensation. You can see this easily by changing their claim: “If you feel a burning in your heart while you read Harry Potter, then it means God wrote the book and wants you to become a clown.” Doesn’t sound all that convincing now, does it?

Unfortunately, I used the same argument as an evangelical Christian. “The Bible is God’s Word,” I would tell people, “Just read it for yourself, God will testify with his Holy Spirit that it is indeed inspired by God. You’ll feel it in your heart and God will bring you to himself. Please, dear sinner, read this book!” Some people would read it and shrug their shoulders. But others would read it and have a life-changing experience. But Mormons have similar experiences. So do Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and others.

Experience Is Valid, But It’s Not Proof

Whose experience is valid? All of them, of course! Experiences are experiences and all people have them. But just because someone has an experience does not mean all their religious claims are true, it only means they had experiences, just like everyone else.

If we trust in experience, we are doomed to subjectivity. Yet there is no other way to test religious claims, since they can never produce real evidence for their claims.

All religions play on emotions like fear, guilt, love and acceptance. Without emotion, they are doomed, because they do not have sufficient evidence to convince skeptics. That is why you rarely hear of someone converted because of the overwhelming evidence for Jesus’ resurrection — no, they start out saying that they were at a low point, and they met a Christian who told them about the love of Jesus who can save them from their guilt and give them a new life, or they started going to church and becoming part of the community.

Emotion, not reason. If the person had started asking questions about how they knew this Jesus existed and what exactly he said, it is very unlikely they would have continued down the path to faith.

Miracles Would Be Proof

Jennifer says that it is “ignorant” to dismiss miracles. And if there were real miracles, I would agree — why would someone dismiss amazing things that really happened? But no one has been able produce a real miracle. Thousands of miracles have been disproven or shown to be lies, and not one has been shown to be anything amazing. People can only say that “a friend” saw something, or point to an ancient book that says a miracle happened. No proof but hearsay.

The healing “miracles” that happen in churches are always subjective or things that can go away on their own. You never see amputee’s limbs growing back. If we did, we’d all believe in miracles — who wouldn’t want to believe in them?

What do you think — should we trust reason over emotion?

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