Unfalsifiable Hypothesis – Part 2

As evidence for the existence of a god, one often hears from the religious about their personal feelings, things like “i feel the presence of Jesus (or Allah, or Buddha, or whatever god they believe in) in my heart”. This feeling is usually especially enhanced when they are performing the rituals and acts of the religion with others. One hears this sort of evidence is used as confirmation of beliefs very often. But what would happen if you lacked these feelings? Not just as an unbeliever, but as a committed religious person, you lost all such feelings of divine presence, what would your religious officials tell you?

Enter Mother Teresa. In late 2007 her letters to the Vatican were finally released to the public. In these letters she expressed extreme doubt, a crisis of faith. One of the most striking lines was:

Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.

What do I labour for? If there be no God — there can be no soul — if there is no Soul then Jesus — You also are not true

Time magazine wrote:

Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she writes, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.” Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love,” she remarks to an adviser. “If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'”

Even when partaking in the sacraments she felt nothing. This is considered to be no small thing.

But what was she told from her correspondent at the Vatican? She was told, essentially, that this is a good thing. That the emptiness and pain and absence she feels is her taking a share of the pain of Jesus’ crucifixion. In her Public life she constantly (and falsely) professed to feel the presence of god. In her private letters she reveals that she felt a complete empty void there. Either way it means that what she feels is confirmation of a god.

A good line from the author Sam Harris sums up the idea of the unfalsifiable hypothesis very well:

Consider what it means when even the doubts of experts are used to confirm a doctrine.


2 Responses to “Unfalsifiable Hypothesis – Part 2”

  1. The whole concept of feeling the presence of whatever deity you worship is one of the most ludicrous (lol i love that word) aspects of the devoutly religious. Peoples infallible desire to read things far beyond the simple truth of situations has always made little sense to me. As for the church covering up these letters, and for their actual replies to Teresa, no empire has ever been founded on more lies and violence than the Vatican.

  2. I largely agree with Chaotika. However, I think we might disagree on the aspect of feeling a being’s “presence”. If someone says that they can literally sense that their deity is physically near them then I think it’s a bunch of bull. However, I think it’s quite common to have a feeling of contentment, safety, and things of that sort if someone is happy with their religion.

    Considering that I think that religion is a social construct that people have created in order to explain that which they do not understand, I think that feeling “lead” to a certain decision is simply their mind telling them what they already know is the best idea.

    Religion is complex and I think just a bunch of emotions.

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