Science And Religion: God In A Test Tube
Original English Sermon
Authored by Rev. Mike Furey, Georgetown, IN, USA
Text: Exodus 15:26
He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you."
This message deals with the Bible and science. I would urge you
to try to enjoy this message and not think of it as the absolute truth
but as an attempt to put God and guts together. My purpose is to
stimulate thought and maybe some faith. Before I get started I want
to perpetuate this one little tidbit in my memory banks by putting it here.
My son shared an interesting fact related to the life span of dogs.
The purpose of this fact, besides in aiding my feeble memory, is to show
how knowledge is so rapidly advancing. When I was a kid we were told
one human year was worth seven years of a dog year, that is, a dog ages
seven years for every one solar year. According to page 341 of Algebra1
published by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill which was my son's math book, it said
that was not the case. Examine the table below:
|Biological Maturation Equivalents|
|Human Years||Dog Years|
The basic indisputable truth is that those who live a religious lifestyle tend to be healthier than those who don't. As a general rule, a person with faith in God can and does live longer and happier than an atheist; that is scientific fact and not just the hocus pocus of a hollering hillside preacher as evidenced by the pioneering research at Duke University led by Dr Harold G. Koenig through longitudinal study in a scientific clinical context.
I think it is important for the reader to understand my own psychospiritual perspective. I have been trained in both fundamentalist and liberal forms of Christianity. I am not trying to prove creationism or argue for evolution. Proponents of either view seem to get caught up in an emotional maelstrom. It is possible for a Christian to believe in evolution as I know many who do; I prefer the creationist model but realize the Bible is more poetry on this matter than literal science. Christian theology has worked out many of the problems that evolution has seemingly created for theology. The problem is not creationism over against evolution or vice versa. The problem is not academics, but whether a person has a relationship with God. I believe the test tube of every day experience can prove there is a God to you. If you submit your life to God by repentance and faith, then you will have observable results in prayers that have been answered. Specific results in answered prayers is proof enough for me. Arguing about evolution and creationism is cheap talk. But the test tube of prayer brings in "scientific" results. I believe a relationship with Jesus Christ is the key to true prayer and in getting results. However, I am also amazed at how the Lord works in ways I cannot understand and have a feeling he is moving in non christian prayers as it says in the scriptures that he makes it rain on the just and the unjust, so he in his mercy is moving outside the box of Christianity. That is to say, I am also very grateful to Judaism and am a lifelong student of rabbinical teaching and intend to study at a yeshiva during my retirement years (unless some kind hearted soul out there would sponsor such an education for me now!) Going back to the main topic, I am not about to try to persuade anyone to believe in creationism or evolution, but try to reason with you through a sermon based on a composite of scripture and science as to why a life of faith is the best life you can have. I also detest the name calling that goes on on the internet and would call all persons to be respectful of other views and even to learn from one's ideological "enemies." I have learned more from those who disagree with me than those who do. I love nothing less than to have my ideological world destroyed and be forced into a new and bigger box. I have survived several of them. I have evolved and been resurrected. And re-resurrected.
In this message I am going to present my argument of the need to surrender to God in faith from five perspectives:
- physical or medical
I hope I don't make too much of a fool of myself. But then again, based on some of the wild speculations in the mostly excellent writings of some of the greatest of minds in our time such as Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, and Stephen Hawking I needn't worry. Besides his brilliant explanations in A Brief History Of Time, Stephen Hawking comes across as an angry and whiny baby complaining about God's problems. So, I won't feel so bad if I make a jerk of myself too by sharing my opinions.
A Physical Or Medical Reason To Believe In God
I believe I read the phrase "seeing Christ in your cells" in Dr Harold G. Koenig's book The Healing Power Of Faith: Science Explores Medicine's Last Great Frontier, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, April 1999. When a person believes in Jesus Christ, the chemistry of their body is effected, their cells in their body are "saved" to an extent. For instance, a practiced faith in God produces a calmer person which reduces one's cortisol level, a stress hormone. A variety of chemical changes take place in a person who practices his or her faith. Science is only beginning to chart this new frontier. To encapsulate the findings of Koenig's research I offer the following quotation from page 215 of said book.
We were able to demonstrate a consistent relationship between religious attendance and immune status, as seen through IL-6 [interleukin-6, a protein] levels and other biological indicators of immune function and inflammation. Although our findings, per se, do not prove that frequent religious attendance invariably leads to better physical health by strengthening the immune system, we believe the investigation has broken ground on an important frontier of medical research.
The point is when we become one with God, we tend to become healthier. It makes sense that once we give up some sinful habits such as alcohol or promiscuity that we would be healthier. But, the health benefits to spirituality go beyond the repentance stage. Koenig's research offers evidence that people with a relationship with God heal faster, are happier, can get out of depression faster, can beat drug habits where no other cure is possible, have better marriages, have stronger immune systems, and have a better supply of tools (such as a loving faith community) to face the problems of life than do the non religious. Even when people don't know they are being prayed for their healing times are faster. People "who both attended religious service and prayed or studied the Bible frequently were 40 percent less likely to have diastolic hypertension than those who attended services and prayed or read the Bible infrequently," p. 193. In one study of the correlation of attendance at religious service and reduced health risk that lasted from 1965 to 1994 of 5,286 people, they found that for people who went to church frequently (for instance, twice a week) the hazard of dying was 36 percent less than for people who went to services less than once a week, p. 165.
Nobody is perfect, but in a relationship with God all of us sinners under grace can be the best persons and healthiest persons we could ever possibly be. For instance, take the effects of anger on the human body. I borrow the following ideas from Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, New York, NY: Bantam Books, October 1995, pp. 169 ff. Even Christians get mad, but being a Christian helps us to deal with problems, reduce stress, and keep our conscience sensitive so that it takes more to get us mad than it used to; being a Christian should keep us open to personal growth and change. Smoking is bad for the heart and the cardiovascular system, but anger is even worse for the heart than smoking. If you had a choice to give up getting mad and blowing up or lighting up and blowing smoke from a cigarette, you would do better to get your anger under control and keep smoking. Each time a person is enraged, he or she causes microscopic tears on the blood vessels and the heart. These tears undermine and finally deteriorate the cirulatory system to the point a person in a fit of rage could literally drop dead from a heart attack. When I was a teenager, I worked as "an office boy" for a lawyer who was a very fine person but had a terrible temper. He would get so angry on the telephone and slam the receiver down so hard that he would break the phone. I saw him do that a time or two during my two years of employment there. I heard from the secretaries about some other times I had missed and they would always snicker quietly so the boss wouldn't hear. I saw him mad many times and was amazed at the intensity of his rage. He was heading for heart attack country. He needed to bring this weakness to the Lord and fight this behavior through his faith in God. Christ does want to affect our lives and wants our hearts to be healthy at all levels. We have a physical and medical reason to believe.
A Genetic Reason To Believe In God
This next reason to believe can stand as a sermon in and of itself. In fact, I have preached this by itself in churches on at least two occasions. I remember in one particular church that I felt it had been too much for the audience to absorb in a thirty minute talk. And admittedly, because it is too speculative it may be inappropriate for a Sunday morning sermon, where thunder and lightning from God is the only acceptable form of communication. Perhaps it will be more acceptable and digestible in print. I am aware that it might be found ludicrous for someone trained fully in genetic research and I would be glad to be updated by anyone with such technical expertise; my opinion is based on a layperson's impressions. I'll have to take the risk and travel on in the great sea of knowledge. Everything I say here is just an attempt at making sense of science and scripture, too very different ways of knowing.
Chromosomes are made of genes. A gene is a unit of inheritance. A gene is made up of DNA chemicals, proteins and enzymes. There are 100,000 genes on 23 pairs of human chromosomes. Over 3,000 different known genetic diseases have been found. Hemophilia is passed on from mother to son. Half of her daughters will carry the gene. Half of her sons will have the disease. Your height, eye color, nose size, sex, even intelligence and possibly predispositions to behaviors are encoded in the gene map. That is how they can say alcoholism is a disease or genetic predisposition. I believe homosexuality begins at this level. That is how gays and lesbians have some basis to claim, "God made me that way."
All living things are made up of DNA chemicals. From bacteria to humans, the same basic elementary building materials is there. It is possible to take the DNA chemicals from a human and transplant them into a bacterium or a mouse. It has been done successfully. This could change the meaning of "He's a rat!" DNA-loaded chromosomes and the genes that hold it all determine whether a limb will be hand, fin, or paw. At the genetic level the main difference between a human and a simian is one chromosome. Apes have 24 pairs; humans have 23. If evolution were true, it occurs at this level, at the level of reshuffling the deck of chromosomes and adding another card. The number of chromosomes, their arrangement, and their intensity determine that hand, fin, or paw. A similar activity can occur at the molecular level. One additional proton can change a hydrogen atom to the next chemical up on the periodic table of chemical elements. No wonder people argue for ever about a common ancestry (evolution) or a common designer (creationism) when both look quite true at this level. But, life is more than just chemical composition. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley tried to tell us that in her novel, Frankenstein, published in 1818. A scientist creates a living being in his laboratory, but the creature is hideous to look at. It appears to be a monster. Frankenstein was actually a caring and warm creature, only a bit too ugly for the eyes. Because it was hated and feared by everyone, it soon really turned into a killing machine monster.
The division between life and chemical seems blurred. Chlorophyll in a green leaf provides the best example of life created from the synthesis of energy and raw chemical. The sunlight shines on the leaf. The energy of the light causes a chemical reaction, the production of food in the chlorophyll. This productivity allows the plant to grow and live. It is an example of the link between chemicals and life and provides an argument for evolutionary theory that life is a process of chemical reactions. For evolutionists it is an example of how living things could have evolved from mere chemicals to living chemicals, creatures. But, we are more than just chemical reactions. We are more than just a system of genes ordering about our very body and being as though chemically and behaviorally predetermined. What makes us more than just a pile of chemicals? What is the difference between chemical processes and life? What is the difference between neurons and synapses sending electrical impulses with dopamine and serotonin through its network in the human brain and the actual images, memories, and feelings we experience? There must be some difference because science is still unable to simply mix "dead" amino acids and polypeptides together to design their own DNA and then create living beings "from scratch". They can take the preexisting building blocks of life and fashion so-called "test tube" babies and clone new life from preexisting life. They can take already living things and grow them in new environments from a test tube then implant it into a surrogate mother's womb to finish the job, but they cannot create life itself ex chimico, they can only take what lives, borrow from it and transplant it. Scientists cannot create what the Hebrew shepherd-prophets called "nephesh." Nephesh is the living soul in all life, the breath, the life force. It is believed to be linked etymologically to the word "throat." It is where the sacrificial knife was applied so that the life force in the blood would be spilled out into the priestly bowl and then the blood was sprinkled onto the altar and the process of evil would be halted in the sinner's life and a feeling of forgiveness set in his or her heart. That's pretty good chemistry for the soul. In sum, scientists cannot jump start a chemical composition and add the spark of life. They cannot give birth to pure life itself. Only God can.
Only God. God has created ex nihilo. Please follow my line of reasoning in order to see how it might fit in with genetics. You can understand this entire section as literal or as mythical, but here is an argument for creationism. We can invent but only God can create in the Hebrew sense of "bara." How God created the world is given in poetic terms. Genesis tells us the origin of the universe in poetic language. Poetry is a way to say something in a way that shows love and elevates that truth to a higher level. If a man wants to tell his wife how much he loves her, he must write it in poetry or beautiful prose and must never come to the end of the telling. If he says, "Let me count the ways," he had better not stop counting... Genesis poetically tells us the world was created in six days and on the seventh day God rested. Was God tired? No. The word "rest" is "Sabbath," which is a prescriptive teaching that humans need to work six days and rest for one in the worship of God. The purpose of Genesis is not to teach us how to build rockets or to do science, but to guide us in matters of morality and give us wisdom for living. The purpose of Genesis is to say God made the world. How did he make it? With love and care. One day in the Lord is like a thousand years. The days in Genesis could be twenty-four hours or one thousand years or millions of years. It is not the emphasis. How old was Adam when he was made? One second. But he looked like a fully grown adult male. He was probably a fully matured male in the physical sense with an apparent age of thirty years, yet he was only one second old. How old were the trees at creation? One second. But if you would have cut one down and counted the rings it would have been a hundred years or whatever number. The gold in the mountains was already millions of years old at creation. The light traveling from the stars to earth was just one second old, yet the light was trillions of light years away and a trillion years old. That was the world at one second old when Genesis is taken literally.
But Adam and Eve sinned. Yet, the potential to sin was already in them before they actually committed the act of sin. Original sin, what rabbis call the evil inclination, as described in Psalm fifty-one and not in the sense of Augustine was in them at creation. After they sinned, the rest of creation changed. Thorns popped out on the stems of the rose bush. Serpents began to crawl. Pain came. Fear came. Lying. And then came children. Adam and Eve did not have children until after the Fall. Therefore, it must have been less than nine months that Adam and Eve had lived in a pristine way because it didn't take them very long to sin. The sin that Adam and Eve committed was not in having sex as so many believe and so many ancient near eastern cuneiform texts seem to suggest, but in taking a fruit from a tree, that is, in disobeying a command from God. If we believe this story comes from God, whether literally or mythically, there could be some guidance as to the nature versus nurture controversy. That is, their sinfulness was already in them at creation. They made a choice to disobey God. They were built with the possibility to choose as free creatures not robots. Our flesh is inherently sinful and even predisposed to certain sins. In addition, they were tempted externally, that is outside of their bodies, by a tempter called the serpent, Satan. The Evil one knew that within humankind was a propensity, a predisposition to make choices, good or bad. He exploited that. I suggest that each one of us has genetic predispositions to certain behaviors, good and bad, which Christian theology has classically called original sin and Judaism calls the evil inclination. The nature versus nuture controversy would have to end with both sides being right: a human being is influenced from within and without since conception and birth.
I make the claim we have a genetic predisposition to sin based on the inherent sinfulness of the primordial couple and on the claim that alcoholism has medically been declared a genetic disease and that according to gene studies homosexuality is a given part of one's unchosen facticity at birth. But, just because we have a gene does not mean we are destined to a genetically determined fate. I believe we have the nature or the genetic codes that make us prone or susceptible to be an alcoholic, a thief, a liar, or whatever. It does not mean we must be an alcoholic but that we have the physical potential based on chemical alignment that attracts one to a behavior, in this case, a sinful behavior. The potential behavior (nature) is released by repeated exposure to one's environment (nurture) and there are forces and temptations that will elicit the potential behavior and inclination. The Bible and science teach that sin or dysfunctional behavior is pased on like a family tradition. One alcoholic parent will produce another alcoholic child in most cases. A spouse abuser, a wife beater begats a wife beater in many cases. A child molester is born from a child molester. Many molesters can never be rehabilitated and in such cases I believe the death penalty is necessary to stop "the molesting gene." By the way, I abhor the death penalty but think it is a social necessity in cases of murder, drug lording, and molestation.
If our genes are loaded with predispositions to bad behaviors are we then responsible for our actions? Predisposition does not mean destiny. To carry the alcoholic gene does not mean one will be an alcoholic. In addition, Adam and Eve were held responsible and had to face the consequence of their bad choice. We are responsible for our behavior and when faced with temptation we are responsible for resisting it. For example, some people must have a gene that makes them more sexually active than others. The Bible warns us not to commit adultery because in so doing we might just activate this part of our nature and it becomes hard to stop. I think many homosexuals also have faced some type of environmental or external influence that had released this latent gene. A young and innocent boy is abused by some pedophile. The boy is shocked at the experience, but in a frightening sense he has received some pleasure though forced upon him. This minimal pleasure is sufficient to create a craving and the gene is put into action, not to mention the guilt for not totally abhorring the experience. The etiology of homosexuality is unknown; I am only merely suggesting one possible etiological scenario. Of course, not everyone who is abused by an adult in this way becomes a homosexual, but those with the genetic predisposition will face the call of nature and believe God made them that way.
God is not responsible; we are. We all have sinful seeds in us that date back to the Garden. Where did Adam and Eve get the genes for their sin? God made a good world: no death was in it, except he said, "If you do not obey me, you will die." When Adam and Eve disobeyed, death was released from their gene codes. They did not die physically right away, but the process of aging and death began just as when we worry or lie, poisonous chemicals are released into our body and our immune system is compromised, so death began its work of releasing dormant genes. This sinful nature is called "the old man." It takes the power of Christ to stop "the old man." He wants to create "a new man (or person)" within us by our faith. Christ can give us a freedom or the power to overcome our nature and nurturing. The sinful predispositions we have can be treated by the Spirit of God in his amazing grace who uses our faith, awareness, self responsibility, and submission to grant us new life and release new genetic predispositions for the God lead life. I can't prove that new genes will find activation through Christ but I will leave that up to Dr. Koenig as he journeys through the faith and flesh frontier.
To put it theologically, the Adam needs to die in us and Christ needs to be made alive in us. I believe that submission to the Lord Jesus Christ is the only cure for sin and in particular for genetic predispositions to sin. It is a scientific fact that rehabilitation does not work with child molesters. Ninety percent of all child molesters are never cured. Modern psychiatry has concluded that the only ones who can be cured must have only had one such experience, had been caught within six months of the crime, used no drugs or alcohol, have a good circle of friends to help them through, etc. But, I believe that the old Adam can be put down (but always lurks behind) and the new Adam can be raised up in the power of Christ. As long as the saved perpetrator is following Christ he has the power to keep from repeating such an awful crime. As long as "the new man created in Christ Jesus" is being nurtured spiritually and faithfully, "the old man" will not be in control of this "molesting gene."
Getting back to the issue of responsibity, I would add this based on Erik Erikson's book Young Man Luther: A Study In Psychoanalysis And History, New York, NY: W.W. Norton And Company, Inc., 1958, 1962 in which he psychoanalyzes Martin Luther. The great reformer Martin Luther seemed to have inherited a bull headed obsessive compulsive neurosis from his father. His father was extremely stubborn; so was Luther. He had a big clash with his dad over going to law school. Luther did not want to go. He withdrew from the world and especially his father's wrath. Luther had a perfectionist mindset. He subsequently had a guilty conscience all the time. As a monk, whenever he went to confession he would confess for hours. At the monastery they had all the sins one could commit listed into about seven categories of venial and mortal sins. Martin Luther did not simply and quickly seek forgiveness according to category al all the other monks would, he went into detail and delved into motives as if psychoanalyzing his evil nature before Sigmund Freud ever hit the scene. Luther was super faithful in evey monastic detail. He had every word of the mass memorized and would never miss a syllable. When he pilgrimaged to the Vatican and heard the priests give mass, he was appalled because they did it sloppily and sometimes said dirty words in the mass on purpose to entertain the lower elements of the crowd. Martin Luther kept every ritual perfectly but never found peace. His soul felt more wretched than ever because he could not keep the rules flawlessly. He felt hopeless and condemned. Some say he carried this mood with him on his kness up each step of the basillica while reciting a "Hail Mary" upon each step whereupon he suddenly came to the realization of justification by faith, which would initiate the Protestant Reformation. Rather than on the holy flight of stairs in Rome, Erikson is more inclined to believe that Luther did his best thinking while "on the pot" in Germany. Luther had been meditating on the Psalms during one of his major studies on them. Luther did a lot of his meditating while occupied with his earthly duties and during one occasion he came to the conclusion that "the just shall live by faith." His conscience had been driving him crazy, but it also lead him to spiritual freedom: He re-discovered for mainstream Christianity the truth of justification by faith. He re-discovered the need for the old man to die and the new man to be made alive in Christ. His nature drove him to it. His nurturing drove him to it. But, ultimately his own will drove him to it. He made a choice to be a monk and placed himself in a spiritually concentrated environment, he made his own decision to meditate operating out of his basic genetic nature to be stubborn and determined. He made a decision to keep on meditating. He did what he wanted to within the confines of his inherited personality, but the real key to his releasing such predisposition of stubborness to compulsiveness to his moment of grace was his will. He chose to keep going in the direction of his inner inclination. What are our inclinations? Do we chose to be carried by them or to will a change? Will we act just as our parents have with all their weaknesses such as alcoholism or will we fight the inner and outer forces that would propel us downward? What do we want to do? Adam and Eve wanted to eat a particular forbidden object, they did so. It was in their flesh to do it. But it was also in their mind or will to do it. Their free will existed before their sin was committed. What then do we desire? We do wrong in most cases because we want to. Then as we release the power of a particular gene trait, it becomes a habit that is almost unbreakable. Such behaviors become so unbreakable, only death can stop its power; that is, a spiritual death in Christ or actual physical death. That's a good reason to believe in God and get the resurrected life.
By way of concluding this reason on why to believe in God, is the genetic predisposition so strong that laws have been issued in the Old Testament with the severest of penalties? What I mean is, are genetic predispositions why the rigors of Old Testament law said things like Deuteronomy 21:18-21?
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard." Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.A Psychological Reason To Believe In God
I will offer two reasons related to one's state of mind as to why one should believe in God. One is because of the self-control factor. Respect for God means a respect for law. The Bible says the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Science says the beginning of learning is impulse control or self-control. I am indebted to Daniel Goleman for his research. He discusses the case of "The Marshmallow Test" in both of his books on emotional intelligence. The results of this experiment at Stanford University can be found on pp. 80 ff in Emotional Intelligence and on pp. 78-80 in Working With Emotional Intelligence, New York, NY: Bantam Books, October 1998. Basically the test went like this:
Four-year-olds in the Stanford preschool were brought into a room one by one, a marshmallow was put on the table in front of them, and they were told, "You can have this marshmallow now if you want, but if you don't eat it until after I run an errand, you can have two when I return.
In this longitudinal study, those who showed no impulse control but grabbed it right away or even after the researcher had left were compared to those who waited. Fourteen years later, the children with self control had "a remarkable 210 points higher (out of a possible 1,600) on the SAT, the college entrance exam." He attributes this to the fact that children who are driven by impulse are more easily distracted, thereby having a harder time paying attention in class. In addition to an academic advantage, children with self control fared better in their ability to "develop genuine and close friendship, were more dependable and responsible, and showed better self-control in the face of frustration."
Nearly everyone who goes to Sunday school has learned that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Now, with a psychological counterpart to this spiritual truth we can see that the self-control which comes from being obedient to the Lord because of a basic respect for his law is a psychological advantage for a believer.
The second reason related to one's state of mind as to why one should believe in God is that believing in God helps one live a happy life rather than the depressed life we are all too familiar with in our every day sphere of friends, associates, neighbors, and relatives. I think Dr. Harold G. Koenig reports a wonderful story of a Mr. Frank Kozoman and his journey out of despair, pp. 143-148. Frank recently had gone through a divorce and had quit his position in engineering research to start his own business. He exercised regularly and had a decent physique, but that changed the day he slipped off a roof after stringing up some Christmas lights. He would suffer paralysis from spinal damage the rest of his life. Needless to say, he felt his life would just be full of misery and immobility so he asked his son for a gun so he could terminate his life. His son refused to get the hand gun for his dad. After he hits rock bottom, Frank's life is changed by the people who reach out to him. The church that prays for him and builds him a ramp at home. The chaplain who holds his hand in prayer and returns even though he was thrown out during one of Frank's depressed states. Frank eventually rebounds and finds that he does still have a life, only a different kind of life. His faith in God helped him recapture the joie de vivre. His faith in God provided mental energy for him to rebuild his life and continue his business. As it says in Nehemiah 8:10, "The joy of the Lord is our strength;" and that's a pretty good advantage for believers in God.
A Sociological Reason To Believe In God
Perhaps the aforementioned point under the psychological reason to believe in God pertaining to the faith community that assisted Mr. Frank Kozoman back to a healthy perspective should be listed here. Any way, it seems people are having so much trouble just getting along with each other. People are emotionally retarded.
I believe half of my job at church or at my secular job is to get along with my co-workers. I am not "a pro" at human relations, but I put it at the highest priority, especially if I expect to keep my job anywhere. During my seminary training as a minister I took a course in pastoral counseling that required 400 hours of clinical setting at a major nine floor hospital. Part of the training was not only that we would visit hospital patients and deal with emergency room situations, but that we would undergo a kind of individual and group psychoanalysis several times a week for the entire course. It was the most challenging and rigorous course I ever had to take. One of the main lessons I learned was to always be aware of my feelings as I minister to people or in any interpersonal transaction.
We must be aware of our feelings because the way we act in a given situation will have been tempered to a great degree by the inner feelings we hold, whether consciously aware of them or not. I began to apply this new skill in different situations and to this day I am aware of the information I get from my feelings and how it "informs" a situation. When I don't feel myself liking a person, I tell myself it is okay not to like someone but to work harder to improve that relationship and I also call upon the Father to assist me in being the kind of person who can love my neighbor as myself. The constant demand from the scriptures to love my neighbor and even my enemy keeps me from giving up on people and "throwing them out of my life." That sociological interpersonal reality is one of the most valuable aspects to being a believer.
Several years ago I first read Daniel Goleman's book on emotional intelligence and with the recent sequel to it, I read it and the first one again, I must say this series has furthered my knowledge on getting along with others. I recommend you buy it for your personal library. I would like to try to explain, borrowing heavily from Goleman's own wording, one of the principles he expounded for understanding and dealing with emotions. The following points come out of IE pp. 17-29, 221-224, 276, 291 and out of Working pp. 22-23, 74-78.
He describes "an emotional hijacking." Again, I have pulled different quotes from his book and joined them together here. In an emergency situation, feelings kick in first, then our thoughts. A researcher by the name of LeDoux discovered that sensory signals from the eye or ear travel first in the brain to the thalamus, and then --across a single synapse-- to the amygdala; a second signal from the thalamus is routed to the neocortex --the thinking brain. This branching allows the amygdala to begin to respond before the neocortex, which mulls the information through several levels of brain circuits before it fully perceives and finally initiates its more finely tailored response... This allows us to spring to action, so that we jump out of the way, making split decisions like, do I eat this or does this thing eat me?... This circuit does much to explain the power of emotion to overwhelm rationality...T his bypass seems to allow the amygdala to be a repository for emotional impressions and memories... This means that the brain has two memory systems, one for ordinary facts and one for emotionally charged ones...
We remember emergencies here or our first dates, those situations loaded with emotion. The problem is emotional memories are not always a reliable source. One drawback of such neural alarms is that the urgent message the amygdala sends is sometimes... out-of-date. As the repository for emotional memory it scans experience, comparing what is happening now with what happened in the past. Its method of comparison is associative... Thus, a former army nurse, traumatized by the relentless flood of ghastly wounds she once tended in wartime, is suddenly swept with a mix of dread, loathing, and panic --a repeat of her battlefield reaction triggered once again, years later, by the stench when she opens a closet door to find her toddler has stashed a stinking diaper there. So, we need to be aware of the emotional history we have. What dangers have we faced? Who hurt us? Because these memories are stored in our brain permanently and kick in first in any situation that looks similar to the original. If an amygdala memory is stirred, our hormones secrete stress hormones, mainly cortisol. This is energy for fight or flight. More blood goes to our muscles and less to our thinking part of our brain. Cortisol actually steals resources from our rational memory so that we make more errors when nervous and we "can't think straight." Exhaustion can come from a sustained level of stress and worse, a lasting, dulling effect on the intellect can take place if stress is prolonged.
The key then is to be aware of one's past experiences and feelings and to not allow emotionally charged memories to dominate. We have to let our feelings inform us, but we do not need to allow them to impulsively dictate to us or keep us in a distracted state. We can teach ourselves not to be ruled by these emotional entrapments, but their presence will never truly leave us. Goleman says when an emotional hijacking occurs to stop, calm down, think before you act, say the problem and how you feel, set a positive goal, think of lots of solutions, think ahead to the consequences, go ahead and try the best plan. To that I say "Amen" to God and "Thank you" to Dr. Goleman.
A Spiritual Reason To Believe In God
Lastly, I would like to briefly mention a spiritual reason to believe in God. I will share a famous quote from a classical Christian theologian named Augustine and a quote that says something similar to Augustine from a contemporary rabbinical scholar the late Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik.
At creation humans were given "the imago Dei" or the image of God. We were good. But, when we sinned we caused a disruption, an alienation, a separation from God, a brokenness in our humanity, we became sinners. We deserved death. God sent Jesus Christ to repair the damage of sin. God wants to live with us once again and what's more he even wants to live inside us. We must ask God to repair our damaged selves and receive new life from above. We must invite God into our hearts to live and teach us. A concept attributed to Augustine goes like this: There is a hole in our hearts that only God can fill. You will hear quite often preachers and singers make reference to this theological truism. I will quote the entire paragraph from which this is derived:
Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is thy power, and infinite is thy wisdom."  And man desires to praise thee, for he is a part of thy creation; he bears his mortality about with him and carries the evidence of his sin and the proof that thou dost resist the proud. Still he desires to praise thee, this man who is only a small part of thy creation. Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.
Similar to this beautiful quote is Rabbi Soloveitchik's quote about "an unseverable umbilical cord" all humans have to God. Soloveitchik said, "...man, born in the image of God, always remains, as it were in the Divine Presence. He can never completely free himself from the religious attraction which draws him to God, which is akin to an unseverable umbilical cord. Man cannot flee from God because God chose the human soul as a dwelling place much like a temple."
We must invite God to live in us; otherwise, the vacuum of Augustine will still need filling and the attraction of Soloveitchik will keep on tugging. Our brokenness and sin-lead lives continue until ultimate death and total separation from God becomes eternal. A relationship with Jesus Christ is the key to becoming one with God. He offered his body as payment for our sin debt. Confession is the first step in healing and salvation. We were made to love the Lord. There are a whole lot of reasons we ought to. A few have been listed here. Don't let my poor attempt at uniting science and scripture, which is the almost impossible task of uniting objectivity and subjectivity, keep you from performing your own tests into the truth of religious reality.