The question: Do we experience spiritual reality as much as physical reality? Apparently not. Shouldn’t we? Apparently so, since the Church teaches we are spirit-matter hybrids, a unity of spirit and flesh. Why don’t we? I understand that sin separates us from God (literally, by definition), so the more we sin the less we see and know God, but it seems the reverse should be true as well (the less we sin, the more we should see), yet it doesn’t seem to be: After receiving the Sacrament of Confession, being forgiven of all sin, being “clean”, refraining from sin, I still cannot experience God in the Eucharist – I “just chew on a wafer” for a few moments, swallow, and that is all.
I have thought to posit “the stain of original sin” as being something that makes us unable to experience spiritual realities, but this seems an inadequate response, merely “adding on to” a hypothesis ad hoc to explain away the problem, the same way Trent Horn criticizes the Flying Spaghetti Monster parody in his Answering Atheism.
The background for this question: This question has come up as part of my most recent trial of faith, “Is belief in God self-delusion? What evidence is there that supports atheism?” It seems to me the fact that we don’t experience spiritual reality “just as much as” physical reality is evidence for atheism. Trent Horn says there are no good reasons for believing atheism is true, but I think there are good reasons if one honestly thinks about it. He presents a straw man of this line of thinking by dealing in his book only with the simplistic arguments, “The universe is larger/smaller than we would expect if God were to exist,” but I think my argument here is much deeper. Just as Horn says that not finding presents from Santa under the tree, instead parents putting them there, is evidence that Santa does not exist, so here the fact that we do not experience spiritual realities, but only through physical means (sacraments, thought) assert that we experience them, is evidence that spiritual realities do not exist, or that we are not spirit-body hybrids, and hence the Church is wrong. No experience of spiritual realities = no presents from Santa under the tree; relying on physical means (sacraments, thought) = parents putting presents from Santa under the tree.
What would experiencing spiritual reality be like? Well, perhaps what I am thinking of is heaven, but one could still imagine something similar on earth: Being able to see angels and demons when they are interacting with us, actually having conversations with God where God actually answers you (private revelation) when you are in right standing with the Church, in communion with Him (perhaps through proxy, as Our Lady of Akita used Sister Agnes’ guardian angel – obviously the All Holy Infinite God is too much for humans to bear directly), perhaps even “walking with God” at times as fabled in the Old Testament (early on, I suppose before everyone started “sinning it up” by the time of Noah) perhaps with Jesus (again, since we can relate to God on a human level, but not as God exists Within Himself), or conversing with one’s guardian angel. We see there are many ways we could experience spiritual reality. If we are engaged in spiritual warfare, actually seeing the war – the demons attacking us – would be a good start. (You must identify your enemy to fight him! You can’t pull the trigger of your weapon until your sights are on your target!) Seeing the Body of Christ when it actually becomes the Body of Christ would be another example.
Such a reality would not necessarily deprive us of free will, either: Just as we forget the details of a vacation when we return to daily life, and it comes to seem like a dream, so too could our walking with God if we commit sin. The same happens when we turn away from friends and family in real life: Out of sight, out of mind. How many relatives or classmates have you forgotten about since you’ve moved away from them and stopped communicating with them? More to the point, how many turned away from Jesus while they were actually walking with Him?! This is even recorded in John 6. But to be fair to my argument, perhaps here, too, they only experienced physical reality – hence they turned away from Jesus because they saw only a human being. But maybe they saw Him work miracles, too – and this would be another example of experiencing spiritual reality: God actually healing people when they have faith, and not making them continue suffering in silence.
Sometimes I pray and answers do come to mind. Is this my guardian angel answering me? Presumably not: When answers come to mind, it is on a topic I have studied. When I ask harder questions that I genuinely do not know the answers to – “For what purpose am I suffering this? How much longer must I suffer this?” I am met with silence. So it seems answers that come to mind during prayer or meditation come from my own brain, and not from an external source.
So it seems God puts us in the unfair position of blindfolding us and numbing our senses to spiritual reality, making us form conclusions about it, and then rewarding or punishing us for eternity based on our conclusions. It seems like a game show where someone numbs your tongue, makes you taste-test two foods, and then forces you to eat a meal of the one that seemed to taste better when you couldn’t really taste anything.
[continued in next post]