Friday, 6 July 2012

Dissecting the Christian cliché of having a 'God-shaped hole in your heart'.

So. I have a God-shaped hole in my heart?

That is a verifiable claim.

Perhaps I should be volunteering to the University of Christian Cardiology to isolate the physical properties of the Christian God?

Two immediate problems spring to mind;

  • There is no University of Christian Cardiology
  • Were such an entity to exist, I feel they would rather pluck their eyes out than offer the wider scientific community the opportunity to search for God shaped entities in reality 

Of course, it may be the case that I am simply equivocating the theological definition of 'heart'. If this be the case, what is the Christian definition of the word 'heart'?

Jerry Solomon, of Probe Ministries, explains it thus;

The Bible refers to the heart of man frequently. "The heart is the focus of mind, feeling, and will; it stands for the whole personality."{5} Jesus is to "take up residence" in our whole personality. So when a Christian says Jesus is in my heart there is a literal implication. Jesus resides supernaturally in the believer through His Spirit. This is an astounding doctrine that indicates a transformed person! May our Lord lead us to continue sharing His presence in our lives by indicating that we understand truly what it means to say I have Jesus in my heart. [source]

Apart from the fallacy of quoting the bible as an explanation or evidence of a given phenomena - the bible is the claim not the evidence - there are substantive reasons for dismissing such theological etymologies. 

From what I can gather from this brief outline, the Christian 'heart' is equatable to - or synonymous with - the 'id'.

Of course, I haven't the faintest idea - beyond theological convention and tradition - why Christians continue to use the term. It has no explanatory powers in its own right - unlike the id - and has been replaced in thoughtful circles by a meaningful and coherent explanation of our base natures.

The Christian may be correct in saying that the word 'heart' etymologically pre-dates the 'id' by some 1,000 years, but English is a language in constant development. Sometimes we introduce better and more coherent definitions to existing words, and other times new words are introduced if the previously understood terms do not suffice in explaining the phenomena being described. 

With that in mind, I feel that not adopting the id as a better and more coherent  definition of the phenomena we are discussing here is tantamount to rejecting it altogether (a case of sticking-head-in-the-sand-ism?) or holding onto a definition precisely because it doesn't explain the phenomena in a coherent and meaningful manner; something I fail to countenance.

The dictionary does, in fact, give a definition that closely approaches the Christian perspective on the definition of 'heart';

3. the center of the total personality, especially with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion: In your heart you know I'm an honest man. [source]

But, as I have alluded to, it is vague and unhelpful, and is better described by the terms used in the definition.

If the Christian 'heart' really is a rendering of intuition, feeling and/or emotion, does the Christian apologist really mean that these terms are a supernatural basis for our personality?

That may well be true, but it does nothing to explain the phenomena of why I have a (specifically) Christian God-shaped hole there, beyond a supernatural interpretation of personality which has yet to be identified in a meaningful and coherent sense.

Indeed, the very claim that something is supernatural, is the same as saying that it is 'beyond nature', which stupefyingly means that our personalities are not part of our natural existence. We really would be the blind automata the Christian apologists like to think evolutionary biologists claim we are.

Besides, as an atheist, I do not believe in the existence of the Christian God. And, by extension, I neither believe that the heart/personality/id is supernatural, nor do I believe that there is anything that can be described as 'supernatural'. What would 'supernatural' look or feel like if it had no effect on reality, and if 'supernatural' effects were to be effected in reality, wouldn't that make them natural effects subject to the rigours of scientific scrutiny?

Our personalities then - if we can agree that they exist in reality (even if they are abstractions) - are;

  1. not supernatural if we are to say they have any meaningful and coherent relationship to our existence
  2. not a supernatural explanation for our personalities, and
  3. natural and existent properties of reality that can be assessed using reasoned logic and physical evidence.

Finally, let us assume I have got this all wrong, and that the hole in my personality/heart/id is a natural and testable phenomena. What would a God-shaped hole look like, that would differentiate it from a septal defect?

Remind me again, what it means to say I have a God-shaped hole in my heart?


  1. I already knew I was a bleeding heart liberal, now I have a God-shaped hole in my heart!?! I should seek medical attention!

    1. I am guessing all atheists bleed liberally from such a gaping void. It's a wonder we live to question its veracity.


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