Dawkins-style evangelical atheists frequently say that it’s up to the theist to prove the existence of the Divine- “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.” Fair enough- but the most plentiful form of evidence is always dismissed out of hand, usually without discussion- or, at least without polite discussion: direct personal experience, also known (in the clinical, analytical language UUs love to use in discussion) as Unverified Personal Gnosis.
UPG comes in many forms; the shaking and quaking of the Shakers and the Quakers; the speaking in tongues of Pentecostals and others; being taken by the spirit in many Baptist and other Protestant congregations; drawing down the Moon for Wiccans; channeling a Loa for Voodoo. Sometimes it is an adrenaline rush of the soul, which leaves in it’s wake not words, exactly, but a sure and certain knowledge: “She will survive this”, or “You are loved”. Foxchild gives a wonderful description of such an experience in her blog The Unveiling Of A Pagan Spirit : “At the moment that realization took hold, it was as if something in my being shifted. It made room for something that had not been able to find its way in before. Somewhere deep in the core of me it spread. It was a fiery caress deep in the marrow of my bones that roared through me in a liquid burn. It was as if I were feeling every powerful emotion in that fire. Passion, hate, anger, ecstasy, fury, lust, desire, love. Not the sweet tender kind of love. It was the kind that could rip you apart if you tried to harness it instead of letting it run free. All were felt for what they are, neither positive nor negative, but gifts from the Universe.
Call it Goddess, God, Universe. Whatever “it” was, it was the flow of understanding what it means to let go and trust the Universe.”
Such evidence is rarely brought up in debate anymore as it is- at best- an invitation to ridicule. I have been told on more than one occasion that the proper term for this experience was “a psychotic break”. Such contempt for mankind the speakers of those words must feel; hundreds of millions of people have felt the Divine presence- and not just the “snake handling trailer trash” one of them mentioned, but some of the finest intellects to have ever walked this Earth, from Thomas Aquinas to our own Rev. Sinkford. Does the fact that this evidence cannot be weighed on a triple beam balance or register on a Radio Shack Multitester mean that it’s not real evidence? If so, I would argue that human intelligence does not exist- the evidence for it is every bit as subjective.
The problem may be the words we use- “faith”, and “belief.” I don’t believe the Divine exists- I know it. I know the Earth exists, I can touch it; I know the Divine exists, I have felt her touch.