Personally I view love on completely equal footing with lust - a sin that should be discouraged but cannot be completely stamped out (and one who claims to have stamped it out entirely should have an eye kept on them for mental instability).

My parents are not big lovers and neither am I; I do not expect to experience romantic infatuation in my lifetime. As my mother described it (excuse the paraphrase; it's not like I recorded her):

I had been on lots of dates and I was never so totally comfortable being with anyone as I was with him. And I decided there in the car [as he drove] that I would be totally comfortable spending the rest of my life with him.Not very romantic; but perhaps that's what romance is in the relative absence of baser and short-term-oriented human tendencies.

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I think this is the most sustained comment thread I have ever read that, despite some strong differences of opinion, has remained both civil and on topic throughout. Amazing given that religion is one of the taboo topics! That said, like Reasoner above, the most important single experience of my life comes from meditation. While my experience of Romantic love was intensely emotional, I have to report that meditation lead to a changed inner experience of energy within my body - what is generally referred to as Kundilini experience. It is probably a different species of religious experience than a highly emotional conversion experience. It really was not at all emotional, and it has continued to be present for a year waxing and waning at times unlike the brief experiences of spiritual wonder that I would call satori - experiences that I also have had. So I would speculate that emotional religious conversion does have some features in common with falling head over heels in love, but that there are also kinds of mystical experiences that are not primarily emotional and have little in common with the experience of romantic love. This post makes me want to reread James The Varieties of Religious experience. I am also strongly reminded of the tradition of falling in love with the Shake in Sufism or Guru in Eastern traditions. Personally, I think living in a scientific age allows me to question my experience and hold it to a higher standard and not fall into mistaking my personal experience for universal truth while still respecting my own experience and giving credit to those who think me delusional.

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It is claimed that "intense emotional religious conversion" and "intense emotional romantic love" " have much in common." But these supposed commonalities are never identified in the post. It is a rational requirement to make such an identification in order to put forth any valid assertion about these claimed commonalities, let alone to draw a conclusion about them. Absent this necessary identification, one cannot assess the validity of the assertions nor the conclusions based upon them. They all remain arbitrary statements and thus outside the realm of cognition.

What are the many things both supposedly have "in common"?

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Smoking crack is an emotional high few people will experience, but it is no tragedy to miss out on it. Sometimes we choose those things which are good for us over those which simply feel good.Science and learning have proven themselves to be some of our most valuable tools for survival and prosperity. Technology grants those who master it better odds for overcoming disease, famine, natural disaster, and war.There is also a long-term satisfaction that comes from belonging to a civilization that favors scientific enlightenment and achievement over the quick-fix high of religious ecstasy. We may have lost one of the favorite feel-good experiences of our more spiritual ancestors, but we have gained the pride of technological accomplishment and the ongoing fulfillment of our natural curiosity through scientific discovery.There are natural wonders to behold that humble us before their vastness. The intellectual experience is just so, cold and vast like the universe, your eye to the eyepiece apprehending billions of light-years as your mind, evolved from experiences far more primitive, somehow finds a way to make sense of it all.Contemplating the evaporation of a black hole may not compare spiritually to writhing on the ground from an intentionally inflicted snake bite, but neither can the latter compare intellectually to the former.

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Please...you cannot post a piece like this without at least acknowledging William James' "Varieties of Religious Experience." In this book, this subject has been comprehensively and expertly dealt with. By failing to point your audience to one of the greatest works of 19th C literature, you waste their time, and their short attention span.

Do you think you thought these ideas up yourself? Or do you know about James, but thought your readers couldn't "handle it." Shame on you, which ever.

"Romantic love vs conversion." Oh please. If you are going to be a reader yourself, introduce your readership to your reading. Don't dumb us all down.


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Your conviction / belief that religion* does not exist is just as valid as the man standing in the dark who shouts "There is no light!!"

So I think that you are saying that you believe that a God does not exist.

As you have no proof that this there is no God, your belief that there is not a God could just as readily be said to be silly, irrational, and worthy of arrogant dismissal, as you seem to convey towards those who engage in spiritual/religious pursuits.

Your comments strike me as those of a zealous atheist? One can have "religious fervor" for whatever they believe in.

If you carry such negative attribution towards others that if they do not believe as you do then they are somehow less worthy, then this stance would make you just as despicable as those you dismiss.

*Religion is the organization of principles of belief Those who believe (only) in their religion are spiritual materialists, who mistake the frame for the substance.

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I have fallen, numerous times. For romance, for reason, and for religion. All were sublime experiences, ineffable if not unworldly.

Each experience enriched my life immeasurably. Yet of them all, my religious experiences remain singularly memorable and significant.

As one who was previously skeptical and cynical with regard to the existence of God and hostile to Christianity, my Zen-meditation-induced satori (enlightenment) has been the single-most important experience of my life.

That I returned from my meditation with a startling conviction that Christ was present in my life not only threw my paradigm, but it started an inquiry into both the psychological origins of spirituality and the bastardization of organized religions as vehicles of power and control. And despite my spiritual awakening, it has taken me 40 years to open my intellect and my soul to what I now see as the profound veracity of the Bible, expressed through story and metaphor.

I could never prescribe for another person the necessity of seeking a sense of a Higher Power.

But a life without passion for seeking romance, reason, or religion is likely to be as desperate and barren as that of a zombie: truly walking through life as the living dead.

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I would hope that the different status of religious conversion and romantic love is comes from some understanding that while the latter can be rational, the former is inherently irrational. (By definition, belief in the supernatural is based on faith rather than reason.)

Romantic love is love for a real person. Religious conversion is based on love for or devotion to something that does not exist.

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We continue to see the emotional leakage when discussing religious matters, that some nonbelievers are simply unable to do so without resorting to insulting language. I always find that telling, and rather amusing.

To the original point: I am not sure intense romantic feelings are all that high-status. People of all stations and classes seem to accept that a certain amount of romantic love will occur in many people around us, perhaps even ourselves, and especially between the ages of oh, 13-30. We see that it is pleasurable and gives folks a rather overdramatic, but generally benign, expansive attitude and sense of well-being - even if we don't experience it ourselves. But we also see that it is not always benign, and lead people to make disastrous decisions. Among our rather self-styled elite classes (and the identification is trivially easy, cyan, though anyone who wants to make an issue of it can stonewall and think themselves clever indefinitely), there is often a sense of much to be gained of long-term benefit that can be thrown away for love, and I don't think this is all that well-regarded.

As for religion, Nicholas Wade passes on the speculation that it serves the group purpose of identifying the loyal - which is useful information to have when dealing with a world of amny groups and few enforcement mechanisms. You have to give something up, either in valuable sacrifice, rule-keeping, or self-denial. You weed out some of the unreliables that way. People can be hypocrites and mimic belief, of course, but even that costs something. Thus, people pursuing social status in a secular society would be intensely aware that this is a cost that might be wasted, or even distract them from status attainment. Religious observance, then, would be an indicator that the person would not be willing to make sacrifice for the other cause - secular attainment. These might not be trustworthy in the eyes of secular "religious" norms. Emotional conversions only highlight that "I have loyalties to some god other than status/attainment/trappings of learning."

Chris Hallquist. If you don't find such as CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, or NT Wright as examples of converts who don't engage in "silly" behavior, I will have to suspect your definition of silly is going to flexibly include anything religious.

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"Yes, religious conversion can lead to false and destructive beliefs." Whereupon each quickly clucks assent, chuckling in that kind way so as to say, 'We're all intelligent and rational adults'; and so unmistakably signals his or her freedom from such backward ideas as religious belief.

I wonder why it is you did not say, rather, "Yes, the lack of religious conversion can lead to false and destructive beliefs." It can, can it not?

I would say your bias is showing. But then I remembered that your view is not "bias"; it's "truth".

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reading the comments of those who have never been graced with religious awareness preen on an on about how stupid religion is and how much smarter they are to not "fall for it" reminds me so much of teenage boys talking about love. Sadly for many...whether it be love or religion, some will go through life and NEVER get it.

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I'm guessing that you've experience neither. Too bad.

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What percentage of the population will ever experience an "intense emotional religious conversion?" I would expect it to be a small percentage. Most people conform to the religion of their family or the area where they grew up, and consequently never have an "intense emotional religious conversion." Others will select a religion without experiencing an "intense emotional" phase. Not many people will ever know what an "intense emotional religious conversion" feels like.

In contrast, I would guess that most people at some point in their lives feel "an intense emotional romantic love" or a reasonable facsimile, such as an intense romantic crush. Almost everyone can relate to how that feels.

So most people (not just cultural elites) will view an "intense emotional religious conversion" as something odd or with skepticism or with other strange/adverse reactions. They've never experienced it and it is not common. It is an unfamiliar event that they cannot relate to personally. A religious conversion is hard to sympathize with conceptually since its hard to even imagine oneself giving up one's religion since you believe in it absolutely.

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I think you are comparing apples and oranges.

In the first point, you are talking about the dichotomy "romantic love vs. arranged marriage".

In the second, "religious conversion vs. life without religious feeling"

But comparing these two dichotomy does not make sense.

The religious equivalent of "romantic love vs. arranged marriage" is not "religious conversion vs. life without religious feeling", is "religious conversion vs. following the traditional religion by default".

And the "relational" equivalent of "religious conversion vs. life without religious feeling" is not "romantic love vs. arranged marriage"., is "romantic love vs. being single".

And, looking things in these way, there are no contradiction:

- Our modern sensibility thinks that "romantic love" is superior to "arranged marriages", and usually also have more respect by religion-by-conversion (classic case: Hollywood stars converting to Buddhism) than by traditional religion

- And the modern sensibility who has distrust by religion feeling is also much more open to being single than "ancient" sensibility.

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And herein may lie part of the reason we see religious conversion as low status. People who have a religious awakening are usually experiencing problems in some aspect of their lives. It could be as extreme as an addiction that has wrecked their lives or as simple as not feeling fulfilled in the life they have built for themselves. High status individuals who have plenty of resources to get them through rough patches in their lives may see no need for a magical man in the sky to save them nor the community that revolves around Him (or Her). People who do not have such resources, however, may be more likely to find the idea of a better life after this one more appealing and the community support system inherent in organized religion more helpful than a well-off person would.

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I would define a religious conversion as any significant shift in philosophical outlook, often accompanied by strong emotions. Even if those emotions are "why didn't I see this before! It's just so right!" and not of a specifically spiritual nature like "feeling at one with the universe", I would say it is a religious conversion.

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