The only recourse an atheist can have against this argument based on personal experience is that the believer is either is misrepresenting his experience or is mistaken about it. I am not willing to pursue that line of argument. I know that I am undermining my own stance here, but I would like to give the theist camp some more ammunition for this particular argument, and make it more formal.
In the last post on this atheism series, I speculated that the belief in God for a believer is probably similar to my certainty in the existence of my mind despite the fact that I have no tangible proof for it. The belief in the existence of minds leads to a dualistic view of the world – mind and matter. In what they call Cartesian or substance dualism, these are two different kinds of foundational substances: mental or spiritual substance and the material or physical substance. Although they form seemingly distinct realms of existence, they can causally influence each other. When my mind wants to write this idea down, my physical hand actually grabs a pen and writes it. A physical substance (a glass of scotch) can effectively make my mental ideas fairly incoherent. This dualism, by the way, does not enjoy currency in the philosophical circles of our time, but it is the natural way we look at the world. And theists love this world view, because they can say that God is of mental substance, residing in the spiritual realm, immune to physical laws of existence and logical repudiation.
This line of thinking is echoed in the Hindu philosophy as well, which considers our consciousness a droplet of a vast ocean of cosmic Brahma from which everything emanates and unto which everything will eventually merge. The vast cosmic consciousness might as well be called God.
Stripped of the fancy lingo, the argument simply means that God lives in our minds. To a believer, God is as real as his mind. And, to the extent that both believers and non-believers don’t understand mind and consciousness, how can anyone logically dispute the claim? I don’t know why theists don’t make this argument more forcefully. Perhaps a God living only in our mind is a diminished God, devoid of His omnipotence and omniscience. Then again, everything is in our mind. The whole universe is only a cognitive construct in our minds. So is the notion of cognitive constructs and minds — it is all a baffling infinite regression, a dream within a dream.
My only counter argument would be that this claim also is an attempt to conjure up a God out of our ignorance. Sure, we don’t know everything about mind and consciousness. But our ignorance is no reason to believe that there is a God hiding in there. Not only that, believing that there is God, even if confined to our minds, doesn’t buy us any explanatory advantages.
Ultimately, God is a superfluous concept, which will become clearer in a subsequent post in this series where we explore where this concept came from. What is the origin of God?