For almost as long as I can remember, I was aware of certain inconsistencies or gaps in logic in the doctrines of my religion. But I learned not to worry about it, because I had a testimony, based on personal spiritual experiences. I felt the presence of the Holy Ghost fairly frequently, when I prayed, when I was in seminary, and more than anything when I sang or listened to music. It was a warm, peaceful feeling that seemed to emanate from somewhere inside my rib cage, and I interpreted this feeling as a witness from God that I was doing his will.
I remember a couple of analogies that I read and heard as I was growing up. One was: “The Gospel is like a big jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes when you’re working a puzzle, you can’t see how to make all the sky pieces fit right away. That doesn’t mean that you throw up your arms and say, ‘This puzzle isn’t true!’ Sometimes you have to fit in other pieces first before you can see how it all fits together, but if you just have enough faith and keep trying, eventually, it will all fit.” The other was: “Well, I don’t have the slightest idea how a computer works, but that doesn’t change the fact that it does work.”
The message was, “Don’t fret about the stuff that doesn’t make sense. We can’t possibly understand everything about God. As long you feel the Spirit, you know it’s all true.”
I’ve noticed something interesting since I’ve stopped believing in God: I still “feel the Spirit,” or at least, I still have the feeling that as a Mormon I called “feeling the Spirit.” I feel it when I’m holding one of my children, when I’m out in nature, sometimes when I’m doing yoga, and frequently when I’m creating or listening to music.
I do believe that it’s a real experience. I don’t believe that religion has a monopoly on it. And if I can have that experience in circumstances that are unrelated to God or religion, then this experience can no longer hold validity as proof of the truth claims of any particular religion.