The feeling that another person is present might be triggered in many religious people as they pray. Religion might well have evolved around that presence-indicating mechanism. Enormous peace comes for the lonely as they discover Jesus and actually feel his presence. No proof is necessary for what they can apparently sense. I may have experienced such “presence of Jesus” for a few minutes on my way home after discussing with a Christian missionary – it is so deeply reassuring, I will never forget it.
Prophets likely have this area being abnormal. Think of the burning bush. Moses was maybe not just using religion as a trick to convince people of his ten rules. He may have felt a presence of god and truly had religious visions after the exhausting and lonely hike up the mountain.
Jesus' "My god, why have you forsaken me" could well have been the interruption of that brain mechanism while he was dying on the cross.
There are two remarks important to me about this:
1) I often feel somewhat as if others are watching me from the future, perhaps resurrected, or that they will do so in the future with me having to be fully present, without there even being a picture, except for that in my inner eye there seems superposed some group of people up and slightly to the right but so inside the peripheral vision that no shape can be discerned - all of this rather a vague feeling, not some hallucination. It is also not a strong influence, but I would be lying if I were to deny having such! Thus, even without the intense feeling of actual presence near me as discussed above, there are neural modules evolved that are basically believing in god, and there is little my rationality can do about it. These feelings are obviously due to the co-evolution with social structures. While I rationally have no absolute basis for what I should do (except for the absolute ethics indicated for example in “Remarks about Game Theory on Race Mixed Society”), given this feeling of being watched, what I “should not do” is actually obvious to me and given by evolution, namely, it is that which I am embarrassed about in front of that imagined audience. (It often fails in practically guiding me as I weasel around it with all those little rationalization tricks in my human self-deception tool bag).
2) Two of Søren Kierkegaard’s popular ideas are"subjectivity" and the "leap to faith", often referred to as the "leap of faith". Belief transcends rationality in favor of faith, but doubt is an essential element of faith. To believe or have faith that God exists, without ever having doubted God's existence, would not be a faith worth having. Motivated by the human craving for “spirituality” that must be dealt with in a harmonious society, I try developing a religious faith that can be rationally embraced, a sort of “religiously satisfying quantum solipsism Zen” that is stable as an attractor in the space of argumentation chains, i.e. doubt must lead naturally (back) to the belief or the belief is not rationally sustainable; so this is perhaps quite similar to Kierkegaard’s position on that doubt strengthens belief. Given the strength and thus danger of belief, my methodology is ‘active perspectivism’, i.e. splitting the mind into believing and doubting configurations (alternatively taken but under ultimate supervision of the doubting), a sort of “mindfulness” in currently fashionable jargon. The evolved biological presence of neural modules that believe without my being able to stop them should not be neglected. But how can their function be exploited safely in neuro-typical human apes? [My Aspergerian mind cannot be the guiding model anyway. Normal humans have large difficulties with “active perspectivism”. These are methods of critical thinking, understanding your opponent as if from his own perspective, Hitler the guy who also just tried his best doing good. These methods are also socially suppressed. In Western(ized) universities, such is forbidden, and people attempting such are publicly lynched as Nazis, recently even a teaching assistant for merely showing a video about Jordan Peterson in a course that claims to be on critical thinking! (I teach “Aspects of Fundamental Science” instead, because the labels “critical thinking” and suchlike, think “critical theory”, are attached to their precise opposites almost throughout academia.)]
In order to get a better idea about how other, more normal people feel:
Please tell me in the comments or emails about whether and how you feel these “imaginary presence” feelings. Including:
Do you also experience such and are there also different kinds, for example the feeling of close presence near me in spite of being alone (I personally never had that without chemically induced hallucinations), the feeling of that there is somebody personal (Jesus, God, all others resurrected) far away (in the future) but still with me in the sense of observing me now, or others still?
Do you think these feelings are very different or are they basically the same neural modules giving feelings with different strengths?
If you self-describe as religious in the sense of “I believe in God”, how much is such feeling of actual presence involved? Do you and when do you feel actual presence in what way? Do you feel presence (of god or Jesus) almost constantly? Do you feel it when praying?
Have you felt actual presence only on rare occasions (quiet afternoon epiphany, exhaustion or drug induced), yet those are very important now in your conviction?