As we mature most of us come to believe that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” or more generally, that aesthetic quality is a feature of perception rather than of an objective world. But even when we change our beliefs about its status, the beautiful continues to be just as wonderful as it was before. Might the same be true of religious experience?
Mystics and even many everyday believers claim to know a divine realm exists because they have experienced it. But might it not be that the “holiness” they encountered is not evidence for an objective divinity but rather, like beauty, be a feature of the subjective experience itself? And if so, would the experience lose any of its wondrousness when the theistic explanation of it is abandoned? It seems to me that it shouldn’t. And if so, atheists could be religiously sensitive without being inconsistent—just like an aesthete can consistently believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.