Building from this, I've noticed at least two distinct forms of religious feeling. There's an outward or interpersonal expression of it, and an inwardly directed, personal form. As an example of the first, it is currently Ramadan. I am fasting, as I have for years, for the mandated 29 or 30 days. After the month of Ramadan is over is the Muslim holy day of Eid. One of the things done on Eid throughout the Muslim world is a special, communal ritual prayer performed usually in wide fields or larger mosques. While travelling (preferably walking) to the site of the prayer, a Muslim must recite a certain platitude to Allah repeatedly. The atmostphere on this day is filled with a sense of power, an electricity in the very air. You feel a more intense love for people and for the world around you. Everything seems brighter, more vibrant and one is filled with joy.
An additional example in my experience is circumambulation and praying around the Kaaba. Discarding your usual modern dress to don a plain garment of tradition and engage in this group religious practice satisfies a part of the soul that I did not even know existed. Many other people have spoken of similar experiences during the Pilgrimage. Malcolm X's account is a particularly good one (his pilgrimage to Mecca was the primary cause of his conversion from the ideology of the Nation of Islam to Sunni Islam).
The inward element of it can be seen in the Sufis of Islam. Being drunk with religious ecstasy, discarding all worldly possessions or losing their senses for days in fits of transcendent experience, Muslim hagiography is full of such examples. Neuroimaging studies on 7th Day Adventists is another example of this potency of religious feeling, though it is also communal. Somewhat similar is the modern Mevlevi Sufi order in Turkey, those funny twirling guys in hats and skirts in Istanbul. However, that like most modern things is a (Kemalist) perversion of the actual truth.
Examples abound amongst Christian Saints and Mystics and in Christian practices. Self-Flagellation in religious ecstasy is a related occurance.
My point is that this is an oft-overlooked aspect of the fabric of society. If not most, then at least a significant minority of people are not only capable of feeling these sensations but I believe they require them for "spiritual" (you can consider it some biological impulse if you wish, it does not change the effect) nourishment. This has been torn from its root in Western nations and the effects of it are gradually becoming apparent (slowly, over the course of hundreds of years). Any competing ideology or system needs to be able to instill in its adherents a similar form of truth of feeling. If its depth is in any doubt, religious art and architecture should provide some evidence of it even to those who have never had a spiritual experience. I don't really find this in "Nihilism" or "Traditionalism". Perhaps I misunderstand, but an awe of nature, a joy for life and an understanding of the world is just not enough to truly bind people together. Culture and Ethny are surely important, but this is vital. Muslims would vastly prefer the West to be Christian over Liberal/Atheist, we would rather deal with whole people, even if the spiritually dead have a certain dark genius or allure.
Recommended Reading:Muslim Saints and Mystics
: Translated from a Persian work on Sufi Hagiography.Nihilism
: By Father Seraphim Rose. An American Hieromonk who left the world this impressive summary of modern history.Jonathan Haidt's A Righteous Mind
: This should not be new to readers of the forum I think. Linked for chapters relating to how sacred systems bind people and an apt metaphor about how humans share some things with bees more than apes.