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The Varieties of ATS Religious Experience; or, Variations on a Theme

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posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 11:42 AM
Hi, all! I have a proposal for you all, please bear with me as I explain it:

Part of the reason that I haunt this forum is because I, myself, am still fascinated by the 'possibilities' of the cosmos; I don't have answers, but I can't run out of questions either. Some of you may be aware that I have studied different world religions and theologies for (accumulated) about 25 years - roughly half of my life, and more than half of my adult life. This inquiry has waxed and waned as life's critical events unfolded - from about age 20 I began to 'study' in earnest.

(Prior to that - as early as latent childhood, I had much 'wondering' and 'contemplating' going on...and always, always, an underlying doubt, accompanied by a sense of 'something' that I could not quite grasp.)

I discarded Episcopal doctrine much earlier than I stopped attending the church (which was as soon as I was able - about age 16). I was in the church choir; my mother was the acolyte director and very active in the church; I was in the youth group (we did a production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" - a little movie we made - what fun!). Yes, I forged friendships, and was often moved by the beauty of the music and the awe that a gothic church with candles, stained glass and a huge pipe organ can elicit. But I just couldn't accept that the words being spoken, by us in unison prayer, by the lay-readers, by the priests delivering the Gospel and Epistle, or by the priest in sermons - really meant anything.

I had been baptized as an infant, and went through confirmation at age 12. I knew all the drills, the choreography, the prayers by heart. Still, I could not find that I really believed any of it. For a while I simply went along with it thinking I just wasn't capable of accepting it, and that all those people must know something I didn't. I was ashamed, but couldn't understand why I was such an incompetent, inadequate kid.

Try as I might, I was still expected to recite how unworthy and how faulty I was, week after week - failure upon failure. I internalized this sense of "worthlessness"; but I didn't share this with anyone, including my mom (whose agenda it was that my brothers and I be brought up in church). No one ever told me I was going to hell, nono. I was not beaten or abused in any way (except if you count being "indoctrinated" as a kid - but that's another topic).

Enough of background....
I went on to explore other world religions and ideas, both ancient and modern, occult and pentecostal - either through practice or through thorough research. Nothing ever "stuck the landing" for me. At present I am re-investigating Greek philosophy, and have over the past year read volume after volume of scholarly work by leading theologists; and also perusing online sites; skeptical, fervent, apologetic, atheistic, fanatical -- everything from Jack Chick and WBC to Greek Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism as well as Taoism and Buddhism, Hindu and indigenous, tribal ideas.

I am also a sociologist - and religion and its accoutrements are some of the most fascinating of human phenomena to study. I want to know what makes people tick. Not just generalizations, but every person. All unique.

William James, a psychologist, authored "The Varieties of Religious Experience: A study in human nature" (visit the link for one free online version) over 100 years ago. This volume was perhaps as eye-opening as ANY of the hundreds of works I've read in terms of understanding the "Human Condition" - which is, and has always been, irresistible in my worldview. I can't stop caring, or stop wanting to know.

So, I want to inquire to ATS members at large as to your personal "Revealed God". I believe we each have our own private methods and means to arrive at some sort of reconciliation with the great unknown, and am hoping that you will feel free to share here (or in a u2u if you prefer confidentiality) how you see your "religious" development.

Was it something you were born into?
If so, did you stay with it, or move on and leave it behind?
If not, how did you come to prefer the "faith" or "absolute atheism" that you have now?

Some of your stories I know, but certainly not all of you. I suppose this could be seen as "nosey" or "ulterior motive agenda-driven". I do not intend to use this thread as a naysaying vehicle - (I do plenty of that in other threads
THIS thread is one born of genuine curiosity, empathy, and a deep desire to understand humanity.

If you would indulge me by explaining how your faith or skepticism or abandonment of other ideas came about, in your own words, I would consider myself blessed indeed, enriched, and one tiny step closer to understanding.

Perhaps no one will want to offer up such soul-wrenching, private business or experience, but I hope at least some of you will. Even those of you who've already shared with me how you arrived where you are, I'd like to compile as many of our stories in one thread as we can.

In my mind, this is an exercise in compassion; a group project; a collaborative exploration of how much we have in common, how much we do not, and most of all, an EXPERIMENT in using this small micro-cosm of the world as a place to begin to appreciate each other, SAFELY, and WITHOUT JUDGING one another.

If you're game, and up for the challenge, this could be a FABULOUS piece of work, in which we could all take credit for having reached out to one another in good faith.
To be able to say "namaste" to one another, and MEAN IT - "The Divine in Me Recognizes the Divine in You." Let's do it, together.

Are you willing, ATS, to give it a try? Or at least think it over?
Hope to hear from you all. And brightest of blessings to each of you....however you want to interpret "blessing."

Thanks for reading.


edit on 23-2-2013 by wildtimes because: fix linky dink

edit on 23-2-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:02 PM
reply to post by wildtimes

I wish I had time to participate in this thread this morning but work calls so I'll have to come back to it later. I just wanted to stress to others the disclaimer you stated about this being an open and accepting thread to learn and share. I am hoping sincerely that this happens and that it does not devolve into endless debates.

With that, I can't wait to read the replies.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:05 PM
reply to post by wildtimes

Great topic! Flag and Star!

For me, I was raised in church when I was younger, my mother was hardly "devout." We didn't go all the time. When I was about 10 years old my mother started going through a rough time in life and decided we were gonna start going to church often. I went but I really didn't like it. I was bored and didn't feel like I fit in. One day I decided to tell my mother that I didn't want to go anymore. I'll never forget it. She looked at me and said, "What? Your life is so good that you don't feel you need to go?" And I said, "Yes." And that was that. I never went back.

From then until about age 17 I'd say I was probably agnostic. Then I started getting curious again and started researching religion. I was in particular very interested in Islam I had heard a lot of rappers in the 90s talking about it and so I was curious. So I started studying but I was still very apprehensive about religion. Then I ended up stumbling upon the Five Percenters which are like an offshoot of the Nation of Islam. I liked what they talked about Islam and that it wasn't a religion, but a "way of life" as they described it.

I spent about 3 years studying their teachings and considering myself a part of that group. I had a teacher (or an "Enlightener" as they called them) and everything.

Then around the time I turned 20 (or shortly before) I started noticing holes, so I started researching and studying again. This time I got really into orthodox Islam and a few months later went to a Mosque and took the Shahadah or Profession of Faith. I spent roughly 6 years as a very devout Muslim, although not perfect, even during and after 9/11 which was a very trying time.

After a while I ended up going through some personal struggles in life and ended up abandoning my faith. I then started to study Buddhism because I found it's philosophy interesting. I self-identified as Buddhist for a while, less than a year, but it just didn't really feel right to me. It was lacking something.

Then a friend of mine introduced me to a local church and I decided to give it a chance. It turned out to be an amazing experience and I got really hooked. I dove into the experience and started studying the Bible hardcore. I ended up getting baptized and really started learning more and more as time passed. I've also had some very amazing and unique personal spiritual experiences.

Over the years my Biblical views have changed and grown. I've come to realize that a lot of what the modern church teaches actually goes against the Bible and Jesus' teachings. So while I do consider myself a "Christian," it's not in the same vein as what passes for Christianity today. I'm very outspoken about a lot of the practices and teachings of the modern church which makes me not the most popular amongst "Christians."

ETA: Now, I know that the skeptics and atheists will say that my experiences haven't been genuine, and that I'm just searching for something and that is illustrated by my "jumping around" from one religion to another, but that's not the case. I'm just a sincere seeker.
edit on 23-2-2013 by LazarusTsiyr because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:11 PM
I've had many religious experience that rocked me to my soul. I think many christians like me tell about their change or bieng born again experiences but many of the miracles afterwards they keep quiet. It's amazing when you have a samll bit a faith and believe on the name of Jesus and the Power of the most High.

I'm sure I'm like many of the christians that have had many revelations and sign but have been told to hold fast and wait for the days of Noah are here. We are told to show kindness and love and share the gospel to those that are willing and to take our peace when we leave from those who are not.

Sit back, relax. The one beautiful thing I take comfort in and believe in is that all those scoundrels on wall street, lawyers, bankers, corrupt cops and politicians taking bribs and NWO guys will be held accountable and their corruptian will be exposed in fron of every eye.


posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:12 PM
reply to post by Cuervo

Can't wait to have you chime in again later!

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:13 PM
reply to post by LazarusTsiyr

Thanks, Laz! Would you mind sharing with us which church your mom took you too, and what sort of church you are participating in now? Also, I'd love to hear about your spiritual experiences mentioned near the end - the ones that amazed you. Did they strengthen, weaken, or expand any of your ideas?

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:15 PM
reply to post by Kargun

I've had many religious experience that rocked me to my soul. I think many christians like me tell about their change or bieng born again experiences but many of the miracles afterwards they keep quiet.

Would you like to share those here? Thanks for contributing! What form of 'christianity' closest "fits" your beliefs?

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:20 PM

Originally posted by wildtimes
reply to post by LazarusTsiyr

Thanks, Laz! Would you mind sharing with us which church your mom took you too, and what sort of church you are participating in now?

Um I believe it was a Baptist church. I also did some youth ministry at the church that I started going to after my baptism. It was a pentecostal Church of God.

Currently I'm not affiliated with any church for the reasons I listed in my former post. I have my own ministry that I am working on.

Did they strengthen, weaken, or expand any of your ideas?

They were definitely strengthening experiences. Ones where the Most High really touched me and let me experience Him.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:27 PM
reply to post by wildtimes
I was raised in a very unusual religiously mixed family. My father's family was all devout Catholics while my father was an Atheist. My mother's family was hardcore Southern Baptists while my mother herself was a practicing Pagan. My best friend's family was Pentacostal. I was instructed in ALL of their beliefs!

On Thursday nights I went to Pentacostal services with my best friend's family, on Saturdays I went to Catholic mass with my father's family and on Sundays I went to Southern Baptist services with my mother's family. The rest of the week my mother instructed me in the old ways and my father discussed with me why he believed in no god at all. My parents always stressed that I (as well as my sister) should learn about as many religions as possible and choose our own truths.

Over the years I studied other religions and earnestly practiced a few. For many years I was inexplicably drawn towards the religion of my mother (Paganism) but in my later years I returned to my first love- Christianity- where I have resided ever since. After years of exploring Christianity is what feels right to me and have practiced no other religion for at least over 15 years.

I raised my children in much the same way I was raised and now one of them is Agnostic while the other is Atheist. They must follow their own truth and I respect that. It is interesting to note however that my once Atheist father has returned to Catholicism, and my once Pagan mother has converted to Pentacostal. They also have found their own truth and I support their choices.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:32 PM
reply to post by littled16

Brilliant! Thank you so much...
wow, talk about a melting pot!

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:35 PM
I've told this story before, but as it's a direct response to your query, why not again?

I wasn't "raised" in any church. I'd been baptized as an infant, but, apart from that, we never went to church. Not Sunday, not Easter, not Christmas. The earliest religious memory that I have was some Mormon missionaries coming to the house when I was probably about ten, because my Dad was interested in that for some reason. They stopped coming around after a bit, and to this day, my father doesn't have much good to say about their church.

We did start going to the Methodist church when I was 14, and my sister (two years older than me) and I went through Confirmation classes that year. Sang in the youth choir, made some friends, and three years later, when I went away to university, I stopped attending church, apart from holidays with my parents. For a year or so, I hung out with some Fundamentalist types and leaned toward that perspective, but always with a "I don't need to go to church to be spiritual" slant.

After that, when I was about 19, I gave up on religion. I don't know that I ever gave up a faith in God -- I can't indicate any point in my life where I was an out-and-out atheist, but for about twenty years, spirituality didn't play much of a role. I have always been interested in science (I have bachelor's and master's degrees in Geography, which I took because it's a "universal" science) and have long been a fairly deep skeptic, so supernatural things, including God, just weren't anything that took up a lot of my time.

But, as most theists do, I had "that experience", that moment of realization that there is more to reality than what we see and what occupies us. For me, it was this:

I was reading a book on the history of Greek mathematics (exciting reading, I know, lol,) and was working my way through some theorem or another, and once I'd gotten to the answer at the end, one word suddenly popped into my head.


Why did this theorem work out that way? Why was it this answer, not some other? Why did this theorem exist? Why did mathematics exist?

I dismissed it, but it kept nagging at me. I knew the "how" of an awful lot of stuff (the result of that universal science) but I had to admit that I didn't know the "why" of much, if any of it. That bugged me enough that it sent me to the other side of scientific study -- the philosophy of science, and that, after a long (and not very interesting) journey, led me back to God.

And the funny thing was that, once I'd gone through that exercise, and started to consider what God really was (not some old white bearded guy floating on a cloud,) I started having personal experiences that could only be explained by madness (which I'm not willing to concede to, not yet anyway, lol) or something which had the same attributes that people use to describe the Christian God.

Those two things brought me back to the Methodist church in 2002. Over the years, as I became more immersed in said church, I began to become disillusioned with that religion, which sent me back to my studies, this time history and theology. My conclusion was that, if there was a "true church," it only existed in the past, before men started tinkering with theology and religion, and causing all those schisms. That brought me to the Methodist-originated concept of paleo-orthodoxy, a desire to return to early church teachings.

However, as that isn't a real religion, I converted to the next-best thing, the Roman Catholic church. While I don't agree with everything that institution teaches, in daily life, it has brought me closer to God than my previously Methodist and non-churched years did.

Over the years, I've studied all manners of religion -- Catholicism, Anglicanism, Methodism, other flavours of Protestantism, Hinduism, Mormonism and probably a few "others", but, for me, it has all come down to this:

Faith is a personal matter between me and God. It isn't a book, it isn't a theology, it isn't a ceremony -- those things help facilitate that relationship that I have with God, but if those are the things that become more important than that relationship, then you're on the wrong track.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:40 PM
reply to post by adjensen

Awesome contribution. Thanks. I wish I could applaud all of you who are willing to pitch in here!

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 01:15 PM
reply to post by wildtimes

Did you catch this thread
How an atheist became a Christian
as it went past? You didn't post a reply, so possibly not.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 01:21 PM
reply to post by DISRAELI

I did not see it!
I won't presume to c/p your thread OP here, but, if you'd like to, it would be much appreciated. That's exactly the kind of explanation I'm hoping to "compile" here.....
for the benefit of all of us. One place to see what members' beliefs and experience are.......
Would you mind posting it here as well? In any case, thanks for the pointer/linky!

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 01:23 PM
reply to post by wildtimes

I could try posting, but it may be too long.
i tend to go up to the character limit, and then any attempts to "quote" get cut short.

Don't go away...

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 01:26 PM

Originally posted by DISRAELI
When I first came on this site, I announced myself as a former atheist who was now a Christian.
A few months ago, someone posted a comment on my Profile, asking if there was a thread explaining what happened to make the difference.
By telling the story now, on the(fortieth) anniversary of the event, I’m responding to that request (and possibly throwing some light on the way God works).

How did I become an atheist in the first place?
I was brought up in the Anglican church, at the “Anglo-Catholic” end of the church. Incense and “sung mass” and the English Hymnal. We learned the teachings of the Christian faith at school, and I simply took them for granted. In my last years at school, though, I was beginning to question how much of them I really believed. I was becoming sceptical about the miraculous element, especially resurrection, and my commitment was gradually getting watered down.

This process came to a climax when we were visiting my grandparents one Christmas Eve. Ironically, the final trigger was the sermon at Midnight Mass. I was listening to the unctuous voice of the preacher telling us about “the little baby in the manger”, and I could see no difference between the way he was addressing the congregation, and the way he would have been talking to an audience of children. Seventeen-year old boys dislike being treated like children. I said to myself “I don’t believe in this stuff”. Before going to sleep that night, I formally abandoned the Christian faith and began calling myself an atheist.

So the key factor in this decision was honesty, recognising that I did not have the faith. I had no feelings of hostility towards the Christian faith, but there was certainly a smug sense of superiority. The phrase “standing on my own two feet in the universe” appears in my diary. I thought of Christianity as a psychological crutch, but I was tolerant enough to recognise that not everybody was strong enough to manage without it.

Then I went to university, which brought me up against the most important question in the universe;
How do I go about meeting girls?
This was a university which was still segregated into male and female colleges.
There was a great imbalance of male to female students; the figure normally quoted was “four-to-one”.
I noticed at an early stage that the three most popular ways of meeting the opposite sex were disco-dancing, left-wing politics, and religion, and they were all barred to me, for different reasons.
I was obliged to try other approaches.

One good way to meet people seemed to be the bread-and-cheese lunches which were organised in different colleges to raise money for War on Want.
Nobody warned me that War-on-Want lunches were a hot-bed of Christian activity.

That was how I found myself, one afternoon, having coffee with a girl who then set about presenting the case for the Christian faith.
She wasn’t the first person to make the attempt, but in this particular case I was interested In following up the argument.
The meetings continued, though she was shrewd enough to guess that we were following different agendas, as my diary records;
“Later, in a period of rest, she asked me why I had sent her a note.
Because, I said, eventually, I had thought she might not be in if I didn’t.
She said that wasn’t answering the question.
We finally agreed that I had been driven by curiosity, which was (she said) the result of the Holy Ghost working in me”.

This may have been more true than I realised at the time.
I had admitted from the start that I regarded myself as an atheist, and I was arguing every step of the way.
The trouble was, I soon found that I was arguing against myself as well.
I would be on the verge of making a telling point, and then the answer that stopped me in my tracks would be coming from the back of my own mind.
For example, could a break in a rain-storm be an answer to prayer?
I was about to observe that rain follows from a sequence of events that goes right back to the beginning of the universe; so God would have to foresee that prayer before the universe began and arrange things accordingly.
Then a little voice at the back of my mind said “Well, why not?”, so that was the end of that line of argument.

A more crucial turning point was the realisation that I had not been forced into unbelief by the lack of evidence for Christianity. If there was a lack of evidence in either direction, that just left things evenly balanced.
The real deciding factor had been personal preference; unbelief was a much more comfortable, less demanding, option, and that was my reason for choosing it.
Once again, this was the moment of honesty.
If my unbelief was a personal preference, it took away the defence that I “could not help” not believing.
If I was held accountable for making the wrong choice, there wasn’t any answer I could give.

This process came to a climax when I took back to my room, and began reading, the book she had lent me (“My God is real”, by David C.K, Watson). The book set in motion a number of thought processes. I began to recognise how much of my character was governed by pride (“ the acknowledgement of sin”). In fact the real remaining barrier between myself and Christianity, I realised, was that wanting to stay free of any emotional dependence on religious support; in effect, I was proud of my self-sufficiency. Another train of thought was set off by the page which described how Jesus was separated from his Father in the moments before death, a concept which had a great impact on me (“recognition of the Cross”).

There was one brief distraction; I went down to the student bar to get chocolate from the machine there. I caught sight of my previous girl-friend with my successor, and this was enough to disrupt any train of thought for the next half-hour. Incidentally, there’s an incident in Pilgrim’s Progress when the porter at the Wicket Gate pulls Christian inside, because, he says, Satan likes to take a last pot-shot at people he’s about to lose.

I finally came to the point of making a decision. Giving up the attempt to work things out on my own, I decided to put my trust in an action of faith, and I made the suggested prayer. I was expecting some kind of tangible spiritual change, but nothing seemed to be happening, so I went to bed.

Nevertheless, the point had been settled. I had made a commitment which I was taking for granted from the next morning onwards. So whether Christianity could be “proved” was beside the point, in the end; it was a commitment of trust, based on the event of the Cross, and a greater understanding of what the faith entailed was built up from there.
Yes, I had given up the “taught” religion, only to begin replacing it with a much more conscious and voluntary faith.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 01:39 PM
reply to post by DISRAELI

Thank you!!

Very interesting, as are the other stories so far!

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 01:42 PM

Originally posted by DISRAELI
reply to post by wildtimes

I could try posting, but it may be too long.
i tend to go up to the character limit, and then any attempts to "quote" get cut short.

You can "cheat" the character limit thing -- create a post with minimum content, then edit it and paste in the whole content. In "edit" mode, there's no character limit.

I figured that out after seeing a few people who had posts that were 5-10 times the allowed characters.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 01:59 PM
reply to post by adjensen

Thank you, yes, but have you tried "editing" afterwards?
Or "quoting" a section near the end? That's the part that disappears as soon as you press the delete key!

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 02:01 PM
reply to post by DISRAELI

If my post is anything more than a couple of paragraphs, I edit in an external editor and then just paste into the browser. I've had too many experiences of typing up a bunch of stuff and then having some weirdness in the browser result in it getting lost, so I've gotten into the habit of using that external program.

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