Hi all. First post here. And I'm a Christian. Looking forward to being welcomed with rational politeness...! :) 

Having been reading a number of forum discussions, it's clear many members here were formerly Christians (or at least attended church). For anyone in that category, did you in your time as a Christian/church attender have what would be described as a 'religious experience'? That could be anything from a 'sense' of God's presence in a church meeting (something many Christians would testify to and atheists would reject as deluded group-think resulting from psychological manipulation), to seemingly answered prayer, an experience of God 'speaking' etc. 

Apologies if that doesn't make sense, though I think for those here who have been in churches - especially more charismatic churches - for any length of time will get what I'm asking. 

Basically I'm interested in what you think was the cause of those experiences, and how they helped or hindered your deconversion.

Many thanks


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I don't know about you, but that seriously diminishes his sacrafice in my eyes.


If you asked me if I would give my life so that a random african child could live, I would say no.  If you asked me to spend 3 days in a small dark room and then come out and carry on before to achieve the same effect, I would do it.  I wouldn't even expect huge gratitude due to the relative disparity between what i gave and what was received.

Matt G - why spend your 3 days in a cramped dingy room - don't you remember JC saying to the thief that that evening, he would "sup" with him in paradise? They didn't sit around in a dark room, they went to Golden Corral!

And furthermore, Matt G, Catholic Christians actually believe that the moment they chow down on their little Ritz and take their sip of Manischewitz, that those snacks are magically transformed into the flesh and blood of Yeshua, so bon apetit! Cannibals Rule!

I knew about that, albeit the flesh apparently tastes a lot like wafer and the blood has quite a lot of tannin.


So JC is both alive AND available for eating.  Is that like a cannibals 'always full fidge'?

So many stories that depend on magic, and they wonder why we're so amused --

And Matt G - RE: "which was described as being 'in accordance with the Scriptures' e.g. Psalms 16" - let me tell you, it wasn't easy concocting a story that included all of those prophetic elements, to make it appear as if they had come true!

First they had to create a Roman census that would take Joseph and his 14-year old bride to Bethlehem. In all of the annals of the Romans, and Romans were anal about annals, there was no mention of such a census being ordered.

Matt/C - RE: "the Abraham and Isaac episode is undoubtedly difficult, but I don't think it's quite on topic,"

A biblical character, a "Chosen One" of the Bible's god, willing to kill hiis own son to assuage his fear, versus a man willing to risk death to save a total stranger? I'd say that was very much on point. The former obeys a biblical imperative, the latter, a personal conviction that the life of a child is worth saving - one might even say, "Good Without God."

RE: your quotations from the gospel of John - it is known that John, son of Zebedee, did not write the gospel of John, so I'm afraid the words of a total stranger, who wasn't there, fails to carry any weight. Paul, author of Romans, wasn't there either, and also carries no weight.

As for your story of Maximilian Kolbe, it's certainly a sad one, but Kolbe wouldn't be the first person to voluntarily die for his delusions, nor the last, as any Islamic suicide bomber, in search of his 72 virgins, can attest.

RE: "Isn't that what survival of the fittest means?" Survival of the fittest can mean many things, depending upon one's definition of "fit" - as I pointed out in an earlier post on another thread, "compassion for others may well be the next step in Human evolution, and the one thing that may ultimately allow us to all live on this one planet together in mutual health and safety."

RE: "I'm still not clear how we've got from a genetic impulse...." If anyone said it was "a genetic impulse," it must have been you - I don't recall anyone else using that term, so I can't really see that that was our starting point, which rather makes the question moot.

pax vobiscum,

Hmm. I was really hoping to avoid getting into slinging around tired arguments on here - my intention in posting my original question was because I was genuinely interested in finding out about atheist-former-Christians experience. I appreciate that some (most??) theists who come on here are presumably here to start (and try and win?!) an argument - but I'm not so naive or arrogant to believe that I could convince anyone here to change their views on the existence of God. Maybe that does happen over social networks, but I've never seen it.

I'm not sure if you could accept the presence of a Christian on here who was actually interested in finding out more about the atheist worldview? Or perhaps I am just too amusing?

Anyway. Re Abraham - the account is in Genesis 22 - this is a tough chapter to read, particularly for someone with children, as I have. My understanding of the passage is based on several points:

1. Abraham acted out of obedience, not fear. There's no indication in the passage that Abraham was afraid of any consequence of disobeying God, rather his commitment to God was greater than even his love for his son.

2. Jewish tradition indicates (as reported in Hebrews 11:17-19) that Abraham's own way of reconciling what he knew of the goodness of God with the appalling act he was been asked to carry out, was that he was going to receive his son back from the dead.

3. In fact, of course, God had no intention of Isaac being harmed, and provided an alternative sacrifice in the form of a ram with its head caught in a thorn bush. For Christians, this account speaks volumes, because we believe in the Son who actually was given up as a sacrifice, in our place, with his head crowned with thorns. This account is therefore a foreshadowing (technically a 'type') of Jesus, and takes on deeper significance for us when read in that way.

Re: Johannine authorship of the Gospel that bears his name, I'm well aware there is controversy over that, and it doesn't particular bother me. 'John's' Gospel is more theologically developed than the Synoptics, but it is still very reasonable to date it late first century. Is it a dictaphone recording of Jesus' actual words? No. Does it give the sense of something that Jesus said - quite possibly on a number of occasions - that was passed down for historically speaking not very many years at all by oral tradition? I believe so. (Oral transmission of stories and teaching in ANE culture is rather different to our game of Chinese whispers, before that point is made)

The second verse I referenced was from 1 John i.e. John the apostle's first letter, not the Gospel. Authorship of that book is uncontroversially attributed to John.

And re Paul not being present, I don't see how that's relevant. The verse I quoted is him making a theological reflection on historical events, not reporting an eyewitness account.

Re your point about survival of the fittest. You say that

"compassion for others may well be the next step in Human evolution, and the one thing that may ultimately allow us to all live on this one planet together in mutual health and safety." - which doesn't sound particularly evidence based, or even very confident, to me. More like wishful thinking, which is something I believe theists are typically accused of. 

Re 'genetic impulse' - I freely admit I'm no biologist, that's probably totally the wrong terminology. However, what I had in mind was Dawkins' quote from The Selfish Gene:

“We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.”

So by 'genetic impulse' I meant this instinct to preserve our own genetic material. How do we get from being 'survival machines' to being machines willing to sacrifice our own survival for the survival of completely unrelated genetic material? I hope the question is no longer moot when phrased using Richard Dawkins' terminology rather than my own.

And finally, re Maximilian Kolbe, it's very gracious of you to admit that his story was 'sad' (try 'truly heroic' and you might be closer to the truth, or is it too painful to ascribe worth to any action by any faith-head?). He didn't die for his 'delusions', he died to save the life of another man who was married and had children, who then went on to survive the war and be reunited with his family.

It was Kolbe's 'delusions' that gave him the strength to encourage and comfort his fellow prisoners as they starved to death, and be the last man standing when they administered a lethal injection a fortnight after he'd been put in the bunker. If you don't have the humility to acknowledge a truly brave and heroic action - even though done by a Christian - then I fear for your vaunted hope that 'compassion for others may well be the next step in Human evolution'.

I'm sorry for getting cross with this post - as I said above I was genuinely hoping to avoid this kind of confrontational debate when coming on this site. I'm very happy to continue conversing as my hope is to find out more about the atheist worldview - I simply don't know much about it and how things like morality etc are framed within an atheistic context - but I'm also hoping to do that with cordiality and respect.

If the writings and attitude of Dawkins, Hitchens et al have made it impossible for you to respect anyone who holds any kind of religious belief at all, then I will understand that and try and find another atheist who's interested in having a conversation. Apologies if my tone is not as respectful as I might wish, I find it hard to nuance things in writing when I'm disagreeing with a point made.

OK, sorry to get off topic.


Regarding the 'survival machine' versus sacrafice to save unrelated people, I think Archeopteryx actually explained it ok the first time.


Most creatures do indeed flee danger and leave the weakest to die.  Good for many but not the weakest, and always a bit of a lottery.  His point was that with our ability to reason, predict and undretsand the future, bands of humans realised that by banding together, the group could outwit and outfight many dangers that would be certain death for ope person, and that collective action could offer more sucurity for the individual AND his offspring in the future.


And as I said, under normal circumstnaces I think much of the altruism disappeears when you you change it from 'risk your life' to 'definitely give your life'.


I won't get into the bible stuff as I am not a chapter and verse expert like you and others. 

 On reflection, I would appreciate your thoughts on how christians can claim Jesus died for their sins and made a huge sacrafice when he was resurrected and knew he would be.





Hi Matt, thanks for the reply. You said:

And as I said, under normal circumstnaces I think much of the altruism disappeears when you you change it from 'risk your life' to 'definitely give your life'.

And I completely agree. Very few people would take a bullet for a complete stranger, which is what makes the sacrifice of Kolbe so striking. I'm not claiming it says anything at all about the truth or otherwise of his beliefs, but it does demonstrate the power that the story believed by Christians of God giving his life for us has for us. Still not sure I'd have the courage to do the same thing in those circumstances though...

Well, I don't know the story that you are discussing, but is it possible that they weren't strangers by then?

It may even be possible that your are correct and that christianity (or any religion) has a greater power to encourage sacrafice than any non-religious philosophy, although it certainly doesn't have a monopoly on it.  But as you said, that proves nothing regarding its veracity.


Edit, rereading again:  Are you sure it is the fact that your god gave his life for humans that inspires such bullet taking?  I would argue/speculate that it has more to with eternal life in heaven than following any example.  Other religions which lack the self sacrafice by deity element inspire the ultimate sacrafice in some believers too.  Indeed, Muslims are (currently) far more likely to lay down their life due to religion than christians (a claim  I have no hard evidence for but believe to be true).


end edit


I can't remember what your original question was now.  :-)  I just re-read your last post and you said you were looking into former christians experiences, sadly I cannot help you there, as I never was one.





Matt/C - I believe you may have selective comprehension - when I compared your Kolbe story to suicide bombers, it should have been obvious that I meant that by sacrificing his life (which under those circumstances, couldn't have been all that great in the first place), doubtless assured him - via his delusions - of a guaranteed domicile in one of the bible's god's "many mansions."


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