Atheist Twilight Zone Phenomenon (tell me I'm not the only one)

Recently...  Well not exactly recently.  For quite a while now I have this odd experience from time to time.  I just came across this site today and it seemed like the best place to ask.  It's not the kind of thing that's easy to google.  I call it the Twilight Zone Phenomenon due to it's resemblance to an episode of the aforementioned show. 


So here's the setup.  I'll be going about my business.  Perhaps walking to or from classes on campus.  When quite out of no where I am hit by the overwhelming realization that I am surrounded by people who actually believe in god.  Not like, "Hey we have debates about whether there's a god or not".  To the contrary it's more like, "Wait, these grown, adult people are actually talking about make believe stuff like it's real".  Perhaps someone standing close by is talking about what "the heavenly Father" wants from us all.  In that moment there is almost a sense of vertigo.  Like I've slipped right off the rails into bizarro world.  One thing that puzzles me about this is the fact that I used to believe that same nonsense.  In a way it shouldn't seem so surreal and alien to me, but it does.  Sometimes so much so, that it takes me a few minutes to make the 'M.Night Shyamalan twist ending' feeling go away. 


So I'm extremely curious about the experiences of other Atheists with regard to this sensation.  Is it common?  Does someone have a better word for it than 'surreal'?  I'm trying to come up with a better description.  Something that captures the intensity of the event without having to make a dozen pop culture references. 

Views: 73

Tags: atheist, believe, believers, bizzare, make, phenomenon, surreal, true, twilight, zone

Comment by Kairan Nierde on July 27, 2011 at 2:25am

Sometimes this happens to me...but if I have any kind of physical feelings, it's more the sensation of stillness and being very alert, as if I were stepping aside and viewing my life and our crazy culture from the perspective of an anthropologist.

Comment by Jakub Kowalczyk on July 27, 2011 at 3:00am

I have this feeling to sorta but more like, holy shit these people live in a different dimension or universe or something like that, and then I'm like well this sucks and I go about my merry way lol. 

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on July 27, 2011 at 3:55am

I have experienced that feeling in some small towns in Canada.  You drive into town, notice there are quite a few churches for such a small place, then start hearing the theistic references when you get out of your car.  I actually went and lived in such a town for a few years and at times it was like a Stephen King novel.  I literally looked around for hidden cameras on occasion, thinking perhaps it was all part of an elaborate gag tv show.

Comment by Tim on July 27, 2011 at 7:34am

"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone." (Rod Serling)

Comment by Turanga Leela on July 27, 2011 at 8:34am
Yes, I've experienced it. It's kind of like an out-of-body thing, super awareness, extreme focus and even a little disorientating. Usually only lasting a few minutes until you shake yourself lose from the feeling. Interesting but a little creepy too.
Comment by Matthew Walker on July 27, 2011 at 9:25am

@Leela, and Kairan  Yes this is exactly it.  I find it really interesting from a social and psychological perspective.  Who knows...  Might make for a good research project one of these days.  I can only imagine what the fMRI images would look like of a brain during one of these episodes. 

Comment by Nate on July 27, 2011 at 9:45am

You are not alone, like you I also grew up whole heartily believing in the absurdity called Christianity.  We were “non-denominational” which was pretty much Pentecostal without the dress code.  The whole shebang that church did: casting out demons, speaking in tongues, running around the church holding giant jesus signs, bringing your own tambourine to church to “praise” along, “slaying” with the “spirit,” oil on the forehead, witnessing, productions in the middle of the mall, I mean we did it all.  So when I see or hear people talking and doing things about and for god, I also get a strange surge of emotions.  I listen to what comes out of their mouths and it’s astonishing that they actually believe this and think its true and real, then I remember back to the crazy stuff I use to do and believe when I was younger and in the church, and I’m just amazed at what people will believe, because at one point at my life I was exactly the same.  Granted I was raised from birth to think everything was normal and you were strange to not think all that BS is nothing but the truth, it was the only way I knew how to live.  But despite all that, its still so surreal to see it today, and astonishing what people will believe when they are contempt in whatever fairy tale religion they cling to when fact, truth and logic are all around them.  But I think they live in another dimension, one where things like facts and tangible truths are invisible and sound like strange monster noises.  I mean how else do you explain the anger and confusion that comes out of christian‘s mouth when an atheist or anyone not of the same belief trys to reason, and how logic seems to not exist.  Dimension Dumb: the plane of existence for the ignorant and religious.

Comment by Frank Hamilton on July 27, 2011 at 2:43pm

Dawkins put in succinctly.  We are surrounded by delusion, all religions.  When bombarded by dogma continuously, I think it does change the brain physically and Steven Pinker and others have suggested this.


Comment by Paul Reed on July 27, 2011 at 6:17pm

I've had brief experiences like this, not always about religion.

In fact, once, while still a believer, I remember looking at the people walking busily to and fro on the street and feeling a detachment. All these people, I felt, are so wrapped up in their everyday lives that they're too busy or impatient to look into the bigger picture; the "truth" about the Bible and armageddon. Of course, now I realise the feeling was partly a condemnation of materialism, and partly just awe at how all the cogs in the machinery of everyday life chugged along smoothly, independent yet part of a larger whole.

Another time, I had a similar feeling about how the present moment is the very last moment in the long line of the entire history of time that is actually happening. It sounds strange, and is hard to explain, but it was kind of the realisation that the Star Trek future and the various fictional futures weren't real (even though that's obvious), and that noone knows what the future holds because it hasn't happened yet, and in a sense doesn't exist.


Is this making sense, or am I coming off like a nut-ball?

And, of course, I've had the "Why on earth do people still believe this crap?!?!" moments.


I just put it down to some kind of heightened awareness, or a shift in perspective. Probably some subtle change in brain chemistry or something. I think adrenaline can cause this kind of clarity, but I'm not sure.

Comment by Lindsey on July 27, 2011 at 6:42pm

I can't really say that I've experienced this exact thing, but there are times when I'm just really aware that everyone around me believes in supernatural things. I'll just be talking to them normally, and then all of a sudden its like, "wow, all these people believe in god", and then I start to wonder what their thoughts sound like. What is it like to believe that a higher power is there watching everything you do, and do they talk to it everyday? I never had religion to begin with, so I can't really comprehend what its like to actually believe the things theists believe.



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