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Saturday, 15 January 2011

Atheist Testimony


Giving a religious testimony of faith is quite a common practice in church meetings and gatherings especially in some Christian circles. At the risk of putting myself in the firing line I thought I would give mine as a non-believer as sincerely as possible.


It may help other atheists/non-believers, who perhaps never have had faith, to understand what it’s like and also show those of faith, even though it is impossible for them to realise it now, that life can be just as fulfilling without believing in gods.

I was brought up in the Church of Ireland, being from Ireland. Religion was of quite a fundamental variety at that time and place. I became saved in my teens through attending a Christian group in my school. As a Christian I felt the power of the Holy Spirit often when worshipping and being around other Christians, or alone when praying or in contemplation. Occasionally I would get flashes of inspiration or feel humbled and filled with awe at something. The feelings of love and sense of purpose during these times were intense and I ‘knew’ my faith was taking me on the right path through life.

As an atheist I can still get these feelings but no longer attribute them to the supernatural. I can still get flashes of inspired thinking, still feel a great love for my friends and family and the feeling is exactly the same as before. There are times I can just get in the ‘zone’ psychologically and feel wonder about life and the immenseness of the cosmos. These feelings do not occur as often as they once did but then I am not actively seeking them with my ‘fix’ of worship and meetings. That is why reason now tells me that almost anyone in the right environment can have spiritual experiences, no matter what religion or none.

Am I making spiritual progress? Believe I am on the right path?

Yes very much, but I am no longer really happy with the term ‘spiritual’. I can think of no better save perhaps enlightenment? So I see a spirituality that is not related to religion or the supernatural – an inner sense of peace or contentment if that makes any sense.

It was during prayer that I felt closest to God and moved by the Holy Spirit the most. This truly defined my relationship with them. I prayed often and with others. Looking back, most prayer was about giving thanks. Of the prayers I believe were actually answers I see there were really only two types of prayer.

The first was when I asked for something that required gods’ intervention. I will not  talk about specific cases but these could be for something like a safe journey, a friend’s health or peace. Not all these prayers were answered off course and being strong in the faith I could easily find reasons why this was so. But some were answered and this gave me strong evidence in the power of prayer and the Lord. How great is it to have God help you out!

Again looking back I can see that some of my prayers were always going to be answered – it was just a matter of probabilities even when it may have seemed against the odds at the time. Some times things turned out different than I had prayed for but not in a bad way, so it was easy to see that God had answered these prayers also but in his own way. But strong in the faith as I was, probabilities and coincidence would never have occurred to me.

The second type of prayer was used when I was troubled or needed advice or guidance. These prayers it seems were always answered, certainly at the time I was the most strong in my faith. Some times during the prayer or the next morning I would just know the best course of action to take and that I had been shown this by the Holy Spirit. To have your life guided by god and having his help to make decisions was wonderful. This was absolute proof that my relationship with god was real and true.

Again in retrospect, answers to prayers of this kind may had been the most convincing but are now the most easily dismissed. Now if I have decisions to make and things to just work out I find some quiet time for contemplation and mull over the issue, or sometimes sleep on it. This is exactly what I did during prayer but I am not using an invisible friend any more. And I still get answers to all these problems but the answers I get are even better than those I got through prayer! How so?
 
Have there never been times when you knew god had provided you with a solution and you followed it? You may not even have noticed circumstances changing and when it reached its conclusion you still knew that was the way it was meant to be.
Unless it was a total disaster you would have no reason to question and even if it was, then there will always be a reason why god wanted things that way. So no matter how things turned out, I always ‘knew’ it was for the best.
 
Now I can reconsider and adapt to new knowledge about the problem in a way that would have been inconceivable before. Now I know that the decision I reached may be the best one, given what I knew, but it is not divine so may not necessarily be the best in the end. To think god gave me the answer left no room for change.

Most Christians will always see non-belief as a loss of something or at least a replacement. In one way it must be, most believers see everything that they have gained since becoming a Christian and assume that people with non-belief do not have any of this, and to not believe means the loss of it. It just isn't so.
It is more a change in attitude. I felt like I was at the start of a new journey of discovery and genuine enlightenment / rationality. Atheism is a gain not a loss. I know that it just means having no belief in gods, but I obviously did have beliefs so they were replaced with a philosophy which encompassed similar values, gave me similar and even more rewards but did not have a supernatural element to it. This philosophy is not atheism but just what personally came about by it.

So I am not making a case for atheism. I have no interest in making people lose their faith, I like to challenge belief and have my own world views challenged in return and have to rationalise them to myself by answering questions from others. It is amazing when someone asks why I think something is the way it is and I find that I have never thought about it before or had to put it into terms that others can understand.

This thread does not even touch on how I moved from Christian to atheist, but I can assure you that it just didn't happen one day. But that is another story, a long one and probably not a very interesting one at that.

Reading back through this my description all sounds a bit inadequate but it is the best I can manage. Needless to say, I have found life makes complete sense to me now and I no longer need a god to help me through my life and feel better about myself and a stronger person for it.


5 comments:

  1. "My name is Lazarus and I am an atheist".

    Good for you. The first step.

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  2. Actually, you can see clearly that I am a recovering Christian.

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  3. An interesting and very sincere testimony. I believe this is always a danger if your faith is based on feelings rather than truth. With the growing numbers of experiential Christians these days stories like this are only going to become more common place. No matter what you believe it's important to know why you believe it. For Christians if you're not grounded in scripture you are bound to fail the first crisis of faith you encounter. When I say grounded in scripture I don't mean, what other people tell you the scriptures say. You have to read for yourself and understand for yourself what is there. If you aren't doing this chances are you are being led astray.

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    Replies
    1. But how do you know the 'truth'?

      There are also several things wrong with your line of reasoning;

      By saying I should be grounded in scripture rather than what people tell me they say it is, seems that you are suggesting rejection of all organised religion as each flavour of Christianity has it own guides, priests, pastors etc who tell you how to interpret their scriptures. If that is so then we are both in the same boat in that respect.

      However I have read the Bible, both King James and Good News New Testament on my own but you seem to be suggesting I should reject any feelings I have about my understanding of them. Surely an omnipotent deity will influence peoples understanding by influencing their feelings if they come to the scripture with an open mind and a desire to know if it is true?

      An loving omnipotent deity as the Christians claim to believe in would not be so obtuse?

      As it happens I know why I believe what I believe and it is largely based on my reading of the Bible and the immorality I have found there, apparently from a loving benevolent deity.

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