Worshipful Experience Of God? Been There, Done That.

One Luke Muelhauser’s readers challenged him that all his pursuit of evidence just would not matter if only he would experience “believing in Jesus and God” for himself. In reply, Luke opens up about his emotionally intense experience of Christianity:

Things went so well over the next year that I started to feel like quite a success. The sin of pride was creeping in. God spoke to me2 about this with special force during a worship service at my church. I was still pretty shy at that time, but over the past year I had become more comfortable doing “charismatic” things during worship, such as raising my hands, and maybe even jumping up and down if I really felt the presence of God. But now I felt moved to do something that would not only glorify God, but would also push my mind away from pride and toward humility.

I decided that putting my body into a position of humility would probably help. Then I felt God calling me to kneel before the cross at the front of my church. But that would mean leaving my row and doing something unusual in front of 100 people – 100 people I knew, and would have to speak with sometime after. I stared at the cross for a good 10 minutes, asking God to help me move from my spot.

Finally, I just asked God for peace, and he gave it to me:3 My whole body relaxed. I took a deep breath, pushed my the anxiety out of my mind and instead focused on the goodness of God. I squeezed my way out of my row and walked up the center aisle. When I got to the front, I kneeled before the cross and lifted my hands.

But it wasn’t enough. I laid down on my face, arms outstretched before the cross, and worshiped my Savior.

There I was, lying face-down in front of 100 people like a fool. But I didn’t care. I just wanted to glorify God and humble myself. I praised God for all the beauty he gave me. I cried for joy the whole time. My whole body felt warm – almost like it was vibrating, but peacefully.

I don’t know how much time passed. I was only vaguely aware of the worship music. Maybe something like 15 minutes later I got up on my knees and looked around. Half the worship team had stopped playing and had also turned to kneel before the cross, arms raised in praise to God. A few other people had lined up before me, kneeling or prostrate before the cross. God was moving among us.

Luke’s conclusion, having experienced the evidence he has been asked to consider:

did experience it for myself. I did live it. I did believe, and I saw great things happen in my life.

It just isn’t true, is all I’m saying.

More from Luke about his religious experience and his deconversion here.

I sure had many similarly intense and wholehearted, whole-minded experiences (so many that I have to admit I briefly felt their seductive power again while reading Luke’s account of his own), but, like Luke, I had to leave the faith on intellectual grounds, kicking and screaming, against my will.

Do I miss it?

Though it’s been twelve years now since I’ve had one, reminiscing about intense religious experiences does make my chest tingle and heave with reactivated pleasures and make my stomach knot up in nostalgia.  But my last trip to a church service, listening to the false, immoral, manipulative nonsense, both in song and sermon, that used to lead to those experiences made a stomach knot of sickness and twisted my face into disgust.

So, yeah, I’d love to have the high again, but these days I’d just throw up the drug.

And rightly so.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.