Keep The Reason wrote:Moonwood the Hare wrote:I was not sure there was anyone there who could do that but then he did come, I felt his presence and a peace I had not known in many years and I knew he was there.
So this stands as a fair example of what atheists mean by "special knowledge". As a one-time Christian myself, I did this type of thing plenty of times, and never felt anything-- no presence, no particular peace, nothing. And I wasn't even hostile to it-- I was "doing god's work" and open to such an experience. But nothing ever came about. And I did it in times of certainty and in times of doubt, in good times and bad times-- but nothing. Consistently nothing.
I've related this to theists before, and generally the replies run the gamut from: "Your fault." (various reasons why, like I was not sincere, or I was testing, or any number of mind-reading assertions that were not true), to, "Gee, I'm sorry you didn't get what you needed." The latter is more sympathetic, but really only underscores that at least in my case, I don't/didn't rate the experience that came to you and others. Maybe god likes you better'n me, lol.
I've certainly had emotional responses to the story of the NT. I couldn't even help not tearing up at Mel Gibson's "Passion" -- though truth be told I also got angry at the endless ways he kept blaming the Jews and presented the Romans as if they were helpless, blameless pawns of the Sanhedrin. But anyway, the story of suffering and love and sacrifice-- these are potent and can bring about emotional responses-- in fact, this is what makes them important myths that can help motivate human actions. It doesn't indicate though that they are objectively truthful versions of reality (and indeed, other mythic traditions also can compel such emotional responses, and this doesn't mean they are true either).
But at the end of the day, if the Christian worldview is valid, then the story of your experience turns on some interesting (or troubling) points: You got the special knowledge. You get saved. I (and those like me) did not get the special knowledge, hence I am (and they are) not saved. You were hostile, yet apparently deserved the presence and the message. I was dedicated, but apparently did (do) not rate the same presence you experienced. Then there are those who were raised with an utterly conflicting/different tradition, who never think to even ask or supplicate; they are unlikely to receive the special knowledge as well, hence are as unsaved as I.
At the very least, I would think that an objective critique of these odd metrics is not outside of a reasonable response. And also it would seem that Hell will be very crowded.
And at this point, it all now seems very silly to me, and the whole thing has much more likely psychological reasons for being extant than the idea of a god, heaven, Jesus, sin, and so on. So if I'm "closed off" to it now, well so be it. I'm certainly happier this way, and more fulfilled, and my actions towards people are not much different than before, so ethically and morally, not a thing has changed (I actually like people more now, though in my conflicts here I suppose that isn't readily evident)
I get the impression that as a Christian you were involved with a very exclusivist soteriology - the idea that only people who have said certain magic words can be saved. I did start out with something like that kind of view but I never really held it consistently. I certainly don't think I know what anyone's final state will be or the comparative statistics of who is in heaven and hell. In the Catholic Church they sometimes like to say that although it is a dogma of The Church that there is a hell it is not a dogma that there is anyone in it. I certainly share the hope of Mother Julian that in the end all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. In the Eastern Church they call it apocatastasis. And I certainly do not know what your final state will be. I do not know why you never had the experience you were seeking but I also do not know whether you will be drawn towards this experience in the future. Simone Weil used to say 'Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.' So I would encourage you to keep seeking truth and if that leads you to Christ so be it and if it leads you somewhere else so be it.