I once was lost, but now am found.
Some Christians fall back on the caveat of personal experience when threatened with logical arguments against belief or doubt in God. They have had a subjective experience that they think is proof of God and it is their trump card - “I may not understand God, or the Bible, or how he does things, but, I know, I once was lost, and now I am found, was blind and now I see, so you must be wrong.
They have been deceived into thinking that they have touched God and if you have touched God every thing else becomes mundane and a distant second place. Nothing much in life comes close to a born again (spiritual rebirth, regeneration) encounter with God. For many Christians, it is unlike anything they have ever known. The process begins with a sense of personal conviction of being burdened with sin, a yielding and release of this load to Jesus which results in indescribable peace and joy.
We are talking about “spiritual” transformation and once experienced it is unforgettable, with many people able to recall small details of the event decades later. In the aftermath there are positive outcomes: alcoholics and drug addicts might get deliverance over their addictions, a serial killer might come to salvation, a criminal fugitive may hand himself in to the authorities. A housewife may sail through her tasks for weeks, flooded by a sense of God’s love flowing through her to her family.
That is why a born again (1) Christian, more than any other, has an insane sense of certainty about their Christian belief which makes them almost impervious to rational argumentation. The Psalmist writes, "Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.". The Apostle Paul starts many letters with : “We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard..” A believer knows what he or she has experienced and seen. Who can argue with that?
The born again conversion experience usually starts with a social influence. You are invited to a Christian revival/gospel meeting at a Church or a Crusade. The first thing that gets your attention, as you walk into the auditorium is the smiling, happy, and joyful faces and the loud, rapturous, hypnotic music. The positive, dynamic and victorious energy created by the congregation causes a potential convert to become an unwitting participant and he is easily influenced by the whole process, and actively seeks to fit in with the group’s ideas.
The typical evangelical sermon incorporate illustrations about life’s situations and circumstances that corral you into a corner whereby “you feel a lack of control” and thereby you turn willingly, thankfully and robotically like being hypnotised, to a Christ who: forgives and forgets all your sins, heals the broken hearted, sets the captive free and makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Jesus makes you healthy, wealthy and a gives you power to even become a Son of God. Who can resist?
At the end of the emotional charged sermon sinners are called to the front to become born again. By that time every one has mellowed out and with hands gently swaying, as if hypnotised fall into a submissive trance-like state and worship a live, vibrant and exciting God with tears of joy streaming down their faces - some fall on their knees, some fall over as if slain by an invisible force, turbo charged ushers run all over the place, assisting people as they fall and covering with blankets those fortunate enough to have been touched by the hand of God. The scene in front of the auditorium resembles a battlefield with the bodies lying all over the floor.
You are now born again; it is your own subjective experience, so no can deny it. You are on top of the world. Your life has changed. It has helped and worked for you and to you it is real. But it is not unique to Christianity. Christians might be changed and healed by the experience but it happens in their imagination and that is why it appears as if God is real. What they don’t know is that these experiences are not unique to Christianity.
Here are some testimonies from non Christians (2)
“I prayed harder and just then I felt like everything I was saying was being sucked into a vacuum. When I stood up, I felt like thin air; I had to brace myself. I felt this energy, it was a kind of an ecstasy.”
“Something began to flow in me—a kind of energy . . . Then came the strange sensation that water was not only running down my cheeks, but surging through my body as well, cleansing and cooling as it went.”
“It was a beautiful feeling of well-being, warmth and loving . . . I went home and all night long these warm feelings kept coming up in my body.”
“I felt something real warm overwhelming me. It was in just a moment, yet it was like an eternity. . . . a joy, such a joy hit me with such a tremendous force that I jumped . . . and ran.”
The born again experience doesn't require a specific set of beliefs. It requires a specific social /emotional process, and the dogmas or explanations are secondary. Faults, flaws and weaknesses in our character are natural to all humans. Cognitive behavioural therapy used by Psychotherapy counsellors produces similar positive results in changing unwanted behaviour patterns.
Cat Stevens a famous singer from the sixties converted to Islam changing his name to Yusuf Islam and probably had the same kind of transformation. Many famous film stars have found that Buddha has changed their lives for the better.
I have found that common sense, reason and logic has changed my life for the positive and have become a born again atheist free of all indoctrination and condemnation. My chains of superstitious belief that caused me to deny science have been snapped in half. I am free at last. My life is fuller now that Jesus has gone. I did not seek to leave him, he just left me. I did not try to leave the faith, it left me.
For further reference:
In Christianity, to be born again is to undergo a "spiritual rebirth" (regeneration) of the human soul or spirit from the Holy Spirit, contrasted with the physical birth everyone experiences.
The origin of the term "born again" is the New Testament: "Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.'"[Jn 3:3 NIV] It is a term associated with salvation in Christianity. Individuals who profess to be born again often state that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
(2) ( Conway & Siegelman, Snapping,)
Snapping: Sudden Personality Change, is a anti-cult book which describes the authors' theory of religious conversion, called snapping in terms of mind control, is a mental process through which, the authors argue, a person is recruited by a cult or other religious movements.
In a conversion context like missionary work or revival meetings, from the moment snapping occurs, religious interpretations of the experience are provided. These explanations become the foundation stones on which whole castles of beliefs will be constructed. The authorities who triggered the otherworldly experience are trusted implicitly, which gives them the power to now transform the convert’s world view in accordance with their own theology.