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Tuesday, July 29, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Experimenting with experiential Christianity

From Alex:

Hello all. I'm looking for some input on an experiment I am considering. Before I get into the details of my experiment, a little back story is in order.

I'm a 19-year-old guy from southwest England. I was brought up casually Christian. My family isn't particularly religious, but the schools i went to happened to be Christian. I became an atheist when i was around 15 and haven't looked back since.

I was never really into it, to be honest; the only reason I believed was because I didn't know there was an alternative. Religious studies in my education was a joke; 90% of the curriculum was about Christianity, and while other religions weren't shunned from the lessons, they were treated with a definite undertone of "check out how silly the non-believers are".

In recent years, I have become a little obsessed with researching religion and atheism, and as many of you will understand, it has strengthened my atheism. I have felt an astronomically higher level of emotions, clarity and freedom ever since I discarded my faith.

However, reading testimonials from Christians and ex-Christians alike, I have heard stories of such profound clarity and emotion from the religious fold. Now, I am someone who is plagued by the knowledge that I will never know and understand everything, but I really wish I could. In a way, I feel that as much as I KNOW about the logic and reasons of why religion is false, I can never really understand it because I haven't experienced the opposite side of the spectrum.

The experiment that I am toying with the idea of carrying out is to try to convince myself that Christianity is true. I want to go to church, go to youth groups, read the bible, everything. I want to immerse myself in the culture and try to discover what it is that these people are talking about.

To my knowledge, this hasn't been done yet, but I would love to hear about any similar experiments so that I can also learn from those conclusions.

A lot of you may think that it is impossible to go back to it after learning about atheism. However, I have a moderate learning disability, and one aspect of it is a blurring between the boundary between my conscious and sub-conscious minds. This means that I have an extra-ordinary amount of control over my own feelings, and I can very easily convince myself of what I consider to be lies, and I can create false memories that without serious reflection, I will honestly believe are true.

My idea reminds me of a book that I read a short while ago. A journalist wrote a book about the drugs culture, and while interviewing a crack addicted prostitute, willingly smoked crack because he didn't think that he would be able to retain his journalistic integrity in his situation without discovering firsthand what it was like. He was fully aware that the addiction rate for first time users of crack is somewhere in the realm of 50%, but he still tried it. I feel the same way about my situation. Also, I understand that there is a danger, however small, that I may become too immersed in what I currently consider to be a delusion and be unable to get out again, but its something I feel that I should do.

I'm not sure whether I will ever actually carry out this experiment, but I would appreciate some feedback from people who have had different experiences in their lives.

Also, I understand that there may be some ex-Christians out there who may feel that what I want to do in some way cheapens their own experiences, especially if they have had particularly bad ones. I want everyone to understand that this is in no way my aim. My reasons are purely selfish and for my own understanding. In this same vein, I don't want anyone to think that I'm trying to set myself up as some kind of martyr or anything of the like. I'm not looking for any respect, disrespect, or recognition. I simply, desperately, want to understand.

Please reply with any kind of comment, criticism, warning or information.