Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What Happens to the Former Believer’s Salvation Story?

If you're a believer, and you don't have a salvation story, you need to get one. Fast. Every believer has the story of that unexplainable thing that happened to them that has convinced them god exists and he cares about what we do and think. So many atheists today are former believers. What happened to the salvation story?

I suppose it would be best for me to tell you my old salvation story. When I was young, 8 or 9, I would tell my family that after an exceptionally grueling session of prayer, I could FEEL grace pouring over me. I still remember the sensation. Like water, only there was no water, running down my back. Cool, refreshing, and pure. I remember I loved that feeling I got, and regularly experienced it after a grueling prayer session. Later, in the pre-teen years, I would tell people that after a particularly intense session of prayer, I could feel god speak to me in feelings, emotions and images. I would read the bible for hours and report intense feelings and at the same time a strange and powerful calmness. In my teen years I remember thinking I could almost hear the voice of god.

I rarely shared my salvation story. It didn't seem to be something anyone else could understand. The feelings and sensations were mine. What would I gain by sharing them?

So what happened?

I realized I had fooled myself. I recognized that this was not evidence at all. I came to understand what evidence is and what it is not. I found that I ought to be able to find evidence OUTSIDE myself for a being so great it made the universe. I turned logic and reason loose upon the superstitions I held. I didn't think they would fall apart. I honestly thought they would come through unscathed. How else could religion have survived all these years if it was not true? I had so much to learn.

The former believer has re-evaluated the salvation story. I had to come to a place where I knew what an appeal to emotion is, what an argument from ignorance is. That is not to say this story holds no merit for me today. It serves as a reminder that I was once fooled by the same mechanisms that fool the believers today. Once I held the position that if there is no better argument, I am justified in holding any position until proven wrong. There was a time I thought the first-cause argument was solid.

Perhaps it is good for the former believer to remember his former salvation story. It may give him a place to start the conversation with a believer.

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