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Spiritual Experience For Ex-evangelicals


undone
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I used to be an evangelical Christian (mix of Southern Baptist and charismatic, fun huh), but about 10 years ago that began breaking down for me. I abandoned the concept of a literal hell about five years ago. I've abandoned many other typically evangelical Christian doctrines, and am completely unsure about the divinity of Christ or inspiration (even in a loose sense) of the Bible. I have felt adrift. Glad to be rid of many ridiculous (as I now see them) concepts, freed of fear of hell, but have found nothing to replace the certainty with. The thing I miss even more than the certainty is the sense of God's presence that I experienced in the context of evangelical Christianity. I tend to think it is not all psychologically explained, that there was something to some of those experiences. But ever since abandoning core beliefs, I have been unable to connect with God, to feel that sense of love, to enter into what I would have called "God's presence" with the peace and insight and so forth all that brought with it. So I've felt very very alone in the depth of my being.

 

My question is, for any ex-evangelicals (I use that in a very broad sense, as in you were "born again" and believed the Nicene Creed, thought it was important to "witness" to others, felt connected to God during "praise & worship" music, etc.)--do you now have any similar spiritual experiences, as in do you now have moments of feeling connected to God, of feeling loved by her/him (we need a non-gender personal pronoun don't we--and not inanimate like "it"!), of feeling at awe at the sense of someone greater than yourself--a personal being; moments of insight that are similar to times you may have experienced before, just all around similar sense inner connectedness to a personal being outside (but somehow inside) yourself?

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Undone,

 

You have not said your age. I'm 50 years. I am an ex-evangelical and ex-fundamentalist. I used to practice witnessing and worship. I also felt an emptiness and uncertainty after leaving my place of fellowship at the age of 31 years.

 

It took years of separation and growth to finally accept that there is no certainty in this life. I learned to live everyday with uncertainty.

 

I had help along the way. For 6 years I participated in a day program for the mentally ill. Later I read some of Spong's books: I recommend - A New Christianity for a New World. Spong's website is www.johnshelbyspong.com . Here you can subscribe to his weekly articles, if you choose. Spong has helped me tremendously with coming to grip with common christian myths.

 

I hope this helps you too!

 

Dave

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Undone:

 

Welcome to our board. Lots of people here have gone/are going through what you are. None of us are certain about much regarding belief, and we are here mostly to seek meaning and ask intelligent questions.

 

I would suggest reading past posts as much as possible. You'll find lots of wisdom in them.

Things have not been real active lately, but that comes and goes.

 

As far as reading goes, I'm sold on the late M. Scott Peck's books, especially his first two, The Road Less Traveled, and People of the Lie. He was a psychiatrist, but lucidly describes the human condition so well, and from a Christian aspect, that I'm sure you'll find his work rewarding.

 

I look forward to your partnership on our journey.

 

flow.... :)

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Undone,

 

I completelyhear you and have experienced many of the feelings you describe both before and after.

 

Believe it or not I found great comfort in the movie the Matrix -- I recently just watched again. I find that even though I may not be able to attain the feelings from before at least now there is an honesty in my relationship with God and with religion. To me, it is the difference between the living in the Matrix and having the feelings that were manufactured and living outside the Matrix and having a genuiness.

 

I'm on a journey, so who knows where I'll end up next.

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I appreciate the responses thus far. I read through some threads on this board and it shall be very interesting to read and participate. Thanks for the welcome.

 

At the moment, just as one aspect, I am particularly interested in spiritual experience--has anyone had similar--how shall we say--experiences of the presence of God after "deconversion"? I mean, have you been able to "sense God's presence"--whether or not defined in that way anymore--in a similar manner, similar feelings, experience, etc?

 

You know, there were plenty of times singing praise songs at church or by myself when I felt close to God as an evangie. And I miss that. Of course, there are plenty of times I felt disconnected and empty, too, but at least there were times of deep internal peace/love/connectedness--to someone other than myself, greater than myself. I'm wondering if I could look forward to the same type of experience again, even in a different context, different interpretation, different filter if you will--but still a connectedness to a personal, loving God, still a deep, subjective, but real-in-the-gut type thing.

 

And I look forward to reading more threads on this board! It seems like a neat place. Thanks for making me feel welcome.

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Undone,

 

This is a challenging question. For many the answer will be no. For me, my deconstruction ultimately led me to a more intimate and real connection with the divine. Throwing off the old ways, freed me up to experience something real and now. Eventually, it brought me full circle. I found that the old ways had new meaning for me.

 

Only time will tell for you, friend. Perhaps you will find what you are looking for in the human bonds that you create or maybe you'll have an all out spiritual awakening. Remember, part of this kind of journey is being open to something new. Good luck.

 

Fatherman

Edited by fatherman
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Dear Undone,

 

You could be writing my story-- except the Episcopal church has been my spiritual base for the past fourteen years. And it has been a wonderful place, full of love and grace and people who spoke my language, people who had words for my spiritual hunger. I experienced God, Jesus in remarkable and very personal ways. Lately, however, I keep bumping into the images of Father and Son, and I am startled by my feelings of alienation (I am a 49 year old woman). Like you, I don't know what will replace the old certainty--perhaps nothing can. But I sense at a certain level (when I don't panic!) that this is a good, a growing place to be. Your voice, your truth affirms this for me, and this seems to be my experience of God.

Thank you.

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I'm wondering if I could look forward to the same type of experience again, even in a different context, different interpretation, different filter if you will--but still a connectedness to a personal, loving God, still a deep, subjective, but real-in-the-gut type thing.

 

 

Yes. Unequivocally yes. Glad you're here.

 

Love Jen

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I used to be an evangelical Christian (mix of Southern Baptist and charismatic, fun huh), but about 10 years ago that began breaking down for me. I abandoned the concept of a literal hell about five years ago. I've abandoned many other typically evangelical Christian doctrines, and am completely unsure about the divinity of Christ or inspiration (even in a loose sense) of the Bible. I have felt adrift. Glad to be rid of many ridiculous (as I now see them) concepts, freed of fear of hell, but have found nothing to replace the certainty with. The thing I miss even more than the certainty is the sense of God's presence that I experienced in the context of evangelical Christianity. I tend to think it is not all psychologically explained, that there was something to some of those experiences. But ever since abandoning core beliefs, I have been unable to connect with God, to feel that sense of love, to enter into what I would have called "God's presence" with the peace and insight and so forth all that brought with it. So I've felt very very alone in the depth of my being.

 

My question is, for any ex-evangelicals (I use that in a very broad sense, as in you were "born again" and believed the Nicene Creed, thought it was important to "witness" to others, felt connected to God during "praise & worship" music, etc.)--do you now have any similar spiritual experiences, as in do you now have moments of feeling connected to God, of feeling loved by her/him (we need a non-gender personal pronoun don't we--and not inanimate like "it"!), of feeling at awe at the sense of someone greater than yourself--a personal being; moments of insight that are similar to times you may have experienced before, just all around similar sense inner connectedness to a personal being outside (but somehow inside) yourself?

 

Fundamentalist Christianity never defined my Christian life. Evangelicalism in the classical sense of the label has. However, deep within me, a naturalistic sense of religion has always seemed at least latent.

 

However, fundamentalism shaped the culture and society within which I live. Learning about it defines an important aspect of my spiritual formation. My distress is in not finding where I live a community of people with whom I can share my beliefs—though that has happened from time to time.

 

The sense of isolation that many of experience causes great pain. Christian experience is a shared experience. In many situations, we are outside the community.

 

Edited by Ted Michael Morgan
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  • 2 weeks later...
I have felt adrift. Glad to be rid of many ridiculous (as I now see them) concepts, freed of fear of hell, but have found nothing to replace the certainty with. The thing I miss even more than the certainty is the sense of God's presence that I experienced in the context of evangelical Christianity. I tend to think it is not all psychologically explained, that there was something to some of those experiences. But ever since abandoning core beliefs, I have been unable to connect with God, to feel that sense of love, to enter into what I would have called "God's presence" with the peace and insight and so forth all that brought with it. So I've felt very very alone in the depth of my being.

 

I understand your feelings of missing the certainty. After a fundamentalist upbringing, I had a period in my early adulthood of atheism, followed by a desire to rediscover religion starting in my late 20s. I found that I really did miss the certainty, but I also knew that it was impossible to recapture that certainty, which was the hallmark (as I see it) of an immature faith. It put me in a conundrum--I would read religious literature of many faiths (Christianity as well as others), I would attend Unitarian Church services, and I would explore religion in other ways as well. The fact that I could never accept the dogmas often got in the way, unfortunately. Sometimes I would feel myself just touching the Divine without immersing myself into it . I think that this made it worse in a way--sometimes I felt like I got a taste of it without ever getting the full meal.

 

And yet, that being said, the reality is that I do have moments when I do feel connected with God, that sense of awe and so forth, but I think that part of the problem is that I haven't found a religious community that I have really connected with and with which I could share my own theological views and my spirituality, and I actually think that religious community is an important way of nurturing one's connection with God. There are times when I do feel a comforting presence, and there was even one time when I felt like God had posed a question to me one day while I was half-asleep (long story). But there isn't the all-consuming sense that one might have if one is certain of all the answers. Is it possible to feel connected to God even if one has doubts? I think the reason I have been seeking a religious community is out of hope that this is the means through which it is possible. But I haven't yet found a community to suit me.

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