Now That I’m Atheist, How Do I Explain “Moments With Jesus?”

Below is part of an email I received (the quoted section) from an old ministry acquaintance and my answer back to him. He wanted to know how I explain the “moments with Jesus” I once had and why that doesn’t influence my faith now. 

My reply is as follows:

So, as far as I can tell, these are your main questions. Let me know if I’m getting them all:

did u never meet with God? Did he never show Himself to u or touch your heart when it was just the two of u? No coercion or big show…just you and your creator. I was an atheist until i was 19 and then God revealed Himself to me and spoke to me and has showed up and provided and rescued me many times since. I just wonder if all those years in ministry ripped away the memories of when you first fell in love with Jesus?

I DO have memories of times when I was a Christian before Master’s and moments with Jesus. I prayed a lot, and read the Bible a lot prior to MC; but I also remember my first few moments in church around age 15 and the FIRST time I doubted in church and what was told to me. I was a sophomore taking a Biology class where we learned about evolution. It wasn’t a big deal until I went to church and they contradicted what I was being taught in school. Never before had I had someone question what I was being taught in school, but now that I was in church, the youth pastor would insist that schools were bad and only Jesus, the Bible and the church were good/truthful. This simply is not true, but I was 15.

During my sophomore year, I was new in church and I was reading the Bible from start to finish like I did any book. And side note, I’ve been an aspiring writer since I was able to read and I read everything I could get my hands on. The Bible was something I was interested in reading, but like any book, you don’t just believe what you’re given. You look up words you don’t understand or historical references and events. If the book claims to be true, then it should be able to be proven true.

Starting on page one, the Bible didn’t make sense, and as an inquisitive person I asked my youth pastor why the Bible seemed made up. This “Creation” story–how could we believe it? “It sounds like a fairy tale or something,” I said. As a former atheist, you understand it literally is impossible to believe what you’re reading in the Bible when you’re newly converted and that’s because the Bible requires faith (in other words, suspending your disbelief) and without it, you can’t believe it’s “true.”

Do you know the answer I received from my youth pastor about everything I doubted? Just have faith.

That’s NOT an answer.

I’ve spoken with many other youth pastors since starting my blog and Evangelical youth pastors insist that they’re taking a far more intellectual approach, yet they’re not. Even the most intellectual Evangelical youth pastor still insists that kids abstain from sex and push the Purity Movement. That’s not intellectual and it’s also one of the problematic areas of modern Evangelical society today–no boundaries and control of their members. To tell a teen what to do is out-of-bounds for a youth pastor. An intellectual approach would be level-headed and not based on all the learned hype that we’ve patterned our behavior after. The Evangelical community claims that society is so bad and tells people what to do, but that’s actually the pot calling the kettle black. Secular society doesn’t dictate what people believe in or don’t believe in. Who does? The Church.

So the moments with Jesus–here’s how I explain what really happened. It’s all hype and it’s LEARNED behavior. You weren’t born instinctively knowing how to praise Jesus or talk to him because someone had to tell you that he even existed. This is the same with any religion in any culture. No one was born a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Jew; it’s instilled in us by our families and culture. So someone taught you how to praise Jesus and you mimicked them. You watched them pray or cry or be loud or somber and you did what they did because that was the “way” to reach out to God. That was the same with me. I learned this behavior in church. God isn’t real; moments with God aren’t real.

We were followers.

moments with jesus

READERS: Do you get these kind of questions? How do you answer them? 

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