What first made me interested in religion from an atheist objective materialist upbringing was when I was a student at Belfast Royal Academy in the sixties. In their mid-teens a large number of my fellow students, along with others attending Glengormley Presbyterian were clearly undergoing psychological crisis, resulting in a large number declaring they were “born again Christians”. From a spectator viewpoint this was peculiar to watch and piqued my curiosity. I experienced no such thing. But the young people concerned were evidently experiencing stress, gave every sign of “hearing voices” and altered their behaviour – sometimes not always for the better. I am thinking particularly of two very intelligent girls in my year, who up till then had seemed on top of everything, making optimum choices in every situation, who looked like they were being driven off the rails.
Alongside that I had the experience of knowing a fellow student who had also attended Glengormley Primary School who had always been a very convincing Christian. By “convincing” I mean as an atheist, then, I always had the strange feeling that there was someone with her, whom she certainly seemed to be guided by.
The widespread transformations of the grammar school children was another game entirely.
That was where I became interested in religion, and the reason I continued my interest in my studies at Ulster University (Coleraine campus).
Two things stood out. The young people appeared to be “hearing voices”, and also, in some cases, people who were otherwise stable and showed excellent judgement were becoming so hugely distressed they were losing their usual balanced judgement and showing signs of going off the rails. I could not figure out this contradiction. I was surprised at the very concept that “God” talked to anybody. When I started to study religion that was what my sources confirmed. God talked to Jesus and Moses. Mary was addressed by a divine messenger. Even the disciples did not claim that God talked to them. Even Paul, did not claim that God talked to him, but the risen Jesus. And Jesus said that no-one came to the Father (God) except through him.
There was another oddity. In my Bible Study Class (Why was I attending Bible Study when I was an atheist? Because my mother insisted on it. In those days in Northern Ireland when I finished school I would not have been able to get work without a Minister’s reference), one of our instructors was evidently going through an extreme psychological crisis similar to the students. He talked along the lines of not giving enough, you give, and more is asked, and so forth. He seemed under real pressure, was really distressed, and I wondered at the time – does God get into your head, and make a point of fleecing you out of your resources?
So, what was going on?
I have no doubt that there is a spiritual reality which true religion reflects. I know my fellow pupil at Glengormley Primary and Belfast Royal Academy was a genuine Christian. The conversion experience of young people is puzzling, but talking to some of them years later, it certainly seemed these were genuine conversion experiences, and the people concerned were very balanced people with a strong religious faith. BUT, that was not always the case. Some people went from being balanced, well-adjusted and succeeding, to becoming mentally unbalanced, terribly distressed, and failing, and in one case giving up resources which he himself needed. Why? Because someone was “talking” to them, “in their heads” and they thought it was God. But from an outsider perspective it looked that they were not receiving guidance but mis-guidance.
My view is that “God” does not talk to people. I believe there are occasions where Jesus does, but it is not a common experience. Most religious people do not hear anybody “talking” to them, rather they are guided by the Spirit. It is an intuitive process, which involves a lot of discipline and effort on the part of the person spiritually guided – to humble yourself and silence the inward clatter to listen to the “still small voice” which is no voice at all but a feeling which guides you which way to go.
“God” telling you to do things which are detrimental, that misguide you, and reduce you to ruin, is not likely to be God at all. So, if it is not God, then who?
As a Targeted Individual I seem to be missing out on a defining experience. Nobody talks to me inside my head. I do not hear voices. But many do. What’s more they think state espionage services are behind it. When you consider the things the state espionage services have done, this is not such an outrageous theory. The Nazis, Soviets, and the Americans in the middle of the last century expended huge resources in researching the para-normal, distance viewing and such like in the hopes of obtaining military advantage. The ability to talk to a target over a distance was one of the things they sought. These people also shared the same proclivity for carrying out their experiments on unconsenting, and sometimes, unwitting, subjects. And the same bodies also shared the same fascist agenda for keeping people oppressed, especially any who looked as if they might succeed in raising themselves above repression. And the espionage people are also obsessive manipulators and liars, who tailor their lies for the destruction of their targets. Nothing is off-limits to them, including a person’s sincerely held religious faith.
My advice would be, if you think “God” has told you to empty your bank account – think again. There are people much closer than “God” who would happily exploit your good-will to do you harm.