The Evangelical Universalist Forum

What Is A Genuine Religious Conversion Experience?


To participate in this thread properly (by answering the OP) I’ll add my 2 cents.

Short answer? Not sure. Long Answer?

Not sure, but I have my history - I have spent the great part of my adult life chasing what I believe to be an illusion. I have always been chasing that ‘conversion’ experience. Chasing the 'spirit", chasing anything spiritually related. I used to think the conversion experience would magically cause me to obey God’s will consistently and perfectly (or near perfectly). I was ever so searching for the power and desire to God’s will. When I would sin I would ask myself “I must be not be a genuine convert” and this cause so much inner turmoil. For years I carried the guilt of sins, not my past sins, but my current sins. I would pray, rededicate my life, I got baptized, I did everything I could to obey, but the more I obeyed, the harder things became… Perfection, or the pursuit of it actually made me worse off. It caused me to obsess about my faults, which caused me to fall more often. Many people call this the pink elephant syndrome. What we think will improve things actually makes things worse. Striving to be perfect just brings to mind how we are imperfect. Constantly viewing our imperfections is a great way to adopt a shame based identity. When you do ‘bad’ so often, you become ‘bad’ in your own mind. Once you have taken on this identity, it all but destroys you. Over the years I became destroyed more and more, and that caused me to continue my insanity (keep seeking for the spirit, or answer from God)… The insanity has Biblical support, which makes this even harder to withdraw from. For Jesus said “Seek and find”… But ironically, another scripture says “Ever seeking, ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth” so, as I see it, it is basically a contradiction. Paul speaks of people like me, and then Jesus tells us to keep pressing on (like with the widow and unjust judge). I eventually came to realize this created a feedback loop. A very harmful one. I realized I would go to my grave still seeking. So I quit seeking and found relief.

I had an idea on day… I grabbed a piece of paper, drew circles on it. Each circle was a different size representing each religion and it’s size. Within Christianity there were four main small circles, RC, Prot, Ang, EO. Within Prot there was yet another circle that THOUSANDS of small dots. Each dot represented a different denomination. Then I drew some circles with the large Muslim circle for three of their sects and so on. I looked at the ‘bigger’ picture and saw something that I could no longer justify. My arrogance regarding my correct belief. Even worse was the idea that everyone else, billions and billions were lost and godless. Lucky me, who grew up in 'Merica! and had God’s blessing! Woot! Not only did I have all the material possessions I could need/want, but by golly, the next life has me secured too! Can life get any better? Yeah, so it must be obvious now I reject the idea that one sole tiny minuscule number of the populace is the only one who knows the ‘True’ God. If you haven’t done it, I highly recommend doing that exercise above. It really puts things into perspective. It might humble you, or conversely, it might cause you be arrogant, depending on how you view the idea. That is the strange thing… The same idea can cause two different responses. Who is to say which one is right? Well, me of course, because… :slight_smile:


For those that are serious about this, “Perceiving God: the Epistemology of Religious Experience” by William P. Alson, is a deep look into it.

It is not difficult reading, but it takes all of one’s attention to keep up with it. It shows the shallowness of certain sceptical arguments - not all of them of course. It will encourage/challenge you as it did me. You can find used copies. … 0100405830


I have not, but I did attend one volunteering with their food packing/handout and that was neat. Maybe I will check out the service.


A better book on the subject is a new kind of apologetic by the psychologist Richard Beck

The Authenticity of Faith: The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience Paperback – January 10, 2012


I think there is immense variety in the experiences of people as they come into faith and spirituality. I was raised in an atheist household, but i had a powerful conversion experience at an early age(20) when I was not in church- and never had been since a one time Sunday school attendance at the age of 6.

Rather than go into the details of my experience I would just like to say that as believer for over 40 years I have met so many beautiful people who have had such diverse experiences- from someone who always felt they knew Jesus since childhood to people who just gradually came to believe in Jesus Christ over a long period and couldn’t tell you a “day” when they were “converted” if their life depended on it.

I think to judge someone’s testimony of faith is difficult and perhaps a little presumptuous. Perhaps something does not ring true or seem scriptural, and I have seen and heard a lot of bogus spiritual stuff along the way, but to say things like “If you dont know when you were saved you probably arent saved”(which I have heard in certain Fundamentalist and Pentecostal circles) or “I am highly suspicious of anyone who claims to have had a supernatural spiritual experience with God”(which I have heard in certain Fundamentalist and Evangelical circles) is really kind of arrogant.

I think God’s Spirit reaches people in many different ways to reveal Jesus as Savior and Lord, so that there are too many beautiful experiences to put in a religious box or stamp on a ticket for admission to His grace and love. I have always been most touched by testimonies of people who had no earth shaking experience like my own, but just found themselves walking hand in hand with the Savior at some point, and serving in some quiet way.


If anybody wants the truth on the matter here’s “Warranted Christian Belief” by Alvin Plantinga online. He captures what I’ve been saying. He shows in the book that it’s not arrogant to believe in God. Just because God may have blessed a person with the gift of grace and not another (at the moment) doesn’t make one arrogant. In fact, it’s precisely the deflation of ego that ones faculties are functioning properly as they come to sense God’s love and presence. Either through the beauties of nature or the beauties of the Gospel.,204,203,200.jpg


Thanks for that link StM - I did not know it was available online.

If a person read that book and Aston’s Perceiving God, they would be well grounded in the subject of religious ‘experience’.



He mentions a quotes Aston in the book. Alston does a good job.


A few quotes from “Warranted Christian Belief”


A couple more quotes from “Warranted Christian Belief”


Good stuff.


“Warranted Christian Belief” on the charge of arrogance:



I had an experience a few years ago, maybe not religious but an experience nevertheless. It was a Sat morning and i was on my way to my Messianic Temple but i stopped at the Post Office first. I pulled into the parking lot and got out to mail letters and on my way to the mailbox a tall older lady dressed in green stopped me and asked to me to look at the light on her dashboard. So i looked at it and it was an oxygen sensor light which i knew only because my mechanic had informed me about the one on my dashboard a couple of weeks earlier. So i explained to her what it was and recommended my mechanic to her. She was grateful and gave me her letter and asked me to mail it and then called me “a nice young man.” So i quickly put our envelopes in the mailbox and on the way back to my car i saw her slowly getting into her old faded green car. I quickly got to my car in a few seconds and i looked in the rear view mirror to see how she was doing. Her car was gone which i immediately knew was not possible, so i quickly turned around and looked up the service road and then up the main road to look for her car. There was no sign of her and i knew what happened because if you encountered her you would know how slowly she moved and how long it should have taken her to pull out and drive away. So i was hoping to hear how there was some accident on the road shortly before i drove by or how i missed some other catastrophe but alas i never found out why this happened but i know she must have been an angel sent for some purpose that escapes me.


To post that letter!! :laughing:


In Richard Beck’s book above he shows the laboratory evidence that confirms Freud’s hypothesis that religion is a delusion. It’s based on wishful thinking to console and relieve existential anxieties including death. Those who use faith for this reason don’t have authentic faith. A way they tested this is that they showed that people who have inauthentic faith become defensive when an outsider to their worldview comes along. They will denigrate and demonize the outsider as they become defensive of their self-esteem project. Fortunately William James in “The Variety of Religious Experience” shows that not all experiences are of this sort. People who embrace death and tragedies of the world don’t try to suppress the existential anxieties of life and the neurotic death anxieties. These are the ones who have genuine faith and don’t get defensive to outsiders of their worldview. James calls these people the “sick souls”. People like Mother Teresa and the saints fall into this category. Their doctrines don’t involve a suppression to avoid the unpleasantness of existential anxieties including death. Those with genuine faith are willing to engage outsiders without denigrating and demonizing to protect a self-esteem project. The “sick souls” are the ones who hold God accountable for the pain and suffering of life. According to the Apostle Paul who was sorrowful yet always rejoicing. Their communion with God has doubts and shows lament. True faith keeps it’s eyes open to the suffering of others. The more a person has genuine faith the more he will experience pain over the suffering of the world.


Meaningless, Meaningless
The world is meaningless!
Subjected to vanity by God
But in hope
Nothing matters but to love
You and serve You
Dear Lord
These three remain
Faith, Hope, and Love
But the greatest is love
As I am sorrowful
Yet I am rejoicing
My heart is broken and tender
Tender like a little child
Burn me with Your love
And melt away all labels
Reduced to nothing
But dust and ashes



Gabe, I don’t understand how you could classify Charlie’s experience in this way. CHARLIE WAS AN ATHEIST. HE WAS RAISED AS AN ATHEIST. He didn’t go around making supernatural claims. He had an experience with God that let to his belief in God. This cannot be compared to the claims of those people who are always saying, “God told me this,” and “God told me that.” I’ve met that kind as well, and don’t put any more stock in their words than you do.


Paidon, you really need to get out more, friend. Why would I not classify this experience in that way? I don’t believe God talks to anyone, so why would I believe he did it for your brother-in-law? I mean, what is there to understand? I mean, I admit, it is possible for God to talk to someone. I just don’t believe he did or does.

To me it is simple. I thought, at one point, that God has spoken to me (on multiple occasions too!) but I no longer believe that. Some atheists believe they hear God and convert. But did you know some Christian’s thought they heard God and de-convert? I mean, this proves nothing except that people change their minds. They hear things, they experience things. To them, those things are real.

Let’s be clear, I wouldn’t go up to you brother-in-law and tell him he is deceived. I’d have no reason to attempt to sabotage his peace/confidence. You might wonder why do I then talk about this on a forum? Because this forum. My aim isn’t to hurt anything, but to learn and also share my perspective. I still learn, despite what you may think. You might be tempted to think that I am here to sway people. Not so. I am also not dead-set in my beliefs. I could very, very wrong. There may be a God and maybe he speaks to a lot of people. Maybe. But from my point of view, I don’t see it. As mentioned before, call me a doubting Thomas if you will. But I only write this to clarify that my demeanor isn’t one of malice or trying to stir the pot. Hope that makes sense.


You THOUGHT God had spoken to you. But Charlie, my cousin’s husband HEARD WORDS SPOKEN TO HIM IN AN AUDIBLE VOICE. There’s a vast difference between the two.

Charlie would never have THOUGHT God has spoken to him. He was an atheist!

How much I get out is irrelevant.