Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(1275)

Jan 30, 2013

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your writing and continued media profile. It has changed my life, for at the time of writing I must surely be your most recent convert.

I was impressed by your appearance on the Australian television program 'Q and A' and have since read 'The God Delusion', now feeling proud to call myself an atheist.
My story is perhaps notable for the fact that I had previously claimed a belief in God based on personal experience. I experienced what is sometimes referred to as a 'Spontaneous Mystical Experience' immediately preceding a psychotic episode nearly ten years ago. After a relaxed, but Anglican upbringing, which had waned in later teenage years, I, at age nineteen, suddenly felt the sudden and ineffable feeling that God was hovering just out of sight. My impression was that he was a fatherly and tender entity, existing and not existing at the same time throughout the entire Universe (which I later equated to the paradox of quantum mechanics.) Even after my other psychotic symptoms subsided I maintained that the experience was valid, and, although puzzled at the paradox of his existence and non-existence, felt happy labeling myself as a Pantheist, rationalist Christian.

Recently I happened to hear you speak on 'Q and A' about the tendency to pick and choose from religious texts. Realising that I didn't believe in the mystical parts of the Bible made me question my label as a Christian. Furthermore, my idea of God seemed far enough removed from the idea of a personal Abrahamic God, it suddenly seemed to me, to warrant the term 'atheist'.

After reading 'The God Delusion' (which I finished a matter of hours ago) I feel further compelled to question whether my personal experience of 'God' was, in fact, far more likely to be a part of my original psychotic episode, and as equally improbable as my other past religious delusions, including believing myself the 'Messiah'.
You may argue that the conversion from Pantheist to Atheist is more superficial, just a different branding perhaps. Well I have always felt that labels are important and I feel this shift can only bring positivity to my life.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you. I now consider myself a more critical, scientific thinker and feel happier as a result.

Cheers,
Giles
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