In my experience with religious mysticism, there were no real miracles, no true spiritual experiencing. Now that I’m an atheist, I don’t need to hear anyone else’s stories about god; I experience the real deal. As a Charismatic, miracle-believing Christian, the supposed visions or hearing of god’s voice felt like my own imagination or heightened emotional states. We talked about miracles constantly but mostly relied on other peoples’ claims that they happened. Atheism opens up space for experiencing what religion mostly just talks about: real spiritual experiences. Belief in any particular religious idea of god creates a barrier; freedom from made-up religious ideas of god is atheism. Trying to experience spiritual reality by swearing allegiance to a deity-driven worldview is like trying to see in the dark by putting on sunglasses. Take the god sunglasses off (atheism) and you’ll have a better shot at seeing the light that’s already there. You can then find tools like science, meditation, art, or psychedelics that were suspect or off limits according to religious decrees. These tools have the power to take you deeply and consistently into an experience of reality that’s far more incredible than the wildest of religious fantasies, for it goes well beyond the confines of human imagination (religion).
Religion was like a placebo pill labeled spirituality that could only ever produce spiritual hallucinations if you imagined hard enough (faith). There’s a false conception put forth by the religious that only religion leads to valid spiritual experiences. The religious say that without their god this world would be cold, brutal, and “all that there is.” But now that I’m not religious, I finally experience mind-blowing spirituality. I don’t just picture it or hear other peoples’ testimonies or rely on biblical myths: I encounter it. I’ve found the world to be far less terrifying than the religious vision of reality, and far more open and mysterious.
When I was religious, we imagined visions of Jesus, demons, heaven, or felt heavenly goose bumps and told ourselves this was the surest proof of god’s existence. We relied on faith in the stories of missionaries who told us about people supposedly getting healed somewhere in Africa. We took courses in miracles, healing, and prophesy, and preached about how signs and wonders should be happening today like they did in biblical times, but they aren’t because the people of god don’t pray hard enough or don’t have enough faith. Sometimes people claimed healing, but it could have always been something else, like spontaneous remission or placebo, and usually people got better from medical science (unless they refused medical treatment and got sicker due to “waiting on god for healing”). I saw how people being “slain in the Spirit,” were often just pushed onto the ground or fell out of pressure from overzealous evangelists. Other claims of miracles or healings were similarly contrived and highly suspect.
None of this is necessary, no one needs training to perform miracles or hear the voice of a deity. The miracle of reality is open to anyone who has the courage to engage reality as it is, letting go of delusions based on denial because we want reality to be something else. Spirituality is far bigger than the limitations of a man-made deity. It has the power to heal our world, and it is based on unity and connection. Yet, we must let go of dogma that separates in order to embrace the experience, letting go of the false comforts of exclusivity and judgment. Perhaps this requires a leap of faith for the religious.