Profound Experiences and the Stretch of Calling it Divine

I have to admit I was a little nervous just before my son was born (on June 13th). I had been told by theists that they can actually see god in the eyes of a child, or that the experience itself would make a believer out of me. But I am open minded, an agnostic atheist. So I did not discount them immediately for implying that I might have to change my mind about the existence of god at this event and went into this knowing there was a possibility that they might be right.

The event occurred at 8:40 am... that is when I first heard his cry. I indeed had a profound experience, a life-altering and mind-blowing experience. But did I see god? Well, no, actually.

It comes down to a simple problem theists have. They attribute profundity with god. If it blows their mind, it must be of god. It is an extension of the argument from incredulity, a logical fallacy that presuppositionalists often make. Of course, all theists are presuppositional regarding experiences. That is, they have expectations and standards unsupported by evidence by which they measure any experiences they have.

I indeed got choked up by the emotions of the experience. It was a beautiful thing... a glorious moment in my life. I looked into the eyes of my child and was overwhelmed by a new understanding of love. All of my fears over being able to make things work with this child added to my life (as I am not well off financially) melted away with an absolute assurance that I would try my best to make it all work. My own desires, my own priorities became insignificant in an instant. This shift of priorities, a realization of a new paradigm for my life, was profound, but again, I did not see a god revealed therein.

The birth of my child was itself also not a miracle. Theists like to throw that word around. If you are in a tornado, and have your entire house destroyed, and your legs broken, and end up in intensive care, they call it a miracle when you eventually walk out of the hospital. When one prays for something and it happens to come true (as odds are, at some point, someone that prays for something will get what they want), they call it a miracle. And when a child is born, it is also somehow a miracle.

My brother recently found out his wife is pregnant, a happy coincidence considering my son was just born about the same time. He mentioned it on facebook and some theist replied back at how this child came from god this was and how blessed he is. My brother, also an atheist, came back with a rather smart-ass reply that this child came from his balls. All joking aside, he has also experienced the profundity of the situation, especially when he first heard his child's heartbeat. But again, he did not read into it that a god was involved.

Theists often think of atheists as cold, as people shut off from the beauty of life. They seem to think that if you do not ascribe god to profound experiences, you simply do not see the profound nature of those experiences and are therefor unfeeling. To the contrary, I can assure you, atheists such as my brother and I, do indeed feel the gravity of such events, perceive the profound nature of those events, but simply do not see any reason to attach god to the events in any way.

I know for a fact where my son came from. After myriad (enjoyable) attempts, I finally got my wife pregnant. Under the skillful guidance and watch of a clinic specializing in at-risk pregnancies, we gave birth to a child without any issues. Under the skillful hand of a top-quality surgeon, my wife had a Cesarean (due to the imperfect 'design' of the human body that sometimes results in a child with shoulders too wide to pass the pelvis). Again, I see no divine creator, no intelligent design, or any evidence of a god in any of this. I see advanced science enabling us to have a child. The child is a "gift" from my wife, due to the systematic application of reason, through the exercise of many different fields of applied sciences.

My son is now a week old, and doing great. He eats and craps a LOT. He is very strong, kicking and wailing his arms about when he is hungry. He is very calm and cute when he is content. I like to hold him and just stare into his eyes, not because I am looking for god, but because he is himself beautiful and the closest thing to an actual “spiritual” experience that an atheist can have. I gladly engage in this experience every chance I get.

I recognize that this experience is itself a result of evolution. Natural selection made this experience survive. For sentient creatures, having a profound connection to your offspring is advantageous to the survival of that offspring and thus also the species in general. If humans had evolved to be disconnected or unconcerned with our offspring, we would have a hard time surviving.

I can indeed have an expierience analogous to a spiritual one. But that is the real issue. The word “spiritual” gets thrown around too much. It lacks any real meaning for atheists that simply reject belief in the spirit and supernatural. As a former theist, I get it, though. But for me it is synonymous with profound. Actually, for everybody it is indeed synonymous with profound; some people just mistake profoundity for a divine experience because they lack any way to explain it otherwise. It is the same reason theists look at a photo of a nebula taken by the Hubble have to comment that only a god could have made such a beautiful thing. It is an argument from incredulity plain and simple.

Views: 131


You need to be a member of Atheist Nexus to add comments!

Join Atheist Nexus

Comment by Gregory Phillip Dearth on July 2, 2014 at 12:42am
Hoke, do you listen to the Joe Rogan podcast? He also promotes that idea, that DMT is responsible for the experiences of primitive humans. All of this seems to prove that religious experiences are only altered brain states, a result of fiddling with chemistry in the brain either by indirect methods (such as a congregation in a church) or by more direct manipulations (such as drugs). Some people think of DMT as tapping into something real, or that the spiritual realm is real and by using DMT one is basically using a shortcut to access that realm. I tend to think that as we know WHY these drugs induce these experiences, and can boil it all down to bio-chemistry, the "spritual" lable people put on the experiences is still unjustified (due to a lack of any direct evidence) as it implies the actual existence of something beyond the physical.
Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on June 30, 2014 at 2:03pm

@ Future - If you haven't already, you might research Dr. Richard Strassman's work on DMT - The Spirit Molecule. I theorize that part of the reason that shamans of various kinds have 'religious experiences' is due to DMT. Psychodelic mushrooms are in fact a poison to humans (improve my research if this is not accurate), which in turn induces a near-death experience namely high production of (endogenous) DMT.


Not claiming big expertise over here, just sharing some research and thoughts.

Comment by Future on June 30, 2014 at 1:48pm
I had a profound experience once. Three friends and I were on shrooms, in the woods under the moonlight. There was a tree in front of us, and all of its leaves were glowing as bright as glow sticks. Strangely, I was the only one who could see this luminescence. Went back the next night and the tree was not only completely normal, but I discovered it as surrounded by several trees of the same species that were not glowing the night before. The religious person might see that as a sign they are being singled out, I saw it as a sign that I was trippin balls. Sorry oh great one, if you really want my attention you need to try harder, please. It was still a profound experience, nonetheless.
Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on June 29, 2014 at 1:16am

My birthday is October 13th.

Congratulations on your son. Thirteen is a lucky number is you're Anerican: colonies and original states, stripes on the flag. It's an important number, but don't fall for triskaidekaphobia. In music, 13 half steps comprise an octave.

You're right that the religion often step in and take credit for, or provide explanation for a) the unknown and b) the incredible. It reduces the healthy state of awe that humans possess.

Comment by Michael Penn on June 27, 2014 at 11:27pm

I had a small cyst dissappear the same way very suddenly. It was in my groin area for well over 3 months. Totally gone now for over a year and no prayer, church, or god was involved at all. A  miracle? No. Your body takes care of itself when it can.

Comment by k.h. ky on June 26, 2014 at 3:42pm

Throwing the word miracle around is correct.  One of my nephews, I was informed, had a 'faith healing'.

Seems there was a small cyst,imho, on the back of his neck.  Rather than have it checked out by a physican his mom and dad had a 'laying on of hands' at their church and it disappeared. Magic?  Naw,it was in their opinion, a genuine miracle.  It seemed like a bit of nonsense to me.

Comment by Matt--Lukin on June 26, 2014 at 1:16pm

I would make a distinction between the type of profound experiences you've described in detail here and the so-called "spiritual experience" or "mystical experience." These are two separate phenomena. However, the real problem is that these type of experiences are not experienced by many, theists and atheists alike.

So, theists (who've never truly experienced a 'mystical experience') going around calling such experiences as in witnessing birth a "spiritual experience" is very misleading. Likewise, atheists who are trying to understand "spiritual experience" and then being influenced by the misleading theist often will come to the conclusion that it's merely synonymous with an atheist might be more comfortable calling a "profound experience."

However, having had these type of so-called 'mystical experiences' for myself, I feel I can cut through the ambiguity here and try and give a more clear picture as to what's truly going on here, and I've elaborated on a blog I recently posted which I'll link below, if you're interested.

Perennial Philosophy

religious experience ( a.k.a. spiritual experience, sacred experience, or mystical experience) is a phenomenon in consciousness in which most people, theists and atheists alike, have not experienced, and has up to this point has only been really spoken about in a religious context. However, I believe the experience itself transcends religion (since it is truly a phenomenon in consciousness). It can be better described as a colossal altered state of consciousness that is vastly different from your ordinary state of consciousness even if you may be having a "profound experience" of the sort you've described. Contemporary names for this phenomenon are "ego death" or Richard M. Bucke's term "Cosmic consciousness." I'll leave it at that, but if you're interested, I go into it more extensively in the post I've linked above.

Comment by Randall Smith on June 26, 2014 at 7:17am

Congratulations (if that's the right word) on the birth of your son. True, it's really no "miracle". But the experience is moving. I witnessed all four of my children being born and remember how the event took my breath away. Continued profoundness (profundity?)!

© 2016   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: Richard Haynes.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service