Atheist who saw Christ

My male friend was a militant atheist for 50 years. Before he died some months beforehand he told me he saw the risen lord. How is this possible if there’s no god?

Posted: January 21st 2011

Philip www

This is something I find interesting – people who claim to have seen Christ – how would they know what he looks like?

If we are to accept the modern day image of a white male with a a beard and long hair then anyone from Charles Manson to Frank Zappa could be seen as looking like Jesus – but if Jesus had been real he would not have been a white man for a start and yet this is the image you can find around churches etc

Here is where it gets a bit tricky for me – Matthew 2:23 claims that Jesus was prophesied to be a Nazarene according to the scriptures – sadly the only prophesy I can see about anything even vaguely close to a Nazarene in the Bible is Judges 13:5 – but that prophesy is about Samson and it has been wrongly connected with that and the passage in Numbers 6 which explains what a Nazirite should look and act like. It is a whole confusing mess about where this image of Jesus comes from and I don’t understand how this conclusion about Jesus could have been reached.

Nonetheless, I find it quite logical when people hallucinate about having seen Jesus, the image is already pre-programmed in from everyday acceptance of what he should look like.

Posted: February 4th 2011

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Revelation (which is just an subjective experience and not a way to acquire factual knowledge), regardless who is experiencing it (including male militant atheists of long standing), is not evidence. If I am not going to accept it as evidence from religious believers, then I am not going to accept it from a former atheist. I am not rejecting god belief based on the fact that religious believers hold such a belief, but because there is no evidence for such an extraordinary claim.

I chuckled at the risen lord reference. Did the figure have a placard on him, saying that? Is this risen lord permanently risen? What if Christ before he was risen decided to visit someone? How would we know if he was the unrisen or risen version? If I was visited by the unrisen version, would that be less important then if I was visited by the risen one?

Such statements may hold in thrall people willing to take a faith leap, but for the rest of us, they are just words, not indicative of truth or reality.

My middle-aged sister, on her deathbed, did not renounce her atheism. Does that prove there is no god? No, it does not. The lack of evidence, however, behooves us not to bother with gods.

Posted: January 23rd 2011

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Steve Zara www

Our brains are astonishing. They allow us to experience the world, to understand it, and to explore worlds in our imaginations. Sometimes, though, things don’t work quite right.

Normally, when we imagine something the brain knows that what we are conjuring up is not reality. The brain knows that when we imagine a sound, it doesn’t come from the world outside of our heads.

That distinction can break down. Hallucinations aren’t uncommon. People can think they see something or hear something, or even smell something, when there is nothing there. The brain doesn’t realise that what has come from the imagination isn’t real.

So, it’s not unexpected that your friend saw something that was not there. But there is a question that does arise. As there are no portraits from life of Jesus, how could your friend know that that is who he saw? Even if the apparition says that it was Jesus, why should we trust it?

Posted: January 22nd 2011

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Paula Kirby www

When people hallucinate, it is natural that they interpret their hallucination in terms of the culture they have been raised in, whether they consciously subscribe to it or not. Someone in the West will therefore naturally assume that the 'holy person’ they had the impression of seeing was Jesus or the Holy Spirit or the Virgin Mary, or something else from the Christian tradition, because Christianity is the context in which the West thinks of god or holiness or spirituality. (Think of how Westerners, when talking of 'god’, invariably mean the Christian god, unless otherwise specified.)

In other parts of the world, such 'encounters’ are invariably with figures from the myths dominant in those cultures. If you take a look here, for instance, you will find the story of an Indian man who believed he regularly saw Krishna:-

He proved to be a prodigy of sorts and while still a boy he began to have visions of Krishna. This is known in the Vaisnava tradition as receiving the “Darsana” of God. Playfully interacting with his visions of Krishna while simultaneously experiencing the bliss of spiritual union, he spent his youth in intimate relationship with Krishna as his friend.
As an adult he led an apparently normal life, married, raised two children and even joined the British army, while secretly his love for Krishna (and his visions of Him) continued.

How would that be possible if Christianity were the only true religion?

Posted: January 22nd 2011

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SmartLX www

It’s possible that your friend thought he saw the risen Lord in the absence of a god because it’s possible that what he saw wasn’t really the risen Lord. Start imagining scenarios in which this was the case, and you will think of many.

Posted: January 22nd 2011

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George Locke

Hallucinations can happen to anybody. I’ve seen all sorts of things, including trees “talking” to me. I had an intense “spiritual experience” where a smoke detector appeared to me as a guardian spirit, giving me some life guidance. The book Cosmic Trigger describes its author’s direct experience with the Egyptian goddess Isis, and host of other “supernatural” entities. William Lobdell, in his book Losing My Religion, describes how he saw the Holy Spirit entering him at a church retreat. (Later, he lost his faith and became an agnostic.)

None of these incidents prove anything except that people sometimes have extraordinary experiences.

Posted: January 21st 2011

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