Conversion to Christianity & Subsequent Rethink
Last Updated: 2019
From my mid teens onwards, I was into anarchism and hardcore punk, which morphed into cannabis smoking, psychedelics, the jungle and festival scenes, and superficially, the occult. I started developing a strong interest in psychology from the age of 19 or so. After 10 years of psychological addiction to cannabis, and several failed attempts at stopping for more than a month or two at a time, I finally quit in 1995 when I became an evangelical Christian. Below I will try to summarise my experience with Christianity and why I moved away from it after 17 years, more into philosophy.
I had been exposed to evangelical Christianity a few times between the ages of 20 and 25. I attended an Alpha Course in 1994 but quit after a few weeks. In 1995 I went to speak to my Christian neighbour in the ground floor flat of my building, and she starting talking about Christianity and why some of my interests were Satanic, which I thought was a ridiculous thing to say, and she invited me in to continue the discussion. I listened to her talking about Christianity in a long monologue, and I became increasingly unable to comprehend anything she was saying, until I literally couldn't understand a single sentence. I could hear the individual words but something in my head was stopping me being able to connect them into sentences. At the same time, the walls started vibrating and moving around and her face was changing shape, expanding into grotesque shapes. I thought this was an interesting experience and that I'd just sit there and soak it up and see what happened next. She sensed something wasn't quite right as I looked perplexed and just carried on with her monologue. I then felt an overwhelming urge to run away and get as far away from the woman as possible, but I resisted it and just sat there. All of a sudden these psychotic-type symptoms disappeared and I felt a sense of mental clarity return and a feeling of a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. I told my neighbour about all of this and she was very excited. So she put the question to me whether I wanted to become a Christian or not, and I thought let's try it. Whether or not I believed it intellectually, I cannot say, but it felt like I needed to do it on an emotional level.
I had been unable to connect with certain sides of my psyche, especially the more emotional sides previously, except when I stopped smoking cannabis, and becoming a Christian was a way to reconnect with that side and to have the necessary leverage to stop drinking and smoking cannabis. In hindsight I think it was a step sideways, reconnecting with some parts of oneself but suppressing others, but a welcome change nonetheless as I lacked the tools to change from where I was.
I felt like I was relearning the whole purpose of life, and fairly quickly synthesised my ideas and rudimentary understanding of NLP and psychology with my own Christian faith. I always felt an outsider in the various congregations I joined, and I lacked spiritual confidence, and was unable to evangelise with the rest of my home group on the street as I was too embarrassed to profess my faith to people. After fusing my newfound interest in career, work, fitness and extreme sports with religion, I found it increasingly hard to relate to Christians I spoke with, although I couldn't relate to any of the people I met in work or social circles either, nor the old drug taking crowd.
I felt the need to change and control the world around me and took it personally when the world around me did not adopt my same values. I felt judgemental and narcissistic. I cannot really say that I felt truly happy as a Christian as it caused as many problems as it solved, and it didn't really address some of my underlying personality flaws, such as narcissism, OCD, gullibility and paranoia. In a sense it buried them further or even gave them spiritual and righteous justification.
After heavy emersion in the Christian conspiracy internet scene from 2004 to 2008, which took my narcissism and paranoia to new heights, I started engaging in religious and esoteric studies, which gradually changed my relationship with and view of God (for the better I believed). I developed an interest in holistic health and started using a pendulum in 2012. Narcissism, OCD and gullibility encouraged me to believe whatever information I 'found' using the pendulum, and reinforcing it, whereupon my whole reality spiralled out of control and went psychotic for 3 months. The delusional disorder took on conspiratorial, religious and esoteric themes, and after 2 months of having paranoid and grandiose ideas about myself and the world, and suffering from auditory hallucinations, I gradually started to work my way out of it, by trying to peel back the unreality of my situation, until I eventually figured out that it was all false and I had been psychotic. In hindsight I believe the predisposing factors also included cannabis psychosis from my mid teens. I began to look at everything in psychoanalytical terms and became an Atheist. After several months I decided that Atheism was no longer a rational position for me personally, and became an agnostic.
I look back at my conversion to Christianity as a metaphoric experience rather than a literal one. Exactly why I experienced all those hallucingenic symptoms is hard to say. Perhaps my brain somehow producing an effect (a type of involuntary invocation) to encourage me to find a path of least resistance out of it. Or perhaps I was predisposed to psychosis after having started using cannabis and the woman's conversation and my low key interest in Christianity were a trigger and context for a brief 15 minute delusional episode. One group of associates suggested that she was putting some 'spell' on me, which could be probably considered true only in the sense that preaching to someone is a form of suggestion. I would tend to interpret it one of the above manners than as a literal spiritual experience as I like to see a large amount of evidence before I believe wholeheartedly in anything. Until then an idea is merely plausible or somewhat likely. To wholeheartedly throw oneself into a belief system because of emotional need based on a small amount of subjective suggestive evidence and a feeling that it is right is not something I would do now, and such a way of being renders one more susceptible to psychosis. That's not to say that such a belief system isn't true necessariy but it's just an unknown. I tend not to subscribe to simplistic unifying theories of the universe where everyone revolves around oneself any longer.
I believe that if I had had help in tackling my self esteem issues directly, and perhaps had some CBT sessions on narcissism, assertiveness, stress and OCD, it would have likely lead me more directly to where I wanted to be, without sacrificing any of myself, but then again, it has been interesting to understand how I experienced Christianity and has helped to understand others, and I would not have stopped smoking cannabis as quickly if I hadn't undergone such a conversion. Evidently one of the key points was to change my social circles to ones that did not entirely revolve around drugs and music with no other positive interests, and I achieved that almost immediately when becoming a Christian.