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burntbonez's avatar

What is the first religious experience you can remember?

Asked by burntbonez (5194 points ) December 8th, 2012

Anything you think of as religious. The earliest you can remember.

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14 Answers

ETpro's avatar

There were two, and I really am not sure which came first. I’m glad I don’t know their chronological order, because there is a distinct lesson to be learned in the different triggers to each, and I would hate to have to leave either one out, as taken alone, that lesson would be lost.

One occurred when I alone, sitting in the front row of the balcony in the Presbyterian Church I went to as a kid. I’d been attending an intensive summer Bible School session, and was thinking over the words I had studied about the awesomeness of God. I suddenly felt as if God was present with me, and it was an overwhelming sense of awe at the unknown and unknowable.

The other incident happened the first time we vacationed on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Late at night, I walked away from the few remaining lights of the motel and down to the beach. It’s probably much more built up now, but in the 1950s, there wasn’t any real light pollution within a hundred miles. I looked up and for the first time, away from the suburbs of Norfolk, I saw the sky utterly filled with stars and the milky way, itself the light of billions of stars. It was exactly the same overwhelming sense of awe at the unknown and unknowable.

Mariah's avatar

There was never much of a question in my mind that I’m not a religious person. I wasn’t raised religious, but one of my closest childhood friends came from a very religious family and I got invited along to some things. It rubbed off a little for awhile but just always felt very forced, just seemed like something I did when I wanted something or needed help or got scared about the concept of hell, which seem like all the wrong reasons to have religion. I feel like those reasons wouldn’t trick God, either.

I remember having something odd happen when I was a kid and having a rough time in school because of bullies. I got into the idea of angels as a comfort thing during that time, and one night I prayed that we would have a snow day because I just couldn’t handle school that day. But, I added, don’t make the weather too bad; I wouldn’t want anybody to get hurt on the roads. I can’t recall whether that was as innocent as it sounds, it may have partially been me saying “look how good I am, God, don’t I deserve a snowday?”

Anyhow, it seemed to work. The weather wasn’t too bad the next day, but it was very cold and a water pipe froze and burst in my elementary school, causing us to get the day off. Shit, that BLEW MY MIND at the time. I wasn’t the skeptic back then that I am now. Even now I think it was a pretty damn funny coincidence.

digitalimpression's avatar

I could give my testimony again, but religious people tend to get lambasted here. I’m not in the mood right now. =)

Sunny2's avatar

When I was about 11 years old, I saw a spider in my bed. I whacked at it and it disappeared. Then I thought, what if it was Jesus in another form and He was testing me. I surely failed that test, because I wasn’t kind to Him, whacking away like that. It worried me for a few days.

jazmina88's avatar

It was before my sr year in high school and our church youth choir was in the Bahamas. We were praying in a large circle, outside with a storm rolling in.

jonsblond's avatar

My parents never talked about religion when I was growing up, and we never went to church. I’m sure I had an introduction to religion at a wedding when I was very young, but the first religious experience that I remember is spending time with my best friend who is Mormon. We met in second grade and lived just a few houses from each other. I spent a lot of time in her house and had many dinners with her and her family. It felt strange to me when we prayed before dinner. I didn’t do that at home. What I enjoyed was the family time that was spent around the table. There was a lot of love and happiness in that family. I kind of envied it, because my home was filled with a lot of anger. My mother was always mad at my dad and yelling at him. That’s when he was home. He wasn’t home much because he was working all the time.

I went to church with my best friend several times when I was growing up. I also spent a weekend camping with her church in southern Utah (we lived in Las Vegas at the time). I witnessed a lot of love, compassion and kindness with the many kids and parents that I met through her church. It’s hard for me to pinpoint one particular time that was my first religious experience. I consider the many years I spent getting to know the good people I met as my first experience. (I think this is why I get angry when I read rude remarks about Mormons. The Mormons I knew had nothing but love to give. The people with the rude remarks are the ones I feel sad for. I’d hate to live a life with such hatred in my heart.)

ragingloli's avatar

I once had a missing day in primary school. I think I was abducted by other aliens.

hearkat's avatar

There are two interpretations to the question… one being the more objective idea of when one first became aware of the concept of religion, and the other being when one first felt that there was some force greater than ourselves at work in the universe.

I was raised in a strictly religious environment and was brought up in the church from infancy, so I don’t remember my first exposure to religion because it was always there. As such, I was baptized in infancy and made my communion as a young teenager. I did believe in god and that Jesus was his son and our savior back then. I remember having religious debates in the first grade with a friend who was a Jehovah’s Witness.

However, my home life was miserable, and I was abused and neglected. The night before my 12th birthday, I prayed “the Lord my soul to take”—a begged to die, because I did not want to live another day of my painful existence. When I awoke the next morning was when I began to believe that there was no merciful god, and I was an atheist for many years.

Giving birth to my son made me start rethinking spirituality and religion… so I started him in Sunday School and I went back to church, because I do appreciate the lessons as learned about the basic Christian values of charity, humility and acceptance that I was taught in church. However, I never felt welcomed into the flock, and I perceived hypocrisy among several in the congregation. On the other hand, there was one sermon that the pastor said was one of the ones that wrote itself and wasn’t the topic that he’d intended to speak about that week, and it was incredibly relevant to what was happening in my life at that time.

I have had other events in my life that individually could be written off as coincidence, but collectively they show a pattern that is too incredible to be random chance. I encounter some atheists for whom science is their religion, and whose views are as boxed-in as those who let their religious dogma dictate their lives. Currently, I am at a place where I consider myself agnostic… I don’t believe in any particular religion, nor in a deity that micromanages our existence, but I do have a sense that there is something beyond what our senses perceive and greater than anything we will ever know. I believe that there will always be a “missing link” as to how and why humans are different from other animals, and questions that are unanswerable by science or religion.

Sometimes, I feel a little jealous of those who have such strong faith in their religion or unwavering confidence in their science. Being an innate questioner and seeker, the vastness of what is unknown can overwhelm me at times. I know that I will continue to evolve in my beliefs as my life experience expands; and hope that when my time in this life ends, I will feel ready for whatever comes next, if anything.

burntbonez's avatar

@hearkat I think what I had in mind was your first memory of an experience related to religion. But I asked people to interpret it how they wanted to, and I am glad you were able to talk about a variety of experiences you have had, ending kind of with what it means to you now.

I think some people are talking about numinous experiences or spiritual experiences, and others are talking more about organizational or cultural experiences and some are talking about both. All are welcome, but I am especially interested in the organizational exposure or religious training exposure that you first remember. Spiritual experiences are important, too, but not what I want to get a handle on here.

I really appreciate all who have answered. If anyone wants to add more, please do so.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Six years old. I was going with my uncle and his girl friend to the Methodist Church, my family was Presbyterian (no matter). We stopped for a 7-Up at a lunch counter on Sepulveda Boulevard.

gasman's avatar

I had an anti-religious experience when I was 5 years old. Though my parents didn’t keep kosher they were observant & occasionally made reference to God. It happened one day that I was misbehaving, then accidentally bumped my head on the kitchen counter (which would have been about the same height). Nothing serious but I cried from pain, and my mother said, “You see, God is punishing you.”

I remember thinking (and here I am paraphrasing in adult language) “Bullsh*t, Mom, nobody made me do it, I simply bumped my head because I wasn’t being careful. This is not a direct consequence of my earlier behavior.” I’m not sure I actually said anything. Somehow I retained this incident as a permanent memory. I view it as a rejection of the supernatural and an affirmation of free will. I’ve been an atheist ever since, even during my bar-mitzvah at age 13.

Sunny2's avatar

I remember arguing with a five year old Catholic girl, when I was six. She was telling me that Jesus was in a little box on the altar and I knew that couldn’t be true. He wouldn’t fit.

Paradox25's avatar

I’m not sure what is meant by a religious experience here, since I don’t equate religion with what is termed by many as the ‘supernatural’ (paranormal if you will). Despite how the two terms seem to correlate with each other, they are two entirely different things.

I grew up in a Catholic family that regularly went to church, but as far as my first religious experience goes I can’t really remember that well, though there were a few that stood out to me. I would always remember my mom or pappy tell me that God is mad at me when I would act up, and something bad would happen to me like getting hurt or something. I remember the trips to church, and I used to enjoy attending Saturday night mass.

Unfortunately for me I was the black sheep in my family when it came to religious disbelief. I’d always up until that time believed there was a higher power, and purpose of sorts, but not the beliefs that I was taught. I remember laughing at the movie about Noah’s Arc, at like age 6 or 7 I’m estimating, and getting scolded by my entire family. Perhaps my attitude towards religion (mine) came as a result of my very own introverted, but curious personality type. I was the one who always got the good grades in school, read many books and kept to myself more than most other kids do.

Writing skills was one of my poorer subjects, probably due to my lack of interest in that subject, but oddly enough I was always an excellent reader. Even at a very young age I had the ability to comprehend what I was reading, and my reading level was well above my peers. I’ve posted the reading part because this was very key in bringing about my religious disbelief. I remember always reading anything that pertained to science, and even as young as 6 I read various books about evolution, geology, dinosaurs, biology, astronomy, etc.

I went from being a religionist to being a very sceptical agnostic to adopting a very odd version of theism without the religious dogma. My views aren’t rigid, but I’ll admit that I’ve leaned in certain direction. I still enjoy attending church from time to time though.

_Whitetigress's avatar

I was at a Catholic church with my buddy and his dad. Were about 11 or 10. I remember we were just fooling around outside waiting for his dad to come out. My buddy went inside to go check on his dad. He came out running to me. And told me Jesus wanted to meet me. I was scared and shocked. I visualized the “Euro-bearded” Jesus walking through the crowd shaking and greeting everyones hands and him wanting to meet me. I avoided it altogether and didn’t go inside. My buddy ran back inside frantically. It was super weird. This was probably ‘96, ‘97, or ‘98.

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