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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

What does it feel like to believe in God (s)?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38863 points ) September 8th, 2010

I want the answers to be broad, from believers. I don’t want this question to be about whether or not God exists or whether or not religion is a good idea. I just want to know what it feels like to have a relationship with God or to feel protected by God or to feel like God is present around you – I have never felt any such thing and I want to know what it feels like. It would help if you can be really specific in your description of these emotions or feelings.

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47 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Excellent question. I can’t stand the waiting for these two.

Cruiser's avatar

I thought it was great and it felt great to believe in a God as it was of a Santa, cupid, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny and the Great Pumpkin. It brought comfort and security to my young mind to know there was a supreme powerful God watching over me.

The dichotomy of a loving God who allowed really good people to die tragically and at young ages never sat well with me…in fact angered me at times for the unfairness of that part of life. When it became clear that my God was not the only God in this world and religious fervor sometimes created problems instead of solving them, I began to wonder what it was really all about. A solid education and a curious mind revealed the myths of mankind that created Gods and religions to provide answers where there were none before. I now take it all with a grain of salt and allow to each his own with regards to religion and take comfort knowing that love for life and your fellow man is found from within your heart not inside the walls of a house of worship or a written book.

phoebusg's avatar

Very interested in the answers – especially from a Neuro-Psychological view. GQ.
My guess is, not alone – having a good friend holding your hand throughout – someone to keep track, to answer to (even if it may be yourself – in my view) – about your life. Troubles. My view is that of Wilson – the ball – becoming the main character’s best friend in the movie Castaway.

kenmc's avatar

I’m not sure. When I believed in God, there was still a little seed of doubt in my mind. My experience was one of shouting at the clouds. It might make me temporarily feel better, but overall, it was totally pointless.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Cruiser I’d like to hear a little more.

SundayKittens's avatar

To know that there is a power greater than me, that I can attribute things from the atomic level to the vastness of the universe….is humbling and powerful. I have a very hard time as believing such things just happen…how can that be? Trying to come to terms with the nature of that power is frustrating.
For me it’s not the literal, cartoony, bearded God….it’s more of a spirit or feeling that is everywhere and in everything.

TexasDude's avatar

I used to believe.

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer. The whole reason I stopped believing is because I didn’t “feel” God like the other Christian kids apparently did. At most, I felt like I had an invisible friend whom I would pray like a fiend to and sincerely hoped would hear. I would feel a certain comfort, at times, though. As if I had a big, powerful (yet mysterious and hardly comprehensible) safety net that would somehow always protect me from the slings and arrows of daily existence. The thought that perhaps even the horrible things that happened to me would somehow one day be transformed into some greater good (a very Dante’-esque idea) always comforted me. Then again, I didn’t conceive of God like the other Christian kids did. They seriously thought of him as a big man in the sky who would talk back to them and hold them in his big manly hands or something weird like that. My view was much more abstract.

chyna's avatar

It’s a feeling in my heart, of never being alone, of, upon seeing a beautiful sunset or sunrise, having someone to whisper to, thank you for that. Of having someone to rail against when things go horribly wrong. It’s the feeling of having someone to question, every single day, because, although I do believe in God, I have so many doubts. It’s a satisfied feeling of, whether right or wrong, that when I die, I’m not just dust, that there will be another life.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Cruiser I’ve got to head out, but I’m curious if you think in terms of a soul, maybe an afterlife?

kenmc's avatar

It’s strange to me that my experience with God was more of a loneliness than one of accompaniment.

chyna's avatar

@boots There is a passage in the bible, don’t know it off hand, where Jesus is on the cross and for just a while, he doesn’t feel God anymore. That is when he cries out “Why has thou forsaken me.” You made me think of that just now.

Whitsoxdude's avatar

This is going to be a bit hard to explain.
Others have said that God feels like he’s protecting you. When I was little, I felt like God would protect me from physical harm.
I now know that he cannot protect me from that (or he just doesn’t), but he helps me deal with it.
Long story short, if I was ever tortured, I would last a lot longer before I went insane, then if I wasn’t religious at all.

Another thing.. whenever I do something that’s not good for my body (not a sin, just not healthy), I sorta think to myself “cut it out, that is not good for you man, and you’ll regret it later”... I know that makes it sound like God is my conscience… but it’s… I dunno.. it feels different that just my conscience…

Sorry for rambling.

Seek's avatar

It feels completely normal.

I mean, it’s like having another family member, you just can’t see him. I respected his wishes, and wanted his approval. It was someone I could go to when I needed something – a shoulder to cry on, or to ask for something to go my way. He was much more needy than anyone in my family, though – always needing praise and attention. There were all these demands I needed to fulfill if I wanted something (“yes, you can borrow the car if you clean your room first” translates to “Yes, I’ll help you find a job if you stop reading those blasphemous fantasy novels”). It was really frustrating when you feel like you’ve done everything god could possibly want from you, and the answers are still “No”.

That’s the every-day feeling.

The in church, while praying, and doing all this stuff, it’s exhilerating, emotionally ripping, you laugh, you cry, it moves you. It feels so real. Except that it’s not.

CaptainHarley's avatar

It feels as though you have your best friend with you at all times. It feels like you are loved regardless of what mistakes you may make, or have made in your life. It feels like you can ask this friend anything at all and get the best answer possible, even though it may be “no,” or “not yet.”

I really wish I could give you some incredible answer that would blow your mind, but I can’t. It feels like total acceptance, total forgiveness, and total love. That’s the only answer I have for you.

le_inferno's avatar

I feel… well, better. I feel like, even when I’m at my lowest, I can ask for help. I never feel entirely alone. I’m not sure how effective my requests/pleas/etc actually are, but it definitely makes me feel like everything isn’t just random chaos. Like there’s some kind of order and reason.

I know many non-believers insist that it’s a delusion, it’s fake, etc. I agree that many “spiritual” experiences are all mental, like in something that @Seek_Kolinahr posted. But I also believe that when it comes to God, it’s about the big picture. A picture that our eyes can’t open wide enough to see. God is not about going into emotional seizures in a loud crowd at Youth camp. God is not about ritual and rules or anything relevant to human tedium. That’s why the Catholic Church bothers me… I don’t really think God controls what happens, either. But I do think we exist because He exists. I think He is the foundation of every life force, and even though I may pray in vain to not fail that test or to be paired with that cute guy in class or for me to feel better tomorrow, I still know I’m not alone. I know that I’m part of something larger, and not just a soon-to-be-forgotten speck in the universe. The notion of God gives me purpose, a sense of self, existence, harmony.

Your_Majesty's avatar

As a former believer of different kind of religions I can say that it gave me the feeling of guiltiness in every of my action,the ‘force’ to do something according to the rules,irrational aspiration,etc,etc there are many more and it would take lots of time to name all of them.

But,I can tell you that the best ‘advantage’ of being a theist is that you can approve and justify not-true/non-scientific/or anything you think is right as the universal truth and it would be widely accepted by people that share the same belief with you.

I feel much much better as an atheist now,being able to completely use my rational mind and freedom.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Doctor_D

I am truly sorry you apparently never understoood that it is man, not God, who teaches you should not use your mind nor have freedom of thought or inquiry.

nebule's avatar

I used to be a believer (in a religious type God)...It felt wonderful but self-deceptive… and looking back I felt brainwashed. I now believe in something but not God as is most widely understood and it feels better and deeply true.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@lynneblundell

Likewise. The teachings of man can mask the teachings of God, unless you open your mind and pray for revelation. Research The Book of Thomas, one of those rejected by the various “Counclis” which decided what would make up the Bible. “The kingdom of God is within you and all around you.”

Your_Majesty's avatar

@CaptainHarley Men create Gods,therefore Gods are men as well. That was my bad years back then but I reborn as a better and more realistic person.

CaptainHarley's avatar

And did man create the Universe?

Your_Majesty's avatar

Yes,through self-made Gods. I’m confused. Are we talking about my past experience about being theist or this is just irrational/theist VS scientific/atheist issue?

iamthemob's avatar

@Doctor_D

I want the answers to be broad, from believers. I don’t want this question to be about whether or not God exists or whether or not religion is a good idea.

As someone who is no longer a believer, you are taking the argument into the very debate the OP seems to want to avoid.

I’m with @lynneblundell – my best answer is that I believe my relationship with whatever god is is much the same as a cell’s relationship to me…if the cell works in a manner that is beneficial for the entire body, then everything works well. If it doesn’t, then it becomes cancerous (again, a broad analogy).

So I can only depend on myself, and determine how what I do helps both myself and those around me, and recognize what I do that is harmful, and how I may avoid such harm.

kevbo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, your question is a good one and has me realizing that I probably didn’t believe in God so much as I believed in the (Catholic) church, which as is its function, mediates a Catholic’s relationship with God.

Today, I do believe more in a “universal consciousness,” although feeling it is elusive for me personally much of the time. When I do hold the feeling/vision/knowing/understanding/believing of the connection amongst all things, it feels profound in a consciousness altering sense and peaceful.

Aster's avatar

To take from kevbo, it feels profound in a consciousness altering sense and peaceful.
@chyna Inspirational answer , thank you.

sharpstick's avatar

If I had to boil it down to one feeling I would say “satisfied.” The love of God expressed through Jesus tells me how much I am worth. I know that I have value and that that value does not change based on my frailties. Because my need to be loved has been met, I can reach out in love to others. I can love my wife because I want to love her, I don’t need to love her to meet my need for belonging. It allows me to get my eyes off of myself sometimes and look at those around me.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Doctor_D

Neither. Do you think I am “irrational?”

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@CaptainHarley I was going to ask the same thing. I was enjoying all the answers to this question until I came to a statement that implied only atheists had freedom and rational minds. That’s irritating, to say the least.

To answer the question: believing in God gives me a sense of peace and a sense of comfort. Whether or not I see results of any prayers, it still feels good to say them. Believing also makes me feel safe sometimes. When I’ve been really afraid of a situation and I say a quick, silent prayer, I almost immediately feel better.

I have to make a distinction here, though. I no longer believe in the church. Too many horrors have been commited by the church in the name of God. And every time I went to church, all I heard was the church needs more money, and all I saw was everyone showing off who they are and what they have. I started feeling sick every time we went. I also have some very different ideas about God than the church does.

But despite feeling sickened by the church, I still feel comforted by my belief in God.

loser's avatar

I used to find it to be very comforting. It was like having a parent always there to look out for me and take care of me. Nothing to be afraid of; everything had a purpose. I miss that, actually, but I found I could no longer rectify my beliefs with logic.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate

“So whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s.” That quotation and this one: “No weapon forged against you shall prosper,” helped me through some of the hardest places you can imagine.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@CaptainHarley Very nice, I like those.

DominicX's avatar

It’s interesting; reading these responses has made me realize that perhaps I never really had the full belief in God that people here describe. When I was younger, I followed along with it because it’s what I was taught; it never occurred to me to question it. As I got older, though, it seemed like my entire belief in God was just wrought with questioning and doubt. I’m not sure I ever really had a full belief in God. I certainly have felt the comfort and love, but later it became plagued with questions like “does God think my entire life is fundamentally ‘wrong’?”. For some people, experiencing God is entirely independent of a religion and perhaps that was part of the problem, not being able to separate belief in God from the religions that accompany. But when you have one side saying that you can’t do that, that the Bible is the flawless word of God, that there is no separating religion from God, it becomes difficult to reconcile a belief; what am I supposed to believe?

CaptainHarley's avatar

Believe what God leads you to believe. I was raised Southern Baptist, but later ran so far away from religion that I fancied myself a Humanist agnostic… “man, the measure of all things.” When my first wife and I had children, I started back to church, but I can see now that my heart wasn’t in it. These last few years, I have come to know God in my own way, without any organized religion being involved. That works for me. I feel closest to God when I’m hiking or camping or being in touch with nature in some way. Or when my wife and I hold each other… sometimes the feelings are so intense even an old hardcore Infantry officer like me has to cry with her.

One of the things I have come to realize about God is that s/he is big enough that no one person, or even group of people ( contrary to what most denominations teach ) is able to see every aspect of God’s personality… or even more than just a few aspects. S/he is, after all, infinite. So if you don’t see God as others do, that’s perfectly natural. You see? : ))

KatawaGrey's avatar

First off, I would like to say that I am a theist but I am not a Christian so my views may be different from many here.

For me, I feel as if there is some divine being who knows and understands all those things which baffle me or that I cannot comprehend. That is of some comfort to me that these things which I do not understand are understandable, even if I do not understand them. I do not “pray” to my gods, but I do talk to them in some way. For me, my gods are there for guidance, and not to solve my problems for me. Personally, I take a lot of issue with people who are no longer religious because, and I quote, “God didn’t listen when I needed him most.” God works in mysterious ways. If he didn’t save your family member from that awful disease, that doesn’t mean he’s not real, it just means he didn’t save your family member and for all you know, the illness and death of your family member may have had such a profound effect on another person or the community. I have never thought that any god interferes with every aspect of human life. I feel like gods are watchers and, as I said, they offer guidance. By speaking to my god, something is shown to me that I may not have realized before. Here is a being who will never get angry with me, never try to confuse me, never try to hinder me in any way. This may sound strange and contradictory to some people, but for me, the piece of my gods that reside in me for I believe a piece of the divine resides in everything are a source of logic and calmness. They do not feel human emotions as we do so they are unfettered by many of those things which cloud human eyes. When I speak to them, I am able to experience some of this calmness.

All right, I have exposed myself. Please be quick when you rip me apart.

Coloma's avatar

Far too deep for my desire to discuss in the moment, but, I will say that knowing ‘God’ , havng a relationship with source, is ’ the peace that surpasseth all understanding.’

I do not believe in the christian definition of ‘God’ but, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I have experienced miracles. And, the greatest miracles occur when one totally surrenders to what is.

When one drops ego, the little me, and truly humbles themselves to the universe, amazing things happen.

Lets just say that I have implicit trust based on many prior demonstrations the universe will give proper guidance, opportunities, as the need arises.

Stillness speaks, and through that divine silence our inner voice, ( God ) makes itself known.

‘God’ is us and we are ‘God.’

CaptainHarley's avatar

@KatawaGrey

I pray whenever I feel the need to talk with God. Sometimes it consists of a coversation between friends, other times it consists of me telling God of my failures and shortcomings, and at still other times it consists of me doing all the listening. : )

A sense of inner peace and calm is indeed one of the things most often mentioned by those who have a walk with God. Bless you on your journey. : ))

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@KatawaGrey : I think I have found a kindred spirit in you. What you shared is so much of what I believe. It’s incredible.

But let me get back to the OP. In as few words as possible, I’m going to try to relay an experience I had that I believe was spiritual.

On May 3, 1999, I was quite honestly at the end of my rope. I was newly out of the closet. I was married with children. I had abruptly come to the profound realization that I was killing myself with alcohol and that I couldn’t stop drinking. I also simultaneously realized that if my life didn’t change dramatically, I would kill myself quicker than the alcohol was doing. I was suicidal.

That evening I met a man who helped me see that I was an alcoholic. I objected to the 12 steps that I’d heard about for the first time at a meeting, and I explained that I couldn’t do them because God hated me. He said, “Why don’t you make up your own God?” A little light bulb went off in my head.

Driving home that night alone in the car, I said the words out loud wondering what a God would be like, if I made him up. Before I finished asking myself, I was filled with a presence like I’d driven through a fog bank. I felt it in my whole body. Head to toe. I knew instantly that I had a God. I knew what that God’s name was. And I knew that I never had to drink again as long as I lived. That last bit is a complete miracle that I’m happy to report has lasted for over 11 years.

My God’s name is a poem by T.S. Eliot. The whole poem. I shortened it to two lines “Stillness even as a Chinese jar/ Still moves perpetually in its stillness.” I call it Stillness for short.

Since that day, my belief in a spiritual world has come to include many things. I am no longer a Christian. I am not a monotheist. I believe in spiritual guides, I read tarot cards, I study astrology, and I have a firm belief in reincarnation. I do not profess to know how the spiritual world works, nor do I try to bend other’s to my beliefs. It works for me.

I have had many profound spiritual experiences since that day. Things that are unexplainable. Truly. Things that are not simply in my head, but that were witnessed by other people, too.

I have looked at this question all day wondering how to answer it. I hope I have.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@hawaii_jake

Indeed you have. Interesting you should call God “Stillness.” We have to stop and listen in order to hear “that still, small voice.” As s/he has said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” : ))

Ben_Dover's avatar

It is really cool. It makes life change from one dimensional to multi-dimensional. It also opens doors you never even knew existed. If you really want to know, read “The Shack” by William P. Young. You can get the book in a used book store for next to nothing.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction truth from diction. I cannot speak for anyone else but I believe each has their own relationship with God. My relationship with God tells me that there is a grand plan that there and that man will not put an end to mankind, or destroy the world. My relationship gives me moral compass. My desire to measure up gives me a conscious thought to the actions I do and how. It is a comforting feeling and one of dread. Comforting because in the end over all no matter how it looks there is a divine plan in place and that one day I have hope of living in the paradise on Earth that will be here after the time of judgment. Others might have a different relationship or experience but the goal or direction is the same even if one takes slightly different roads to get there.

Leanne1986's avatar

Sometimes I get a sense of peace from my belief in God and there have been times when, without that, life would have been unbearable. However, there have also been times when I have felt lonely in my belief, like my prayers were going unheard, during these times I have felt that being an atheist would be much simpler and, although I can’t doubt my faith (it’s hard to force yourself to believe something different if it doesn’t feel right), I have felt anger towards God for making me feel so alone.

Jabe73's avatar

The god I believe in is a part of everything that exists. To me we are all a part of god. Yes CaptHarley I agree, the kingdom of god is within. God allows free will, it is man and their religious beliefs that cause problems and hatred, not god. I dislike religion as much as atheists but many atheists have gone too far with their hatred for “anything” spiritual. I do not force my beliefs on anyone nor do my beliefs require that anyone believes in my “faith” as the only way to get to heaven.

It also seems from many of these comments I have read if you believe anything spiritual or paranormal you will be regarded as less “intelligent” or having mental issues. The opinion that “spiritual experiences” are in the mind are just that, opinions. I have no problems with respectful atheists but when many of you have to resort to these cheapshots I have mentioned you have become just like religious fundamentalists yourself (only our opinions are rational and no one else’s.) Many on here have become the exact duplicate of the very religious fundamentalists you all have great disdain for, but on the polar opposite side of the issue.

liminal's avatar

My belief is different from my experience. My beliefs feel flexible, sometimes even devolving and evolving at the same time!

Yet my experience, my feeling of the Divine is simple and clear. It isn’t a feeling of protection, prompting, prodding, security, or love, in fact, I wouldn’t call it a feeling. It is a sense of presence and stillness that feels other than me, yet as close as my own heart beat. I have heard people describe it as sentimentality or emotion (even delusion). Yet, for me, it is like a still moment when someone, whom I love so much it hurts, is sleeping curled into my side, unconsciously reaches up their hand, and lays it on mine. Or, like laying naked in the wilderness, feeling completely safe, and at once completely aware and not aware of my surroundings because I somehow know I am one with them. It seems bigger than the presence of those I hold most dear because it feels like the stuff that holds me to, not just them, but the rest of humanity and the earth. This is not a constant always present happening, it is more accurate to say it is something I am sometimes tuned in to and sometimes I am not.

CMaz's avatar

It is like the air in your lungs.
It is there, you know what it is used for and it flows naturally.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@liminal

Wonderful answer. You put into words something that I often feel very deeply with my beloved wife, my children, my grandchildren, and sometimes with all of humankind.

missscarlet36's avatar

It is like having a hulk hogan as a best friend. Protector, wise friend, all powerful, loving beyond your wildest dreams, acceptance, loyal and trustworthy, never leaves me, dependable, always knows the best road to take and gives Me the answer to keep me out of a bramble bush, works powerfully in my life to do all these things that I can’t possible do. You know an impossible situation

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