Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Fear And Faith And The Atheist Prayer Experiment

I wasn't initially going to watch the 2nd part of Derren Brown's Fear And Faith series, because, I suppose, I didn't want to watch an atheist explain God away as a 'placebo'.  But curiosity got the better of me and I have now watched it.  It was in no way as offencive as I had feared it might be, in fact it was very interesting and proved again that Derren is a master manipulator of suggestion to the human mind.

The atheist he 'converted' wasn't looking for anything missing in her life, and all she described was an overwhelming emotion of love, this had been brought about, as Derren explained afterwards, by his tapping at certain points in the conversation to make a connection of all the correct emotions at the end when he left her and made his final tap.

Correctly he assimilated some faith conversions to an overwhelming emotion and hyped up activity, such as were seen in the Billy Graham meetings a few decades ago.

I was listening to the Unbelievable pod cast recently, they were reviewing their Atheist Prayer Experiment in which they had asked Atheists to pray daily for God to reveal himself to them and to report back anything which they had considered a sign or a reveal from God.

A couple of ladies had described their experience of a Rainbow they had seen during the experiment. This didn't lead them on to become full blown Christian believers in God, but they thought it was a sign to them during the time of the experiment.

The point is everyone's experience is unique to them, whether it is attributed to God or suggestion from a person or group, it is unique to you.  What we as individuals have to decide is, what we are going to do as a follow on from that experience.

On the Derren Brown programme, the atheist said she 'wished she could have known about that love sooner, why couldn't she always have felt like that?' although the trigger to that overwhelming emotion was planted by Derren, if she does want to investigate finding that feeling again further and chooses to go down the God route to do it, she may well find God for real; or she may choose to look for it elsewhere in relationships or material things.

With the atheists in the Unbelievable experiment, they are left mulling over what they understood to be a sign as a result of their prayers to ask God to reveal himself.  They can either just put it down to a phenomenon that they don't quite understand and forget about it and move on, or perhaps they can continue with their prayers for God's revelation and take their quest to find him a step further.

Derren concluded his programme with the thought "if you believe in god, it's probably because it makes you feel happy."

I think any Christian will tell you it is so much more than happiness that our belief brings us, it is forgiveness, it is eternal existence with God in Heaven, it is peace.......

Have you had an overwhelming 'Religious' experience? Or encountered God in an unexpected circumstance?


  1. Interesting to read a Christian take on the show. I think anyone who thinks the episode disproves God is stretching somewhat, but I would say that it does show that personal experience of the divine, even if real, should be considered unreliable.

    What do you think?

  2. Hi Geoff,

    I don't think you should consider it unreliable at all! It is truly a unique experience and can only be interpreted by the person concerned.

    My experience of roller coasters is that they make me sick, that is not true of everyone but it doesn't make my experience unreliable, just personal. Derren Brown could plant the suggestion in a roller coaster lovers mind, that they would feel sick, that doesn't invalidate my experience.

    I don't think the programme in any way disproves God, nor do I think it set out to do so.

    Thanks for commenting!


  3. I had an overwhelming experience of God's love, and it was also accompanied by very distinct words. It was during someone elses' baptism and the service was quite straightforward really. It was more powerful than I was able to bear and afterwards with prayer with a minister he spoke of a word which had formed part of that experience which he didn;t know about. Following that experience I have been over the last couple of years freed of addiction, OCD, low self esteem, shame and anxiety and some depression which I suffered with in various forms since childhood for the last 25-30 years or so. God's Love in my personal experience is something that endures and it is beyond anything than can be expressed for in human terms.

    I think the programme does prove that Derren Brown seems to be good at what he does! But nothing more in my honest opinion. :o)

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience Louise,

    God Bless you!

  5. Derren suggested that we are all wired to have faith. I found this one of the more interesting points of the program. He puts that down to some theoretical evolutionary process which for me wasn't convincing at all. Derren himself at this point was himself taking a leap of faith with his theory. From a Christian point of view of course humans are 'wired' to have faith. God created humans with the ability to have faith, indeed it is very natural to believe in something. Those that have no belief in anything at all probably lead a very unsettled existence. Those that don't believe in God often have a religious belief in something to ease their minds e.g. their own philosophy about life,false religion or evolution etc.

    The point I am making is that all humans want to believe in something. This is necessary for our sense of security. When love is presented in that believe it is a very strong motivator for faith. Why? well God created us to need love. He designed us for relationship. I believe everyone needs faith in something for a peaceful existence on this earth. Everyone has their own belief system whether that is to believe in their own philosophy or a deity of some description.

    However, what matters is whether we have faith in the right knowledge. Not all things people put their faith in can be true. God gave us his Word the Bible to reveal to us the Knowledge of Jesus Christ.

    The key thing is not whether Derren can give someone faith of some sort as we all put our faith in something. The important thing is do you put that faith in the Saviour Jesus Christ. God is able to preserve that faith in his own people which goes further than any emotionally hyped "religious" experience. The lady on the program was clearly unsettled by her experience and had not come to a certain faith. She had had an emotional so called 'religious' experience which perhaps caused her to question her beliefs however true faith is not to be propped up by hyped emotion or coincidental life experiences. I don't base my faith on my experience but on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.



  6. Amen! Thanks for commenting, Alan

  7. When it comes to decorations made for the occasion red and green are the colors used most often. become ordained online Red denotes the blood of Jesus that was shed when he was crucified.

  8. I've been doing this experiment on myself and it has had a serious damaging impact on my lifelong atheism. At this point, I'm actually happy with the results in that I've now found belief to be leading me to a very good place. And, trust me, I've been very much an atheist for almost 60 years. I reluctantly conclude that if one really gives this a major shot (including trying to define it all in ONLY the most positive terms) that prayer has a very strong hypnotic affect. I actually want to convert and am taking steps to do so

    Some "intervening variables" include the fact that I've been studying Catholic beliefs focusing ONLY on the positive aspects of it all, been praying many times throughout the day and night for belief and more (thanking God, believed or not, for many things and asking for God's guidance on a host of activities), been going to Mass at least once a week and enjoying the experience completely, have a practicing devout Catholic fiancee, confessing my sins to myself, with a weekly review, and more.