The thrill of the church experience

I recently came across some photos of children in a church, sobbing their hearts out as a band played. In an evangelical/fundamentalist church, this is an ideal. This is the Holy Spirit filling the room, and the children feeling His presence.

It’s easy to get caught up in that atmosphere. You have some that are more prone to feel intense emotions, who are the first to break down, and then it cascades from there. I’ve stood crying while the band played the same chorus of a song over and over again, feeling the presence of God. I’ve stood in a large auditorium feeling that power wash over me.

I don’t do that any more. I don’t believe any of that. But that leaves me with some powerful experiences that I need to account for. If it wasn’t God, what was it?

The music at the start draws you in, a sense of joy that unifies the group. A sermon preached that tugs a few heartstrings. Those who have felt that those tugs begin praying, weeping, going forward for prayer. The hypnotic sound of the band in the background, and portions of the group you have come to identify with breaking down, these contribute to a powerfully seductive environment, one in which even a non-believer can feel this mysterious power. It’s not mysterious though. It’s psychological tricks. They may not be used intentionally, but they are just psychology, not holy.

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