As many of you know who have read my deconversion story on this very blog I was once an evangelist of a Spanish fundamentalist Pentecostal church. One of the most prominent features of Pentecostalism is that they were literalists in the way that they read and interpreted the scriptures. They believed that the Bible was the inerrant word of God and because of this belief tended to take Christianity to an extreme level not so common with other sects of the faith.
7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
Believers immersed in the Spirit of God or so they think.
Another feature of Pentecostalism is that their faith is not based on reason; for the most part it is based on their personal subjective experiences which they interpret as God's Spirit working through them or within them. The reason I opened this post with a Hitler quote is that this particular quote has a lot of relevance to this subject and it also reveals the main reason that atheists cannot convince through any amount of argument or persuasion a Pentecostal or other member of a similar charismatic movement of the falsity of their faith.
Noted Christian apologist William Lane Craig
Even the noted Christian apologist William Lane Craig who claims to be believing in a 'Reasonable Faith' as the title of his book states has fallen victim to the delusion of subjective experience as evidence of the veracity of his beliefs. He has often stated in his debates, writings, and interviews:"Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa. [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 36.]
This is why fundamentalists are not phased by arguments based on reason or evidence at all! It's not about what objective or empirical evidence can seemingly prove or not. It's about what they "feel" within their "hearts." It's literally like trying to talk to a wall! For them this is a badge of honor to believe in the impossible or unbelievable without the requirement for evidence.That is why they call it faith and why faith is true despite what we have learned from reality.
Faith is the Christians shield against reason!
Contrary to what some atheists who have never experienced the Holy Spirit personally: I can state with certainty that not everyone is faking it! I know I wasn't. I can say this because when I was in the ministry I had believed that at one time or another I had been given and used at one time or another all nine of the gifts of the Spirit as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. I spoke in tongues, prophesied, many testified to having been healed, discerned spirits, etc. in Jesus name. I believed that God had blessed me with his spiritual gifts and their powers as a result of it. I felt currents of electricity course through my body as I layed hands on the sick and prayed for many while I preached or ministered to their spiritual needs. I always gave God the thanks and the glory for working through me and using me as his vessel.
But before I was an evangelist I was on the receiving end as well. I have been "slain in the Spirit" and I have discovered since then what really was going on inside me at the time. There are two ways to reach this so called trance like euphoria one appears to be experiencing which they believe to be the effects of the Holy Spirit. There is the slow methodical route which basically consists of the evangelist speaking in a low tone of voice and getting everyone to relax so that they can hear the still small voice of the Spirit. You talk about sin and wanting to be a better Christian and if you have a piano or an organ playing soft music in the background, even better. You reach them emotionally by telling them what they want to hear.
The second way is through the complete opposite. You play loud and fast music in the background you yell at the top of your lungs into the mic and tell them what they want to hear. When you have them in an emotional state through either methodology the believers are in a highly suggestive state. They will follow your instructions to the letter hoping to feel a touch from God. This will manifest itself in euphoria, joy, unconsciousness, excessive crying, and a loss of control over ones emotions. Once you are riding this roller coaster of emotion you are now ready to begin speaking in tongues from what appears to be within yourself (spirit).
If you have been paying attention you will notice that this actually sounds quite familiar. That's because it is! These same techniques are used often by stage hypnotists and even professional clinical hypnotists. The only difference is that your clients (believers) are already automatically primed because of their previous and existing indoctrination into the belief system. Typically all you are doing is reinforcing it. Now not all evangelists are even aware that they are doing this, as I certainly was not. But there are some that know exactly what they are doing and take advantage of the ignorance and gullibility of these people.
The believers truly think that what they are experiencing when they pray at home alone or in church at service when they worship God with the rest of the congregation that they are feeling his Holy Spirit! How can you ever expect to convince someone who has had this experience otherwise? My journey towards atheism was a journey I undertook myself and it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. It's hard to get all of that indoctrination out of your head when you have seemingly had so many "divine encounters" and seemingly experienced the power of God right before your eyes.
What believers fail to see is that these experiences are not unique to Christianity. Many of the worlds religions and their adherents seek to experience the divine and claim as do the Christians to experience their gods presence and witness his miracle working power. How do you account for that? Well, I think that the above description does one hell of a job of explaining this. Indoctrination is the key element in the whole process. Once you get them to believe whatever it is you need them to believe and you get them to commit mind, body, and spirit to those beliefs then the rest is bound to happen.
Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures. Other sources have been linked to within the text.