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By Cecelia ~

My conversion from nominal believer to born again Christian was sudden and dramatic. I had been in deep meditation when a voice said to me. "Get baptized."

What a profound and powerful message. I had never had such an experience. The words were almost audible. At the time, I just knew it was the voice of God.

But, now that I longer believe in God, how do I make sense of that experience and my interpretation of it?

It has taken me a long time to, finally, accept that it wasn't the voice of God but my own voice. It was my sub-conscience. I had said it to myself. The idea of the message being from God would be more credible if it had told me to do something totally out of the blue, something like, "Go to a Muslim mosque."

The idea of getting baptized was totally consistent with all the thoughts that had been running around in my head for weeks. I had been reading about Jesus. I had been reading about baptism. I had believed, from childhood, that the decision to dedicate my life to God and the decision to be baptized were one and the same. To me, being baptized was saying, "I'm serious about this. It's all locked in."

The message I received -- from myself -- was simply my own decision. Yes, it was a powerful message. Yes, it aroused a strong reaction but important messages have a way of doing that. It was a life changing decision.

But what about all of those other signs that I interpreted as God looking after me or punishing me? Were they all mere co-incidence? Surely not. They were too exact, too specific. The chance of them happening, randomly, was so low. Yes, but, just because the chance of something happening is low, it doesn't mean it won't happen eventually. After all, the odds of winning the lottery are small but, most weeks, someone usually wins.

The chances of two people meeting and marrying, who have exactly the same name, same date of birth, who both drive Mazda sedans, both have a dog called Spider and a sister called Emily are low but, as freaky as it sounds, coincidences like this do happen. It happens because of the law or probability. It doesn't have anything to do with God.

When random events occur that we don't have any reason to link together, we don't notice them. We notice them only when they do.

The belief that God had spoken to me -- and would do so again -- was lovely at first. It made me feel special. It was comforting.

But, ultimately, it was dangerous. My decision to embrace Christianity was a bad one. It brought me happiness in the beginning; misery at the end.

Unlike a lot of other Christians, aside from my initial conversion, I did not feel that God was speaking to me on a regular, ongoing basis. If only he had! I felt that he had buttered me up, reeled me in, then deserted me. It was very upsetting, confusing and hurtful that I seemed to be the only one whom God was ignoring.

No one likes to be ignored. It did terrible things to my, already, shaky self-esteem. It confirmed, to me, what Christianity taught: there was something wrong with me.

Since then, I have found out a very interesting fact. Many people think there is something wrong with them, when, in fact... there isn't. They are just perfectly normal, perfectly ordinary people.

It's normal to think nasty thoughts sometimes. It's natural that our first instinct is be selfish. It's a survival instinct.

It's normal to be tempted to do all sorts of crazy, inappropriate things. It's just as normal to -- sometimes -- actually do them!

It's normal to feel awkward around certain people. It's normal to suddenly dash around the corner in order to avoid them.

It's normal to get overwhelmed with life every now and then. It's normal to get really angry over nothing, swear in the car on the way home, then, suddenly get over it.

It's normal to be quirky and daggy. Everyone talks to themselves occasionally. Everyone does things on their own that they wouldn't do in front of someone else.

It's OK to like Nana Mouskouri.

I have learned, now, to embrace and celebrate my humanity and individuality. I don't have to be a clone..worse still a Christian clone--marching along in time with all the other soldiers. I don't have to believe the things others believe, whoever they are. I am allowed to change my mind. I am allowed to be different. I am supposed to be different.

Recently, I made a decision that, as I get older, instead of getting all grouchy and narrow-minded; instead of being a miserable old lady with a prune shaped mouth; I intend to be the exact opposite. I want to be someone who is constantly learning and growing, who is open to new ideas and experiences.

It looks, to me, like a happier and more fruitful way to live.

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