TGA Podcast: Special Edition

After a little bit of an absence, I decided to record a very special podcast this week. Rather than have my trusty host at my side, I wanted to record something a little bit more personal for you guys, so you could really understand my motivations for the site, as well as come to realize how spiritual experiences are really just a rationalization of something far more simple, and in my mind, something far more meaningful. I hope you all enjoy it.

Comments (21)

  • avatar


    That was awesome, it kind of had a hypno-therapist vibe going with the background music.

    My spiritual experience was far less interesting and if anything anti-life affirming.

    I am an ex Christian, agnostic on the deist side (ie I dont believe we could ever know if there was a deist god, but I don’t believe a personal god is possible), I am also constantly studying philosophy.

    Anyway, my experience involved me sitting on the bus one day when somehow my mind drifted to a place that was more blissful than I could previously imagine. Basicly it was absence of care, my mind was completely clear any stress the and I didn’t even think about anything, merely revel in the experience. I’m not a stressful person but the difference was amazing. This description doesn’t do it justice but all came to an end when I got kicked off the bus.

    My point is that it is interesting the filter that our beliefs form. Before I saw it as an experience of God, now I see it as a fluke emotional experience but it maybe that my beliefs change and I view it as evidence that this is not the true reality, presumably due to new information. How can we best teach our minds to adapt correctly when so many do not.

    Thanks, it was great to hear more about your background and for the sake of everyone’s souls I hope they recycle.

  • avatar


    I really appreciate how you qualified your experience by questioning your own memories. “Memories can be very deceptive. There are other things that determine how much we believe in them (emotional attachment, etc), not their accuracy.” Dr. Steve Novella

    I myself have never experienced such a powerful event beyond what I would describe as “moments of clarity”. Of course, they were from when I was a Marxist and clarity in that belief system doesn’t count for much :s

  • avatar


    Thanks for editing out the sounds when you periodically hit from the bong while recording this. So when’s Ryan getting back? LOL

    Btw, prah-jekt. 😉

  • avatar


    Hey Jacob, great podcast as usual.

    Imagine if a group of people all had the same or very similar experience that you had. Imagine if it wasn’t based on an email or website, but on a book that they read that made logical sense of their experience, lives and what the universe was all about. Then, imagine that the feeling they had from the experience didn’t go away. Imagine if the experience wasn’t confusing, but very clear.

    That’s what my life has been like since I gave my life to Christ. And it’s not just one experience, it’s hundreds if not thousands. And it’s not just me. You see it every day in the lives of others. So it’s not just coincidence.

    I was an atheist awhile back, then agnostic, so I can relate to your arguements against religion. All I can say is that I’ve never felt so fulfilled in my life. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t hardships, trials, etc. Just b/c I’m a Christian doesn’t mean my marriage became perfect and all my problems were solved. That’s not the message. But ever since I trusted in Christ for my salvation I can truly say I feel that I’m where I’m supposed to be.

    Flame away, but it’s true 🙂

  • avatar


    IMO this was the best episode of the Good atheist.
    I never experienced anything like this, even when i was a christian. I guess i wasn’t a very good christian.

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    You mentioned something about Buddhists in this podcast which I don’t think you’ve done before, I’m curious to know you opinion on Buddhism and maybe Tibet?

  • avatar

    Adrian Kelly

    Hi! I was a Buddhist for 10 years and had experiences like this during meditation. The reason I am no longer Buddhist is that I couldn’t accept all the metaphysical stuff, like rebirth, heavens and hells, devas etc. I finally realised that I was forcing myself to believe this stuff, and I was becoming quite miserable. I am now much happier using meditation as a tool to bring peace of mind, without all the religious nonsense attached to it.

    Great podcast; keep up the good work!

  • avatar

    Swedish guy

    Interesting episode, Jacob!
    While I can’t recall that I myself have had an experience similar to what you describe, it may just be the case that I haven’t been able to identify it. It could also be the case that the me from after such an experience has no memory of a me from before that particular event, if there ever was one.

    Therefore I am curious as to whether or not you have given this a lot of thought, I mean: have you always been aware of the life-changing character of this experience, or did you identify this particular experience as life-changing when actively rummaging your memories for one? Do I make sense here at all?
    Maybe you mentioned this early in the episode, and if so I apologize for missing that.

  • avatar


    Just wanted to add my 2p and say how much I enjoyed this episode. I was a Christian (a long while ago now!), but when I stopped being a Christian I dabbled in a few world views before finally settling on atheism. The feeling you described I have felt during the deepest prayer, in pagan ritual, while performing tai chi and in a meditative state. I think one of the reasons it took me a while to accept the scientific part of my mind that I didn’t believe in the existence of any deity or force was that I was constantly chasing that feeling – like a drug. I do miss it from time to time, if I’m honest, so I was really reassured by your episode that it can be experienced just by aiming for your highest goals in life.

    At the moment, I’m a stay-at-home mother with an astrophysics degree (!) and have recently been feeling quite low and purposeless. So your episode gave me a bit of a kick up the backside and I’m going to start focussing on some of *my* hopes and dreams again. I now have an excited buzzy feeling about that and the thought of new projects ahead 🙂

    So, thank you.

  • avatar


    Very different episode, but I liked it a lot. You do make a very valid point in that spirituality has been shackled to religion’s ankle for far too long. The two are not inextricable concepts: one can be religious but aspiritual, one can be areligious but spiritual. Really, though, I think those that have a spiritual experience, particularly for the first time, are sort of pushed to religion, as it’s the only societal venue that actually acknowledges such experiences as legitimate.

    And that’s unfortunate, because an experience like that is as real to those that experience them as they have to be. People shouldn’t have to put it into a religious context to make it meaningful. A self-affirmation by way of an e-mail or a childhood coma doesn’t mean any less than one by way of heavy prayer, does it?

  • avatar

    joe botelho

    What the fuck was that shit?!? You had all these amazing life altering experinces from a goddamn e-mails? E-mail? A fucking e-mail you are one sad guy. I remeber the first time i got an e-mail i was like “cool” then i sent a reply. Your like that fat kid in the rollercoster video thats freaking out and shitting his panties while his mom(that would be me) is just enjoying the ride. PhillyChief is right you must have been so high that it lasted even into the editing room. And change that “have a good atheist day” sign off it never was good and sounds like a 9th grade atheist made it up.

  • avatar

    Jeffrey Jones

    Yo Joe, while you were rolling your eyes to the podcast the point flew right past you. I suggest you re-listen to the podcast so you can grasp the crux of what was being explained.

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    @ C.S.

    A prayer is directed toward God, not towards self. That would be the biggest difference as far as meaning more. A prayer should (I say, should) lift up God for who He is, not you for who you are.

    Prayer != self-affirmation

  • avatar



    Regardless of whatever the purpose of prayer is supposed to be, the fact of the matter is that people DO come by self-affirmation by way of it (if this is a point you want to disagree with, I’ll say then obviously we do not know the same religious individuals, as I know several that would further argue the point). I’d also like to point out that I was saying prayer and self-affirmation are the same thing, merely that one can lead to the other.

    And even prayer itself is irrelevant to the point I was making (it could easily be substituted with meditative chanting, scripture study, numerology, hymnals, or any other religious exercise). What I was getting at is that the context of the experience should not (and, in my opinion, does not) quantify the level of personal meaningfulness of any sort of self-affirmation, spiritual, or transcendental experience. The only things that define how meaningful an experience like that is are the individual’s perception of the experience and their reaction to it.

    A religious individual might think it’s ridiculous that a mathematician’s entire life and world view can be changed by solving a complicated problem (a anecdote frequently told by John Allen Paulos), but on the other side of things, the mathematician might find the idea of a transcendental experience by catching sight of a cross glimmering in the sun equally silly. The context of each scenario is meaningless to everyone else, but mean the world to the individual that experienced them.

    Now, if the assertion is that spiritual experiences occurring in a religious context are inherently more meaningful than other spiritual experiences merely because of the religious aspect, I have to say I find that rather arrogant. Clearly the enormity and depth of the experience can only be measured by the individual experiencing it, so to imply that one type of spirituality is any more meaningful than another seems at the very least to be overly presumptuous. Notice I did not make it a point to say that religiously transcendental experiences are less valid than others because they revolve around mythology and fiction. I didn’t say that because I don’t agree with that statement. I feel all experiences of this nature are equally valid in relation to one another, and their importance and meaning can only be judged by the individual to whom they happen.

  • avatar


    Thank you so much for recording this special episode of The Good Atheist. Being a fairly recent “convert” to atheism it was very interesting to hear of a secular equivalent to a “conversion experience.” I was raised in a Pentecostal church and religious experiences were rather encouraged ie. speaking in tongues, being “slain in the spirit”, dancing, etc. To hear of your basic uplifting of yourself was very touching. By basic I mean down to your base, the very core of your existence. Feeling that elation that brings you to a transcendent plane is as you said, pretty sweet.

    I was also very touched by your challenge at the end. I have a college degree but am currently working in a job that anyone who happens to have lived for over 21 years can do. I am certainly going to take your challenge to heart and start looking for ways to apply my degree, but more importantly to start looking for the every elusive life altering experience. Ooh, I get excited just thinking about it.

    Again, sincerely,
    Thank you

  • avatar


    Edit, second sentence:

    “I’d also like to point out that I was NOT saying …”

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Zered, hope i can continue to help inspire you to do great things. Just remember that Religion is not a substitute for a purposeful life. You have to discover for yourself where the meaning of your life lies.

    Good luck!

  • avatar


    you are getting very slack. About 3 months ago i came across this and the fightlinker sites and podcasts. I enjoyed both very much. The problem is inconsistence. What is the schedule maybe i am just expecting to much. Anyway when you guys do work you are fantastic.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    i admit, TGA doesn’t have the consistancy I would like. But managing 2 websites, 2 podcasts, a weekly comic, and a full time job (as well as trying to find time to write the book) is quite draining. I’m trying though.

  • avatar


    Broken audio link

  • avatar


    Yeah, broken link or bad file… really wanted to hear this one. Any way it can be restored?

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