People believe what they believe for a range of reasons, but one of the most puzzling — at least for those who have not had events like these — is an explanation from personal experience. Such moments have cherished roles in conversion narratives, of course.
A young man gave me this account of his first encounter with the Holy Spirit at a retreat to which his girlfriend had dragged him. “So they started praying for me. … It doesn’t feel necessarily like electricity, but it feels like your body would be, like, touched by some kind of extreme power and you’re just shaking, like you just can’t handle all this stuff that’s being poured into you, and all they’re saying is, ‘Come on, Holy Spirit, and fill him up to overflowing.’ … I felt like there was somebody else in me, like, dwelling, trying to get out to this extreme degree, and I was just overwhelmed in it.” As one says in Christian circles, it convicted him and made him realize that God was real.
But just having a strange and powerful experience doesn’t determine what you believe. I walked off that train with a new respect for why people believed in magic, not a new understanding of reality. Sometimes people have remarkable experiences, and then tuck them away as events they can’t explain.