Prayer is just another kind of friendly conversation, says Uffe Schjodt who did MRIs on 20 devout Christians. This proves nothing about whether the devout Christians are talking to a real spirit, but it does show they are putting their hearts into it.
My daughter had 2 invisible friends but it seems they are gone now–she grew up. But she used to talked to them all the time. She was always embarrassed when we asked her who she was talking to. I think this is why the average Christian is also shy to talk about their Christianity because they also realize that they are really talking to an imaginary friend.
Jesus is totally imaginary. You can’t see him, you can’t hear him, you can’t smell him, you can’t feel him. So, the only way he exists is in your imagination. OK, people may say they can hear Jesus but they are not using the word “hear” in the normal sense. What they mean by “hear” is that they talk to their imaginary friend and then wait for a nice warm fuzzy feeling and then they call that “the voice of the Lord”. That is what I did when I was a devout Christian.
And when Evangelicals ask, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?”, they don’t mean “personal relationship” in any normal sense. We all know “personal relationship” means in normal conversation. If I pointed at someone across a room and said, “Do you have a personal relationship with that person?” You would say “No!” if you hadn’t done things with that person like had long personal conversations (using words of course) where you share information with each other. Or if you had eaten, drank, danced, laughed, played baseball or stuff like that with them. We never use “personal relationship” in normal conversation to mean that you squint your eyes and talked to yourself and imagined someone was listening — that is called “having an imaginary friend”.
Now, if you do this silly activity in front of others, it is less embarrassing. Why do you think few people want to say grace at big gatherings of strangers. Because everyone knows it is a speech contest and has nothing about talking to a real person and the game feels silly. They feel better doing it at church where everyone has drank the Kool Aid and everyone agrees to suspend rationality in the building and talk outloud to common imaginary friends. They make this sacrifice of rationality to gain community, comfort, friends, status and lots of other reasons. But they don’t do it because they really hear someone talking back — come on, admit it. I am an ex-Christian, I know the game.
Jesus is an imaginary friend. This is one of the strongest arguments to confront Christians with. Who needs theology when you can point out this childish behavior. In the study mentioned above, “devout” simply means someone who has done it so long and in the company of fellow hypnotized people that they can not tell reality from imagination any longer. Good for them.