Many Christians profess to have a personal relationship with Jesus. What do they mean? A personal experience impossible to replicate, if one has not experienced it. It is sometimes even presented as the best and foremost evidence they have to believe in the existance of their god.
What do Christians mean when they say they have a personal relationship with their god entity? It is often described some form of conversing between them and their god. They ask their god for advice in choises they have to make and supposedly this god of theirs answers. How? How do they know, that who ever answers is actually their god?
How does one make the distinction between a particular god talking to oneself within the limits of the inner mind of the person experiencing this, from the normal inner dialogue we have? How does one make the distinction between different alledged supernatural entities talking within our minds?
Or are they referring to hearing voices? Hearing voices is not necessarily a sign of schizophrenia and it is far more common than commonly assumed. Be it caused by such serious condition or not, it is a trick of the mind. The physical brain within our cranium. It is perfectly natural, that when a person starts to hear voices, those voices that are echoes of the brainfunctions reflect the cultural heritage of the individual. Sometimes including their religious beliefs and cultural ideas about the supernatural. The Jesus character in the Bible seemed to think, that sort of experience is a form of coexistance with some sort of demons. This makes the Bible appear very much as a book and the Jesus character in it as a typically superstitious human being of the time when the book was written. Does it not?
If the relationship with a particular god entity is not described as much as hearing actual voices inside your head, merely the natural inner dialogue, perhaps even a muted version of it, it still is necessarily connected to the cultural heritage and culturally induced ideas such as particular concepts of gods. Even if a person later in life becomes convinced, that the connection they had to a particular god was not those of a particular god concept of their own cultural heritage, in order to recognize wich god concept fits the experience they remember having had, they first need to become aware of the cultural notion of a particular god that would fit the bill. God concepts are necessarily cultural constructs. Similar god beliefs have appeared ignorant of each other around the globe, but the very same concept has never appeared simultaneously in different cultures indipendend of each other. Instead the succesfull religious movements all require a form of proselytising.
How could a personal experience, limited between our own ears be evidence of a particular god to exist? Even to us ourselves? Most of these experiences are direct reflections of the cultural heritages and subsequent beliefs people already had even before they had the experience. Putting aside the fact, that the personal experience of an individual is presents very poor evidence for a nother person. The obvious cultural connection of recognition of a particular god depending on the culture and experiences of the particular individual, at very least, puts the evidence value of any such experience to question. In any case it reminds us, that either, if there is a god behind such phenomenons this god is “challenged” in trying to convey who this god is to human individuals, or then there are multiple different gods providing evidence of their existance.
Now, if the god of the Christians manifests somehow differently from other gods, and the “personal relationship” is a concept to describe this, it still means, that it is a cultural concept. As this personal relationship seems more common among particular mutually competing Christian sects, it means, that most Christians are not included in this personal relationship. Most Christians in the world are just normal people who have no personal relationships with anything supernatural. Why?
What if there is something supernatural causing these experiences, and the cultural interpretation was just a side-effect of the phenomenon being transmitted to the rest of us, by superstitious and culturally indoctrinated individuals? Well, perhaps, but how likely is that? According to the Occam’s Razor, the more simplistic model of explanation is the more likely truth. If applied to voices in the head, the inner monologue feeling or seeming like it was between the individual and a god, or just a chance occurance seeming like it was an answer to a question presented by the person inside their head, it is still more simple to explain any of those as tricks of the mind, rather than by anything supernatural, that would still require an external verification to even exist as much as to be a possible explanation to the experience.
I have to admit it, if I ever had any such an experience, I would rather have my head examined, than jumped to the conclusion, that a particular deity was trying to make a contanct with me. But is that just my own cultural heritage and bias? I am not immune to my own culture, or the assumptions it provides me. Yet, my ally is the scientific method. As long as it does not provide any direct information about divinities, I am quite happy to neglect any suggestions of gods as fable. Much the same way I neglect any ideas of demons, angels, pixies, unicorns, dragons and such. Besides, being a researcher of history, I have quite scientific evidence of how the beliefs in the supernatural appear. We have no reliable knowledge about anything supernatural, but we do have reliable knowledge about otherwise perfectly rational people being able to make up fantastic stories, believing them against all evidence and even sacrificing themselves for their faith in the most ludicurous and harmfull beliefs. Like for an extreme example the Nazies.