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My Take: If you hear God speak audibly, you (usually) aren’t crazy
A woman prays in church. Many Christians say they can audibly hear the voice of God.
December 29th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: If you hear God speak audibly, you (usually) aren’t crazy

Editor's Note: Tanya Marie (“T.M.”) Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist and the Watkins University professor in the department of anthropology at Stanford University in Stanford, California. She is the author of "When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God."

By T.M. Luhrmann, Special to CNN

(CNN)—In the Bible, God spoke directly to Abraham. He spoke directly to Moses. He spoke directly to Job. But to your neighbor down the street?

Most people reading the ancient scriptures understand these accounts of hearing God’s voice as miracles that really did happen but no longer take place today, or maybe as folkloric flourishes to ancient stories. Even Christians who believe that miracles can be an everyday affair can hesitate when someone tells them they heard God speak audibly. There’s an old joke: When you talk to God, we call it prayer, but when God talks to you, we call it schizophrenia.

Except that usually it’s not.

Hearing a voice when alone, or seeing something no one else can see, is pretty common. At least one in 10 people will say they’ve had such an experience if you ask them bluntly. About four in 10 say they have unusual perceptual experiences between sleep and awareness if you interview them about their sleeping habits.

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And if you ask them in a way that allows them to admit they made a mistake, the rate climbs even higher. By contrast, schizophrenia, the most debilitating of all mental disorders, is pretty rare. Only about one in 100 people can be diagnosed with the disorder.

Moreover, the patterns are quite distinct. People with schizophrenia who hear voices hear them frequently. They often hear them throughout the day, sometimes like a rain of sound, or a relentless hammer. They hear not only sentences, but paragraphs: words upon words upon words. What the voices say is horrid—insults, sneers and contemptuous jibes. “Dirty. You’re dirty.” “Stupid slut.” “You should’ve gone under the bus, not into it.”

That was not what Abraham, Moses and Job experienced, even when God was at his most fierce.

For the last 10 years, I have been doing anthropological and psychological research among experientially oriented evangelicals, the sort of people who seek a personal relationship with God and who expect that God will talk back. For most of them, most of the time, God talks back in a quiet voice they hear inside their minds, or through images that come to mind during prayer. But many of them also reported sensory experiences of God. They say God touched their shoulder, or that he spoke up from the back seat and said, in a way they heard with their ears, that he loved them. Indeed, in 1999, Gallup reported that 23% of all Americans had heard a voice or seen a vision in response to prayer.

These experiences were brief: at the most, a few words or short sentences. They were rare. Those who reported them reported no more than a few of them, if that. These experiences were not distressing, although they were often disconcerting and always startling. On the contrary, these experiences often made people feel more intimate with God, and more deeply loved.

In fact, my research has found that these unusual sensory experiences are more common among those who pray in a way that uses the imagination—for example, when prayer involves talking to God in your mind. The unusual sensory experiences were not, in general, associated with mental illness (we checked).

They were more common among those who felt comfortable getting caught up in their imaginations. They were also more common among those who prayed for longer periods. Prayer involves paying attention to words and images in the mind, and giving them significance. There is something about the skilled practice of paying attention to the mind in this way that shifts—just a little bit—the way we judge what is real.

Yet even many of these Christians, who wanted so badly to have a back-and-forth relationship with God, were a little hesitant to talk about hearing God speak with their ears. For all the biblical examples of hearing God speak audibly, they doubt. Augustine reports that when he was in extremis, sobbing at the foot of that fig tree, he heard a voice say, “Take it and read.” He picked up the scripture and converted. When the Christians I know heard God speak audibly, it often flitted across their minds that they were crazy.

In his new book, "Hallucinations," the noted neurologist Oliver Sacks tells his own story about a hallucinatory experience that changed his life. He took a hearty dose of methamphetamines as a young doctor, and settled down with a 19th century book on migraines. He loved the book, with its detailed observation and its humanity. He wanted more. As he was casting around in his mind for someone who could write more that he could read, a loud internal voice told him “You silly bugger” that it was he. So he began to write. He never took drugs again.

Now, Sacks does not recommend that anyone take drugs like that. He thinks that what he did was dangerous and he thinks he was lucky to have survived.

What interests me, however, is that he allowed himself to trust the voice because the voice was good. There’s a distinction between voices associated with psychiatric illness (often bad) and those (often good) that are found in the so-called normal population. There’s another distinction between those who choose to listen to a voice, if the advice it gives is good, and those who do not. When people like Sacks hear a voice that gives them good advice, the experience can transform them.

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This is important, because often, when voices are discussed in the media or around the kitchen table, the voices are treated unequivocally as symptoms of madness. And of course, voice-hearing is associated with psychiatric illness.

But not all the time. In fact, not most of the time.

About a third of the people I interviewed carefully at the church where I did research reported an unusual sensory experience they associated with God. While they found these experiences startling, they also found them deeply reassuring.

Science cannot tell us whether God generated the voice that Abraham or Augustine heard. But it can tell us that many of these events are normal, part of the fabric of human perception. History tells us that those experiences enable people to choose paths they should choose, but for various reasons they hesitate to choose.

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sat at his kitchen table, in the winter of 1956, terrified by the fear of what might happen to him and his family during the Montgomery bus boycott, he said he heard the voice of Jesus promising, “I will be with you.” He went forward.

Voices may form part of human suffering. They also may inspire human greatness.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of TM Luhrmann.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • God

soundoff (7,765 Responses)
  1. ThinkDefyUnite

    Yes, literally hearing god is always crazy. Sorry. Just sayin' ...

    December 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • dreamer96

      It may not be that easy....it is not always hearing a voice...it is also a feeling...a sense of insight....not all actually hear a voice...Many people give warnings like before the Olympics there is always a strange wave of warnings....and what happens to those that make a waning and then something happens ..they get investigated...and the records are there ....

      December 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • apostate

      ............simply your imagination = crazy

      December 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Walla1walla

      Thank you, now we know.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  2. Sheila

    I have heard a clear voice tellng me what to do twice in my life. Both times, I did what it told me to do. Both times it led me to actions that were almost miraculously in my best interest. In addition to the voices, I occasionlly have what I call Neon Thoughts – an idea that comes to me with such inpact that it seems the words appear in neon lights in my mind. Those ideas, which I have have always followed, have also led to blessed situations beyond most people's belief. Is this God? Is this the Cosmos? Is it my own head, reaching some state of amazing comprehension? I don't know. But when I hear it or see it, I do it.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • deadlyserious

      Well, the rest of us are just waiting with bated breath to see what happens when that voice tells you to kill a bunch of people.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • matt

      Hey, the Son of Sam heard a voice, and he did what it told him, too. Except it wasn't God, it was the dog next door. You might want to question your neighbours to see if they have any pets.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Me, too, sheila, and I'm an atheist.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Sheila

      Well, whatever it is, it looks as if it is a strategy that seems to be working for you. Good luck with that.

      Peace...

      December 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Sheila

      One of the times I heard a voice it said it was time to sell my house. I decided to do it, and my house sold in 1 day. One Neon Thought put me in a great job with stability throughout the financial crisis – my company grows every year, no layoffs, bonuses are paid, my health/dental/vision beneifts cost me $35 every two weeks. Don't you wish the voices talked to you?

      December 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      god ever told you to murder you own child, like he did with Abraham?

      December 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Humans are notoriously bad about predicting the outcomes of their actions. Unless it's something really obvious, like whether to burn all your money or something, listening to a random voice to make a decision isn't all that crazy. Humans are more or less flipping a coin a lot of the time, and then quickly make up 'reasons' for their actions. One of the key functions of the human brain is rationalizing actions...both religious and non-religious people do it constantly, they just make up slightly different stories.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Sheila

      Bootyfunk – no, God never told me to murder a child. And I am not sure he said it to Abraham, either, because while I am a Christian, I am not a Biblical literalist. And I believe Revelation was the result of a bad anchovy pizza before bed.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  3. matt

    The fact that you believe God literally spoke to Abraham, and not figuratively, shows you have no understanding of your own religion's theology. Most Jews don't even believe it was literal. it's an allegory, there to be interpreted. The evangelical mission to take everything in the Bible as literal shows their naive understanding of religion. You should read Origen, or better yet, Maimonides. Hell, Aquinas would do alright for you.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  4. Walla1walla

    Mankind has struggled with the question of God since the beginning of time. All we had to do is wait for bootyfunk

    December 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      And the length of the "struggle" should tell you something. The ancient greeks struggled with the concept of "zero" for a few years only. Does god want to be so confusing that anybody can believe anything about him, but yet those same people MUST use math and chemistry correctly and in the same way? Stupid god.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      didn't have to wait for me - plenty of atheists in the past could have told you god is make believe. but i appreciate you waiting. sounds like i have an admirer. :)

      December 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  5. Jack

    I cannot speak for all atheists, but the reason I challenge people's religious beliefs is because I want them to believe in themselves.

    One of the popular responses the the "Problem of Evil" (a philosophical proof of the nonexistence of an all-loving god) is that all individuals have free will. Even though this isn't a valid criticism of the proof (it is entirely possible to have free will if god does not exist), I think it is very important.

    Have you ever noticed that religious people often have their cake and eat it too? When something bad happens, it wasn't god, it was the free will of the individual or group of individuals that caused it. But at the very same time, and we heard this countless times after Sandy Hook, it is "god's will." So which is it? Is it the free will of individuals that causes evil, or is it the will of god? Or is god somehow influencing your will, which would make it anything but free?

    Look, the point of all this is that people need to understand that you, and only you, are responsible for your actions, both good and bad. When you hurt someone, it is your fault, and it is up to you to make amends. Similarly, when you help someone, that is all you. Take the credit. An individual human being is an incredibly powerful thing. We've seen individuals in history who have enslaved millions, but we've also seen individuals who have toppled dictatorships.

    I don't want people to wait around their whole lives in the hope that at the end, they will get to live in paradise with their god. We have the power to make this life a paradise, not just for ourselves, but for everyone else in this world.

    If you want to believe in something, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. We all have the power to change the world, and we don't need a god to do it.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • hal 9001

      "If you are traveling with children, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children."

      -United Airlines

      December 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Sheila

      I do believe in myself – because I believe God made me to be an intelligent, capable human being. But I don't believe in myself as the best thing in the universe, where nothing is above me, nothing is more powerful, nothing is more capable. I am not that self-centered. If humans are the best the world has to offer – if there is nothing else more powerful working on our behalf, we're toast.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Holy crap! Why would you believe all that stupid sh!t about yourself. That would be ridiculous.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      my response was for Sheila

      December 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Jack

      @Sheila, this is exactly the kind of thinking I want you to abandon. You clearly do not believe in yourself or your fellow man if you think we are "toast." Now, if you wait around your whole life expecting god to make everything in the world better, then yeah, we probably are toast.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Jack

      And by the way, I never said that human beings are the "most powerful thing in the universe." You're putting words into my mouth so as to better fit your narrative.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      " But I don't believe in myself as the best thing in the universe"
      what atheist said that? you're putting words in people's mouths. if anything, chrsitians think they are the best thing in the universe, created specially by god. atheists think we climbed out of a slime pool, just like every other species on the planet. hilarious that christians try to say that cr@p. we don't think we're special - just an animal that evolved a big brain. you guys think there's a special disneyland in the sky you go to when you die and the entire universe was made just for us. talk about ego. lol.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      and Jack,
      very, very well said. we're just trying to wake up the zombies so they can think for themselves.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Sheila

      If there is no God, then what is more powerful than mankind itself? And can you express it without cursing, name calling, or other insulting language? I don't need for you to believe in God at all. Why do you need me to stop?

      December 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Sheila thinks she has a personal relationship with the creator of the universe and WE have an exagerated ego?

      December 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Sheila

      AtheistSteve – I asked if you could do it without insults. Guess not.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      I didn't insult you Sheila. You were the one pointing out how big OUR egos must be if God didn't exist...I merely demonsrtated your error in thinking. Call it constructive criticism....but it wasn't insulting. You seem far too sensitive.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • apostate

      Plenty of natural things more powerful than humans. Weather, asteroids, the sun, supernovas, etc.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  6. Seyedibar

    @John Tarver, Quantum mechanics require no such thing. If you're speaking of observer-adapted reality, that view was disproved 4 years ago as a flaw in how the classic double-blind-slit test was performed.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      I am quoting Albert Einstein from his 1927 Copenhagen Observations. Einstein's notional hypothesis based in relativity and Quantum Mechanics, was then countered with the Multi-universe notional hypotheseis, based in Deterministic Probabilities; an idea discredited when John Bell proved probabilities are not deterministic. As much interest as fools have in MU, it is a wonder they do not know from where the notion as science comes from; even though it is also Hindi theology.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Sheila

      Then the poor cat died for nothing?

      December 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Einstein was an atheist. He often chastized the media for twisting his words to support theism.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Sey- Einstein was a Jew, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics were criticized as "Jew science". I can understand how you want to spin the history differently than it is, but Einstein had the manufacture the the mathematical contrivance of the photon to collect his Nobel for his evidence of Relativity.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      einstein was raised jewish, but he did not believe in god. jewish can be a religion AND a race. you can be a jewish atheist.

      "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
      - Albert Einstein

      December 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Einstein was hounded by the evolutionists and big bang nut jobsa for the rest of his life and had no use for the people who wanted him to claim the "sentient being outside the universe" was their God. That Einstein was not a religious man only enforces the conclusion of his science, as it was not a Church stunt.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Tohrm

      There are no observer-dependent quantum effects. It is the effects of measurement, not observation, that cause indeterminacy.
      People who get stuck on the word "observer" are fooled into thinking an actual observer is needed. It is the quantum effects of trying to measure quantum values using our clunky technology that causes the collapse of the wave function and the other values to be lost in the process.
      Otherwise we'd be pretty busy keeping our eyeballs glued to silicon processor wafers to continually ensure that all quantum effects are working properly inside the chips. A ridiculous scenario, to say the least.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  7. are122

    Good article. Well written and a real refreshing break from the fiscal cliff. Thanks.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • deadlyserious

      Well-written?

      The basic premise of the article is that, based on a study of one church, someone can "rationally" conclude that anyone who claims to hear the voice of their god is probably telling the truth. Unless they're schizophrenic. Or unless they hear things that the author doesn't think are "godly". Then they're not hearing god.

      Utter tripe.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Saraswati

      @deadlyserious, She never said the voices were the truth, just that you weren't crazy. Big difference.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  8. Colin

    "Science cannot tell us whether God generated the voice that Abraham or Augustine heard."

    Well, actually, to an extent, it can. The lack of any reference to Abraham outside of the Bible means it is quite likely he never even existed and clinical pshychiatry tells us that Augustine's visions were likely a hallucination.

    Not even hard.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      colin, stop using logic! we're talking about a book with unicorns, satyrs and dragons in it. also talking snakes and donkeys (like in Shrek!) and a guy lives in the belly of a whale for 3 days (like in Pinocchio!) logic and reason have no place in the bible.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Bostontola

      I hope that is not your idea of science. Not a bad hypothesis though. Science requires that the hypothesis is testable.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      You seem to be quite an expert on hallucinations Colin.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Seyedibar

      John the Apostle makes it very clear in the Book of Revelation that his visions are caused by something he ingests (mushrooms have historically been popular in the mediterranean). Ezekiel holds similar suggestions.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • mama k

      That book of Revelation is a mess. I think it's more than that, Seyedibar. I think he crashed his camel while he was high on that junk.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Sey- I am going to go with Myrrh, a powerful narcotic tintured in wine by Rome.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Sheila

      On the one hand, atheists say they don't need a God to be moral people, and I agree. But on the other hand, why do those same people seem to be unable to express themselves without insulting others?

      December 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Shiela, because we don't see the need to be sensitive about foolish ideas. You can certainly choose not to be offended.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  9. independentlyowned

    There have been tons of studies that show the brain is capable of many, fantastic things, which include seeing and hearing things that aren't real. Especially when in deep meditation or prayer, which she says is more effective for hearing "god," a person is more susceptible to such experiences. It has nothing to to with a supernatural being talking to us, but simply how the brain works. And if you're in a relaxed state when doing such, then those images or messages will be soothing as well.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      God only reveals his secrets to those who fear him, so don't expect to hear from God unless you have filled that square.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      yes, god does most of his work through fear, with a little guilt and ignorance thrown in.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Bostontola

      I got the same thing from the article. It wasn't confirming god, it starts to explain why some who believe self confirm. Why are atheists reacting negatively to this?

      December 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • independentlyowned

      Bostontola I think we're reacting negatively because she doesn't say that this is just a normal experience, but she says it IS in fact due to people hearing the voice of God.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      because you are in a cult. cults are dangerous. cults teach you to turn your brain off. we are angry because we want you to think for yourself and not be guided by a book that tells us the earth is flat, to kill all g.ays and that talking to an invisible sky fairy is healthy. what's worse, the religious try to inject their wacky philosophies into our laws. if you woke up one day and realized most of the people around you were part of a cult, you'd be a little peeved, too. we just want our brothers and sisters to free themselves from the mental shackles of religion and to be free thinkers.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Bostontola

      Where, I didn't see that.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I have always found this kind of research a bit of a bummer personally. While the fact I don't remotely hear such voices may mean I'll likely never develop schizophrenia, it appears it also means I'm unlikely ever to write a great novel. I'm glad such folk do exist, and excited when they turn these experiences to creativity. It's a spectrum, though, something de-emphasized here, and where you land on it makes a world of difference.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • dreamer96

      placing a helmet on people that creates a magnetic field produces strange mental effects too....and our world is bombarded by electromagnetic waves...both natural and man made....What could be the effects of a strong Solar Flare..

      Maybe temporary hallucinations in the world's population...What about a Church built to create magnetic fields during Church Services.....Now that could rake in some big money....

      December 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      then you haven't opened your bible.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  10. John P. Tarver

    Judging God has become quite an industry for our populist media

    December 30, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • snowboarder

      as well it should. the industry of religion requires constant scrutiny.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Why not? We created the gods, so we can use them as we wish.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • sam stone

      God deserves to be judged

      December 30, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  11. MoronAtheist

    Yup, that's what i figured, those low life Atheists jumped on this like a bunch of sharks. Atheists Gothic Sect lovers. Female atheists let their armpits hair grow and have hairy legs. Male Atheists shave themselves until every parts of their body shines like a crystal ball. They jumped in the air saying yuppies there's no God and lets do whatever please us. Even a monkey have an higher IQ than those Atheists.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • mark

      well said

      December 30, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Man's closest genome relative is dog and you may find more similarity in behavior to the dog in these devolved humans.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Bostontola

      Your name is half right.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      you sound very interested in the hair on atheist bodies. sounds like a fetish... think about it a lot, do you?

      December 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • independentlyowned

      Uh, I'm a female atheist and I shave my legs and armpits regularly.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • MoronAtheist

      Oh i forgot, Atheists don't believe in God, but they do dress in long black trench coat and they go around towns chasing vampires. What a bunch of lunatics.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • The Truth

      Does anyone else find it pathetic that the shallow minded atheists hover around pro religion topics to add the weak opinions... I mean really, do you really think pro religion folks would hover around atheist sites. you atheists have way to much time on your hands, you really should find a hobby, possibly reading, possibly the bible. Sad and Pathetic it is that you are so shallow minded.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      @The Truth

      Well, you could try thinking outside the box about the issue. I'll bet you could figure out a better answer than the one you've written. Or, you could stay boring.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • MoronAtheist

      @The Truth

      You got that right, most of them don't have a job. They just spend their life behind a computer chasing those who believe in God. Those idiots think they're chasing vampires. lol.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "Does anyone else find it pathetic that the shallow minded atheists hover around pro religion topics to add the weak opinions..."
      pretty sure atheism is a religious topic. lol.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Smack

      Not only do atheists have higher IQ's, they test higher than the religious on the topic of religion.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • don in albuquerque

      Wow! Kink O' The Week. Tell me more about your body hair thing.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • ThinkDefyUnite

      The Truth: You are welcome to contribute to any of our atheist sites any time that's convenient to you, but I suspect that you won't be able to add anything to the conversation other than yet more hallucinogenic drivel. The reason that some of us monitor these "religious" discussion sites is so that we can assist in the removal of nonsensical "religious" wish-thinking from our societies, for it has proven over the centuries to be a detriment to mankind. We needed to do the same thing to counter the "Earth is flat" folks, and the "Earth is the center of the universe" folks, now we need to focus on the "Because the sky-fairy told us so" folks... The idea is to dispel nonsense.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Dubhly

      John are you just a troll? mans closest genome is anouther Ape....the chimp, with close second as a gorilla.

      btw moron... i got a beard down to my chest and hair halfway down my back and im male....so i guess that upsets your little plan. O and an IQ rated 160+ . Now i would lay odds you will mischaracterize non believers as hippies or some other stereotype, while not accepting the fact that they come in all shapes, sizes, colours and creeds.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Canadian2012

      You seem to be confusing atheism with ethics and morality, atheism with hedonism, atheism with vanity, atheism with Gothic cults (!) and atheism with intelligence. It is unrelated to any of those things. You cannot make a sweeping generalization as to who or what an atheist is the same way you cannot make a generalized statement that all those who believe in a supreme being are morally upright and intelligent. This is clearly not the case.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Dub- The human genome project is complete and what I wrote is exactly correct. Your cience is perhaps based in Darwin's racism and not current science. Ape medical experimentation for human application is unethical on the basis of modern knowledge and propagating the lie you are is unethical behavior.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Sheila

      Hey Smack! Waiting to see you at the next Mensa meeting. Obviously if my IQ is high enough to be a member, and I'm a Christian, you, as an atheist with a higher IQ, are also qualified.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Smack

      I'm sure Mensa has members from all religions. It would not negate the fact that atheists test higher on average than religious people, including the topic of religion. I'd be the first to admit that many people with exceptional IQ's can be delusional. You can get together with your other religious Mensa buddies and share stories about the voices each hears from each of your different Gods. Do you think the different Gods talk to each other, or maybe as a Christian you think your God is the only one and that all the other religious people that hear voices are lying.

      December 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • sam stone

      Johnny boy, don't you have to get back on your knees and beg for salvation? After all, your perfect virgin boinker made imperfect humans.....sounds like an underachiever to me.....what a cvnt

      December 30, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @sheila

      You don't seem to be using much of that Mensa-quality thinking currently. When someone talks about the IQ of a group, obviously they don't mean every member shares that IQ but rather that the IQ is an average. So your reasoning was stupid from the get go. And I'm no mensa member.

      December 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  12. Carl, Visigoth Extraordinaire

    Gnawing the dry bones of her youth, the author finds release in the wild assertions given to her by a hallucination.
    Shall we condemn her for being mentally ill? No. Someone suffering from mental illness is rarely responsible for it.
    She is a victim, like so many others.
    Someone messed up like she is shouldn't be a professor at Stanford, though. That should be changed.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  13. RichardSRussell

    Yes, you are.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  14. Truth

    Well, one thing's for sure...if there is a God, and if he does speak to people, he sure as hell doesn't speak to any blacks. Blacks don't possess souls, so he is unaware of the chimps. You have to be a human being to possess a soul.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      go back to the klan, moron. and get an elementary education. brains are a terrible thing to waste....

      December 30, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Another evolutionist weighs in.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      You know what?...If you were getting gang raped by a group of black men I'd be standing by laughing my ass off...you stupid racist troll!!!

      December 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      American christianity actually taught this viewpoint for hundreds of years. They called it the curse of Ham and used it to justify slavery. The Mormons built an entire religion on the basis of hatred of blacks.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      sey- Many christian churches teach evolution as a means to species as part of Christianity today; even though as science it is a failed notion.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • don in albuquerque

      Reported for being abusive.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Dubhly

      hey john, once again, you are wrong. he is not an evolutionist. he is a Christian, that is a line of Christian reasoning. Please see other post here for details no need to repost.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  15. Bootyfunk

    "In the Bible, God spoke directly to Abraham"
    yep, god told abraham to murder his child. i'm pretty sure that he was nuts.

    "hey abraham, where you going with your son?"
    "oh, just going to the mountaintop to stab him to death. god told me to."
    "ummmmmm......"

    and if someone today said god told him to sacrifice his child, would we say "oh, god works in mysterious ways!" no, we'd stop him, put him in prison and get his head checked. abraham is a really terrible example to bring up. job isn't much better...

    December 30, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • are122

      Too bad you didn't read the rest of the story.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      @are

      Does it matter what the rest of the story is? A man was willing to kill his child because some "god" told him to. If someone told you that, would you let him just go on his way?

      December 30, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  16. snowboarder

    it is simply the result of an active imagination. children have been conjuring imaginary friends since time immemorial.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • dreamer96

      The creator of Harry Potter said she was riding the train one day and in her mind she saw a small boy sitting alone...It was her character Harry Potter....I really like those stories....

      December 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  17. Bootyfunk

    this lady is (usually) crazy. if you think you hear god, you are either A) Crazy or B) So deep in the cult of christianity that you make cr@p up in your head, like hearing god.

    hint; you're not really hearing god - you just have an over-active imagination.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Bostontola

      Your hint is pretty much what the author did say.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • dreamer96

      And yet a young Muslim boy looking out a school window at the Twin Towers told her school teacher See those tall buildings over there..They will be gone soon...He was not the only one that warned of something coming...

      December 30, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      @dreamer
      bullsh.it. that's an urban legend. what's the boy's name? stop making up cr@p.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • dreamer96

      Bootyfunk

      Funny Like I said that boy was not the only one that issued a warning....

      December 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  18. Eye Witness

    He silenced the birds and turned the water to glass. I have seen Jesus in the sky. After my experience, you don't have to believe me but you had better believe in him! The last thing he said to me was (You cannot heal people). I am an ordinary person that had been blessed by his pure peace from a biatific vision.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      you are delusional. jesus was a mythological figure that likely never existed. the threat of 'you better believe' shows exactly where the bible comes from: guilt, fear and ignorance.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • snowboarder

      eye – that sounds a bit crazy.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Colin

      Please get help before you hurt yourself or somebody else.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Dubhly

      booty there probably WAS a person by that name a couple thousand years ago who was a religious figure. Does that make him the "son of god"? Does that make any of the miracles attributed to him real? No, and No are the answers. Honestly I cannot in good faith give a 100% answer there becuase i can no more disprove it then anyone can prove it. However, i do not accept it as fact as the Christan Mythology would have you believe. Then again, for centuries the city of Troy was thought to be just a product of the Greek Mythos until Schliemann found it. So gist is Do not deny the man, deny the divinity....btw it was well recorded that there were 100s of holy men wandering around back then all claiming the same line of general religious truth and only path type of thing.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  19. Maria del Carmen

    God speaks to humans all the time...so does the devil. How I pray that psychiatrists and mental health professionals would work with pastoral leaders to free people suffering from bondage of the enemy of our souls. Please review the work of Neal Lozano for those who need healing and freedom in Christ. Such a great need to free so many people from the strongholds of the devil. Praying for this intention.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      i hope these people that think they are really talking to god or the devil get the mental health help they need.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • snowboarder

      wow! the dark ages called and they want their supersti tions back.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Maria del Carmen

      And... how would these dr.'s and pastors make the distinction between self-generated voices/self talk vs. voices that are self-generated self talk, that you would consider to be from outside influences ???

      Peace...

      December 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • ThinkDefyUnite

      Try action instead of prayer, I think you'd be surprised at the results when you actually do something instead of wishing for someone else to do something.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  20. Zobby

    Bigfoot is angry he doesn't get many prayers these days, he wants to talk to people.... in their heads.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Sherpa Derp

      The aliens probed her "down there" and she's never been quite the same since.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:51 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.