April 28th, 2012
09:52 PM ET

My Faith: What does God sound like?

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN podcast of this piece: Karen Spears Zacharias is author of A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder (MacAdam/Cage, 2012) and is on Twitter at @karenzach.

By Karen Spears Zacharias, Special to CNN

I hear the audible voice of God. No, not in the same way that the Bible’s Eve did when God asked her outright and out loud: “Woman, what in my name have you done now?”

Scriptures don’t tell us specifically, but I suspect at that particular moment in eternity God must have sounded a lot like Perry Mason: “C’mon, tell the truth. You know I’m a specialist on getting people out of trouble.”

Bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry is a pastor’s daughter in Alabama. You’d think if God spoke to anybody, it would be a pastor’s child, but Patti swears she has never heard the voice of God. The only time God speaks to her is through the written word.

I find that odd since God talks to me all the time.

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Certainly God knows I’m an auditory learner, so if he wants my attention he has to talk to me. When God speaks to me, he sounds a lot like Garrison Keillor, host of the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion." In other words, he’s engaging, often very funny, and almost always an absolute joy to be around. Even when God’s mad with me (more often that I care to admit), he’s fairly good-natured about it.

Theologians who study this sort of thing say that our image of God is formed by our relationships with our fathers. That image is formed in part by how our fathers speak to us. If they bark orders at us all the time, we might hear God as a crank. But if our fathers speak to us in instructive, encouraging tones, we may hear God as our best coach. My father died when I was young, so I don’t remember his voice, but I’ve listened to Garrison Keillor pretty regularly for 25 years.

When my husband and I were raising our children, we banned television from our household. "A Prairie Home Companion" was our primary form of entertainment on Sunday afternoons. With Sundays as our Sabbath, I suppose it is natural for me to associate God with Garrison.

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Many people don’t even speak to God, much less listen to what he has to say. I imagine for some the thought of a God as Garrison Keillor would be pure hell, what with all that Guy Noir Private Eye nonsense and those saccharin sweet ketchup commercials. Perhaps like a good mother, though, God resorts to a variety of different voices to reach all of her children. Do you identify any of the following?

- Spock, from “Star Trek,” is the defining voice of God. Spock is half-mother (human) and half-father (Vulcan). Who could be more egalitarian, more Godlike than that? Anyone who thinks of God as arbitrary and capricious needs to have a chat with Mr. Spock, who once so rightly noted, “Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical humans.” Amen. Amen.

- James Earl Jones. If I heard that baritone voice calling to me from a burning bush, it would stop me in my tracks. Who cares that Jones couldn’t cut the muster at Fort Benning’s legendary Ranger school? That’s nothing more than boot camp for a bunch of hellions anyway. There is something about the thundering power of Jones’ voice that naturally evokes trust from us. And if we can’t have a God in whom we can trust, what’s the point?

- Surely, Jeff Bridges is the voice of God for all the remnant of Jesus Freaks now seeking refuge as Episcopalians. “I am not Mr. Lebowski,” Bridge’s says in Coen Brothers’ “Big Lewoski,” in one of the oft-quoted lines in that cult classic. “You’re Mr. Lebowski. I am The Dude, so that’s what you call me. That or His Dudeness or uh, Duder, or, El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing.” Of course, aging Jesus Freaks and Episcopalians alike are all about that brevity thing, so they happily go along with “the Dude abides,” another classic line from the film.

- Yoda, of “Star Wars,” is the voice of God for Zen-seeking, yoga-loving Emergent Christians. Emergents are the melting pot of Christianity, the place where hipsters who want to be spiritual but not religious go for community - typically a local brewery or Starbucks. “Luminous beings are we,” says Yoda. “Not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere!”

- Writer C. Terry Cline Jr. says when God speaks to him, it is in the scolding voice of Pee-Wee Herman - “What did I tell you?” In Cline’s latest book, "The Return of Edgar Caycee," Cline claims he was channeled by the previously deceased reincarnation guru, whose fan club has rivaled that of God’s. Is it any wonder God is miffed with Cline for conjuring up Caycee again?

- Your momma. Sonny Brewer, a Navy veteran and my editor at San Francisco’s publishing house MacAdam/Cage, says that the only voice he’s ever associated with God was his mother’s. Sonny’s mom has been nearly mute for nearly 20 years, the result of a stroke. “She can sing hymns but she can’t talk,” Sonny says. “When I think of God speaking to me, I think of my momma. Like God, she always loves me, even when I’m a bad boy.”

Whatever the cause, nobody enjoys getting the silent treatment. It is a particularly troubling matter when God goes silent on us, when we can’t hear his voice at all, whether it’s a tender whisper of encouragement, raucous laughter, or a thundering rebuke, it is then that we are most keenly aware of God.

Silence stills us. We pause and listen, ear pressed, waiting, anticipating, hoping for just a word of assurance that we have not been abandoned.

We all have had days when we feel like we’ve failed God. If in such moments we would listen to the wind in the trees, the waves curling on the beach, feet crunching in sand, and the song of the mockingbird as the evening sun sets, we would surely hear creator God singing hymns over us, his creation.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karen Spears Zacharias.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Movies

soundoff (3,288 Responses)
  1. izabel

    God, exist Yes yes yes we here for a reason, God is Way the true Life Believe!!!

    April 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • A Chair To Your Face


      April 29, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      God is grammar the bad poor a peel 2 feable minded semi littratts

      April 29, 2012 at 11:48 pm |

    Hitler was an atheist and was repsonsible for the milliojs of deaths in world war 2. MILLIONS all at one. Something like 200,000,000 million people died in world war 2 because of atheism and atheist think us christian are the bad people

    April 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Ituri

      Oye, its another "Lets rewrite history" buffoon.

      Hitler was Catholic. The Nazi regime was built on Catholicism. To this day the Vatican has not excommunicated Hitler from the Catholic ranks. Hitler even met with the Pope in his day, shook the mans hand with fervor.

      If you need to make up all-out lies to support your religion, you seriously need to consider your priorities in life.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Observer

      “May God Almighty give our work His blessing, strengthen our purpose, and endow us with wisdom and the trust of our people, for we are fighting not for ourselves but for Germany.”
      - Adolph Hitler, 02/01/1933

      April 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Where do you people get this idea? Hitler was a Catholic, thru and thru. This is docµmented to a fare-thee-well, including many assertions to that effect in his own WRITTEN words. This information is readily available from many, many sources, and STILL we find you stupid liars repeating your stupid lies on this forum.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "Something like 200,000,000 million "

      this tells me something about your intelligence level.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • Reality

      "The allegation is sometimes made that Hitler was a Catholic – a Christian until the day he died. This claim is based upon the fact that Hitler was born and raised in a Catholic family.

      However, as an adult, Hitler specifically rejected the Catholic Church, as well as Christianity in general. He described himself as "a complete pagan".

      The book Hitler's Secret Conversations: 1941-1944, published by Farrar, Straus and Young, Inc. (1953), contains definitive proof of Hitler's real views. The book was published in Britain under the t-itle, Hitler's Table Talk: 1941-1944, which ti-tle was used for the Oxford University Press paperback edition in the United States.

      Some excerpts:

      All of these are quotes from Adolf Hitler:

      Night of 11th-12th July, 1941:

      "National Socialism and religion cannot exist together.... The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity.... Let it not be said that Christianity brought man the life of the soul, for that evolution was in the natural order of things. (p 6 & 7) "

      10th October, 1941, midday:

      "Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure. (p 43)"

      Then there is this:

      The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
      M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)

      The Muslim Conquest of India

      "The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*

      1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")

      2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

      3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

      4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

      5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

      6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

      7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

      8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

      9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

      10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

      11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

      12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

      13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

      14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

      15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

      16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

      17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Pagans)

      18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

      19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

      20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

      *:" Is religion responsible for more violent deaths than any other cause?

      A: No, of course not – unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century – Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union – no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion."

      Q: So, what you're saying is that religion has never killed anyone.

      A: Arrgh... You all-or-nothing people drive me crazy. There are many doc-umented examples where members of one religion try to exterminate the members of another religion. Causation is always complex, but if the only difference between two warring groups is religion, then that certainly sounds like a religious conflict to me. Is it the number one cause of mass homicide in human history? No. Of the 22 worst episodes of mass killing, maybe four were primarily religious. Is that a lot? Well, it's more than the number of wars fought over soccer, or s-ex (The Trojan and Sabine Wars don't even make the list.), but less than the number fought over land, money, glory or prestige.

      In my Index, I list 41 religious conflicts compared with 27 oppressions under "Communism", 24 under Colonialism, 2 under "Railroads" and 2 under "Scapegoats". Make of that what you will."

      April 30, 2012 at 7:40 am |
  3. frygyz

    If you actually heard God's voice, you would still be crapping yourself.....

    April 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  4. The One True God

    You use a lot of TV references for someone who denied TV to your own children.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  5. FreightVT

    ALEX TREBEK is God's voice in all my dreams...

    April 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Yeah, like that Star Trek episode "the Trouble with Trebekels".

      April 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  6. Sigmet

    " – Spock, from “Star Trek,” is the defining voice of God. Spock is half-mother (human) and half-father (Vulcan)" – should actually be written as "...half-Human (Mother) and half-Vulcan (Father)..."

    At least you were half-grammatically (Correct).

    April 29, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  7. xGen

    The voice of God. A combination of your own intuition and desires, narrated by a voice you already know. Sounds so divine.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  8. Trent

    God sounds a big whopping case of Schizophrenia.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  9. b4bigbang

    B(iraq) Hussein Osama: "but thank god there are only a few million idiots who think we were created out of thin air!"

    I thought the atheists believe that we oozed up out of primordial slime-pools....
    (hey, maybe that's the Ninja Turtle "secret of the ooze"!)

    April 29, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Trent

      Hey look! A creationist! Do you people just believe any random nonsense you hear?

      April 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Ituri

      Primordial ooze that really exists, or magical fairy man in the sky who had an all powerful whim.

      Ooze wins out every day of the week. We STILL have ooze. Ooze is freaking sturdy stuff. Show me one genuine miracle that doesn't include a face burnt on a cheese sandwich and then we'll talk otherwise.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      So the ooze theory is still the most popular? Been holding for quite a few years now; I am impressed!

      April 29, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Mike

      Yeah! God making man from dirt! Now, that's soooooo much more believable. 🙂

      April 29, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Hey, he's right, we DO still have ooze. I wonder what its next intelligent product will be called, ooze 2.0?
      And what will happen to us? Will ooze 2.0 be friendly or ticked off at us for some oozian reason?

      April 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • popeye1128

      I don't believe there is anything miraculous about my sperm. I also don't believe a baby surviving a tornado is a miracle.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Observer

      Why the phony quote?

      April 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • A Chair To Your Face

      Typical creationist response: "Well, why are there still apes?"

      Same reason other animals exist, retard.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  10. popeye1128

    If there is a god of any kind, anyone who professes to know what that god is like, is a complete idiot. Including all the main stream religious scholars on the planet.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  11. wow

    Cnn always loves to talk about there favorite topic, religon....kinda wierd since its owned by an atheist who divorced his wife because she believed in God.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "It wasn't religion that broke up his marriage to Jane Fonda, Ted Turner declares in a new memoir.

      He says he was "upset" when he discovered his wife's "conversion," but "it wasn't because she had become Christian," the 69-year-old Turner writes in "Call Me Ted," which comes out next week. The Associated Press obtained an early copy.

      He was upset because Fonda didn't talk to him about it."


      April 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • A Chair To Your Face

      Good for him!

      April 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • A Chair To Your Face

      Anyone that tells jane fonda to go fuck herself is a lucky person.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      CNN is in the heart of the deep south, so their obsession with religion shouldn't be that surprising. As a former Atlantian, I can tell you that's it's not really a bastion of reason and open-mindedness.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  12. Bootyfunk


    April 29, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  13. Aliasis

    He sounds like Morgan Freeman. How is this even a question?

    April 29, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      of course he doesn't exist.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  14. apricoco

    God doesn't sound like anything, because 'he' doesn't exist.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • TheRationale

      Hush, you might accidentally force someone to rationally analyze their beliefs.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Of course, he does exist.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      and my great grandparents came about when there was a loud f art from outer space millions of years ago.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  15. Darth Cynic

    Geez, are they just letting anyone write articles these days, hey can I pen one? This scribe sounds like they be one pitcher away from passing out the Kool-Aid. I promise I won't be so, ahh, out there.

    Some really daft bits really stand out though and shouldn't go without comment.

    "Anyone who thinks of God as arbitrary and capricious...," has evidently read the OT.

    "There is something about the thundering power of Jones’ voice that naturally evokes trust from us." This being the dude who played the snake cult leader from Conan and voiced Darth Vader, yeaaah, everyone trusts those guys.

    "...when God speaks to him, it is in the scolding voice of Pee-Wee Herman..." Because if being an arbitary, capricious, blood thirsty, insecure genocidal maniac wasn't bad enough, He's also got to have possibly the most annoying voice ever. Cast me to hell now 'o' lord so I may never hear thee again.

    But seriously, god sounds like me for I am god. Really! You see the other day I was praying and I realised I was talking to myself.

    A wonderful phrase that I've heard was attributed to Peter O'Toole.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  16. b4bigbang

    Bootyfunk: "...jesus said some great things about love – though he often only meant his affections toward other jews. but jesus said some other not so nice things, too. people always hold jesus up as the perfect good guy – but wouldn't someone full of compassion and love condemn slavery instead of supporting it?"

    Hey Bootyf, you left this one out:
    Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

    14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Luke 12

    How dare the Lord refuse to make things right between these two!

    April 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • A Chair To Your Face

      If jesus really existed he's dead.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      haha, so true.

      here's another gem from jesus:
      Mathew 10:34-36
      34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
      35 "For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
      36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household."

      sounds like a real nice guy, eh?

      April 29, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Yep, booty, i REALLY like that one – a LOT!

      April 29, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • A Chair To Your Face

      He was middle eastern and wiped his ass with his bare hand. Of course he was angry.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Yeah, and how bout getting so angry with the money-changers in the temple?
      Couldn't he have remained calm and quietly asked them if they would consider enrolling in a business ethics course?

      April 29, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Not that they needed a biz ethics course, that would be judging and none of us, including Jesus have a right to do that!
      Huh? What? Jesus is the Judge? Oh, how repressive is THAT!

      April 29, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      and don't forget that in revalation, jesus opens the seven seals of his father and murders almost everyone on earth! woohoo! can't wait for jesus to come back!

      April 29, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Remember Booty, it's only murder if you're on the losing side.
      You know the old saying "history is written by the victors".
      I pick the winner – yeah!

      April 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • TCD26

      @Bootyfunk: You think you are so smart, but you take those bible verses completely out of context. So obviously you are not as well read or smart as you think you are. I'm sure you are someone who says the bible should not be taken literally, but it's funny that you try to take that verse literally to prove a point. So hypocritical.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      do i? i always here that excuse. please tell me how jesus supporting slavery is out of context:

      Luke 12:37-38
      37 "Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.
      38 "Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.”

      nothing was taken out of context. stop using that as a defense for the poor ethics outlined in the bible.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Observer

      The Bible supports slavery, the inferiority of women and discrimination against the handicapped. No wonder its supporters hypocritically trash gays.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      @Booty: "poor ethics"? Of course you mean from our viewpoint right?
      I remember hearing about negative criticism coming from anthropologists years ago where they didn't like the fact that developed Westerners werte going into the rain forest, Borneo and other places, making "1st contact" with the natives, and then they started training the natives to replace their old ways with western ways.
      You know, like telling them to eat pork instead of each other (they called the human meat 'long pork' after that).

      April 29, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  17. blessedgeek

    The sound of G-d is the human race. The bible says so.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • htc_away

      The Who were better than the Beatles. God and G-d says so!

      April 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  18. R.T.K.

    On behalf of atheists everywhere, I would like to thank Ms. Zacharias for publicly affirming just how ridiculous religion is, and how easily deluded religious people are.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      we atheists on the other hand are very smart. look how many millions of people we have killed just in the past 100 years since we ve "come out of the closet" as communists and nazis and the like. Atleast 100,000,000. I challenge any of these moronic religionists to show us Godless folk if they can kill so many in so little time. Come on God sucking wussies.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Observer

      If you want to learn about murdering people big time, just read about God murdering every person on the face of the earth (with 8 exceptions) with a torturous flood. Mankind is a amateur compared to that.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  19. Ben

    He sounds like my farts, silent but deadly.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      to each his own, you are welcome to worship and consume your own flatulence.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  20. Sagmeister

    If there is a god and he/she spoke. It would be the cool, enthusiastic logic of Carl Sagan.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • God Sagan

      There are BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of complete morons on Earth who believe in deities.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      but thank god there are only a few million idiots who think we were created out of thin air!

      April 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Reality


      Religion………………………… Adherents

      Christianity ……………………..2.1 billion

      Islam…………………………… 1.5 billion

      Irreligious/agnostic/atheism.... 1.1 billion

      Hinduism 900 million
      Chinese traditional religion 394 million
      Buddhism 376 million
      Animist religions 300 million
      African traditional/diasporic religions 100 million
      Sikhism 23 million
      Juche 19 million
      Spiritism 15 million

      Judaism…………………………………….. 14 million

      Baha'i 7 million
      Jainism 4.2 million
      Shinto 4 million
      Cao Dai 4 million
      Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
      Tenrikyo 2 million
      Neo-Paganism 1 million
      Unitarian Universalism 800,000
      Rastafari Movement 600,000

      April 30, 2012 at 7:43 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.