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 (7,767 Responses)
  1. Nathan

    "my research has found that these unusual sensory experiences are more common among those who pray in a way that uses the imagination" - So the deeper you get into your own private world in your head, the more likely you are to hear and see things that aren't there? Great discovery.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:51 am |
    • d

      Well said. The more that I think about this article, the more its lack of scientific rigor and validity makes me angry.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • D for dumby

      She is a psychological anthropologist.

      For crying out loud, you don't need to get angry about her study.

      But look at what she is trying to uncover. She makes no pretense about this being a study that is unveiling a fact.

      Take it for what it is.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • d

      @d for dumby. you're saying we shouldn't look at her work critically you mean? just take it on faith? She is a college professor writing a piece for a major news network, and that piece should be looked at for scholastic rigor. It falls short on several levels. I can come up with at least 3 other theories for what's going on,and they could be tested. CNN prints her CV like she's an expert, but just deciding something is normal and fine based on interviews at one church flies in the face of the scientific method.

      December 30, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Jotah

      You...you did realize this is an opinion piece, right D? This isn't meant to be a world-shifting article declaring the veracity of God. This is an opinion piece by an anthropologist. This anthropologist did a study on the culture of Evangelicals, specifically how they view God and their lives with that belief. All she seems to be saying is that many religious people believe people will think them crazy if they claim to have heard God answering a prayer, but the reality is, many people admit to having heard what they believe to be God's voice before. I do so love the CNN comment boards. So many hate filled people who want only to see the bad side of things.

      December 30, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • d

      @jotah. A professor at Stanford writes an article about a study she conducted in her academic field, and you're suggesting we shouldn't apply any scholarly criticism in reading it? So if an oncologist does a survey and concludes that belief in God
      Is a carcinogen, because a large number of his cancer patients believe in God, you wouldn't question that opinion? Of course you would and should. Opinions by experts concerning their fields of study are obviously open to criticism and should meet the minimum standards of their academic community for publishing.

      December 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • srinivas

      @d well said!

      January 2, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • northern light

      "Well said. The more that I think about this article, the more its lack of scientific rigor and validity makes me angry."

      Religion and "scientific rigor and validity" cannot be used in the same sentence......they are incompatible.

      If you think that a god talks to you ....seek mental health treatment as soon as possible.

      People who think that a god talks to them get a feeling of over blown self importance..... not divine revelation.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:50 am |
  2. Woody

    People will believe in anything but reality and the reality is if you are hearing voices you are in trouble ! We have war, we just recently had another school shooting and people die every day no matter how hard people pray ! We have schools for a reason and that reason is we have to be taught to be able to do things ! No voice is going to tell you the math that is needed to make things ! Doctors do not become doctors , and lawyers do not become lawyers listening to voices ! Most people today survive in car crashes thanks to air bags made by people . Try putting a bible where the air bag goes and you just might be able to go to your La,La land just a little bit faster ! And if people really believe in heaven then why do we cry when people die and why are people so concerned about death if there is a better place to go to ? I don't know of anyone that is in a hurry to get to this heavenly better place ! We just would rather hide reality behind the book of fantasy .

    December 30, 2012 at 6:48 am |
    • Harry

      There is a better place and it isn't Disney World

      December 30, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • Kenneth


      Is your life so miserable and unfullfilling that you're looking forward to an afterlife that you don't have one single shred of proof even exists?

      December 30, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • Mary

      Is your life so miserable and unfullfilling that you're p-ssd off at people who love god?

      you sound miserable, budd

      December 30, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • dutchtown

      You dont believe because you dont pray.God will not force him self on anyone who doesn't want to hear his words.On the other hand its lucifers job to keep you from that word.I dont hear Gods word in my ear,I feel his presence through prayer.

      December 30, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • !!!!!!!

      You sure love exclamation points! Seven of 'em! Seven! In one paragraph!!!!

      December 30, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Cathi

      How old are you? Just wondering. I hope things get better for you.

      December 30, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • rg

      well said... you're nicer than I...

      December 30, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • brad

      @Harry, You ar right, I like Universal Studios much better. Everyone just remember, my religion is better than yours and if you dont beleive in the exact same sky fairy that I do then you are going to burn in hell.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  3. Kenneth

    Christianity: 2000 years of worshipping a deity that is either unwilling or unable to prevent the slaughter of children, by the hands of man or in natural disasters.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • Harry

      This world is only temporary, its the next place you have to worry about its eternity

      December 30, 2012 at 6:51 am |
    • Kenneth


      What type of demented deity won't even let a person die and would make them live in a celestial north korea?

      You're just weak minded and afraid of death little man.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • Harry

      God is my rock and salvation. I will fear no evil . i have been in places where very few men have been I have seen Thy God work. I fear not death for God is with me

      December 30, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • Mary

      What type of demented deity won't even let a person die and would make them live in a celestial north korea?

      if you hate God, you go to north korea. he is not there. you can hate him there all you want with miserable souls just like you. he doesnt make you go there, you chose it. you hate god. god is in heaven. where i hope to go.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Kenneth


      Why does your deity allow children to die painful deaths from cancer and such?

      December 30, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Kenneth


      Its impossible to hate something that doesn't exist.

      Example: Do you hate leprechauns and unicorns?

      December 30, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • Mary

      i believe in God. i'm not in misery, love and good luck to you.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • fred

      Well, mary, if you aren't in love and good luck to us, then up yours too.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • == o ==

      more of fred's deluded phuckedupedness

      January 2, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Jenny Smith

      More of == o =='s juvenile posting.

      Play them. Don't play their game.

      January 2, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • == o ==

      Actually, my bad – I had meant to say Mary was phucked up asking anyone to go to N Korea that doesn't hold her beliefs.

      January 2, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • == o ==

      Sorry, fred.

      January 2, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  4. lerianis

    Yes, you are crazy because 'god' doesn't exist. It's a fantasy made up by people who wishes to force their personal likes and dislikes on other people, in order to justify that forcing.

    It's a fantasy, period and done with and society would be better off without religion in general.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • northern light

      Totally agree ....but how do stamp religion out when the American populace is force fed belief system from birth till death.

      February 10, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  5. Dionysus

    This is how it works. If the voice in your head tells you to do good stuff it is one of the nice Gods, Athena, Pang Gu, Brahama, Apsu,etc.; if the voice tells you to bad sh it it is Hades, Coatlique, Satan, Lucifer, etc. If the voice in your head tells you to go ahead and open another bottle of wine or get off the coach and grab another beer, thats ME. Enjoy.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:46 am |
    • Dionysus

      Couch not coach, a little hung over.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:04 am |
    • Alex

      Well stated sir, you win three internets!

      December 31, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • DaveW

      But mabye I like being on the coach.

      January 31, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  6. d

    This needs a lot more study. The author says that schizophrenia is relatively rare, and thus these church goers can't all have it, but she offers no evidence of this. Did she perform any diagnostic tests to determine if they have any mental illnesses? Is schizophrenia the only mental illness that produces auditory hallucinations? Also, this gives the impression that she's saying that these people genuinely hear things. Isn't it possible that they're just hearing some random noise and attributing causality to it, often with their subconscious desires filling in the gaps? Perhaps evangelicals are more prone to this because they are more prone to assinging cause to random events in general, as has been established in numerous studies. This article tries to pretend it's science, but it's just weakly supported opinion.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Chris Gose

      Keep in mind that this article is not–in itself, scientific in nature. If you want the science behind this article, you have to dig into her scholarly articles and evaluate her methodology: CNN doesn't publish original, scholarly scientific research, they only report on science. As such, on the basis of this article alone you cannot draw any definitive or meaningful conclusions as to the rigour or validity of her study. In order to make meaningful comments on the validity or rigour of her study, you must-necessarily evaluate the original research. Otherwise, you are simply expressing an opinion. You cannot simply take your own opinions on faith alone. Even if you can personally speculate as to alternate mechanisms for the described effect: until you evaluate the original research, these are really just your own faith-based opinions.

      December 30, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • JPX

      Excellent summation, d.

      January 3, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • AeroEng

      @Chris Gose How true...

      January 21, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  7. AEL

    This is a good article, but I think using Abraham as as example of sound mental health might not be a good idea. After all, doesn't God instruct Abraham to kill his son, Isaac?

    December 30, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • brad

      Not to mention cut off part of his business.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  8. Kenneth

    Who doesn't hear voices when they attempt to telepathically communicate with a bronze-age, middle-eastern genocidal deity (yahweh) and his illiterate son (jesus)?

    December 30, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • Todd

      Good one boss.....insulting, but still a good one......

      December 30, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • Jenny Smith

      Jesus was anything but illiterate. He wrote in the dirt one time and he quoted the Old Testament often. Why would you say he was illiterate?

      December 30, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • brad

      I think he meant illegitmate. After all his parents were not married. I thought you religious nut jobs freaked out about that stuff.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • JoJo

      Are you my brother? I have a brother named Kenneth, who, like yourself, is an idiot. No; he's closer to a moron. You are the idiot.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  9. Harry

    For all of you who don't believe , the next time you are in a real bind or trouble with ANYTHING go into a prayer closet turn off the lights get on your knees and pray. God will hear you It always works Im not kidding. God has answered EVERY prayer for me when I was in a real bind. just try it and see, God does really know whats going on in your life and he cares. You just have to go to a quiet dark place where you can shut out the noise & light of the world for a bit.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:38 am |
    • Kenneth

      Instead of preventing the slaughter of innocent children, Yahweh and Jesus act on my prayers.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • Brandon

      I'd rather face my problems and do something productive than rely on blind luck.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Harry

      I fear God more than anything, man is only temporary

      December 30, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Harry

      Faith is believing in things you cannot see

      December 30, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • Kenneth

      Faith is believing in things you know ain't so.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:48 am |
    • Harry

      The world changes God doesn't

      December 30, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • HenryB

      While Harry's experience is Harry's experience, it is not my place to criticize him or to judge him for his beliefs. Why don't we leave good people alone with their experiences and their beliefs? Why does everything require a response like the ones you are giving Harry?

      December 30, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • Kenneth

      According to your mythology, your god Yahweh changes his mind all the time

      December 30, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • Mary

      bless you Harry

      from Amazing Grace: "I once was blind, but now I see..."

      a lot of spirit blind people. i pray they can see the lite

      December 30, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • Kenneth


      Maybe because they tend to vote for people as ignorant as themselves?

      December 30, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • Backhoe

      You are a Born Againer, I assume. That dark place, do you just ask the guard to turn the lights off in your cell.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • adrifter

      Harry, just read what you wrote. Don't you realize how crazy that sounds?

      December 30, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • copanut

      I prayed to Yahweh that he prevent the murder of innocent schoolchildren. Apparently he was too busy to respond.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Harry

      God has blessed my family& I in ways I cannot explain. i love the Lord with all my heart, soul & mind. He is REAL and is NOT religon. God answers prayers and is the creator of everyting. i put my trust in him before anything

      December 30, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • Mary

      to those who are perishing Harrys words sound like foolish

      to those who are being saved they sound like heaven.

      gods peace and understanding to you all. we need it.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • JWT

      Well Harry your god was not my creator.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • Michael Stewart

      If prayer works so great for you, why not go into your prayer closet, and pray for God to cure all the cancer in the world. Then we'll see if prayer actually works. By the way, it doesn't. Those times when we think our prayer has been answered are always just a matter of coincidence.

      December 30, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Z

      Master Troll

      December 30, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • brad

      You mean like the prayer closet in the movie Carrie? I will pass.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • DaveW

      I have so much more respect for my abilities.

      And, it seems, i think faster. No need to lock mysefl in a closet and wait for the answer.

      January 31, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • northern light

      "For all of you who don't believe , the next time you are in a real bind or trouble with ANYTHING go into a prayer closet turn off the lights get on your knees and pray. God will hear you "

      Well you can drive a Mack truck trough this hole.

      Do you not think that one or two of the 6 million Jews that died in the camps prayed?
      Or was there no praying in the classrooms of Columbine....or at the school in Newtown....or in the theatre in Aurora?

      The act of praying....(that is a good phrase because you are "acting")....is simply talking to yourself and expecting yourself to answer.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:07 am |
  10. The Radical Secularist

    Absolutely mediocre work. So, it is not unusual for evangelicals to have allucinatory episodes. But schizophrenia??? WHat about temporal lobe epilepsy? Or even better, what about a psychotic or schizophrenic episode brought about by cyclical self-stimulation. Perhaps Ms. Luhrmann should stay in the anthropology department.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:37 am |
    • d

      Exactly correct.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • Jenny Smith

      Go to any mainstream church and you will find it filled with very sane, very nice people and just a few nuts. I spend my Sunday mornings with the nicest, most well-educated , sanest people in town. I can't think of a single schizophrenic among the bunch. Any of you who think that mainstream churches are filled with crazies are invited to come and see for yourselves.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • DaveW

      Or, a much simpler explanation: wishful thinking.

      We dream crazy things, but doesn't make us crazy. these people just hear what they want to hear.

      I know a pentacostal that prays for hour upon hour, and often says it is the lowest moments when she feels the spirit...after 7 hours with no nourishment kneeling in the same position, your mind is bound to give you some relief.

      Our minds can do things that we don't often understand. I come up with ideas that amaze me sometimes. that is all that is happening here, the mind knows what is going on when someone tries to shut it down via meditation, and it takes control since it is obvious that is sorely needed.

      Why ascribe this to a sky fairy? It is so clearly your own consciousness at work.

      January 31, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • DaveW

      But jenny you describe something not crazy at all, so no surprise. You go to be around smart and educated people.

      If they also all believe in a sky fairy, they are crazy. Likely most don't, if they were willing to admit it.

      and, by the way, thanks for enabling all the hate. "mainstream" church = enabler of the hateful cults, by making them seem a little bit normal.

      I couldn't sleep with myself, enabling such horrible cutls to take over innocent and weak minds, but have at it...morality is in short supply, for sure.

      January 31, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  11. woodie

    This article isn't making sense. If you hear voices, then it could be a mental illness. Apparently that is disputable? I don't think so.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:31 am |
    • Todd

      I agree. Since what you are "hearing", if in fact you believe it is auditory, cannot be heard by others or recorded, it's spectra outside the definition of hearing. Sound must be heard.... If it cannot then it's not audio. Might be something else, but it's not sound.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  12. Sam Granados

    No you're not crazy. Just plain nuts!

    December 30, 2012 at 6:30 am |
  13. joeblow

    umm.. if you think you hear 'God' speak, that implies that you believe in 'God' and that in itself makes your crazy, dumb, gullible, a moron, delusional... take your pick of any of those.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:29 am |
    • Chuck

      Fell better now?

      December 30, 2012 at 6:44 am |
    • Todd

      Prove God does not exist.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • Mary

      boo. u lame.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • Jim

      The ignorance of claiming to 'know' something you cannot prove, while at the very same instant deriding someone else for something they cannot prove, is astounding. We know very little about how the universe came into existence. It is around 14 billion years old and we have a window on an infinitesimally small portion. Modern science has existed for a few hundred years, a few thousand if we'd like to be very generous about it.

      "Beliefs" on either side of this question are simply that. Not proofs or facts, only opinions. Claiming to know there is no God is easily as nutty as claiming to know there is.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • simon

      THe onus is on those who assert the existence of something. Where is your evidence for 'god'? Those of us who do not believe in deities don't have to prove anything.

      January 31, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      jim, None of us know for certain. the difference is that the religious claim a supernatural being with no evidence, they use twisted logic and sophistry to explain inconsistencies, and they accept religion with a significantly lower standard of proof (i.e. none) than they would with any other transaction or activity in their life.

      January 31, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • northern light

      "Prove God does not exist."

      Actually it is you that must prove a god does exist.
      US justice system requires the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt that the subject at hand must be .....proven....not dis proven.

      So where is the real, objective, factual concrete prove of your god?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  14. Chuck

    Welcome to Apostasy Central

    December 30, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • NoTags

      In the past 50 or so years there has been a falling away from the Christian faith which we see today in so many posts and jokes, on many discussion boards and blogs.

      The Apostle Paul told us in his epistles to Timothy (I Timothy 4:1-2 and II Timothy 3:1-5 & 7) that in the latter days there would be a falling away from the faith and Godlessness which many posts and jokes tend to verify.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Lou

      those are preprogramed defense verses against reason.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  15. tallulah13

    I really don't find the author's argument to be compelling. Worship has been known to produce endorphins, which function sort of like opiates and produce a sensation of well-being. A person influenced by endorphins could easily confuse the "voice" inside their head that most of us have for the voice of god. The same goes for people who not quite awake, or under the influence of meth.

    December 30, 2012 at 4:39 am |
    • End Religion

      "speaking" to a god or "hearing" a god is nothing other than self-important delusions of grandeur. Just like gamblers generally discount their losses and brag about their wins, most of the world labels Warren Jeffs' "talking to god" crazy but calls MLK great because his "words of jesus" worked out well for him.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • Kenneth


      I pray that religion will die off in western culture, as it has been doing.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:54 am |
  16. TLDR

    I think Martin Luther King, JR is a good example for me. And it helps me to know that faith in God gave him courage to do what he did. It inspires me.

    You, on the other hand... ummm. Not inspiring me.

    December 30, 2012 at 4:27 am |
    • TLDR

      That was to Hrolthgar

      about his views
      on MLK and how he was great despite his horrible character flaw of being a Christian.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • Damocles

      Yes, but you didn't answer the conundrum that he put forth.

      A deity inspires a person to rise above and then inspires other people to kill that person. It always seems to come down to killing with this particular deity. In its all-knowing wisdom and love it can't conceive of any better way of getting its point across other than murder, torture and various other mayhem. Strange.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:34 am |
    • TLDR

      I don't think the man that killed MLK, JR was inspired by God. I think was an act of evil.

      When MLK, JR was urged by the respectable Christian clergy of Birmingham, AL, to stop his protests on the grounds that good people would be intimidated, even turned off, by tactics that, the white clergy argued, were essentially un-Christian, MLK, JR replied:

      "In your statement you asserted that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. Isn't that like condeming the robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery?
      Isn't that like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the act of the Crucifixion?"

      December 30, 2012 at 4:49 am |
    • Hrolthgar

      I do not expect any fundie like TLDR to answer such a conundrum without inserting plenty of crazy talk.
      Not a problem either way.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:49 am |
    • Hrolthgar

      See? Wild ravings of a lunatic. There is no rational explanation for what crazy people do. That's why they call it crazy.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:51 am |
    • Damocles

      Ah, so now you claim to know who your deity inspires? Bold.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:51 am |
    • TLDR


      Do you really not have a problem with Hrolthgar? Isn't he being rude and condenscending? I'm trying to be respectful and I'm answering questions.

      Seriously, Damocles, no issues with Hrolthgar? Just me?

      I stand up for people who are belittled for their background and beliefs. Do you see any offensive behavior from him? Because I don't like his behavior.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:58 am |
    • Damocles

      Believe me when I tell you that if I ever have a problem with something that anyone says on here, regardless of who it is said to, I have no problem telling that person. I have defended a person of faith when I thought they were being treated harshly. Strangely I need no deity to have compassion for my fellow humans.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • Hrolthgar

      TLDR, here's a newsflash for you:
      You have no rights whatsoever in terms of you being offended or whatever it is you feel offended about.
      I have the right to say whatever I want within reason. You can be offended or not.
      You have no right or privilege to being protected from things you find offensive at all.
      You are free to say offensive things. You are not free to violate my rights.
      I am not violating your rights by speaking out against your religion one tiny bit.
      Get that through your head. You have no right to be free of criticism or scorn.
      You have to get used to the idea of letting people speak freely.
      The world does not revolve around you or your religion.
      Your religious laws and values are worthless here. Your religion does not determine the laws here.
      This is not a theocracy. You cannot have me killed for "blasphemy" here. Go to Pakistan if that's what you want.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • TLDR


      I think you are reasonable. We have different views.

      Don't you think Hrolthgar is going a little overboard?

      I've been respectful toward him.

      He is accusing me of violating his rights? And that I think this is a theocracy?

      I like a good debate. I learn from them.

      He is a little too intense and is blaming me for things I have not done.

      Is he just mad that I have different viewpoints and stand up for them? Isn't that what we do in America?

      December 30, 2012 at 5:18 am |
    • Damocles

      I'm unsure as to what you want me to do. Do you want me to take him or her over my knee and paddle his or her little bottom because he or she isn't playing fair? Do you want me to post a public chastisement against the person?

      Simple way to deal with it: You, TLDR, come to realize that posts written by a person that goes by the handle of Hrolthgar are a bit abrasive to you. You then stop reading posts written by this person so you are no longer offended.

      The problem with this strategy is that your threshold for being offended will eventually become less and less, the end result being that you will read no posts for fear of being offended.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:25 am |
    • TLDR

      No. You are right. I just had people questioning me, and I just didn't understand why his abrasive and insulting posts were not questioned.

      Like, why am I the bad guy because I believe in the Great Spirit of the Universe?

      It all makes sense... I was seeing if there were other decent people out there.

      (Praise God. The devil hates when we say that, by the way.)

      December 30, 2012 at 5:35 am |
    • Damocles

      You can believe in the great spirit of the universe (odd how you went from god to that) just like you can believe in the great pumpkin. Your belief makes absolutely no difference to me. What you choose to do with that belief is when I can step in and say no.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:41 am |
    • Damocles

      It tickles me to no end that you know both what your deity loves and satan hates. It's like you have coffee and a danish with them at mcdonalds every morning.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • im drunk, but this is funny

      Here's to you... agnostic guy that patrols the CNN Belief Blog and steps in to say "NO" to views that disagree with him. You are like the rent-a-cop in charge of the slowest mall in town. Nothing gets past you.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • Hrothgar

      TLDR, I cannot control your reactions to my words. You do not like criticism? Does anyone?
      Do not equate criticism with hate. I don't hate you. I want you to be well.
      Let's just leave it at that since you are so thin-skinned.
      Don't worry, we'll stop flinging honest opinion in your direction once you stop posting.
      If you don't want any responses but ones that pat you on the back, maybe you should just have a conversation with yourself. You post comments on an international news website and you don't expect anything but sweetness and light?
      Time to realize that this is not crossroads.com, but a place where non-Christians can post comments too.
      If you want sweetness and light, go find a Christian website where you can rot in the stink of your own reflection.
      We discuss anything here. You have to be ready for that or go elsewhere. This is the internet, dammit!

      December 30, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • Damocles

      Why do people misread posts? Oh, because they are drunk. makes sense.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • Mary


      hrothgar reminds me of my psycho ex I had to get restraining order aginst. psycho.

      A potentilal serial killer doesnt like you. dont worry, your a kind guy.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:46 am |
  17. Apple Bush

    When I pray. it is always to make love to Alyssa Milano.

    December 30, 2012 at 4:00 am |
    • TLDR

      And God always answer you with a "NO".

      There is your proof of existence.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:07 am |
  18. Damocles


    So you don't really live your life? Your deity just lives vicariously through you?

    December 30, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • TLDR

      I try to live my life for Christ.

      God doesn't live vicariously through me. It is more like a relationship.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:23 am |
    • Damocles

      Is it possible that the voice would send you a kill order as a test of faith?

      December 30, 2012 at 3:26 am |
    • TLDR

      I don't know. I know if I listen to a voice other that God's I may have some bad consequences to deal with.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:29 am |
    • Damocles

      Couple things scare me:

      1) The fact that you said 'I don't know'.
      2) The implication that you have more than one voice in your head.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:34 am |
    • TLDR

      > 1) The fact that you said 'I don't know'.

      It is a hypothetical question. I'm tired. And I don't know. Honest. I don't feel that God needs to test my faith. He know sometimes it is not so great. Luckily he is a merciful God.

      > 2) The implication that you have more than one voice in your head.

      I'm not talking about voices in my head.

      I can read or "listen" to your voice on here. Or listen to a "voice" of someone who hates God rather than someone who loves God.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:41 am |
    • Damocles


      Even making allowances for you being tired still does not get you off the hook in that you have stated in other posts that: Some times 'bad things' build character. Sometimes it is hard. I've had bad things in my life. Looking back, it is not only the good things in life that made me what I am today. Some of the tragedies in my life have helped my relationship with God. He helps me.

      That's a quote from you, basically saying that your deity has tested you.

      Would you be concerned if a person confronted you with a gun and then seemingly carried on a conversation with his or her self in which that person was arguing both for and against your death?

      And, for the record, since you seem to be going in that direction, I don't love or hate a deity any more than I love or hate Santa Clause, or Thoth, or Harry Potter.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:50 am |
    • TLDR

      Life is a mystery. I was asked if I thank God for bad things in my life. Sometimes I do. But not always. I don't know if it is a test. Or just the world that God created. With free will he has to let the consequences of our actions play out.

      Basically, He has said there will be joy and sorrow in this life. I expect it.

      I would be concerned if someone confronted me with a gun. They could kill me. That is a consequence of being shot. I would pray for help.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:03 am |
    • Damocles

      Why in the world would you pray? Obviously your deity has chosen you to be another person's test of faith. You should be joyful. Why would you want to try and change the possible outcome?

      December 30, 2012 at 4:09 am |
    • TLDR

      If I'm scared of dying I'll pray. I'm weak. I'm not going to be joyful. If that is God's will that I'm to be shot, ok. I can accept it, but I'm not going to like it. Good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:18 am |
    • Damocles

      So you have no problem praying to your deity to protect you from the person your deity has possibly sent to kill you? So at that moment both the lives of you and the potential murderer are equal in your deity's eyes? It's a deific coin flip. Do I like person A more or person B? Or is it a business descision? If this person dies, it will bring X amount of people into the flock, but if this person dies, it'll bring twice as much.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • TLDR

      Right. I might pray for something against God's will. I'm a human being. I make mistakes.

      It is ok.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:34 am |
    • Damocles

      If I set two of my children against each other, would you consider me a good parent or a bad parent?

      December 30, 2012 at 4:36 am |
    • TLDR

      Enough hypothetical questions. If you ask enough questions you'll trap me in some offense that proves I'm just a human being who doesn't know everything. And I'll just have to say "That's why I need God. He helps me." You are not shaking my faith. I'm sure I'm not changing yours.

      Good night.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:01 am |
    • Hrolthgar

      Thanks for trying to remain polite, TLDR. I respect that you worked hard to stay polite. Being nice is difficult sometimes, eh?
      You did fine. Better than many other fundies. Maybe you will now seek debate with other Christians instead of tangling with us vicious atheists, eh? Go play with your friends. Have fun. Have a nice day. Don't quit your day job. Thanks for the fun.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:14 am |
    • Damocles

      Right, enough questions. Questioning is bad.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:17 am |
    • TLDR

      You have a nice day, too.

      The target audience for this blog, and this story, is believers.

      I would rather debate Christians here. I thought that was who is present at a blog called "Belief Blog."

      When I see misinformation spread, I stick up for myself. Even when vicious atheists display bad behavior and insult my intelligence.

      I wish you could be polite. Maybe you can learn from a believer. I learn from non-believers. Thanks for helping me.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:24 am |
    • Damocles

      Odd that believers would have to debate the supposedly infallibility of their deity.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • Hrothgar

      TLDR, you want me to humor you? LOL
      Your god doesn't exist. Your religion is insane. You assume anything to do with a "god" automatically means your "god" and none other. You assume an article is written for Christians and you assume only Christians should post here.
      What the hell could I say that you would consider to be polite when you believe and talk crazy-talk?
      Do you insist that I be like an orderly in an insane asylum and humor you just to make you feel good and keep you calm and non-violent, or am I allowed to be a free citizen and point out what I see as crazy in what you say?
      You view any criticism as a personal affront. That is SO NOT MY PROBLEM. But you'll never get that, will you? Nope.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:02 am |
  19. TLDR

    >do you thank it for all the bad things as well?

    I try to. Some times 'bad things' build character. Sometimes it is hard. I've had bad things in my life. Looking back, it is not only the good things in life that made me what I am today. Some of the tragedies in my life have helped my relationship with God. He helps me.

    > You talking about the known adulterer Martin Luther King Jr? An imperfect man, right about racism, wrong about religion.

    Yea. He was very serious about his religion. It was important to him. Like it is to a lot of people. I'm sure you can respect that, right? What he did he could not have done without God.

    December 30, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Killing infidels is important to lots of people. Molesting children is important to lots of people. Do you respect that?

      December 30, 2012 at 3:05 am |
    • TLDR


      Do you respect the voice of Jesus Christ that told Martin Luther King, Jr "I will be with you."?

      December 30, 2012 at 3:11 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      No, as Jesus' voice doesn't exist, except perhaps in the mouth of a Nazarene rabble rouser who upset the wrong people two thousand years ago.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:13 am |
    • Damocles

      So would the respect be there if these people had started off with 'the voice in my head tells me that *insert atrocity here* is ok'?

      December 30, 2012 at 3:16 am |
    • TLDR

      > So would the respect be there if these people had started off with 'the voice in my head tells me that *insert atrocity here* is ok'?
      No. Look at what Martin Luther King, Jr. did. He is a hero of mine, so I'm kind of biased. But, I can't believe what he overcame. And his faith in God was part of that.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:27 am |
    • Damocles

      So only those that do things that you agree with are hearing the voice of a deity?

      December 30, 2012 at 3:32 am |
    • TLDR

      No. My ways are not God's ways.

      I have never heard God's audible voice, by the way.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:37 am |
    • Damocles

      Ok, let's be honest, shall we? Your ways are exactly like your deity's ways because they are one and the same. Shockingly your deity likes/dislikes, approves/disapproves of the same exact things you do. What are the odds of that?

      December 30, 2012 at 3:42 am |
    • TLDR

      Nope. I'm not just affirming MY beliefs here.

      I've had to change... everything. Really.

      I pray for people I hate.

      God asks that I help the poor, the homeless, the hurting, the imprisoned. (God's people).

      Pretty much the people that society doesn't like, those are really God's people.

      That's kind of how Jesus explains it.

      It's not what I thought it was.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:56 am |
    • Damocles

      Ah. And who are the people that society doesn't like?

      December 30, 2012 at 4:01 am |
    • TLDR

      > Ah. And who are the people that society doesn't like?

      "the poor, the homeless, the hurting, the imprisoned."

      People who are not part of the status quo.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:06 am |
    • Damocles

      And the majority of society is made up of people that profess to be what?

      December 30, 2012 at 4:28 am |
    • TLDR

      There is enough food on this planet to feed everyone. Yet people go hungry everyday. And some people eat way too much. I guess the people that allow this to happen. The status quo. They might not be the majority of society, but they have the power.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:37 am |
    • Damocles

      But everything that happens is according to your deity's will, right? So in your society there is really on a status quo of one, your deity. If the hungry of this world were meant to be fed, he'd find a way, right? Tell the homeless to pray for a home. Perhaps your deity finds your prayers offensive because they amount to trying to change what it has deemed will happen.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:44 am |
    • Hrolthgar

      Nothing like having a little pre-determined free-will with your crazy cornflakes in the morning, is there?
      "God's" plan is for you to make whatever choices you are going to make, all of which are worthless and a sin so you are condemned to burn forever.... except that there is a loophole for non-Jews made of magic Jesus poop that lets everyone be a chosen Jew in "God's" eyes.... so that Jesus being a sacrificial lamb means you can do anything you want and get away with it except those who don't believe in the magic Jesus poop – they are going to burn alive forever because that just makes so much sense.
      Yah, got it.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:58 am |
    • TLDR

      He gave humans dominion over Earth. It is up to humans to take care of their fellow man and feed each other with the food God has provided.

      God lives outside His creation. God lives in Heaven. Outside our time. Outside matter. A different dimension. GOD HAS DOMINION OVER THIS DIMENSION (heaven).

      God created "hell" for people who don't want to live with God when they die.

      There is more to life than meets the eyes. Mind. Body. Soul.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:07 am |
    • Damocles

      I'm sorry, did you just say with the food that a deity provides? I would absolutely adore any pictures you could provide that shows your deity out in the fields planting crops, tilling the soil, picking the harvest, canning the food, shooting the game animals, or anything else that shows it has anything to do with food production.

      So you basically say that your deity lives outside of any means we would have to know him and then you claim you know him.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:12 am |
    • TLDR

      Yep. That is exactly what I said. You caught me. I'm busted. I'm a phony.

      Dude! A lot of life is a mystery. I'm trying to simplify this. Which probably isn't wise. But... that is a very, very elementary understanding of God. But it does not do him justice. I can't do him justice. Sorry.

      Thanks for chatting. You asked a lot of questions. Difficult questions. I ask those questions, too. I tried to answer the best I can.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • Hrothgar

      TLDR, you bring a wet noodle to a thermonuclear war. You mean well, but that doesn't make you correct in your beliefs.
      Please try to get that through your head.
      What would you say to a Muslim? That they just don't understand? That they are following a false prophet?
      No matter what you said or how tame you tried to be in your criticism of the Muslim belief, they would be offended and insulted. Put yourself in my shoes. Is there a way to point out the fact that you are delusional without making it sound insulting?
      Yet it is not me who considers mental illness to be insulting. It is a health condition and says nothing about how nice a person is inside at all.
      Get it, yet? Probably not. Oh, well...

      December 30, 2012 at 6:14 am |
    • DaveW

      Of course he "could have" done it without god, because he did. Some good people are religious, they do good things...the relgiion didn't cause it. With all the hate and intolerance you learn from religion, it is quite likely the opposite.

      Religion is evil, created perhaps with innocent motivations, to help the fearful overcome their fear, but very soon, in small bands of cro magnums and neanderthals across the mediteranean region, religious leaders realized they can gain a lot of power by pretending to control the flow of information from the spirits to the animals.....and we see the result today. A closeted gay pope, living with a gorgeous much younger "secretary" lords over his minions with such hate and contempt for mankind it is disgusting, feverishly putting out admonitions against behaving like humans, so that he can be revered and continue to behave like a human, in secret.

      Just one of the many cults that we have inherited from the early humans so many thousands of years ago.

      Same thing with Santa Claus. Innocent pagan concept for children, now used as a sledge hammer to get us to all buy plastic crap molded in china, thanks to the crazy christians.

      January 31, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  20. Rational Libertarian

    You're wrong by an n't.

    December 30, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • Damocles

      Ahahaha! Well done!

      December 30, 2012 at 2:40 am |
    • Dart Evader

      Let me guess. Title of article? If so, you are correct.

      December 30, 2012 at 2:42 am |
    • TLDR

      Thank God Martin Luther King, Jr knew better!!!!

      December 30, 2012 at 2:44 am |
    • Damocles


      You know, I was avoiding saying anything to you, but I have to ask: Since you seem to thank your deity an awful lot for all the good things it supposedly does, do you thank it for all the bad things as well?

      December 30, 2012 at 2:49 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      You talking about the known adulterer Martin Luther King Jr? An imperfect man, right about racism, wrong about religion.

      December 30, 2012 at 2:49 am |
    • TLDR

      >do you thank it for all the bad things as well?

      I try to. Some times 'bad things' build character. Sometimes it is hard. I've had bad things in my life. Looking back, it is not only the good things in life that made me what I am today. Some of the tragedies in my life have helped my relationship with God. He helps me.

      > You talking about the known adulterer Martin Luther King Jr? An imperfect man, right about racism, wrong about religion.

      Yea. He was very serious about his religion. It was important to him. Like it is to a lot of people. I'm sure you can respect that, right? What he did he could not have done without God.

      December 30, 2012 at 2:58 am |
    • Damocles


      So is there a limit to the bad things your deity does that you would feel grateful for or is any wrong ok as long as it brings you closer to your deity?

      December 30, 2012 at 3:00 am |
    • TLDR

      > So is there a limit to the bad things your deity does that you would feel grateful for or is any wrong ok as long as it brings you closer to your deity?

      There is real evil in this world. I trust God to see me through it. He won't give me anything I can't handle. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed or overmatched. But that is ok. He will take care of it. But it is not always easy.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:05 am |
    • Hrolthgar

      MLKjr was a nice guy trying to do his best to help people. I respect the hell out of that.
      We can just leave it at that if you like. Or we can debate religion where religion always loses.
      He was a religious leader but that's not what he was famous for.
      If you want to fight for civil rights or human rights, your religion is expressly against those.
      MLKjr preached to his target audience and succeeded. And was killed for it by racist Christians.
      How ironically tragic. Religion is crazy stuff. The ones who killed him thought they were doing "God's Work".
      What do you say about that? That they were not being "true Christians"? There is no such thing.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:18 am |
    • Jenny Smith

      Nah. TDLR is completely right, and a nice person too, based on HIS rational, polite posts. I sure would rather have him as a next-door neighbor or my kids' teacher than any of the other posters here who may not hear God's voice (for they don't seek it) and who are so rude to TDLR.

      December 30, 2012 at 8:18 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.