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. Lori

    I would be willing to prove God exists to any non believer-as long as their sane!

    December 31, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • sam stone

      Sure, give it a shot

      December 31, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • Otis

      As long as my sane? Lori, put down the crystal!

      December 31, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      gee, thanks, sam. Look at the next page. this is all your fault.

      December 31, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  2. Lori

    Nighthawk–God is real- he saved my life more than a few times, and I can prove it. If I did, would you be open to believe?

    December 31, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      No, you can't "prove it." If you did, you'd be the most famous person on the planet right now for being the first person to prove the existence of god. You're an idiot.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:49 am |
  3. Nighthawk

    The only problem I see in this, is that for any of this to be true... God would have to exist. So really these people are crazy.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Lori

      Nighthawk–God is real- he saved my life more than a few times, and I can prove it. If I did, would you be open to believe?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • raforrester

      You are saying that in order to believe the truth, you would have to give up one of your favorite assumptions, so therefore it is the truth that has to go.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • CaptainAmerica

      I totally agree Nighthawk, this is total nonsense...even having a conversation about this silly crap, Tanya Marie is trying to put a nice spin on allowing people to believe in imaginary nonsense. This is the same as saying it’s okay to not accept responsibility, it’s okay to CLAIM you hear things even though you do not. It’s okay to LIE as long as its used with passion and emotion. I have had ENOUGH of this craziness please stop telling people its okay to do stupid things. Be human and wake up in reality please...make America something we can be proud of why does CNN feel the need to put this crap on comments. Would you allow a child to keep saying they have an imaginary friend even in there teens without at least saying..."Listen I know you like your imaginary friend but just for the record you do know there is nothing there" no you would not, and neither should you allow grown humans to do the same....

      December 31, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Look, Captain America, she told god earlier in the day that she really needed a sign of his love, and later that day they didn't charge her for an extra dip-cone at Dairy Queen. (And all those kids starving in other parts of the world are just part of his great plan) I mean, obviously god exists and you shouldn't deny it.

      December 31, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  4. Lori

    I have had many many miracles in my life since that night I almost died. I have photos of miracle cloud formations, was healed of a non-union fracture in my ankle enough to walk and have heard God whisper of things before they happen.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • Otis

      What, pray tell (pun intended), is a 'miracle cloud formation'? Pics, or it didn't happen.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:55 am |
  5. Lori

    Well a shattering truth for some, but I had a near death experience in 1988. I heard God that night as I nearly bled to death, and I have been hearing God and seeing his works in my life almost daily ever since.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • joe

      no you haven't. As if a God would have nothing better to do than whisper a few sweet nothings into a few touched people.

      It can't step up and protect the children at Newton, but it can't find the time to throw you some worthless one liners. I don't think so.

      People who hear or see God have a mental disorder. Period. End of discussion.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • raforrester

      @joe, if you have no idea how God could exist, how can know what his motives can or can't be, or whether a being who is timeless has the "time" to do something.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • Moby Schtick


      Wow, way to really cut to the heart of joe's argument, there. The time issue. Gee, no way to recover from that one. I guess god exists.

      December 31, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  6. Just sayin'

    If I heard SpongeBob, they'd call me crazy. And they're both as real.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  7. Wisdom4U2

    Wow...what a bunch of cryo-nuts. God is always speaking... y'all just aren't listening...or looking at nature.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • Me

      At first, yaweh was only one of many city and tribal gods. He was "jealous" and demanded everyone have faith in him or he would punish them forever – this kept his "chosen people" from wandering off to check out Baal or Isis or some other god. In return, he promised to protect his people. Only much later did he become the one universal god. Problem is, the religion didn't get rid of the jealous god part of his personality, even if it wasn't needed anymore.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Wisdom4U2

      UHH...What? Why would you want to believe in some fake 'his-story'? It just goes to show; 'those who believe in NOTHING will fall for ANYTHING.' Sheesh....

      December 31, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • Otis

      '[S]ome fake "his-story"', says the guy who puts stock in a text written millenia ago, during a time when people believed comets were ominous and flies arose from piles of dirty rags. A text which has been modified by powerful people with something to gain from its modification. The Bible is an entrenched cultural juggernaut, but that doesn't make it true.

      December 31, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • Wisdom4U2

      Get thee behind me, Otis!! We know who you are, Satan/Otis.

      December 31, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • Me

      Hey, I don't believe any of that stuff, I was just trying to explain why faith is so important to the Christian religion.

      December 31, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  8. Fingerwagger

    My question (which no one else seems to have asked) is this: "Why faith?" Why is FAITH so important to "god?" I Corinthians 13 ends with this: "And now abideth these three: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love."

    Yet, I can tell you that any true Evangelical will not agree with this in practice. The greatest of these is FAITH. Faith is the most important virtue, according to the practices of evangelicals.

    Sure, if you believe that the bible is the true, inerrant Word of God, you believe that “the greatest of these is love.” But as a former, devout evangelical conservative, I have to say that FAITH was much more important than love. I definitely remember hearing sermons that touted the “fact” that no matter how much “love” Mother Theresa had, that love (works) would NEVER “earn” her a spot in heaven.

    No, the ONLY way an evangelical can get into heaven is by FAITH. Faith is the thing that draws upon (activates?) God’s GRACE. It is through FAITH, by GRACE that we are saved.

    But does anyone ask WHY this is?

    WHY does God’s GRACE only fall upon us when we have enough FAITH?

    It is that exact question that led me away from Christianity after 40-some years.

    Because there is no real answer to the question:

    What is it about faith that compels “God” to mandate that we have it in order to please him? Why is faith so important to “God?” Why not love? Why not compassion? Why not good judgement? Why not helping others?

    Why FAITH?

    What is it about FAITH that God values so much?

    What is so valuable about FAITH that God would hinge our ETERNAL DESTINY on it... that He would base our eternal survival on whether we did or did not “believe” in something that we couldn’t confirm? ...on whether we did or did not “believe” in someone whom we had never met?

    Why is this kind of belief so valuable?

    It makes no sense.

    An objective look at this concept shows the truly ridiculousness of it. FAITH in something that can’t be confirmed really isn’t all that great. Sure, I admit that throughout the ages, faith in God has altered the course of humanity. Sometimes for good; sometimes for bad (the Crusades anyone?). But what objective virtue is there in believing in something/someone that cannot be confirmed?

    The Bible’s New Testament book of Hebrews says that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”


    If God created us in His image, don’t you think He would have implanted some kind of reason, or sensibility in us? Some common sense? Does it make any sense at all that we would have to possess some kind of FAITH in a thing/person we cannot confrim in order to be worthy of eternal life? In order to be spared from eternal hell, punishment and torture?

    To the parents reading this, I suggest this question: If you loved your children so much that you would DIE ON A CROSS for them, would you make their ETERNAL DESTINY hinge on whether they “got” it? On whether they figured out your puzzle? Would you tell your descendants that they will suffer forever, in hell, if they didn’t believe your words?

    As a father myself, I can tell you that I would NEVER make my children’s life hinge on something so subjective, so fragile, so tentative. I love them more than that.

    My love for my kids far surpasses some kind of belief system. As a father, I can confidently say that no matter WHAT my kids do, no matter WHAT my kids believe, no matter WHAT they choose in life, I WOULD NEVER even BEGIN to suggest that if they don’t agree with my credo, or believe in my faith, or choose my lifestyle (including ANYTHING related to my values!), that I would CONDEMN THEM TO ETERNAL PUNISHMENT if they didn’t see eye-to-eye with me.

    Let alone believe in my religion.

    Or my political views.

    Or the way I prepare my food.

    Or what my (lack of) faith sees fit to preserve.

    I ask you this: Would YOU be willing to condemn your children (and their descendents) to ETERNAL HELL just because they didn’t believe like you do? What kind of parent would you be if you did that?

    And yet, evangelicals tout exactly that kind of “Heavenly Father.”


    Why? Why is faith so important? Why faith? Why would anyone put forth a paradigm (faith in yourself), and then REQUIRE that a belief in this idea would determine whether or not you lived “forever” or were tortured in Hell “forever”?

    What is so virtuous about “faith?”

    Evangelicals around the globe will tell you that a person is “saved” by grace, through “faith.”


    Why faith?

    What is so important about faith?

    Yes, this is a rhetorical question; yet I DO have an answer: The reason FAITH is so important is this: Faith never fails. Faith ALWAYS endures.

    If FAITH ever fails, it ceases to be faith. Faith can never fail; that’s what makes it faith.

    My faith never failed me. I have to admit that.

    But my faith did cease. It did stop.

    But it never failed.

    It simply ceased to exist.

    No one ever said their faith failed them. But if they were honest, many people would say that they abandoned their faith... or they left their faith... or they simply stopped believing. But FAITH NEVER fails.

    If it does, it isn’t faith.

    It isn’t faith anymore...

    Now abideth faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these... is faith.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:24 am |
    • the AnViL


      start your own blog, chump.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • Wisdom4U2

      What I know is this: faith, hope and love is eternal; therefore, we get to take them with us into enternity, which is sooooo AWESOME. However, it's so sad for those who lack them ;-(

      December 31, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • Me

      My reply above was supposed to be to this post.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • joe

      you're definitely challenged. Why the religious continually talk about faith is a no brainer. It's the only thing they have. They don't have biology, physics, geology, chemistry, astrophysics or any other science. They don't have formal logic. They don't have reasoning. They don't have common sense. They don't even have history on their side.

      Without faith, there would be no reason whatsoever to believe in the leather bound book of ancient short stories from primitive men. So, it's no wonder they spend 99% of their time working on faith.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Otis

      Faith is people answering unknowable questions with things they wish to be true. In any other realm, we'd call that delusional, but apparently religion gets a bye because folks get really touchy when you poke holes in their ethereal belief systems. If God was to slap me in the face hard enough to leave a mark, and to speak in a voice that caused others to ask what that noise was, I'd gladly admit I'm wrong, but I'm still waiting.

      December 31, 2012 at 2:10 am |
  9. .george

    god last spoke w. bush, and then attacked iraq, and landed us in deep trouble

    December 31, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • Extra Medium

      Wrong, George. God only speaks to Cheeney who translated the message to W.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  10. miscreantsall



    You have got to be kidding? Like ANYONE of you are worthy of an authentic audible sound from Jehovah?



    December 31, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  11. John Diomitron

    Do you hear what I hear? If not, you need a hearing aid.

    REPENT! Accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and the Spirit of His Father who gives you eyes to see and ears to hear.

    Matthew 11:13-15 – "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"

    Revelation 2:17 – “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”

    I know my own new name – – – it is Diomitron!

    Figure this riddle out o'wise men:


    December 31, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      For I say unto thee...thou is fullest of shyte.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • tallulah13

      Diomitron? You sound like a Transformer. Or maybe a Decepticon.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • Extra Medium

      Diomitron: please seek psychiatric help immediately. Here the hotline number 666-BLL-SHTS. Best wishes for your delusions.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • Mlink56

      You are a typical christian hypocrite – Matthew 6: 5-6
      5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Voices telling me I can make money telling people things they want to hear. I am going to write a book on angels.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • CaptainAmerica

      Its not, well then why does every Animal on this planet practice it....the only living things thar ARE religious are the lowerclass humans, or the frausters who make money off them...think about it...the higher education ( science & engineering) the less you find religion. If you DO manage to find a religious person in science and engineering..notice how they are managers, and NOT the actual engineers or TRUE scientists.

      December 31, 2012 at 2:00 am |
  13. Earl

    Let me share what i learned from Teacher Erano Evangelista of http://www.thename.ph

    Exodus 20:18-19 (KJV)
    18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

    As we can read -The people of Israel during the exodus were afraid to hear the voice of God. They prefer to hear the word of God through Moses. Since then Moses became the spokesperson of God. God said the decision of the people was good as written in Deut.18:15-17
    15 The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
    16 According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.
    17 And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.

    We can read here that since the people asked not to hear the word of God again and God agreed. However Moses cannot live forever so does this mean that God will speak again to people directly as what he had done during the exodus? Or did He made firm His decree that a prophet will speak in His behalf just like what Moses did?

    In Deut.18:18-19
    18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
    19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

    We can read that God had spoken about a coming prophet who will be sent forth "like Moses" – this time God will not speak audibly to His coming prophet, for Moses was the only prophet to have heard the voice of God (deut.34:9-10 and Numbers12:8) The sign for us to identify this prophet is that God placed His words in his mouth which means that God will not speak to him audibly nor will the coming prophet study the word of God in a university but will be taught by God about the meaning of His written word.

    Finally, as written, the coming prophet will be sent by God to speak in His Name which means He will reveal the true Name of God as written in the scriptures. This clearly shows that God has destined not many but one man only to explain His written word in the scriptures. So for a man to say that God spoke with him audibly is not true for the last man to have heard His voice directly was Moses.

    This truth in what God decreed in deut.18:15-19 will also cast doubt on what the apostles had written in Matt. 3:17 they claim that God spoke about Jesus, but God already made his word that only a prophet can speak in His behalf. Now, to know that God indeed sent a prophet like Moses to whom we should listen to in our time Because God placed His words in the prophet like Moses' mouth – therefore can clearly explain the written word of God in the Bible and sent to speak in God's Name-which means he will introduce the real name of God as written in the scriptures.

    Kindly read http://www.thename.ph to know more about this revelation.

    May the people in this forum inform their religious leaders about the said site so that they may know God's judgement upon them for claiming to be servants of God yet are not and taught falsely in His Name.

    Thank you.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • AnnieCee

      I don't think you helped this discussion one single bit. And I can easily prove you're wrong because Paul heard God's audible voice on the Damascus road, and so did the people who were with him. That was long after Moses. And, the voice of God thundered from heaven on at least three occasions while Jesus was on earth: and everyone heard it. Those examples are just four that I can think of off the top of my head. Please don't be so dogmatic, please.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • Mlink56

      I will post these one at a time since there seems to be something offensive enough in one of them to get my post banned.

      Can you help me with these bible quotes?
      When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • Mlink56

      I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • Mlink56

      I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • Mlink56

      Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • Mlink56

      I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • Mlink56

      It looks like it didn't like # 6, here are the rest
      7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
      8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
      10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

      December 31, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • If you truely hear voices....

      theres words you have to break up ...like rac oon, Ja panese, compet ition ..ect...there are people that regularly post the list..

      December 31, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Mlink56

      #6 changed a little bit so it passes the censors;
      Eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, am I going to hell for eating shrimp?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:38 am |
    • Franklin

      Maybe the voice that Paul heard was caused by a brian tumor? He did claim to have a condition that was like "a thorn" in his side, after all. Or, maybe it was Satan pretending to be Jesus. Paul was already persecuting Christians, and he went on to fight with the Christian leadership, transforming Christianity from a Jewish movement to a separate gentile religion, hardly what Jesus had ever intended, but precisely what an archenemy of Jesus would have wanted. All you can claim to have are Paul's claims as to what happened.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • Otis

      Earl, I saw your girlfriend wearing pants on Wednesday. You'd better kill her, quick!

      December 31, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  14. Spot On

    So this god only talks to Christians? How come devote non-Christians aren't invited in for a chat? And if I were a god, I'd want to have a word with non-believers too – maybe to convince them that they have it wrong. And I'd sure want to tell the Taliban to stop killing all those innocents. And maybe this god should have convinced the Nazis to stop murdering Jews and the Turks from slaughtering Armenians. Seems this god needs to get out more.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • Franklin

      This God only talks to Christians the same way that space aliens only talk to people who believe in space aliens. It's basic confirmation bias. Christians are told that God will "show himself" to them in some way so, of course, they imagine that he does. Why would anyone be at all impressed with this?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • If you truely hear voices....

      ahhh no can do there, hes too busy helping football players win games...burning images on toasted sandwiches ect......
      besides, theres a plan..

      December 31, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • Franklin

      If you truely hear voices....
      I thought that it was the Cylons who had a "plan"?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • If you truely hear voices....

      yup them too,

      But God's plan, because he's omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, hasnt begun yet, but is already over...everything unfolds according to his wishes... the Nazis, the Turks, the Conquistadors, the Crusades, famines, rampant greed ...all part of the plan....

      December 31, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  15. Nothing

    I don't believe in the existence of things. Imaginary delusions, these things. Grow up, only nothing exists.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      I'd reply but there's nothing there.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  16. John

    What if I don't like god... if I switch religions will another god speak to me or will it be the same one?

    December 31, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • Me

      LOL Brilliant

      December 31, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Lisa

      The author would probably say that you were delusional if Thor talked to you, but she wouldn't be able to explain this double standard.

      "When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
      – Stephen F Roberts

      December 31, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • the AnViL

      that's whre ms.luhrmanns "research" falls flat...

      had she "studied" some other cultural groups... say – hindus for instance... no doubt she'd have found the same thing.

      no talk of a control group either.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  17. Balls McGhee

    its called your conscience, not God. the fact that this author is entertaining this as "not crazy" just advances stupidity in this world. i'm tired of having to feel like i must "allow" people to believe what they wish because it is freedom. Whatever... these same idiots will treat other religions worse because it differs from their own – like they know anything about freedom.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:39 am |
    • Lisa

      I wonder what she would tell somebody who thinks that an advanced race of aliens was guiding them in a similar fashion? Would she be as accepting of that idea?

      December 31, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  18. JJB

    If you have not heard God's voice before, "seek and you will find" (Matthew 7:7-8), as that's God's promise said in the bible and He has been waiting for you.. don't waste your time and energy to debate whether He exists, or if He speaks to people nowadays.. if it's a truth, it exists anyway regardless you choose to believe it or not... I am a highly educated person with a decent income job as a professional... I used to believe in myself only and didn't believe in God.. Until God entered my life, He changed me into a different person- loving, caring, and less self centered... trust me I was not a person like that before.. He spoke to me very often through thoughts/images coming through my minds which helped me resolve issues/problems I encountered in my daily life, it could be advice to my jobs, my marriage, my relationship with friends, and He even got me out of some dangerous situations by giving me warnings ahead of time ... and I knew I didn't have that kind of wisdom to come up with those solutions or advice, not mention to predict the future events.. And the best part is- that voice always brings you a kind of peace and joy that is beyond description.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • the AnViL

      it's called "confirmation bias"

      basically – what happens is... you fill your head with biblical trash... then any little thing that happens – you attribute it to the crap you filled your head with.

      it's ok – lots of people do it... not just xians...

      hindus do it all the time. they fill their heads with religious crap of a hindu nature -then when some coincidence occurs – or even something as simple as say – a glass falling over and breaking – they will easily attribute it to their religious delusions.

      bottom line here is – it's all in your head.


      December 31, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • AnnieCee

      JLB, I know what you mean. Walking with God through every moment of the day. Jesus said that's the kind of relationship that He had with His Father, and that's what He wanted us to experience as well.

      This article gave a rare opportunity to talk about a Christian's experience with God on a personal level. It's hard to explain. Words don't really do a good job of explaining it. And it's not something that we usually talk about openly because it's like casting pearls before swine... but we know that we have Proof of God's love and care and presence, every day.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • the AnViL

      funny how theists ignore ms. luhrmann when she states:

      "...my research has found that these unusual sensory experiences are more common among those who pray in a way that uses the imagination..."

      gods exist... only between the ears of the delusional people who choose to believe.


      December 31, 2012 at 12:54 am |
    • peterhawkins1

      you should ask this voice the winning lottery numbers

      December 31, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • Lisa

      And some Native Americans will tell you that you can find your animal guide if you are just as patient, and willing to believe. Willingness to believe can bring many people to really believe in just about anything, but does that make the thing actually real?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • Franklin

      Chances are that a huge number of people who play the lottery also pray to God and, when they happen to win as random chance dictates that they will, God of course gets all the credit. Never mind that they played and prayed for 20 years before winning. God sometimes says "wait" after all according to the teaching, and if they died after spending $10,000 in tickets over their lifetimes without ever winning a thing, God sometimes answers prayers with "No", as well.

      Nice system, but it's funny how few believers notice that the three options (yes, later, and no) are exactly what would happen if there were no God answering prayers as well. People would still have the good luck to get what they want right away, later, or the bad luck not to get what they want at all.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • Vince

      JJB, this seems to be the thing we forget. Too often we expect God to be subservient to us. We should seek Him. And for everyone who is asking, "which god, what religion should we reference?" – my challenge to them is, maybe when you're just laying in bed unable to sleep, just ask God to be real to you. That is seeking. It takes a moment of humility to seek God. I'll admit that it's challenging at first, and on a daily basis, but it's real and worth it. I've had way too many moments in life where God was real to me, and I just can't deny it and say it didn't happen.

      December 31, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • Otis

      Matthew 19:23-24: "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

      Why are you using a 'decent income' to support your belief in a Christian God?

      December 31, 2012 at 2:26 am |
  19. Me

    I am just a poor boy.
    Though my story's seldom told,
    I have squandered my resistance
    For a pocketful of mumbles,
    Such are promises
    All lies and jest
    Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
    And disregards the rest.

    -"The Boxer"
    Paul Simon

    December 31, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Lisa

      And Jesus was a sailor
      When he walked upon the water
      And he spent a long time watching
      From his lonely wooden tower
      And when he knew for certain
      Only drowning men could see him
      He said "All men will be sailors then
      Until the sea shall free them"
      But he himself was broken
      Long before the sky would open
      Forsaken, almost human
      He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

      And you want to travel with him
      And you want to travel blind
      And you think maybe you'll trust him
      For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

      Leonard Cohen

      Another poet/musician of that era. 🙂

      December 31, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  20. reallytho

    Come on now. God is as real as the Toothfairy

    December 31, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • scott

      Make sure you tell him that 3 min after you die...

      December 31, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • the AnViL

      scott – don't be silly – you can't tell anyone anything when you're dead.

      your corpse may leave clues to someone examining your death – but that's just not the same.

      when you die – that's it. game over... welcome to oblivion.

      no gods – no heavens – no devils – no hells.

      grow up.... evolve.

      you're retarding the rest of humanity.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • Lisa

      Why is your best comeback always a thinly veiled threat with you guys? I think, even when the carrot is enough to hook a person, some of you just can't resist clubbing people with the heavy stick anyway. It's like you get some kind of perverse kick out of it, or something. Have you ever considered that it may be the other guy, Mr. Pointy Tail, who's whispering in your ear when you feel the need to indulge yourself with that, or at least your inner sadistic side that's surfacing when you do?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      As an atheist, I have nothing to fear from a good god. And if god is not good, then you christians have no better guarantee than me, the atheist.

      If I find out that god is real, after I die, I azzume he'll have a pretty good idea of what to do with me and my questions and thoughts.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • Joe Schmo

      No God? Great, now what?

      Does this mean we as people are as good as it gets? I know Oprah says we're all good inside, but all you need to do to disprove that is go for a drive, in a car, on a road, with other drivers. I hope we aren't relying on good people to make life fulfilling.
      It's in our being to seek out a creator. Just hang around kids long enough and they reveal that. I'm certainly convinced that I'm not my body; I'm just in it. So what happens to me when my fragile body can't sustain life? Should I really trust someone who says, "nothing happens"?
      Christ used the phrase – Faith like a child. Sure, kids believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and so on until you tell them otherwise. I have to wonder why Christ chose to use that phrase in regards to what it takes to believe in Him??

      December 31, 2012 at 3:04 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.