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

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

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

By T.M. Luhrmann, Special to CNN

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

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

Except that usually it’s not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • God

soundoff (7,767 Responses)
  1. Miss Demeanor

    Dear Writer: The fact that 'believers' are troubled when bad things happen (unless they are sociopaths) shows that the gawwwwwd they believe exists is not merely a make-believe friend, their gawwwwwd is also a fair-weather friend. As long as innocent infants die in car crashes, earthquakes, floods, plane-crashes, tsunami's, fires and that gawwwwwd won't even lift a finger to help, there will be people like me pointing out the dishonest claims of self-appointed religious 'experts' and 'authorities' who should be making an honest living selling used cars. There is one HUGE difference between the mentally ill who hear voices and (so you suggest) all the other (non-crazy, "normal") people: the mentally ill have a good excuse.

    December 31, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • Bill

      i don't hear voices but still believe in God!

      December 31, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • the AnViL

      if you believe in imaginary men in the sky – you are delusional.

      no voices in your head needed.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • Bill

      have a great day! I will pray for the lost here today anyway

      December 31, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • sam stone

      pray for us, we'll think for you

      December 31, 2012 at 7:26 am |
  2. Closet Atheist

    Too long, didn't read.

    Still crazy.

    December 31, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Colin

      Oh dear god, you're STILL i nthe closet. It's hight ime you came out.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      @ Colin

      Some day.... maybe when atheism is broadly accepted enough to have a non-believer as president.... hahahhaa.... never

      December 31, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • Jill

      Its time to go back in the closet Colin

      December 31, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • Colin

      We have one now. Obama is an atheist, he just has to feign Christianity to keep the religious black vote securely in his pocket.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      He won the election Colin, what is his excuse now? He obviously doesn't need to kiss up to them now.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:18 am |
  3. Colin

    When I first read this article, I thought, “What utter garbage. What mind-numbingly stupid pseudo-scientific religious bullsh.it.”

    Upon reflection, however, I thought, “What utter garbage. What mind-numbingly stupid pseudo-scientific religious bullsh.it.”

    December 31, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • Bill

      thats because you have no faith. You put your trust in man and it leaves a void. man will always disappoint you and that is why you are so angry.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      @ Bill

      Have you ever truly thought, and I mean actually dug deep, about what it is exactly that your faith is in...?? Just curious because to me it apppears to me from your statement that you are just another brainwashed sheep reciting the typical christ-babble....

      December 31, 2012 at 7:04 am |
    • James C Edgar

      Well put.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • HARPO

      Why do so many of you hate God for your own messed up lives? You always have to have someone to blame for your own failures.......GOD BLESS YOU BILL

      December 31, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • the AnViL

      why do so many ignorant religious nutjobs assume that when someone tells them the truth e.g.; there are no gods – that they are somehow angry or upset with their lives? why do they assume the people who are proclaiming the truth of reality have some failure in their lives?

      a/ because they are delusional

      December 31, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • RumRunner

      SOOOOOOOOOOOoo many closet rejects here today

      December 31, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • The End of Idiocy

      But if you sit down and read it a third time, and listen to your heart, you will see that this woman is trying to tell sick people that it's OK to be sick. Worse than that, she is giving them "scientific" reasons to live a delusion and to mentally abuse their children to live the same lie.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:23 am |
  4. Miss Demeanor

    Dear writer: you are using a bogus argument to imply (addressed to the innocent who want to believe god exists) that believers (who hear god) who are not schizophrenics are normal. This is an extremely dishonest statement and, since deceitfulness violates the commandments that Christians are bound to honor, if you're a Christian trying to defend Christianity it is hypocritical to boot.

    December 31, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Hmm, another opinion that really doesn't matter. So many of those today.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:22 am |
  5. Colin

    Dear Christians:

    God here.

    Now that you can audibly hear me talking to you, there is something VERY IMPORTANT I want to tell you. I do not exist.

    The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the actions and thoughts of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.

    Second, if I did exist, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was compiled with certain writings included and others excluded, nor how it has been edited over the centuries, yet you cite it for the most extraordinary of supernatural claims. It was written in the Iron Age Middle East, people. Get a brain.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?

    Sixth, I would have smitten all you Christian activists, and all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for a sick, sadistic bast.ard like me to contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you cringed in fear during the Dark Ages and thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.

    God

    Voices in head go silent..........................

    December 31, 2012 at 6:31 am |
    • Bill

      Sorry, I fear God and always will. You can mock him all you want it won't change a thing. This life is short here on earth its the next place thats important to me when I die. You think man is so smart? just look at the mess this country is in, your a fool. God is my rock and salvation and I will be judged by him NOT man.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:38 am |
    • Sorry Bill

      Those of us that read your posts realize how crazy you are. If you own any weapons, please find a gun buyback program and turn them in. If you do not own a gun and wish to buy one please consult a medical professional and go through a police check for the safety of your fellow humans. You are a fanatic, the voices in your head are delusions, seek help.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • sam stone

      bill: what makes you think there is anything after death? if there is, why do you seek eternity with a being in which you fear?

      December 31, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Colin

      Actuall, Bill. I agree that you need help. If you hear God telling you to shoot up an elementary school, or to kill an ex-Beatle, don't do it. I am sure you have been on medication at some point. Perhaps you should think about re-starting the regime. Either way, you should seek help.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Andy

      Age of Copper. Not Iron. The old test. dates all the way back to the age of copper. Making it that much more ludicrous. Your post is condescending. But as an atheist and humanist, I must say, there's a particular vein of truth to your assessment.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • Watson

      @Colin....... So much anger......... we know you had a difficult chilhood and its not your fault, you can still be straight if you want

      December 31, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • Colin

      @Watson. Why is it the default position of so many theists that those who do not believe are "angry?" Look, if it makes you feel better, you can attribute our skepticism to any personality flaw you want, but it won't advance your case any.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • crp

      I find you atheists a rather disturbed lot...they feel the need to go to places where the topic of faith is the subject to convey their hysterics about how there is no substantiation of faith...equally absurd as the hippie who walks back and forth with the sign saying the end is near...all you do is reinforce those who do have faith...you all are amusing

      December 31, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • Watson

      @colin i guess I struck a nerve, its not to late Colin you can go straight

      December 31, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Colin

      @Watson, crp. My apparent personality flaws aside, do you have any substantive point to make on my post, or are you just going to continue flailing your arms?

      December 31, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      @ crp

      I think most atheists enjoy the banter. An overwhelming majority of us have actually taken the time to think about our stance and enjoy engaging in some intellectual discourse.

      I can't speak for all atheists, but if I can get one single believer to stop and rethink their beliefs, then my time here was not wasted....

      December 31, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • HARPO

      hey Colin!!!!!!! Obama won the election, he doesn't have to kiss up any longer.....hahahahaha sucker

      December 31, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Got to love it when "open-minded" liberals tend to be such jerks with what other ppl believe.
      Guess they are only inclusive when oe agrees with their opinions.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • Trent Chambers

      PS. Also, I would have never let a Human invent Gangnam Style. Thank You, That is all.
      -G

      December 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  6. Colin

    All religious thinking is delusional, in that they believe in a whole host of magical beings who read their minds (or "hear their prayers" as they put it) and alter the universe to attend to their desires (or "answer their prayers").

    It is just a matter of degree. I'm sorry, but if you believe this, you are delusional. If you think the Judeo-Christian god audibly talks to you, you are quite delusional. As nutty as any Buddhist or Muslim who has similar religious experiences.

    Dawkins' book, "The God Delusion," was very well named.

    December 31, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • Bill

      Christain is just a word, remember God also hates religion. Religion is man made. The true believer in God is from the heart not the manipulated word of man

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

      Sinners always blame God for thier owm moral breakdowns. God gave man free will but each & everyone of us will be judged on judgement day...................Repent from your sins

      December 31, 2012 at 6:34 am |
    • Mirosal

      Bill, since, according to your own doctrine and beliefs, your "god" is thought to be omniscient, free will about your "god" cannot exist. Think about that for a minute. If you're still puzzled, have a grade-schooler explain the simple logic to you.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:44 am |
    • Bill

      @Mirosal, I have lived long enough to see man does not have the answers. I have always believed in a God, just a little more fined tuned now. You are Nothing! just a blade of grass that will wither & die as we both know. Im not a gambling man but I put my faith on the Lord Jesus Christ when the end comes. I do know that he died for our sins and the price was paid in full. When you draw your last breath I pray you then realize man will not save you from the debths of Hell

      December 31, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • Colin

      Hell, hey Bill. One of the more colorful superst.itions of the Christian. Think it through.

      I don't have to kill, I don't have to steal, hell, I don't even have to litter. All I have to do is have a reasonable, honest and rational disbelief in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty upon me an infinite times worse than the death penalty. And he loves me.

      Let's subject this "cherished Christian doctrine" to the probing light of say.......fifth grade mathematics.

      Approximately one hundred and ten thousand million (110,000,000,000) people have lived on Earth. Given all those who have, over the centuries, rejected the Christian god, or who have otherwise committed mortal sins, there must be literally thousands of millions of people burning for all eternity in the cosmic oven of hell set up by their all-loving god. Some must have been burning for thousands of years by now.

      About 100,000 people die every day. There must be a constant stream of thousands of forlorn souls every day into the one way pit of hell their “all-merciful” god set up and maintains.

      But, far, far worse than sheer overwhelming numbers is the extent of the punishment. There is no way out, no parole, no time off for good behavior. You don’t just burn, you burn for all eternity. Billions of people and thousands of daily new arrivals burning for all eternity!

      No criminal justice system in the history of the Human race, even those established by the most despotic of tyrants, comes close to matching the unfathomable barbarity of their “infinitely benevolent” god.

      Hitler murdered six million Jews in his concentration camps, but compared to the Judeo-Christian god, Hitler was a bleeding-hearted wimp. A goose-stepping girlie-man. Their “all-caring” god not only burns billions more than Hitler, Pol Pot and all other dictators and tyrants added up, he keeps doing so to them for all eternity! I would not wish a bad sunburn on a person simply because they have a different religion to me, let alone fry them for all eternity.

      It is also odd that their all-loving god is also all-knowing and knows which souls will go to hell before they do. He even knows it before they are born, and yet he still creates them. He is worse than a psychopathic teenager than breeds litter after litter of kittens so he can slowly roast them in ovens.

      That is the problem with using the same deity to be both the carrot and the stick. It gets really silly really quickly.

      How you still believe this utter garbage in the 21st century completely eludes me, Bill.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • sam stone

      bill: god is made by man, too. as is the concept of "sin"

      December 31, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • Andy

      Bill, you can try to separate your christianity from other religion all you want. You're still a religion, you're not special, and you're no different than any other christian, muslim, jew, or buddist.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • sam stone

      bill: does yapping empty proxy threats about hell make you feel all pious and such?

      December 31, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • The Truth

      Psalm 92:5-7 NIV

      "How great are your works, LORD, 5 how profound your thoughts! Senseless people do not know, 6 fools do not understand, that though the wicked spring up like grass 7 and all evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever."

      December 31, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Heck, Colin is delusional if he thinks his opinions really matter to anyone on here or will change the way a person thinks.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:41 am |
  7. GO_GOP

    Our Lord works in mysterious ways and he reveals himself in the most unexpected and unusual ways. Our pastor (who shares a very special relation with our Lord) has had numerous communications from our Lord and recounts them very often during sermons. Any person who hears it knows it is true. I urge all non believers to embrace him and be saved. Remember he died for our sins.

    December 31, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • the AnViL

      on your pastor: unsubstantiated, unverifiable, va gue and non-compelling claims. rejected.

      your entire post is rejected... there's nothing of substance in it.

      you are retarding humanity... please evolve.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • Bill

      We are all sinners drowning in a sea of corruption. Man cannot save you and you cannot save yourselves. Judgement day draws near Repent and turn from your ugly ways

      December 31, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Mirosal

      So, just how does this "god" communicate with your pastor? Twitter? Facebok? A simple text? E-mail? phone or fax? Is it telepathy? Or does "god" magically appear at the foot of his bed at 3 A.M.?

      December 31, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • Mirosal

      Hey Bill, out of ALL the gods worshipped throughout human history, are you sure you're repenting to the right one? Your "god" is supposedly perfect, yet created us, imperfect beings. Then we're supposed to ask for forgiveness for those flaws "he" gave us, and if we don't we get punished for those flaws "god" gave us. And this seems right to you.... how?

      December 31, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • sam stone

      bill: your god is a vindictive little pr1ck, and you a snivelling sycophant.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • Republicans Are The American Taliban

      Can he ask God if there will be guns in Heaven? Will we all need to get training, or will we all be dead eye shots?

      December 31, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • The End of Idiocy

      Yes, your pastor, the guy you give money to every week, told you he talked to god. I'm sure there isn't any connection between the money you give him and the stories he tells you to convince you to give him more money.

      Next time he tells you one of his stories, ask him this. Why don't you ask god to tell you how to make money for the church without taking it from us? He/she/it is all knowing. There must be a way to make money that helps the poor, the hungry, the sick and the church without asking for donations. Or maybe this being that created the entire universe could just make some more money for you since you have such a great relationship.

      When that happens, let me know and I will gladly come to your church and worship with you. That would be the best way god could show him/her/it self.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  8. Sean

    If you can hear voices, your crazy. Sorry, but it's true. You're prophets that heard god were either con artists or crazy.

    December 31, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • Heineken

      You know the difference between an internal dialouge and audio halucinations? Big difference.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:00 am |
  9. makyb

    After reading alot of these posts there is just one thing I would like to note. There are so many comments that argue the fact of Christians and how we should stop "spewing" our beliefs on those who are non-believers. I will not try to force my beliefs or my values on anybody else, but I find it to be hypocritical when people refer to me as "stupid", "ignorant" or "gullible" for my choice and views on GOD. I can sit here and listen to your arguement on your lack of religion but when one of God's followers would like to speak their case can we please not be so quick to take the opposing side as "less valuable" or important?

    December 31, 2012 at 5:56 am |
    • Heineken

      It's actually quite reasonable to leave people alone if they don't want to hear it. Don't cast your pearls before swine, right? Why share your sacred text with people who ridicule it? It's like giving money to a homeless alcoholic. You know he won't buy food with it.

      December 31, 2012 at 5:59 am |
    • makyb

      heineken- I do agree with you. You can never ever force someone to think or feel the same way as yourself, but everyday I see a post somewhere belittling Christians. When people choose to not have faith I do not go crazy on name calling telling them they are the devil or heathens. I simply respect their choice. Ridicule is the new way we deal with religious conversations now I guess?

      December 31, 2012 at 6:09 am |
    • the AnViL

      makyb – people are fed up with fundamentalist xians attempting to secularize their idiotic religious beliefs. they're beyond ticked off with self-righteous xian zealots who seek to nullify equal rights.... and they're certainly unhappy with all the atrocities committed by delusional people who act on their "faith".

      tolerance of religious idiocy harms us all – and religion does nothing good for humanity – as clearly demonstrated by history.

      delusional religious thinking retards and impoverishes all of humanity – and it's high time that people stand up and speak out against it.

      you, personally – may not be one of the malevolent xians who "force" your skewed, bronze-aged, delusional ideology on others – but don't think for a second it doesn't happen and that all the ire is undeserved.

      people like ms.luhrmann reinforce these pitiful, decrepit, vile delusions – and it's repugnant to watch the wilfull ignorance in others.

      it's simple – if you believe in an imaginary man in the sky – you are delusional.

      delusional thinking means you are out of touch with reality.

      people act like delusional thinking and mental illness is some divine right – well it isn't.

      humanity is going to evolve and in order to do so – we have to shed these destructive and divisive ideologies.

      as more people become educated – and as more people show less tolerance of these hysterical foolish destructive religious types – reason will eventually prevail – and humanity will definitely be the better for it.

      cha cha cha

      December 31, 2012 at 6:12 am |
    • think I will pass

      RE: "I find it...hypocritical when people refer to me as "stupid", "ignorant" or "gullible" for my choice and views on GOD..."
      I suspect what troubles you is that you'll find in the end that these people are merely being refreshingly honest because there is no magic rejuvenator in the sky who "unkills" us after we die (seriously... if he wanted us to believe that, he'd allow people in heaven to send postcards or advertise on TV... right?). Look at the bright side of it: would you really want to spend eternity praising a sociopath who can't be bothered to prevent innocent infants from dying in earthquakes... even though he supposedly could do it simply by lift his little finger?

      December 31, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • makyb

      I dont necessarily call this prevailing. Freedom of religion is turning into a cease of religion. When it offended people to speak of God in schools. Fine, so be it. We are diverse. But, as you put it, my delusion of God keeps me from doing morally wrong, why is it so harmful for me or others to continue this lifestyle. Everbody seems to be so stuck on brainwashing the world with Godly views. Not all Christians are made this way. The world can continue to exist with different genders, races and religions.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:24 am |
    • Heineken

      Nontheism is just as fanatical and fundamentalism, dear atheist. By ridiculing a Christian for his faith, you're claiming to have the answer to a question that nobody in recorded history has been able to answer.

      Even the greatest philosophers admit that God fits in the equation. Without God, the atheist suffers at the hand of infinite regression.
      At some point everyone relies on a belief, and greater minds than yours have shown that an atheists faith in materialism is just as naive as hyper-spirituality.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • the AnViL

      sure – all races and both genders can live together in peace – provided there are no dueling, divisive monotheistic religions poisoning society.

      isn't there enough division already – just between gender and races without religion???

      ALL monotheistic religions are predicate on ignorance and division... so long as there are those who hold delusional beliefs in an imaginary man in the sky – there will be those who feel morally superior... and we know for a fact that never ever works out well for humanity.

      ~

      December 31, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • the AnViL

      heineken – is that a family name – or are you just a fan?

      "Without God, the atheist suffers at the hand of infinite regression."

      care to expound on that gem, champ?

      be great to see you explain it – and then justify it with something substantial.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:36 am |
    • Republicans Are The American Taliban

      Michelle Bachmann told us that God spoke to her and instructed her to run for President. If she was Gods candidate, why did he let her lose? Is she just crazy and hearing voices?

      December 31, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • The End of Idiocy

      If your chri$tian/muslim/whatever-ism beliefs were completely benign, then it wouldn't be so bad. But religion is the yolk that has held humanity down for hundreds of centuries. It is a childish mind candy that we can cast off now as we no longer need it.

      We have real problems in the world that need real adults to come together and fix them. We don't need childish minds praying to a non-existent Santa in the sky expecting some super man to swoop down and save us from our problems. Jeebus is not coming back, the end of the world is not happening any time soon. So grow up and join reality. If you can't do that, then please quietly crawl back into your cave and let the grown-ups get on with reality.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • makyb

      Childish? Please, childish would be more or less a person who thinks that THEY are always right. That there is no way but THEIR way. In a sense of..I want those shoes...I NEED those shoes. Who in the world are you to judge anybody? Who are you to tell me what is real, right and how the world rotate? Childish is the name calling. Childish is your ASSUMPTIONS. You can tell me there is no God. Like i've said before I will no agrue. Those are YOUR beliefs. But dont you dare tell me how I live my life is wrong. I dont intend to make you see my point of view...But the very thing You all hate..the "spewing" is something You do WAYY too much.

      December 31, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • Heineken

      @ the Anvil,

      I'm a fan, it's not a family name. Also, calling me "champ", like I'm a naive 5 year old is pretty condascending, don't you think?
      I will answer your question.
      Infinite Regression – With this phrase we use to define the paradox of "what came before that"? This essentially speaks to the inherent nature of "mass". It's part of a cosmological argument best expressed in modal logic, but I'll explain it point by point.

      1.> A thing is either finite or infinite.
      2.> A thing that is infinite has no beginning and thus is not created.
      3.> A thing that is finite has a beginning and thus is created.
      4.> A finite thing cannot create itself.
      5.> A finite thing is created by something else.

      Problem: Creation in a purely naturalistic sense suffers from infinite regression. There is never a "1st thing" to create everything else, because the 1st thing also has a beginning....which logically means...it also needed to be created. What created the first "thing"?

      This problem plays out in naturalistic creation.
      Q: What created Mankind?
      A: Mankind is the result of evolutionary changes in the animal kindom.
      Q: What created the animal kingdom?
      A: The Animal Kingdom is a spectrum of living organisms resulting from abiogenisis in the primortial soup.
      Q: What created the premortial soup?
      A: The premortial soup is a collection of molecules.
      Q: What created the molecules?
      A: The molecule is a varied combination of elements.
      Q: What created the elements?
      A: Elements where thought to have been created from protomatter by the Higgs Field.
      Q: What created the Higgs Field?
      A: Nobody knows, but logically, it was "something".
      Q: What created "something"?
      A: Something else.

      and so on and so forth......

      Where does the paradox end?
      When something infinite get's involved. The regression ceases when "somthing that requires to no creation" creates the first "finite" thing.

      I.e. God.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • the AnViL

      so basically what you've done here is jump from "how" to "god did it".

      i see.

      that's brilliant.

      December 31, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      The honest answer is: We don't know
      The stupid and dishonest answer to make you feel better about being part of a narrative larger than your small and silly life is: Big, invisible sky wizard did it with magic spellzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!! "

      How ridiculous.

      December 31, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Assuming the answer "god" to the question of "Why is there something rather than nothing" gets you nothing because no god can logically be defined or measured to any degree whatsoever. You're simply renaming the word "mystery."

      December 31, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  10. Randomthoughts

    If you feel you need spiritual guideance in life, fill your boots.
    Don't verbally unleash your ramblings to those who have an internal locus of control. To me, religion is just a bunch of kife.

    December 31, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • Heineken

      .......what?

      December 31, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • Sane Person

      See now, if you had read a dictionary as fervently as you read your bible, you'd have been easily able to understand that.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  11. Colin

    If a person believes God talks to them, we (should) call them a lunatic.

    If a dozen do, we call them a cult.

    If a billion do, we call them Christians.

    December 31, 2012 at 5:49 am |
    • Heineken

      John McArthur (Baptist Pastor) once said:" In 30 years of ministry, not once did I hear a booming voice from the sky. God speaks to me through his scripture and it's the only thing I know of, that reveals his will for mankind."

      Christians do not all believe God speaks to them. It's a matter of hyper-spiritualism vs. sensible faith.

      December 31, 2012 at 5:54 am |
  12. John

    Stanford?

    December 31, 2012 at 5:46 am |
  13. Alicia

    Wow.. lots of angry responses....in fact, most of them are angry. Can't imagine why.

    December 31, 2012 at 5:44 am |
  14. grounded

    If they aren't crazy, they are liars.

    December 31, 2012 at 5:44 am |
  15. angrychang

    garbage. its 2013, can we stop with this nonsense.

    December 31, 2012 at 5:41 am |
  16. Bishop Hairy Palms

    If you believe in a "God" who runs the entire universe yet has the time to speak to you but couldn't be bothered to lift a holly finger to stop the massacre of 20 innocent children in their kindergarden class in CT, you suffer from a very serious mental illness called religion.

    December 31, 2012 at 5:39 am |
    • acadiashores

      Just because God wasn't there in a way you could appreciate doesn't mean He wasn't there. For all we know, He was right there comforting the children as they passed. God has given people free will...which sadly means we have the ability to decide if we are going to do good things or bad things. It simply isn't fair to blame God when people do horrible things.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • Bishop Hairy Palms

      acadiashores

      Stop making excuses for your absentee sky daddy.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • Miss Demeanor

      RE: "It simply isn't fair to blame God when people do horrible things..."
      It is honest. And, as preachers are so fond of saying, who says life is fair. If your god wants to be praised, he should start acting praiseworthy. At least you didn't say, as preachers are so fond of saying, that innocent victims must not have been innocent or, that they 'had it coming'.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:30 am |
  17. John

    Why would you think this? Stanford?

    December 31, 2012 at 5:37 am |
  18. doug

    Ok, hearing a voice may not mean you're crazy. believing that a god is speaking to you does though.

    December 31, 2012 at 5:21 am |
  19. John

    Why is this on the front page?

    December 31, 2012 at 5:16 am |
    • midwest rail

      Because opinions on belief stir controversy, which generates page views and comments. Those in turn generate ad revenue.

      December 31, 2012 at 5:19 am |
  20. me

    What utter, imbecilic crap.

    December 31, 2012 at 4:58 am |
    • sam stone

      yet you took time to comment on it

      December 31, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • the AnViL

      yeah sam – i agree with me.... it is utter imbecilic crap.

      ms.luhrmann doesn't talk about a control group – and there's no mention of her spending any time studying other cultures or religious belief holders. many delusional people are reading this drivel and it's reinforcing their delusional thinking....

      what's wrong with reading the article – coming to the very obvious conclusion that it's utter imbecilic crap – then commenting on it?

      December 31, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • sam stone

      i suppose nothing

      December 31, 2012 at 6:54 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.