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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. Td

    Satan talks to me.

    Satan says "needs more cowbell"

    December 31, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • ViK100

      Yes.. That's because like most americans.. you smoke too much pot and other things, and are always looking to get high to escape your reality... and also.. you haven't met your creator.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • sam stone

      "you smoke too much pot and other things, and are always looking to get high to escape your reality" vik100

      translation: "my drug's better"

      December 31, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Satan

      I guess the other posters don't watch Sat. Night live 😀

      January 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  2. The Jackdaw

    Pseudoscience garbage. Those who believe this are a product of America’s garbage education system.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • ViK100

      Absolutely agree with you.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  3. Get Help

    What the hec is the pseudo-science crap. Shame on you CNN.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  4. Dyslexic doG

    OK People. God Here. I'm talking to you so listen up.

    First, I do not exist. If I did, I would hate you for being so fvcking stupid. I would probably smite you. 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 thoughts and actions of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.

    Second, if I did, 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.

    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 smited 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 for me to even 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 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

    December 31, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Colin

      Hmmm, looks familiar.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      It does look familiar. Same factless crap we've seen before.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Colin

      Really Uncouth Swain. What point do you disagree with? Pick one.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Grumpster

      Well put...but do you think they'll buy it?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Guy

      That was awesome

      December 31, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      1."the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible."

      No evidence to support that the Torah (the author seems a bit confused with timeframes and the notion of "Bible") came from Middle Eastern mythology. Sure there are opinions but everyone has those, so please..no appeals to authority.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      An imbecile wrote: "Same factless crap we've seen before."

      So, these are direct quotes from the bible?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • fidgetwidget

      One of the most well thought out, erudite arguments I've ever read debunking the existence of "god". To the author: Kudos.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Gumpster

      The whole thing is just an opinion of a limited, linear creature trying to say what a infinite being would think.
      Casn we say the author is nuts? Yes we can.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      An imbecile wrote: "So, these are direct quotes from the bible?"

      Odd little man, who ever said they were?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Colin

      No evidence the Torah comes from mythology hey? So you believe in a talking snake, the World being made in seven days, people living to be hundreds of years old, a talking donkey, a man living in a whales belly, the Red Sea splitting, a piece of stick turning into a snake, seven plagues, angels of death slaying first born children, etc. do you.

      Most of us call that mythology. Did you graduate third grade? Was the Flintstones your favorite doc.umentary?

      I used to prefer it when believers with half a brain were still aroun this blog site, if this idiot is the best they have left..

      December 31, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Gardner

      dys, you obviously have notion of what you pasted up there. It's pretty terrible.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Colin- Nice try Colin to change the subject.
      But you're attempt fails to prove that the Torah comes from Middle Eastern Mythology.

      Care to try again?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "your" I meant. Don't want to call upon the phantom of Tom,Tom on us.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Colin

      Are you really that dumb? I just gave half a dozen instances of mythology that riddles the Torah and you say I changed subjects? I'm sorry, but you are beneath arguing with.

      Next.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • ViK100

      F O O L! Keep believing in yourself.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • ViK100

      You will die. We have a place to go on to.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Colin- I am starting to wonder how dumb you are. I expect better from you than what I've been seeing.

      1. You gave your opinion on what is mythology in the Torah. You did not give one instance of where the Torah is made up of Middle Eastern Mythologies.

      2. I asked for facts on your statement and you try (and failed) to change the subject into what I believe. Epic fail on your part.

      3. Do I really have to go much into your left handed ad hominems? Another childish fail on your part.

      Maybe you should move on...you aren't doing well here this morning.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Well, well. Doesn't look like you're doing all that well, either, US.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Thanks for your opinion, we didn't have enough of those on here this morning.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • ??

      O god you are sooo silly.If you don't exist then who wrote that darned book?Touche !!

      December 31, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Grumpster

      Right on, Colin....the Torah and every other religious artifact ever found is just something that was made by people who didn't understand the world around them so they had to make up stuff to quell their fears of the unknown. They thought the earth was flat, and central to everything. They had no scientific understanding that wasn't warped by mythology, talking snakes, goblins and things that went bump in the night that they didn't know how to or have the capacity to figure out. So...2000+ years later, we're still suffering from that ignorance perpetuated on the masses because they still don't or can't comprehend physics, geography, biology, botany, oceanography or any other ology except God-Ology. It's all bunk.

      January 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  5. Johnny 5

    Fossils and geographical distribution do all the of talking. The rest is bunk.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Grumpster

      Yes, and those lunatics all think that carbon dating is a science scam and that fossils were planted by God 6000 years ago. Utter monons, the lot of them.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Grumpster

      Yes, and those lunatics all think that carbon dating is a science scam and that fossils were planted by God 6000 years ago. Utter morons, the lot of them.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  6. pillsville piper

    god still communicates with his people, doesn't matter to me if science construes it to be something else, doesn't matter what the rest of you think. i'm 59 years old now, nothing could change my mind about god. he usually speaks in a still small voice, but down through the years i have had a couple of visions (talk about a rush) and god has spoken to me numerous times. as much as i love science, there are some things that transcend the boundaries of science. God is real, Jesus truly did live and die and raise from the dead. I suggest those of you who don't know Him read the "words in red". i don't think you will find any fault in him.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • sybaris

      If you had been born and raised in Saudi Arabia you'd be touting the same "voices" and "visions" from Allah.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Ed Schultz

      Here is using science to prove god does not exist at all. Read below:

      Long story short:

      Love exists. If love exist, then a god that created love must contain MORE love than humans. Evil cannot create the universe, because evil cannot create love. (think about that one for a minute). Now, if god existed in the past, then he still
      exists today. I asked god to reveal himself to me HONESTLY for 10 years.
      Conclusion: god does not exist. Not some line in the sand, but more like a
      marathon runner collapsing at the end of a race because of fatigue.

      This "experiment" can be repeated for everyone. One necessary ingredient, however is HONESTY. You cannot claim that every coincidence is from god. For example, it you asked god to make it rain, and then it rains, that is only a coincidence. If god does exist, I am sure he is SMART enough to erase all doubts.
      Go ahead and state one illogical point I have made, and I will gladly change in search of the truth.

      Again, this is a very, very brief account. If you want a little more detail, then ask questions.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • the AnViL

      ed, i mean you no offence... but you need not do a thing... you need never prove something non-existence doesn't exist.

      the burden of proof will always rest firmly on the shoulders of those who claim gods exist....

      so sit back and enjoy.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  7. Bobert

    I keep hearing the voice of Toucan Sam. He keeps telling me the toilet paper I buy isnt soft enough... go figure.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  8. My own man

    Rationalizers of the world, unite! The issue is that people can only see the world through their little teeny lenses from their own personal perspective and lack of understanding of the brain and its functions. An educated person sees another person turn on a radio and enjoys the signal, or not. An ignorant (uneducated) person who has never seen technology before sees the same act and hears what could only be magical or divine voices emanating magically from the box. One person misses a flight or cruise ship which crashes and feels they got lucky – no god required. Another is sure the hand of (pick your deity of choice as there are plenty to choose from) somehow picked them out of the crowd and chose them for survival, no matter how many other people equally deserving of life didn't get chosen. The day when we fully understand our brains and consciousness is the day we start to put our little toy gods away and grow up.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  9. Dyslexic doG

    a religion based on an invisible sky daddy that impregnated another mans virgin wife to recreate itself then "sacrifice" itself to itself to atone for a faulty creation it made but knew full well before hand that it's creation would be faulty.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Dyslexic doG- "a religion based on an invisible sky daddy"

      There is no religion based on that. And you name would be more clever if you did it all backwards.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Colin

      Uncouth Swain – no religion based on an invisible sky-daddy hey?

      " Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name". Recognize it?

      Want to try again?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Try what again..you haven't countered by orginal statement..just tried to redefine it. And you failed.

      Wanna try again?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      there is no religion based on that?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Dyslexic doG- "there is no religion based on that?"

      Nope..unless you can find me a religion that actually says "invisible sky-daddy".

      December 31, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Colin

      Uncouth. Look up a dictionary. Dad, daddy and father are the same person. "In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy spirit". You know, the three sky fairies that make up the one sky-daddy you simpletons still believe in.

      You pathetic idiot, you don't even know when to quit.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Colin "Dad, daddy and father are the same person."

      Hmm, I guess you ignore the aspect of reverence don't you. How sad.

      "You know, the three sky fairies that make up the one sky-daddy you simpletons still believe in."

      I know of no one that worships fairies or even the older term fey. Do you?
      Hmm..another ad hominem from you. How sad.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  10. Stoneaxe

    What this "research" indicates to me the power of the human mind. If you believe in something so strongly your brain provides you with "evidence" of what you are seeking.

    God in the biblical heaven/hell sense is just utter nonsense; not to say I don't believe there is something which is "out there" that I don't pretend to understand but most human interpretations are there strictly to control the masses. Religion is just another form of control.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  11. well

    as a child I refused to accept the magical religious stories people claimed, I even refused the church because I saw the fakeness of it. I still believed in God though, just not the financial empire mind control god modern churches and religious cults promote, I experienced somethings for myself and spent all of my life doing an immense amount of research trying to find a scientific and reasonable explanation of what and how. Quantum physics makes me happy. I've since learned some things should not be shared, despite their worthiness of being scientifically studied. I even have hard evidence but it will die with me. Humanity loves entertainment, lies and vanity. They deserve to have what they love. Now I enjoy making fake ufo and ghost videos, and I can make them look very very real, despite their irrelevance to my experiences. If your heart is right and for some divine purpose you need to experience something, you will...but it's not because whatever it is wants to be on youtube lol. – .... If i had to sum up what I've learned from it all ..I'll say ...Have faith and be patient, be kind, have compassion and love each other – it need not be any more mystical, mysterious and magical than that. it really doesn't. If you want to experience real magic, fill the world with love – don't hold your breath on that one though lol.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  12. Archangel Michael

    I hear voices at church

    I hear voices at the mall

    I hear voices at restaurants

    I hear voices in music

    I heard the voice in my mind say I hear the voice in my mind

    Dear God I'm a nutjob

    December 31, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  13. ViK100

    Why do non-believers try to explain something they don't understand??? God talks to me everyday in every aspect of my life. People want to see God descend from the sky in a white horse so they can believe... they lack faith. They don't have faith in what they see much less in what's unseen to the eye. They want to use their limited reasoning to explain something so BIG when the reality is that no words exist to describe it. I am a Christian. I understand Christianity. Atheists do not understand it yet they pretend to know it. Fools!

    December 31, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      it's time for your meds ViK.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Grumpster

      Sorry...but you're a loon.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • MagicPanties

      My invisible pink unicorn understands and is praying for you.
      You may not get that as she is a super complex unicorn, but I hope one day that you will.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • WhatIsWrongWithYou

      Raised Catholic, I have attended CCD until the age of 12 – read the bible 4 times cover to cover, and am, according to your definitions an Atheist. It's likely I know more than you. Your empty assumptions do nothing to further your side of the debate. Try facts, or just step out of the debate with your belief firm in hand and let us discuss things amonst ourselves.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      MP, if you want to believe in unicorns or teapots or whatever...it's up to you. It's your right to believe what you want as long as you do not interfere with other ppl's rights.
      Correct?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Thoth

      Faith, by definition abandons reason, yet you accuse those that demand reason of having limited reason. I suspect you don't see the problem with that reasoning.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • ViK100

      @Whatswrongwithyou – LOL! raised Catholic, read the bible 4 times?.. Wow, you're a true atheist. Just because you grew up going to Sunday mass and read the bible 1million times it does not mean Anything!, Nothing! Zero!.. Christianity is not about that. Christianity is not a religion, an idea, or a philosophy of some sort.. Christianity is a way of life. You either live it or you don't. You were never a Catholic. The Bible is just a book with pages and a buch of letters.. The skeleton if you may.. but the skeleton without flesh, without a body, without the spirit and soul, it is nothing. You have to live it. Just as if you are a Doctor.. you can go to school, read a million books, get your PhD, yet if you don't practice it and save lives, what good is it? Christianity must be lived or you are not a Christian.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • cdg

      I was raised in one of your mind numbing and intelligence destroying Christian cults. I then reached the age of reason and began to question the inherent insanity of believing in the absolute truth of stories in your book that were lifted wholesale from preceding Asyrian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Anatolian cultures. 2 of every animal and plant species on the earth fit into a vessel smaller than a WWII aircraft carrier? A man lived in the belly of a whale for days in the Mediterranean sea? Come on, no one is really that clueless are they? Really?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Rick

      So, atheists can't understand Christianity but Christians can pretend to understand atheism?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • hingie68

      ViK100 – Don't pay any mind to these lost foolish souls! They will see soon enough and will cast into eternal damnation and the sad think is, only a really foolish person would sit there and geer and laugh at someone else. You are correct, when people have no concept of something, their first reaction is to mock and ridicule so as to attempt to bring the other person down to their pathetic level in life. Keep the faith!!!

      December 31, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Thoth- "Faith, by definition abandons reason,"

      Not really. Faith does not exclude reason but does have hope in with it and that's not instantly bad. He all have hope we are loved and that the day will be better than the next though "reason" might not support those notions.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • sybaris

      "People want to see God descend from the sky in a white horse so they can believe... they lack faith"

      Stop making excuses

      Your god allegedly showed itself and spoke directly to Moses and a couple other people in your bible. It's not an unreasonable request for an omnipotent ent.ity to do it today.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • cdg

      You know what else was a way of life? Living in Jonestown with Jim Jones, or being a member of the Halebob comet club, being a part of the Manson family, etc. Your problem is that you blindly accept the core tenants of your faith without once ever stopping to question whether they are inherently insane. Blindly dedicating yourself to anything is not the sign of a rational mind. Period.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Thoth

      @Uncouth – Faith: Belief based soley on trust (Latin Fides, meaning trust) Belief without proof or reason. You cannot follow a true path of reason using what we know today (the same as people used what they knew 3-4 thousand years ago) and conclude there is a god of any sort.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Thoth- You are welcome to your opinion on the incompatible nature of reason and faith. I simply disagree.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Thoth

      @Uncouth – I'm happy to have differing opinions, but the definition of faith is not a matter of my opinion. Certainly there are many smarter, more educated people than myself who have attempted to apply reason and logic to faith, but in my opinion, supported by the growing number of non-believers, they have been unconvincing with all their rationalizing. I don't believe all religious people are dumb. I think most believe they are applying reason while subconsciously compartmentalizing logic to avoid CD. That of course is my opinion.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • tallulah13

      Vik, every true believer of every god that has ever been worshiped has felt the conviction that you do. It doesn't mean that any of these gods (even yours) actually existed. It just means that true believers have convinced themselves that their god exists.
      I am not looking for god on a white horse. I am looking for just a single shred of evidence that any of these gods has ever existed. But there isn't any, therefore I cannot believe. There are many emotional reasons to believe in god(s), but not a single rational one.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Thoth- Just want to say thank you for being the way you are on here. We may disagree but it's nice to disagree with someone that doesn't resort to name calling and other horrible ad hominems. Have a good New Year.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  14. chuck

    Voices in your head are called "thoughts" by rational people.If that "voice" tells you it's god you indeed are nuts.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      So says Dr. chuck.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  15. Robert Brown

    Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

    The truth *shall* set you free! Hallelujah!

    The truth is, God is real and comparing Superman, Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, Bogeyman, Batman or other gods, to God is both childish and foolish. How many people do you know who go to supermans house once, twice, three times a week to worship him?

    December 31, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Thanks for proving my point.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Little Johnny

      Hey Robert
      I am allowed to play my Harry Potter video game 2 hours everyday, does that count as a religion? I love Harry.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Thoth

      Structures constructed by man are simply that. What of all the temples and statues built to honor all the "other" gods? Gods that were worshipped as long, and by as many (by percentage of population) as your version? Why do you consider them myth and yours truth?

      Here is an undisputable fact: ALL religions were born of man's imagination. You can debate what inspired those thoughts, but not the fact that religions are inventions of man.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      every year millions of children write letters to Santa and fervently hope he will bring them things. We see the image of Santa everywhere! Santa is in many books!

      Just because man worships somethng, doesn't make it real. There is no more evidence of God than there is of Santa.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Grumpster

      Keep on defending your god while saying that all the other gods that came before yours are not legitimate and you start to sound like the sort of person you don't want to hang around with. Closed mindedness makes you think yours is the only possible god and that those who believe in Buddha, Rah, Allah, or other gods (including all the Native American ones) must be false...what makes you so special? Just as you so easily dismiss all other gods, you should understand why there are an increasing number of individuals who dismiss yours. They all have no basis in reality.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "what makes you so special?"

      There seems to be some confusion over having faith and thinking one to be so much better than anyone else. Just because one has a faith, whether in God, Bhrama, nihilism, science..etc, it does not mean that person thinks they are superior. That is a false dichotomy.
      I hope we are at the point in our civilization that we can respect (if not agree) others with different viewpoints. After all, are we not suppose to be inclusive in our society?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Rick

      The tooth fairy is a god?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Thoth,

      Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus, not a religion. Men have made a religion out of Christianity, but all the ritual is meaningless without Christ.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Dyslexic doG,

      I think the comparison is ridiculous, I just don’t get it.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Grumpster,
      My God is the only one I know, read the article. If my God has communicated with me and I know he is a jealous God, why would I have anything to do with your laundry list?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      "I think the comparison is ridiculous, I just don’t get it."

      Of course you don't get it. It's called "stupidity".

      December 31, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Uncouth Swain,

      Agree, as one poster put it a little civility goes a long way, and no I don’t think I am better than you.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • the AnViL

      robert brown

      "Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus, not a religion."

      wrong.

      xianity is a monotheistic abrahamic religion. there isn't anything you can do or say to change that.

      zoop!

      December 31, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Little Johnny

      Dyslexic doG
      Sanat is for sure real and he has a hairy asz, I saw him on top of mommy, so there.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  16. Robert Brown

    the AnViL

    come and embrace reality. God is real, there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. reject the delusion of atheism. ......evolve.

    zing!

    December 31, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Replies like this only prove your complete lack of independent thought.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • the AnViL

      robert brown – you are delusional.

      there are no gods – no matter how vehement you may be on the issue.

      you've precisely zero evidence.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • MagicPanties

      The hell part is especially revealing.

      So this all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving god will torture me for eternity when I die simply because I don't profess my love.
      Wow, what's not to like?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      MP, I don't think that is a critieria in Christianity.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Can you prove that the concept of God was created?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      wasn't Robert being sarcastic?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Robert Brown

      the AnViL,
      I am no more delusional than you,

      In a day of illusions
      And utter confusions,
      Upon our delusions
      We base our conclusions

      -Author unknown

      December 31, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Robert Brown

      MagicPanties,

      The choice is yours, good or bad, heaven or hell, God or yourself. If you reject him he will reject you, what do you expect, his justice is perfect.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • the AnViL

      robert brown –

      if you believe in an imaginary man in the sky – you are delusional.

      you do... i do not.

      game – set – match

      thank you for playing... better luck next time.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  17. Robert Brown

    barry heath

    Atheism is a mental illness,period..if you are an athiest,then you are suffering from delusion and need therapy...

    December 31, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Jaws

      Didn't Jesus say something about judging others? Your words here do not echo anything productive.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • the AnViL

      atheism is the default.

      "no belief" isn't delusional.

      you're positing trash. you've no substance..... is this the best you can do?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Robert Brown

      I copied these three posts by atheist from the previous page and changed a couple of words like religious to atheist. I think the point is obvious.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      "I copied these three posts by atheist from the previous page and changed a couple of words like religious to atheist. I think the point is obvious."

      Indeed it is obvious, yet so was his reply. Apparently it wasn't obvious enough for *you*. My point stands: you are unable to think for yourself, therefore you must copy others.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • novak

      You need help my friend

      December 31, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • cwrighta70

      Jaws, you take the word judging out of context here and use it incorrectly. His post wasn't 'judging', especially in the biblical sense. Unfortunately, non-christians have these very stereotypical rebuttals, which they don't understand in the least, and constantly use them out of their own ignorance.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      cwrighta provides a perfect example of delusional thinking, even going as far as to try and logically dismiss that which cannot be dismissed. Are believers all so utterly devoid of intelligence?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • the AnViL

      "I think the point is obvious..."

      yes – that you are angry, confused, and delusional.

      was there something else?

      did we miss something?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  18. Doc Vestibule

    God speaks to people all the time.
    In 2008, He told Boyce Singleton Jr. to shoot and stab his pregnant girlfriend.
    Deanna Laney heard God direct her to bludgeon her three sons, aged 9, 6 and 15 months. Only the youngest survived.
    Blair Donnelly received instructions to stab to death his 16 year old daughter, Stephanie.
    Christopher Varian was slaughtered with a cheese knife after God spoke with one of his employees.
    God told Jennifer Cisowski to dash her infant's head on the rocks, so ""Just like Jesus raised Lazarus, I threw the baby on the stones by the pool."
    Khandi Busby got a direct message from God advising her that the only way to save her 6 and 8 year old boys was to toss them off a bridge in Dallas. Fortunately, they survived.
    Angel Rico says he received a divine command to strangle his 4 year old son, so he did just that and left him at the side of the highway.
    Lashaun Harris threw her 3 young kids into the San Francisco Bay after God let her know that He wanted a human sacrifice.
    All of these people have been found legally insane by the judicial system, so if you hear God's voice speaking to you, it's time to check with your local psych ward to see if you need a huggy jacket.

    December 31, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Jaws

      Obviously things like credentials and statistics are useless words to you. There are plenty of people, myself included, who claim to hear God and don't go killing people. I'd guess that we vastly outnumber the few examples you cite.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • cdg

      And don't forget Andrea Yates, who out of fear of divine punishment that her kids would grow to be sinners drowned all of them in the family bathtub. Isn't religion wonderful!?

      December 31, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Jaws mindlessly blathered the following nonsense: "There are plenty of people, myself included, who claim to hear God and don't go killing people"

      Just because they haven't *yet* harmed anyone, does not make them harmless. Seek professional help.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • WhatIsWrongWithYou

      Yes Jaws...I too talk to God on the daily....and She says you are all completely wrong, and I will stand by his side as his right hand man.

      You see how I can make empty claims that cannot be refuted. You can call me crazy or trying to prove a point, and that would be no different from what you are doing. If you truly "Hear God", seek help.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • me

      @jaws You say you have conversations with this God and that you haven't harmed anyone. So what will you do when this voice tells you that you must harm someone to save your soul? Think back to Abraham, your "God" told this man to sacrifice his own son on an altar with a knife. What "loving" god would ever command a man to kill his own son? Granted the voice did stop him at the last second because Abraham was actually going to do it as he was blindly following orders of an unseen voice. That is the danger of faith. Abraham valued the commands of this voice over the life of his own son.

      I for one will never bow to any being who commands me to harm anything to show my loyalty.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  19. Sam

    People can convince themselves of anything. And sometimes their just nuts. Son of Sam heard voices too

    December 31, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  20. Cathy B

    Dear Tanya, Thank you for the interesting, reassuring and inspiring article about the phenomenon of audible (imaginary) voices. We don't usually associate research with things like spirituality and prayer, but in a secular society and in a public forum the scientific method may be the only as well as the strongest voice. I always assumed Christians who prayed and expected to hear a response from God through a bible passage or "inner voice" were not crazy but simply practicing their faith. I loved your examples of MLK Jr. and Oliver Sacks and for your distinction between the positive and negative messages. Have a wonderful new year.

    December 31, 2012 at 8:47 am |
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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.