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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. AtheistSteve

    As brainy animals we humans are at the top of the pyramid. Man is the most (and I'm using the term loosely) intelligent lifeform on the planet. Yet believers are quick to inform us that we are not perfect That we lack absolute, complete knowledge. Hey ...no argument from me there. But to go from that to saying that an all-perfect, all-knowing, supreme intelligence exists simply by pointing out our failings is a complete non-sequitur. It simply does not follow.
    That's like saying the following.... A cheetah is the fastest land animal on the planet. But the cheetah is not the perfect runner. Therefore there must be a super-cheetah. A non-corporeal perfect running animal that can travel at the speed of light...no wait.. faster than the speed of light because light speed is limiting its super abillities.
    See how silly that argument is?

    December 31, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      Your comparison is not the same and that is why you think it is not a valid point. You abviously know little about the point your are trying to make.

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

      Astronomers are assuming aliens exist and physicists have been hawking extra invisible dimensions for a while. So I suppose everyone has their thing.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Rob: How is his compassion not the same and how is it you make such a judgement that he obviously doesn't know about the point he is trying to make? Is it due to the fact that his point doesn't coincide with the what you believe?

      December 31, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      How is it not valid? We evolved our intellect. Cheetahs evolved there ability to run fast. You are jumping to the same extreme conclusion about a supreme intellect that I made for the cheetahs speedy ultimate incarnation.
      The point is that claiming we are fallible doesn't in any way point to an unfallible being. It's simply begging the question...a typical falllacy.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      @ Poltergeist

      Astronomers merely posit the probability that life(not necessarily intelligent life)exists elswhere given the vast number of probable life-friendly planets out there. And multiverses are an interesting mathematical hypothesis...not theory or actual belief. Big difference there.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      We could start with the archeological evidence of the numerous parts of the Bible. Then we could debate who created the Cheeta and how it came into being. However, it would be irrelivant because a Cheeta does not have a soul. So its like talking about cars and space ships. The both have fuel and carry people to a desitination but they are not the same.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Poltergiest

      I never really heard fallibility proves infallibility argument. Have heard of straw-men however.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Oops..sorry ...misread what you posted. Extra dimensions are again mathematical constructs. The quest for a grand unifying theory depends on 11 dimensions to make the math work. Gravity is a sticky situation in quantum physics. But in any case the use of esoteric math to probe quantum physics is hardly equal to claims of a super perfect being...that can't be measured or quantified in any way.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Poltergiest

      Steve, science follows trends, a hypothesis pops up and even if it's not accept as a "fact" good luck offering a competing theory, even if it's logical. The point is, at some level people are always picking things to "believe" in without absolute proof.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      @Rob-Texas

      Throwing a further unknown like a soul doesn't aid your argument. You have yet to provide a credible reason to believe such a thing exists either. Saying we have a soul doesn't make it true. Any more than saying we aren't perfect shows that a perfect being exists.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      @Poltergiest

      You're right about that. Science doesn't deal in absolutes. All is probability. Only religion posits absolutes...without justification.
      That's why I argue against claims about absolute knowledge or absolute intelligence. Science merely strives to model reality and thus will always be based on incomplete knowledge. But certainty of validity can be assumed when probability reaches a high degree. Newtons Laws are approximations but they are reliable enough that we can feel justified in making predictions in reality based on them. It is axiomatic to say they apply everywhere in the universe but we have no reason to expect them not to....unless we discover differently...and then we change the science to accomodate.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      @Poltergiest

      Begging the question...that's a fallacy.
      Statement 1): Man is fallible and has incomplete knowledge.. 2)God is infallible and has absolute knowledge. The first part is self evident. The second part is merely claimed and not causally linked to the first. Begs the question "Is man fallible BECAUSE God is infallible?" Or even reversed Is God infallible BECAUSE man is fallible? Both are logical nonsense.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  2. Christianity is a form of mental illness- FACT

    (1) Hallucinations – the person has invisible friends who (s)he insists are real, and to whom (s)he speaks daily, even though nobody can actually see or hear
    these friends.

    (2) Delusions – the patient believes that the invisible friends have magical powers to make them rich, cure cancer, bring about world peace, and will do so eventually if asked.

    (3) Denial/Inability to learn – though the requests for world peace remain unanswered, even after hundreds of years, the patients persist with the praying behaviour, each time expecting different results.

    (4) Inability to distinguish fantasy from reality – the beliefs are contingent upon ancient mythology being accepted as historical fact.

    (5) Paranoia – the belief that anyone who does not share their supernatural concept of reality is "evil," "the devil," "an agent of Satan".

    (6) Emotional abuse – ­ religious concepts such as sin, hell, cause feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and other types of emotional "baggage" which can scar the
    psyche for life.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Poltergiest

      There are plenty of people getting abused for secular reasons. Abusive people abuse, they don't really need justification.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • EPAB

      Although I completely agree with you, I would like to add that part of the reason for this behavior lies in the fact that all religions, especially the RCC, endeavor to get control of children at a very early age and brainwash them with their nonsense. It is very difficult to shake off a belief system that is instilled at a very early age.

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

      Well put!!! Plus the author of this article is writing as if she knows and has PROOF these 3 people heard anything, let alone GOD???

      December 31, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      Crazy-Person who thinks posting on the internet makes a valid argument to anyone that will listen.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Poltergiest

      Religion plays a role in abusive behavior the same way school, or government, or any other aspect of someones life might, you can find bad people anywhere, period. Someone who is already abusive might claim they are acting out of faith because they happen to be Christian too. But if a person is already willing to abuse another, they'll find a way to justify it, they don't need a bible to co-sign their actions.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Christianity is a form of mental illness- FACT

      Poltergiest

      There are plenty of people getting abused for secular reasons. Abusive people abuse, they don't really need justification.
      .
      Poltergiest

      Religion plays a role in abusive behavior the same way school, or government, or any other aspect of someones life might, you can find bad people anywhere, period. Someone who is already abusive might claim they are acting out of faith because they happen to be Christian too. But if a person is already willing to abuse another, they'll find a way to justify it, they don't need a bible to co-sign their actions.
      .
      .
      What does this have to do with the subject matter???? Did we say all abuse????? No need to discount abuse found in religion.No need to reduce the victims abuse and pain in an attempt to defend religion.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Dave

      Believing things that are not true is not a symptom of mental illness.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of mental illness- FACT

      Dave

      Believing things that are not true is not a symptom of mental illness.
      .
      Believing in things that are not real such as fairies, goblins, santa, bridge trolls, mythical creatures, wizards of the earth and sky, magic aka casting spells as adults is a symptom of mental illness.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of mental illness- FACT

      Mental disorders are generally defined by a combination of how a person feels, acts, thinks or perceives.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  3. Imma Annoid

    LOL. If you think hearing voices is not a mental problem or indicative of a brain disorder, then you need to go back to school. Beyond even that, believing that "god" is speaking to you is a mental problem.

    Honey, let me tell you, there ain't no such thing as god!

    December 31, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      Thanks for your all seeing wisdom. You must be the smartest person on the planet. Please inlighten us with more of your wisdom.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Chat Pata

      There is no god? Then who puts that candy under my pillow for saying prayers before I go to sleep? My parents? Next you will tell me there is no Santa, no scrooge, no grinch, no Jack Frost, no elves,

      December 31, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  4. Tom Sawyer

    I'm guessing that there are people of all religions having this sort of experience–so whose god is it that's doing the talking?

    December 31, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • lol??

      If the atheists weren't hiding 394,000 years of history maybe the culture could progress.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      @lol??
      lol

      December 31, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  5. Miguel

    Tayna, a slight increase in your meds will make the voices go away, but you probably don't really want them too.
    Your piece is a nut magnet. Those who LOVE to hate, will flock to you. I hope Stanford is not paying you.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Miguel has no life

      Miguel has got life all figured out...so he is free to be an as.shole.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  6. clubschadenfreude

    Claiming that some god talks to you isn't necessarily crazy. Children think that their imaginary friends talk to them. Would you call a child crazy? Most likely not. But when an adult claims that their god has talked to them, it can be very harmful. My former church split up very nastily when a woman in it claimed that God talked to her and said that the old church needed torn down and a new one built. Some people believed her and some didn't. Both sides still don't like each other nearly 30 years after this nonsense happened. There is no way to determine if a god spoke to someone, just like there is no way to determine if any gods exist at all. Each version of god is just the personal feelings of the human making the claim. Best not to claim that one's iimaginary friend is more important that someone else's but Christians and other believers do it all of the time and hurt each other over such nonsense.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • lol??

      "1Ti 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

      December 31, 2012 at 10:35 am |
      • clubschadenfreude

        yep, that's one of the more stupid bits of the bible. I do enjoy when Christians ignore it, insisting that their god didn't mean *that* bit. Happily, many of them aren't that primitive but claiming that any of the bible is from some god is ridiculous and simply cherry picking to make yourself feel like a special snowflake.

        December 31, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • lol??

      Oh, I see now why you had trouble with your ClubGod.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:55 am |
      • clubschadenfreude

        No idea what you are talking about. You wish to mention a verse from the bible that shows how idiotic teh bible is in its commands. and now you seem to be deciding that only you know what this god "really meant".

        December 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  7. toodark

    OK....so......just because it isn't schizophrenia doesn't mean it's entirely sane to take "words you hear in your mind" at face value. We all have some degree of internal dialogue and for me it takes place as a hypothetical conversation between myself and someone I may need to address. I work difficult situations out that way in my mind all the time but I've never diluded myself into thinking that there was a separate mind speaking back.

    That's the trouble with allowing yourself to accept things that the most basic rationality tells you cannot be true. Our beliefs inform our actions. According to Deuteronomy, " Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone." How about Noah...god spoke to him too. Do you believe his age to be over 9 centuries as the bible says? When you believe things for bad reasons, (I.e. the bible says so) you open your mind to infection of all kinds of nonsense.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • .

      test
      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaNH56Vpg-A&w=640&h=390&rel=0]

      June 4, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • .

      [youtube=<insert YouTube hyperlink here>&w=640&h=390&rel=0]

      June 4, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  8. Jesus was a space alien

    Stop looking for imaginary beings in the clouds to solve your problems. Take self responsibility and make the best life possibile for yourself and others. Live with purpose and sustainability.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      amen!!

      December 31, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • lol??

      C'mon dude, it's just rehashed Hinduism. Can't you create?

      December 31, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      Do you really think that the majority of Christians don't take responsibility for their actions and live up to their full potiential? If you do, you are seriously misguided. Most likely you are surrounded by Christians in your community in leadership positions and people that get the job done, while others are the ones waiting for someone else to solve their problems. I don't think I have ever heard a Christain say, "Woe is me."

      December 31, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Rob: No they don't....when something good happens, they credit it to their imaginary friend instead of giving credit where credit is due. If they hear a voice telling them to kill, they do so and then place the blame on being told by that voice (in this case god)...this is the equivalent of religious psychosis, which is exactly what Andrea Yates was diagnosed as suffering from when she heard her imaginary friend tell her to drown her five innocent children. Everything good they do is credited to their imaginary friend or if it's bad, they credit it to their imaginary friends arch enemy (aka satan).

      December 31, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  9. GO_GOP

    I dont care about the atheists really. They will anyways rot in hell. All I know is our LORD is real and this country was founded as a White, Christian country and that is what made us great. All others can leave my country.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • the AnViL

      you are the perfect spokesman for conservative xian values in this country

      keep up the good work!

      December 31, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Anvil: Thanks brother. Join me in praying so that we can take back the country.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • sybaris

      Careful, don't get your white sheet and pointy hat dirty

      December 31, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • todd in DC

      The KKK is alive and well, apparently.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      come on folks. let's not feed the trolls.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Chantal

      His name is GO_GOP, silly beavers. He's posing as a stereotype to troll.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, GO_GOP, but your post contains only unfounded assertions and falsehoods.

      The "LORD" is an element of mythology; not real; and therefore your statement about the "LORD" is unfounded.

      The United States of America was not founded on the Christian religion, therefore your statement to the contrary is a falsehood.

      Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".

      December 31, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • christ_child1991

      The lord is real amen I will join you in prayer as I personally know a few who dont care about it so brother GO_GOP im with ya on the prayer to keep people out of hell

      December 31, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Poltergiest

      Like I've always said, if your greatest accomplishment is being the same color as someone unrelated to you that accomplished something, you probably should hide your face under a sheet.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Andrew

      Sounds pretty Christian to me. "Love our own, everyone else can get out." Sad.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      christ_child1991: Sounds like you need to get back to studying there little one (start with some science). You're far too young to be speaking with adults...now run along and be a good little lamb.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  10. sybaris

    John 3:16 God so hated its creation that it borrowed a human body and fooled 1/3 of the world into thinking its "death" would suffice for their redemption.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      beautiful!

      December 31, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  11. Robin Bray

    Hallucinations happen in many forms. Taste, touch, visually and quite often are heard. There are many triggers that cause this to happen, stress, diet, injury, boredom, suggestion, fear and many other factors. These events seem real and only after time with assistance is the true cause revealed. It is very common for the visually impaired to have hallucinations caused by various syndromes such as CBS, Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Hallucinations and a belief in a deity are two separate issues though. And it should be made clear that the first does not prove the existence of the second.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  12. EPAB

    Are you listening? If you think you hear the voice of God you are completely, totally, and irredeemably off your rocker.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Dave

      Kindof missing the point of her work, aren't you?

      Auditory hallucinations take many forms, few of which are classified as symptoms of mental illness.

      I myself have thought I heard a voice...half awake in the middle of the night, or walking through a dark and creepy room, adrenaline pumping out of fear.

      We are not tied to a our senses in the concrete manner many of us would like to believe, and it is not mental illness to discover that fact.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  13. Rick

    Sorry, but if you hear voices in your head, it isn't a make believe god, you have psychological issues.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • christ_child1991

      Well then if that is the case then I need a therapist o wait I have and his name is GOD

      December 31, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  14. The Jackdaw

    I only listen to Gandolf. His advice is more practical and he does not tell people to wipe out entire populations and when there is a fight to be fought, he gets in there and helps instead of hiding in the clouds.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • sorberj

      "he does not tell people to wipe out entire populations..." –Tell that to the Orcs

      December 31, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Gandolf did not wipe out the Orcs, he only fought them when they attacked. He never lead a campaign to rid Middle Earth of Orcs.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • christ_child1991

      Just putting this out there GOD does tell us to kill he tells us to love

      December 31, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      "GOD does tell us to kill he tells us to love." I guess he wants us to love each other to death.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • christ_child1991

      sorry typo GOD does not tell us to kill my bad

      December 31, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      http://www.biblicalnonsense.com/chapter9.html

      Read up, god lover.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Raven

      Hmm...I would say that Jack is appealing to an authority...but it's a website for crying out loud.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  15. JonathanL

    If you think you really hear God audibly you are crazy. You can imagine you hear him, however you do not. If you can't discern the difference between what you imagine and what is real then you have crossed the ine into a state of psychosis. It is called hallucinating. Call a spade a spade. It is very possible that all these prophets who fasted were hallucinating. Anyone who knows anything about survival, knows that after 3 days of no food, you start to enter a state of psychosis. This happens after only 24 hours without water. So in the middle east, where water is very scarce, this may have been or still may be why there is such a prevalence insane behavior, such crazy stories about meeting spirits, abgles asnd deities and hearing voices and seeing things like talking burning bushes that don't burn. With so many drug abusers (more than half the population at one point or another), combined with so many diagnosed with mental disorders, I would not be so ready to assume that people who are hearing things are not just crazy.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Poltergiest

      Hallucinations do occur in the general population without psychosis. They can occur due to sensory deprivation, fatigue, stress, or spontaneously. This has nothing to do with whether or not they believe it's God, that's just how the human mind can work. Prayer and meditative states can also cause mental phenomena as the mind shifts states. Dreams can also be considered an hallucinatory experience.

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

    To all the @theists, I know religion makes you feel good. It would make me feel good to believe that I had a thousand dollars in my wallet, until I pulled it out to pay the rent. This is what happens all to frequently. You pray when someone is ill. If they die, it was the damn negligent doctor that needs to be sued. If they live, it was all the heartfelt prayers of the faithful. Religion takes credit for the good and shucks the rest off to God's will or some such nonsense. And don't tell me this doesn't happen, because it is happening to my Aunt at the moment.

    December 31, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Poltergiest

      The prayer is not going to hurt her either. Since those peoples aren't doctors that's all they can really offer, at least it shows support.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      As a matter of fact, Pol, a study done recently showed that in fact, prayer CAN hurt. The patients who knew they were in the prayers of others actually fared more poorly.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Crowgirls

      Seems there is some confusion on your part about prayer and knowing you are being prayed for.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No confusion at all. I do notice, though, that you have no statistics or studies cited in your post that support your belief. Why is that?

      December 31, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • EPAB

      Christianity teaches that God is all good. So all good things that happen are attributed to Him and all bad things to the devil. Of course some good things for me are bad things for someone else. And of course God is all powerful so nothing bad can happen anyway without His approval. All a total pile of .....

      December 31, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      December 31, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Good job on that screen name, herbie, since you spend so much time eating your namesake.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Poltergiest

      Just read the article "At least 10 studies of the effects of prayer have been carried out in the last six years, with mixed results." So just pick your favorite study and Believe.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You can believe all you want. It won't make a bit of difference.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why bother to misspell "poltergeist?"

      December 31, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Crowgirls

      Actually, my statement is still correct. You don't know the difference between prayer and the knowledge of being prayed for.
      You study (did you even read it?) didn't say that prayer itself was bad but the knowledge of being prayed for.

      Even Dr. Bethea said, "the role of awareness of prayer" and not prayer of itself.

      Try and pay attention before you decide to make a fool of yourself in the future.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/the-power-of-faith-and-prayer/

      December 31, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Poltergiest

      I don't believe in studies when they are conflicting Tom, you're the one showing us the link. Why bother having a statement for a name?

      December 31, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gee, Crow, you seem a little angry. Did I put a cap in your ass on some other thread? Poor baby.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What "statement" do you see, honey? Why bother discussing any article when you can't even figure out the "i before e" thing?

      December 31, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Ah, well, I won't be able to stick around and watch the trolls continue to embarrass themselves. I'm off to the Red Cross to donate blood. I suspect that my contribution will do far more to heal someone than any prayer can. If you can prove otherwise, by all means, go right ahead.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Poltergiest

      Because Tom, simple because. So, which of the studies are you placing your faith in?

      December 31, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Because Tom, simple because."

      And you actually called that a sentence? Wow....

      When you get your GED, alert the media.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Crowgirls

      I am sorry you feel the need to express yourself with violent laced language Tom. I am also sorry that you misunderstood the very article you were citing.
      But if you wish to keep spreading incorrect as sumptions, there isn't much a rational person can do about it.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the idiot

      God or no God, Tom, Tom makes me cringe and dislike. What. An. Idiot!

      December 31, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Poltergiest

      You remind me of my buddy Leonard, Tom. He was always antagonizing when he ran out of things to say too.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  17. Dyslexic doG

    Uncouth Swain: this one's for you. 🙂

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=88GTUXvp-50

    December 31, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  18. charles darwin

    What is CNN trying to prove by putting this crap on the front page?
    Cnn used to be a good news source but over the last few years has become an irritation and a poor excuse.

    Where is Ted Turner?

    December 31, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      I heard Ted Turner's voice speaking to me once, out of a magic box on a mountainside near a burning bush.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • EPAB

      I heard that voice too but I thought it was Jane Fonda. I guess we all hear what we want to hear.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • todd in DC

      Try new "Glacial Creme" to help quelnch that burning bush of yours...

      December 31, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • palintwit

      CNN was never a good new source.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Dave

      I think the science behind hallucinations is interesting and newsworthy. It's a subject we all can relate to either directly or indirectly, and something I highly doubt most readers know much about at all.

      I don't know why you have a problem with it.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  19. lol??

    After 400,000 years the atheists haven't figured out yet how to make paradise on earth? Better yet, how come after all this time men still have gods? What is it with these dustballs? Slow learners must be it.

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

      The term ignorant masses exists for a reason. The fact that so many versions of god have been produced throughout man's existance is a pretty good indicator that they are human inventions.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Poltergiest

      Or different interpretations of the same phenomena, Thoth.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Atheists are slow learners? They apply critical thinking in an attempt to truly understand the universe around them, including the mythologies created by mankind, and they are the “slow learners”? You believe something that there is absolutely no evidence for. You follow what you have been taught, probably out of fear of what will happen to you if you do not. You apply no critical thinking and react robotically to those who have by calling them “blind” or “stupid”. You attack the individuals who do not agree with you instead of challenging their views directly; are you afraid that your views will not withstand critical thinking and counter evidence? You dismiss reality in favor of an unsupportable fantasy, yet those who do not are “slow learners”. Your God is relegated to an ever decreasing pocket of scientific ignorance. In today’s world, with all the information that is available to us, we owe it to ourselves to try a little harder than that.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Thoth

      @Poltergiest – different interpretations? So polytheism and monotheism are simply differing interpretations? And yet so specific each religion is to a particular culture. Reason would imply some microelement of consistency.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • The serpent

      400,000 years? Don't you know that according to the Bible, the earth is only about 6000 years old? Talk about a slow learner! I guess you're less of a believer than you thought!
      Poor god believers..... After thousands of years, they still can't agree on which of the thousands of gods is the real one.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • the AnViL

      "After 400,000 years the atheists haven't figured out yet how to make paradise on earth?"

      educate everyone, feed everyone, eradicate delusional, divisive religious idiocy.

      if that doesn't do it – it sure will get us closer than religion ever did.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Atheists aren't striving for or even believe that "paradise" or a utopian state of being is even possible, let alone achievable. That's YOUR goal. But we probaby do all agree that the world would be a better place if superstitious beliefs were abandoned.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • lol??

      394,000 years of non-recorded history? What are the scientific atheists hiding? Something smells, like The Big 0's educational history.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Poltergiest

      Yes Thoth, they are. As Ghandi put it "God has no religion." Alot of the things we attribute to religion are a result of differences in culture, language, leaders, ect. But its the concept of spirituality and morality that is constant through all religions.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      lol sez:
      "After 400,000 years the atheists haven't figured out yet how to make paradise on earth?"
      and neither has religion

      "Better yet, how come after all this time men still have gods? "
      Because they use 'gods' to explain something they cannot. Called god of the gaps ( FYI that gap is getting smaller and smaller )

      "What is it with these dustballs? Slow learners must be it."
      What is with THIS dustball. Must be a slow learner

      December 31, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • hennahands

      Please learn to spell Gandhi correctly prior to quoting. And if you are going to go there, the Indians have many, many centuries of history recorded. Try talking to a paleontologist prior to saying that there is no history prior to 6000 years ago.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Poltergiest

      No one has said that Henna.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • There was a time when religion ruled the world

      and all of Europe was Christian, ruled by Christian leaders who were approved by the Christian church. We call this time the dark ages

      December 31, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  20. 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 9:39 am |
    • lol??

      No, you won't change....."Rom 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God."......Sumpin' wrong with your method.

      December 31, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Poltergiest

      Wow... you actually called that science...

      December 31, 2012 at 9:50 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.