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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. Ol' Yeller

    The first name on the list of evil appears to be... lol??

    December 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • lol??

      I thought you'd be sleepin' already.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  2. YOUareNOTalone

    You know that there is a God by how hard the "atheists" fight for the devil. If there truly wasn't, would you wouldn't see such an absurd amount of attack and hate-filled comments. Sorry atheists, you may have a pool of people to group here with on CNN but, God is good, He's on the throne, and prayer changes things. Hop aboard a relationship with God today and join the party!

    December 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Religion is illogical...

      Atheists fighting for the devil?? Then why is it that nearly every war we've fought in the past 1000 years was rooted in religion?? The cause of hatred and intolerance is people fighting over which religion and which god prevails... Atheists are just living our lives, quietly trying to spread the message of logic and common sense.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      Sorry, YOUareNUTalone... we don't believe in the Devil either.
      Perhaps there is "such an absurd amount of attack and hate-filled comments" on here because it is finally safe in this 'free' Society to admit being an atheist/agnotsic without being reviled, fired, or even killed.
      And perhaps this is just us trying to play catch-up for centuries of an absurd amount of attack and hate-filled comments...

      December 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      That is a terrible rationalization, you are not stupid because you are a believer, you are stupid because you made that insipid argument.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • YOUareNOTalone

      "Atheists are just living our lives, quietly trying to spread the message of logic and common sense." - ** IF ** you were TRULY logical you'd quickly arrive at some elementary conclusions. Atheism, is a religion.
      ""Then why is it that nearly every war we've fought in the past 1000 years was rooted in religion??" - IF someone does something in God's name that isn't representing God, you can surely see you can discount what they've done.... ie. Hitler, he was not Christian CLEARLY. "Truly He taught us to love one another... " <- There was no LOVE from Hitler, but secularists want to say he was Christian... We've seen true Christians and it's only the power of God through them that has shown this world true love. It's happening the right way everyday, all over the world. If you see love done right, you've seen God's work.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • YOUareNOTalone

      THREE – INSTA – REPLIES from Atheists on a RELIGION blog. With all the hatred coming from atheists as comments on this religion blog, WHY would you think that you'd ever grow your group of people? You think we think, "I can't wait to hate, count me one of you now!". Man could you ever stand a better chance if you just inserted LOVE into your "LOGICAL" comments.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • sam stone

      if the christians stop trying to legislate their beliefs, there would not be this backlash

      December 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Religion is illogical...

      YOUareNOT alone

      "** IF ** you were TRULY logical you'd quickly arrive at some elementary conclusions. Atheism, is a religion."

      That's where you fail (among other places)... By definition, atheism cannot be a religion... Look up the definition of 'religion' and hopefully you'll understand...

      December 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Roger that

      'God is good,'

      You might want to pick up your Bible and read it again with an open mind. If it helps, try changing the cover to read "Quran".

      December 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • YOUareNOTalone

      Come to realize some truth about yourselves atheists as we Christian have learned about ourselves and mans condition... it is clearly evident from your lack of LOVE in your logical comments that...
      "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9
      "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? said the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?" Ezekiel 18:23
      Your heart is as human as mine, and your life is in need of the only one that can truly change your heart. Repent of your lieing, lusting, hating ways and accept Jesus into your life, you'll have the best years of your live ahead of you watching LOVE spring from your heart. Today is the day of salvation, do it now and enjoy what the Lord has for you in the future, He loves you and has put you here for a purpose, don't stall out your life with this charade of avoiding God for sinful moments of pleasure... it is not worth your soul to be condemned to hell. God made a way of escape for your through sending his son Jesus to die in your place, for your sins. Your pardon has been paid for just accept it, don't deny yourself a chance to walk free on the streets and truly live! God is love and God is good!

      December 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Really??

      YOU are KNOT aLOAN
      Saying atheism is a religion is the same as saying abstinence is a se xual position. Atheists are not attacking your religion, they are questioning your religion. Is your faith so weak that you feel you have to defend yourself against questions? If so, you are among the brainwashed believers that have persecuted all that don't believe the same as you, and have caused a long history of problems for mankind. All religions are false, all gods are man made.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • YOUareNOTalone

      "if the christians stop trying to legislate their beliefs, there would not be this backlash" - In all due respect Sam, if you are referring to America's legislation. We started this country with God in every nook and cranny. We started from day one legislating God's principles for governing. I love the GOOD of what America has had in it, we've been one of the most AMAZING countries in history, I'd love to see it continue. Just realize that we are not that CHRISTIANS and GOD fearing men of great valor have PROVEN this country to be great from 1776 till now. It hasn't been from 2012 that we've proven our greatness as a country... I find it so fascinating that people are trying to tear GOD out of our governing process when it is completely RIDDLED with GOD everywhere in American government. We've erected stone moments all over this country attesting to why we are great... it is truly astonishing how many people T.V. it up and suck in entertainment all day, and make comments like this with no clue and do diligence to researching America's history... God is good, and God is love, He loves you, accept His love today and let light fill your darkened heart as it did mine. God is so good, taste and see...

      December 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • YOUareNOTalone

      "Is your faith so weak that you feel you have to defend yourself against questions?" - ** OH BUT ** is happen here... Oh but you are STRONG in your atheistic values, so much so that you jumped into a RELIGION blog, because you are not religious, and you are commenting on this very comment.... BUT BUT... WAIT FOR IT.... you are ** NOT ** defending yourself. How do you do that many mouse clicks, that many keystrokes, and click POST and say such absurd things. POT call the KETTLE black. I've said it already before it is so true, just get some love in your comments and maybe you'd persuade to grow your atheistic agenda. But your heart is desperately wick as mine, and you need a savior as I do... Accept God and His love for YOU. He knew you before you were born, get to know Him and His love will bring new life into your life as He did for mine. Taste and see my friend! God is GOOD!

      December 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Really??

      YOU are KNOTaLOAN
      You can see the fingerprints of the forefounders beliefs in the starting of our government, but it was unanymously upheld to leave belief out of legislation because of all the varied beliefs of the founders. To legislate from the bible is folley, and they knew it. You need to read up on the history of this land, and read some of the personal journals and correspondance of them, and you will see how important it was to exclude religion.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Really??

      I stopped reading at "entered a religion blog", and here's why. It is a belief blog, and I have beliefs that I like to express. Are you trying to confine my fisrt amendment rights? If you want to preach to the choir, go to a religion blog, this forum is for all beliefs, even those that disagree with your belief in your man-made god.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • YOUareNOTalone

      "unanymously upheld to leave belief out of legislation" - Research. You're so wrong on this... God is all over our legislation. I personally don't just take the MEDIA's word on what "seperation of church and state" means. I thought, interesting... let's dig into this and see. Just research my friend and you'll find the meaning of it... It cannot mean at ALL that religion should not be in government. Because the same government that was supposed to keep that seperate was riddled with God references through our legislation. It was legislated that the American Government was to print Bibles, money, tax money, government functioning printing of Bibles and the legislation was to use those to spread God's word to the Native Americans. That's just an inkling, but if you'd research it... JUST RESEARCH.... HELP MY BRAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Research. Why are people so lazy, in general, why are we so lazy to just ingest what we hear from the media and friends? RESEARCH! I'm chastising all of us, including me, let's get your butts in gear here and research.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • YOUareNOTalone

      "go to a religion blog" - it is RELIGION.blogs.cnn.com... I'm there dude. Have your belief, and share it too. Let's discuss.
      "I stopped reading at 'entered a religion blog', and here's why. It is a belief blog," - This is your problem... you stopped reading. Thanks for the confession. If you're going to get involved it would behoof you to read it all... it would just help your arguement. Do what you want and say what you say, it would just help if you read... because you'd read that this is "RELIGION.blogs.cnn.com", so I didn't dig the idea of this being a "religious" blog out of my backside. It is... your beliefs are a religion whether you accept that or not, it is.
      "Are you trying to confine my fisrt amendment rights?" - Nope, glad you joined, I wish you read the whole thing, you wouldn't have such a non-point if you did.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      "We started this country with God in every nook and cranny."

      And the ability to legally own other people. And denying the ability of women to vote

      "We started from day one legislating God's principles for governing."
      How many of the 10 commandments are civil laws?
      How man of those are unique to Christianity?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Really??

      you'reanut
      Look at the hostile tone with which you answer....how very christian of you. I have shown no hostility, and rarely ever do.
      The truth is in our history and you clearly do not understand the forefathers intent. Again, read the private journals of the forefathers. Do your own research. I have and continue to study the men who founded this country and the men who helped work it when we were colonies. There are no gaps in my education regarding this issue. The fact is, the bible belongs in church, laws belong in government, and the two should not meet. Some of the time laws and the bible coincide, but it is only because some of the values written about in the bible are the same values that nearly all men have, considering the fact that we are a social animal, with social concerns that occasionally need legislation.
      Show me where the bible is in legislation, in a case where the law deals with something that is only in the bible.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Really??

      and look at the heading of this blog on the top of the page....it clearly says belief blog.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  3. Americans outgrowing religion...

    There are over 3000 different religions in the world, nearly all worshipping a god. As soon as you come to understand why you reject all those other gods, you'll understand why I reject yours.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Raven

      Hostile enough aren't ya?

      December 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Americans outgrowing religion...

      LOL... No hostility at all. Just some cold hard facts that no religious person can refute. Including you, apparently.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • SImran

      @ Raven
      Seriously! How was the above comment hostile at all?

      December 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Jenna

      The whole Christian religion and its advocates seem very hostile, mainly about punishment-guilt stuff. Quite bigoted, actually, too, as I read this blog. Their concept of hell is awful too. Their god must be a troubled, violent creature to threaten such punishment.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Raven

      @Americans outgrowing religion...- You have offered no facts.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Raven

      I find it troubling when ppl who claim no faith comes to the faith section of CNN to stroke their ego. Hope I didn't step on your toes any.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Jenna

      Raven, how is "There are over 3000 different religions in the world." not a fact?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Jenna

      Raven, more and more, you are sounding like the one with sore toes and, more significantly, hostile feelings. Perhaps you should take a much closer look at your beliefs and why you cling to them. They seem to make you very defensive and hostile.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Raven

      Because it is an estimation and not even a good one Jenna. There are probably more than that number if one takes into consideration all the past faiths, modern ones and different denominations within each.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Jenna

      Raven, did you miss the word "over" in that first post by "Americans..."?

      Feel free to retract your statement re "facts". It would be appropriate for you to do so, but will take more courage on your part than you have shown so far.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Raven

      @Jenna- it sounds like you are projecting.

      What are my beliefs Jenna? I don't believe I made an issue of it as you are starting to.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Raven

      And your IQ is over 80. I have spoken a fact but would you call it a fair one?

      December 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • George

      Jenna >> Raven

      PWNED. Ouch.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Jorge

      George

      Jenna << Raven

      PWNED. Ouch.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Jenna

      Raven, stop trying to change the subject.

      And no thanks for the personal attack re my intelligence – just more hostility and an attack from you. I rest my case.

      Good bye. Cowards like you don't merit more of my time.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Raven

      I will admit I missed the "over" part. Guess Jenna did at first as well or she would have said it forthright.
      But Americans really didn't offer any facts to his point now did he? He assumes that his reasons for rejecting a faith would be the same as other ppl's and that's presuming too much.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Raven

      @Jenna- I have made no attacks on your intelligence. It is a fact that it is above 80 right? But why are you offended with a fact?

      You answer that and perhaps you will understand why certain "facts" are not always trustworthy.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Grundig Glasswerks

      Raven probably gets a shasta blasta from his homies for every post.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Bet

      I find it troubling when ppl who claim no faith comes to the faith section of CNN to stroke their ego. Hope I didn't step on your toes any.

      This is a belief blog, not a faith blog. Everyone has beliefs. Some base their beliefs on logic and evidence, and some base their beliefs on books of mythology.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  4. aaronmotta

    Sooo...if enough people hallucinate, then it's no longer hallucinating? Bzzzt.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • lol??

      "2Th 2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:"

      December 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  5. Sly

    I had a beer with God just yesterday, and we talked for hours. What is the big deal here?

    Barry Bonds is God – and the funny thing is, not one of you on here can prove He is not.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • ER

      Bahahaha great comment.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • lol??

      Bahahaha, get treatment.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Sly

      Obviously some of you have never seen Barry Bonds play. If He aint God, there is no God.

      And if you don't think Barry Bonds is God – prove it. He spoke to me, and I believe, and guess what, I'm right!

      December 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  6. ER

    Can we please just drop this religion garbage? Who the hell believes in this crap still?

    December 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      People too afraid to face reality.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • steve

      unfortunately, 95% of the country.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • YOUareNOTalone

      "Can we please just drop this religion garbage?" R – O – F – L ! ! ! ! ! ! You jump a hyperlink into a "RELGION.blogs.cnn.com" and you say what??? lol Can someone say, HUGE agenda?? Man these atheists are the hardest working group ever! Just out there in full force attacking. Atheism, are the underdog that no one roots for... You'll be a minority if you're an atheist and you won't like your ending! Go read the Bible in full and try to disprove it, then you'll see the light and join the party! God is GOOD!

      December 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  7. Reality

    Putting the kibosh on all this god-talk in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    December 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Raven

      • As far as atheists know or can tell, there was an Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam do existent.

      • As far as an atheist knows or can tell, there was a Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have strength of purpose.

      • There was a Gabriel i.e. Islam does not fail as a religion. Christianity doesn't either.

      • Easter did happen i.e. Christianity completely triumphs as a religion.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Reality

      Added details as requested:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
      Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

      The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      December 31, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Reality

      AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD

      Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

      "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

      Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

      Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

      Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)

      The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

      Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

      Some added references to "tink-erbells".

      newadvent.org/cathen/07049c.htm

      "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."
      Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:

      "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."

      And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

      "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."

      "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

      "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

      For added information see the review at:

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel
      "The prophet Ezekiel described an incredible vision of cherubim angels in Ezekiel chapter 10 of the Torah and the Bible, mentioning that the angels’ wings were “completely full of eyes” (verse 12) and “under their wings was what looked like human hands” (verse 21). The angels each used their wings and something “like a wheel intersecting a wheel” (verse 10) that “sparkled like topaz” (verse 9) to move around."

      For a rather extensive review of angel wings, see http://angels.about.com/od/AngelBasics/a/Angels-Wings-And-Things.htm

      December 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

      The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
      http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

      p.4

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      December 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  8. glades2

    In all Christian denominations the advice to this question is when a person hears a voice that tells them to comitt an act that is against the 10 Commandments, then that is not from God, because God does not contradic His own word, but when a person receives an inspiration to solve a problem that causes the person to say, "I would not have thought of that!", then it is very possible and even likely that it is from God.

    A good example was the Space Shuttle problem of about 15 years ago when two astronauts could not stop a satellite from spinning (in order for them to grab hold of it and place it in the shuttle's cargo hold for repair), when suddenly one of the astronauts had a thought "Use 3", and after telling Misson Control their idea of "using 3" astronauts, Mission Control's response was "We wouldn't have thought of that", and during their next attempt the crew was allowed to use 3 – and it worked, the very first time, unlike the many frustrating attempts using only 2, so as the commercial of the early 1990's asked, "Where does inspiration come from?", well, it comes from our Creator, because as the Bible says His role is to help us in all good things...

    December 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Reality

      The 21st Century Apostles'/Agnostics' Creed 2012: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen
      (references used are available upon request)

      December 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • lol??

      I doubt the schoolteacher astronaut playing marriage with the other astronaut was a gud thing.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Sly

      Osama Bin Laden heard God also and God told him to extract revenge on America.

      And Allah doesn't have 10 commandments, so those laws only apply to America. It's kinda like Greek austerity measures – local laws.

      Praise Allah – the good God. And Barry Bonds, who of course is our current American God.

      The best thing about God is that everyone can have their own – very diverse, so there are Chinese Gods, Luxemborg Gods, Syrian Gods, America has one – love it, a God for every season.

      Oh, and astronauts have the Outer Space Gods – that's the one those guys heard. They came from Mars.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  9. Ol' Yeller

    This is definitely just an opinion piece... I know because God told me.
    He also told told me to keep every plastic bottle (they feel you know?) I ever came across and to take care of all the cats. Yesterday he told me to get a gun...
    He is going to give me a list of evil people later...

    December 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • lol??

      It's da rabies talkin'. Get a shot and you'll sleep.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  10. Al

    Why does God only talk to one person and never a group?

    December 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Because they are a product of the imagination.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • glades2

      Because God considers each person as if they were the only one on Earth, though God does speak to groups or cultures or Nations or the entire World though His written Word, and through the words of those He inspires in and outside His church...

      December 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Al

      Glades2,

      I assume you are Mormon? The Book of Mormon is the most recent word of God right?

      December 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  11. Whateva

    This article has no relation to divinity and not one single post is accurate. Maybe God is and maybe he isn't interested in the plight of men. People seem to forget when they claim any knowledge of God at any time in history they are speaking without authority. Even if they use logic applied to the philosophy of good and bad and the duality of creation. They are merely assigning a form to the unknown. And for anyone to think that nice words in a soft monotone automatically equals the good spirit. They are missing the full spectrum of possible characters that are capable of that type of speech and the reality of it is this. To many people use scripture as the story of God and yet God never once would have any reason whatsoever to try and moderate the social aspects of men. If a man is of an acceptable nature then good for him and if he is not then his own nature will bring him his reward. You see it is actually the story of man and not the story of the almighty that we need to discussing. God neither makes or breaks the course. Man is source of all things that men do.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  12. dd

    Wow there are some angry, bitter, atheists on here. Must have no better way to express their anger at the world.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Opposing ideas and baseless assertions does not equate to anger. You are making a strawman argument because that is easier to deal with than the actual issues.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      And there some bigoted, arrogant, obnoxious christards who think they have all the answers because they have the buybull!

      December 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Sly

      "Angry" athiests? Why would we be 'angry'? Religious people are very amusing, and it is fun to make jokes about their fat black woman who sits in the clouds sewing tiny wings on butterflies.

      And, what could be more amusing than the idea that the whole world flooded and someone built a really big boat then ran around collecting insect pairs.

      And then every couple of years some Christian starts bleating that 10/17/2009 is the last day of earth?

      And ... when we are really bored at airports – who is there to entertain us? Crowds of Christians holding up books chanting 'Hari Hari Hari'.

      No, athiests do not get angry with the sheep of religion – your bleating provides much amusement. Now ... back to Santa Claus.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  13. Really

    Here is one...So Abraham hears a voice in his head that tells him to murder his only son on an altar as a sacrifice to the voice in his head. So he gets his sh it together and when Isaac asks what they are going to sacrifice, he binds his son, lays him on the altar on top of the wood and gets his knife to saly his only son. Now you christian nutbars may say the story is a parable, but to rational people this is just crazy. Now the voice in Abraham's head says, I see that you FEAR god (and will be a good sheepie) call the whole thing off, good boy.
    Why the god of isreal isn't real, because a loving creator could not be this sick and twisted, that you have to FEAR it/him. You see so many have heard that voice in their head to kill ther children or other people and missed the forget about it signal. Your god is a myth, a collection of man made stories, to sick to believe.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Really

      Reply to Chad, not that feeding that troll matters.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • DuchessFeathers

      "christian nutbars" – I love it. Thanks for the laugh and a very Happy New Year to you!!

      December 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      What the Chad fails to realize is that anyone, of any belief system or faith in anything could "win" in his own mind by using the same tactics: Lie about what your opponent says, dismiss what your opponent says, and claim to know what they really meant that you have a premade "rebuttal" for that trumps it.

      You can dismiss anything if by redefining it according to your own terms.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  14. Casey Cavall

    This has got to be the most mindless rambling I have ever seen on CNN,I don't know if you were half asleep when writing this.There was no point to this and not even an ending to sum everything up.you left it hanging with a MLK jr story.If you were in highschool you would probably recive an F for your paper and leave your teachers straching there heads.

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

      That would be scratching "their" heads. I guess you need a trip back to high school.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  15. Amniculi

    Ahh, the power of self-delusion. How sad that grown adults need an imaginary friend to talk to. Sadder still that they hear it talking back.

    December 31, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • lol??

      Why don't you cry about something worthwhile, like bully atheists hangin' together with their "WEGOD" at CNN's belief blogs?

      December 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      lol??: Pot meet kettle...bully atheists is that like bully christards who use the threat of eternal torture?-oh wait, that's not you doing it, it's your imaginary friend demanding you do it (once again proving that christards do not take responsibility for their absurd actions).

      December 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  16. William

    This isn't science or psychology. You can't say auditory hallucinations that are bad are part of a mental illness while saying that positive auditory hallucinations are God. This is complete nonsense. Furthermore, this 'research' only applies to Christians, what of people of other religions that 'hear' their God? By the standards of this person those Gods would exist then too. This is poor research done skewed to only included one part of the human population conveniently ignoring the rest of the population that doesn't fit. Shame on this person, you're an embarrassment to the scientific method and to your field.

    December 31, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Exactly, the premise is true that not all people who have hallucinations have mental conditions....but the implication that therefore they are correct to assume that god is REALLY speaking to them is just dishonest.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Moderateray

      And not even all Christians. Apparently GOD just speaks to the evangelical Christians, which is pretty scary in and of itself!

      December 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  17. ThomasamohT

    Hearing voices doesn't make you crazy. Its called intuition. Believing that its god speaking to you is where the crazy line is drawn.

    December 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  18. Bob

    Gods don't exist. It is as simple as that.

    December 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  19. darkstar

    Uh, yes. If anyone claims to hear voices from imaginary beings, you are simply delusional. End of story.

    December 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  20. Dyslexic doG

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
    – Stephen Roberts

    December 31, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Russ

      “You can’t go on “seeing through” things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.”
      ― C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

      December 31, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Seyedibar

      CS Lewis was great at nonsensical semantics. The above quote from him is completely meaningless.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      what does that mean Russ?

      December 31, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      CS Lewis was also good at making false dicatomies and arguing from authority (his).

      December 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Dog: here's the longer quote. it's about the skeptic's tendency to "explain away" things, not realizing what it does to his own position...

      *******

      “The kind of explanation which explains things away may give us something, though at a heavy cost. But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever.

      The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles.

      If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.”

      –C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: HarperCollins, 1944/2001), 81.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:51 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.