Subconscious phone conversations with God (guest post)
Posted by jonnyscaramanga
Guest post by Sheldon Cooper.
I have talked before on my blog, Ramblings of Sheldon, about my experiences in elementary school when I was exposed to the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult, and my sister’s further experiences with them after graduating that school, and going onto Hyles Anderson college, an IFB institution. I’ve talked about the Southern Baptist church I was a part of as a teen, and what it feels like now to be a closeted agnostic still attending that church in my Undercover Agnostic series.
For some reason, however, I haven’t talked about the time I spent in the Assemblies of God denomination, a Pentecostal group. I don’t quite know why, perhaps it’s because I left that group when I was young (12 years old), and never went back. A memory has been coming back recently about this time, though. I remember when I was 11 years old. It was the first time I started speaking in tongues.
I remember riding to a Wednesday night church service with my dad, in an old Ford Econoline customized van that had been a part of the family for many years, (it was my grandfather’s). It looked much like this van, but was maroon and silver:
When we arrived there was a visiting speaker from the group Teen Challenge there giving the sermon shortly after we arrived. He was in his 40’s, maybe early 50’s, with very short hair, and throughout his sermon he kept talking about the “gifts of the spirit”, and at the end of the sermon, as is the custom in Pentecostal based churches, he gave an invitation for people to come up to the front of the sanctuary to pray. He invited anyone who hadn’t spoken in tongues before to come up and “receive the gift”.
I felt this strong, compelling urge to go forward, it felt like it almost wasn’t even my choice to go up there, like I was a piece of metal being drawn to the altar by a powerful electromagnet. I get up there, and there are about 7 or 8 people praying, singing, and yes, speaking in tongues. I spend a good deal of time in intense prayer, the kind where you become so focused on your praying that everything around you kind of melts away, you wouldn’t notice if the building collapsed around you.
I was praying for quite some time, then all of a sudden, these incomprehensible sounds start coming into my head that sound like they are in some language I have never heard before. It’s like I’m hearing only one side of some bizarre subconscious phone conversation. I’m wondering, is this it? It’s this what I have heard about all along, should I just let it all out, and repeat what i’m hearing in my mind? As if to answer all these questions, the visiting minister comes up to me, puts a hand on my shoulder, and tells me that the gift has arrived, just start speaking what you are hearing. I start letting it all go, and speaking what I’m hearing.
All of a sudden, it all just pours out, seemingly unconsciously, it seems like my tongue is doing this on it’s own, with little or no input from my mind. All kinds of incomprehensible speech just keeps carrying on for quite a while, some of it not even sounding like a language at all, some of it sounding somewhat like Hebrew. It didn’t frighten me, but it both confused me, and gave me this feeling of exhilaration, of a strong, immediate connection to god at the same time.
The whole experience went on for quite a while, it was 8:00 pm when the service stopped, and I didn’t leave the sanctuary with my dad and the remaining people at the altar until about 9:30 pm.
As we leave the building, we go to get into the old van, and it won’t start. My dad opens up the hood, and finds the battery missing. It was stolen while we were in the church service, even though the parking lot for the church was facing a busy road, and a police station was only about 300 feet (91.44 meters) down the road.
Oh the irony….
Looking back, like most of the world, I find the whole speaking in tongues phenomenon to be rather bizarre, and as an agnostic, I don’t think the people are actually communicating with god in some way. I wonder what leads people to do this, I suppose it’s the subconscious mind coming up with all of this, people convincing themselves that it’s real to the point that they start acting as though it is without consciously thinking about it.
It’s strange what people can convince themselves of.
Sheldon Cooper is a former Christian fundamentalist, and is now an agnostic who blogs about his past, and thoughts on life and religion now. Check out his blog, Ramblings of Sheldon, and if you are on Google’s social site, Google +, check out his profile there.
About jonnyscaramangaI grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.
Posted on May 22, 2013, in Atheism, Christianity, Fundamentalism and tagged Assemblies of God, Glossolalia, pentecostal, praying in tongues. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.
I’ve often wondered about this; I can still switch this on, particularly when someone is completely unbelieving that this is a thing.
I might start doing it in meetings when I get bored…
Yeah, I can still do it too. Linguists have looked at it and it has none of the structures necessary for meaning.
Also, people when praying in tongues only use vowel and consonant sounds from their native language. Funny, that.
The human brain is at once a wonderful and terrifying thing. Great post.
It’s called glossolalia 🙂
My parents let me attend a PHC from the ages six to eleven. I always thought it was because they wanted me to look at religiosity with a cynical eye. There were many people who fit the typical mold of hypocrite. One man, in particular, a deacon who played guitar for the church, would start speaking in tongues during each and every prayer, and about midway through his orgasmic noise-making, he would stop, look at his watch and then resume. It colored my view of that type of religious experience from that day forward.
I remember reading somewhere that glossolalia is connected to the speech areas of the brain, and that it is driven by the same impulse that drives babies to babble.
I used to attend Assembly of God as well and had the same experience. Funny thing as an atheist, I can still speak in tongues. Makes me wonder if its all a load of rubbish…oh hang on yes it is.
God is so merciful. Many of you sound like the kid who doesn’t understand what and how their parents do some of the things they do. The problem is you’ll have to die. Death is imminent, not mental. Your theories will be proven, however it will be too late. My answers from God have come from praying in tongues. Things, answers my mind couldn’t think of. He still loves you!
I know that it doesn’t sound strange to you, because it didn’t sound strange to me when I thought like you, but I want you to re-read your comment as though you’ve never heard that kind of Christianese before, and imagine how it sounds to an outsider:
Hooray! Then I don’t have to be fearful, because God is merciful. Right?
Wait a minute… That sounds like a threat. It can’t be God that’s threatening me, because he’s merciful. Are you threatening me? If it’s you, I’ll stop listening to you and listen to your God. If it’s God, how is he merciful?
As for answers to prayer coming from praying in tongues, it’s interesting that my friends from different religions all say they receive answers to their prayers, too.
My mother led me into this at eight years old at home with Christian music on in the background. She told me to repeatedly say “praise you Jesus, praise you Jesus!” Wa-la! My quick words ran into each other and I spoke in tongues.