When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God

Lilly Tomlin said that prayer is when you talk to God. Schizophrenia is when God talks back

Terri Gross interviews T. M. Luhrmann, author of When God Talks Back. The book is based on an anthropological study she did at The Vineyard, examining the personal relationships people developed with God and explores how those relationships were cemented through the practice of prayer.

It is always interesting when an anthropologist who is not a believer observes and comments upon the behaviors of those who say they are experiencing God. What is that supposed to look like anyway? This objectification of spiritual experience is always a strange thing to read about. The reality is that it looks like, well, human behavior that can have all kinds of natural explanations. What did the Apostle Paul look like when he was transported to the third heaven? What can the observer know?

An interesting interview, and for the Christian a worthwhile opportunity to reflect on our own experience.

One thought on “When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God

  1. “The reality is that it looks like, well, human behavior that can have all kinds of natural explanations. ”

    This is exactly right. This is why I reject, not only the religious experiences of others, but also all my own religious experiences as a method for determining(or confirming) truth. If you stop assuming** your religious experiences are divine and everyone else’s (from other sects/religions) are natural then you see very clearly that there is really no distinction to be made. Everyone is capable of having these experiences and then people interpret them in light of their own religious beliefs. This is no kind of evidence for one version of god or another.

    This reality leads to only two reasonable conclusions. Either these experiences are evidence of god[s] and these god[s] can be experienced in all religions (and by the non-religious as they report similar experiences) or religious experience is not evidence at all. Either way, religious exclusivism is left holding an empty bag.

    **this does not mean start making the opposite assumption. I only mean stop the special pleading and circular reasoning which allows you to accept religious experience which confirms your belief and ignore religious experiences which confirm the beliefs of others (and deny yours).

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