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If you hear God speak audibly, does that mean that you've gone insane -- or, at the least, that you're in the process of completely losing your marbles?
This is the very question that Tanya Marie Luhrmann, a psychological anthropologist at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., asked in a CNN opinion piece last month. The academic's answer? Typically, an individual who reports God speaking directly is not crazy.
TheBlaze has organized a special poll to ask about any intriguing interactions you have had with a higher power. While some readers may believe that direct connection between God and man is possible, others will likely dismiss such a notion. Regardless, the poll (at the bottom of this article) is intended to understand whether or not you've experienced these interactions, while gauging your opinion on the matter.
Many people, including some Christians, might scoff at the idea of hearing a literal voice that is attributable to a higher power, but experts like Lurhmann argue that the phenomenon is not entirely rare. Certainly Biblical scriptures document it, but the professor notes that people in contemporary society also report hearing back from God -- and, yes, sometimes even in an audible fashion.
"Hearing a voice when alone, or seeing something no one else can see, is pretty common," Luhrmann writes. "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."
Luhrmann further explained this dynamic, nothing the differences between those who are crazy and, as a result, hear voices -- and those who claim to hear God directly speaking to them:
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.” ... “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.
As an anthropologist and psychologist, Luhrmann has studied evangelicals (read more about her work here) who report having exchanges with God. While some hear God through images they see through prayer or messages in their minds, she claims that others actually report feeling the Lord touch their shoulder or speak aloud to them (usually very brief experiences).
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The researcher even cited a 1999 Gallup poll that found that 23 percent of Americans had heard a voice or seen a vision in response to prayer -- a proportion that may even the most skeptical to wonder if there is some truth to the claims. NPR adds more about similar research and polling results -- one of the studies was actually conducted by Luhrmann:
Poll numbers show that more Americans are experiencing God through personal relationships. The Pew Foundation found that nearly a quarter of Americans are what they call "renewalist" Christians, which means they have an interactive sense of God's presence. Another study cited by Luhrmann found that 26 percent of all Americans say they have been given a direct revelation from God.
Mental illness, despite what some critics might allege, is not the motivating factor among those who report hearing from God, as Luhrmann has apparently checked individuals to ensure that they are not suffering from emotional ailments. She wrote, though, that those who use their imagination while they pray and those who pray for longer periods of time are most likely to have such an experience.
So -- what do you think? Is the notion of experiencing or hearing from God a silly one -- or a reality? Have you ever experienced it? Take the poll, below, and let us know your views on a variety of issues associated with this fascinating issue: