After watching the video of the pastor “speaking in tongues” at the same sex rally I decided to pen this.
I was involved for about 3 months with “The Way Ministry” when I was in my late teens. They spoke in tongues all the time. One night while on my own and I got “the gift”. I remember it as a “white light” experience and felt I was floating in the room (no mushrooms involved!) .When I told the group (ok cult) the next day they were all very happy for me. I must admit that for a few weeks I thought I was saved by Jesus and was certain of a seat when the end came plus all the other crap that comes with it. I am cringing as I recall it. I lost contact when university broke for summer and lost all interest in them. Anyway that was 30 years ago.
I am and have been an Atheist for several years. However I can still “speak in tongues” if I so wish. The words flow effortlessly – i.e. I do not form them before I utter them. I know with my scientific mind that I am not speaking a language. It may sound like a foreign language to some but I know it is not. Even when I try to scrutinise the words and work out if they are just rearranged phonemes it takes an effort to hear it as gibberish. I know science can explain it or will explain it fully and that it has nothing to do with anything religious.
I have not doubt that “speaking in tongues” originates in some part of the brain and maybe there have been MRI scans carried out (an interesting thesis for someone). However I can appreciate how people of faith are convinced it is “a gift of the spirit” and a sign from their god that they are saved. They may appear loony tunes to us but it is not as simple as that.
It is the confirmation bias that comes with being in a group or cult that further embeds the belief. They hear others speaking like that so it becomes more real as time passes. Then they appear as fanatics. By the way the pastor in the video was “translating” his tongues when he speaks in English.
So any science based ideas on the subject would be interesting. I remember hearing someone speak in tongues for the first time and his first two words were “corolla toyota”. That’s says quite a bit in itself.
As a former Special Forces Operative, you'd be exposed to a lot of languages, almost, everywhere in the globe; you can recognize them, even if you don't understand them, based on the Regional accent and variation of words or combination of words.
Those "Speaking in Tongues" pishposh by American Pastors and Evangelists (Christian Preachers in General) are but Gibberish. :/
"Blashbilabuhbubi kakilamoto mubashimadarin" (sample Speaking in tongues gibberish)
I think I saw this too in "Religulous" by Bill Maher, LOL.
I'm not up on Pentecostal ways, so here comes some stereotyping. Isn't speaking in tongues supposed to be "God's Language"? That being, if it is, shouldn't there be a consistency to it? Shouldn't you be able to take the videos of 100 people, ask them what they said, and be able to start to put a language together?
Do you think that the free flow has to do with repetitive exposure to the patterns? Did you know what you were saying when you were speaking it? Do you know what you are saying when you speak it?
It's an interesting topic that we do dismiss quite quickly, but maybe there is something to gain from actually discussing it.
In the bible it is said to be the "tongues of man and angels" (1 Cor. 13:1). I never formed the words or heard them in my mind before I uttered them. But it can be a continuous “flow” for 5 minutes if I wished and I know I am not exercising any control over it. I would have been reasonably fluent in 2 other languages as well as English at that time but do not believe my "tongue" sounded familiar to any words I knew. I never understood what I said. There are various gifts of the spirit mentioned in the bible and the gift of translation is one of them. Other members of the group generally interpret for the groups benefit.
I have never heard someone speaking an unlearnt modern language. When challenged (at my front door) the usual line is that it is either a very ancient language, to which I reply “would that be older than 6000 years then?” or it is the language of angels to which I reply “so they need different languages in heaven?”
I am certain it is gibberish. I am interested in it as a phenomenon from a scientific slant. It is used by the Pentecostals (and other cults) as “proof” that one is born again and saved. I am aware of how convincing the “ability” can be to people and it only takes them further down a path away from reason. It is another step used in creating fundamentalists.
I always thought that speaking in tongues had something to do with the Tower of Babble . . . ?
But it doesn't, apparently . . .
Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:
"Speaking in tongues is one practice that distinguishes Pentecostalism from other Christian traditions. While it can be present in other religious traditions, Pentecostalism has given speaking in tongues significance not found in most other traditions. A Pentecostal believer in a spiritual experience may vocalize fluent, unintelligible utterances (glossolalia), or articulate an alleged natural language previously unknown to them (xenoglossy).
Within Pentecostalism, there is usually a recognition that speaking in tongues serves two functions. One of the functions is being the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit; this is when a believer speaks in tongues for the first time. Most Pentecostal denominations consider this to be the sign of that believer being filled with the Holy Spirit. The other function speaking in tongues has is as the gift of tongues. This is when a person gives a "message in tongues", a prophetic utterance given under the influence of the Holy Spirit, to a congregation. For the church to understand the message in tongues, a person with the gift of interpretation—whether that be another person or the same one who gives the tongue— must interpret the tongue into the common language of the gathered Christians, so that all can understand the message. Pentecostals base their understanding of the gift of tongues and its operation in the church on 1 Corinthians 14:13 and 14:27–28.
Besides the gift of tongues, Pentecostals may also use glossolalia as a form of praise and worship in corporate settings. Pentecostals in a church service may pray aloud in tongues while others pray simultaneously in the common language of the gathered Christians. This use of glossolalia is seen as an acceptable form of prayer and therefore requires no interpretation. Congregations may also corporately sing in tongues, a phenomenon known as "singing in the Spirit".
Speaking in tongues also forms an important part of many Pentecostals' personal daily devotions. When used in this way, it is referred to as a "prayer language". When exercised in this way, no interpretation is needed as the believer is speaking unknown languages (including that of angels) not for the purpose of communicating with others but for "communication between the soul and God". Speaking in tongues is not universal among Pentecostal Christians. A 2006 10-country survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 49 percent of Pentecostals in the United States, 50 percent in Brazil, 41 percent in South Africa, and 54 percent in India said they "never" speak or pray in tongues.
Early in the 20th century, the majority of Pentecostal missionaries, along with prominent Pentecostal leaders, maintained that speaking in tongues was a form of xenoglossia in which the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in other languages. It was believed that missionaries would no longer have to learn the languages of the peoples they evangelized because the Holy Spirit would provide whatever foreign language was required. However when missionaries, to their disappointment, learned that tongues speech was unintelligible on the mission field, Pentecostal leaders were forced to modify their understanding of tongues. While Pentecostals still maintain that God can bestow the ability of speaking an unlearned human language, speaking in tongues is understood to generally be supernatural or heavenly languages."
This is very interesting to me. When I was fifteen, I had a "somewhat" similar happening, however, not quite the same. I was up front because my mother made me go, and then out of nowhere, there were four of five 'men of god' laying on hands and praying, very vehemently, for me to be "given the gift of tongues". I felt really weird, having already begun to be an atheist, however, they wouldn't quit, so out of desperation, I started gabbering gibberish. Then, they left me alone.
In college, I took a few language courses. I had also taken etymology in high school. The language courses were very eye-opening. Anyone can 'make up' a language. There are certain rules which western languages follow, that is, the ratio of consonants to vowels, and the other grammatical rules which occur in these languages. If you follow these rules, there are hundred of words which can be "made up" but which lack definition, and are "fake words" (although they can sound realistic). Consider Harry Potter, as one instance, and the word "muggle". That isn't a real word, or it wasn't, until J.K. Rowling penned it. The same thing happens when people speak in tongues. They unconsciously take what they know about their language, and twist it to form new words (throwing in some real words whenever).
I think it can be an interesting exercise, especially as a writer looking for new words, but there is a real danger when people take it upon themselves to be 'translators' and voice a 'message from god' which was supposed to be translated from the 'tongues' but is really just gibberish in (our case) english.
Yes I agree with you that "They unconsciously take what they know about their language, and twist it to form new words (throwing in some real words whenever)." That is most likely how it works. And certainly the danger is when it comes to translation. If a person believes that they are speaking gods words they will believe the translation which could be anything "the leader" wants them to hear.
Once again I know it is gibberish. But there is a fluency to this "psychobabble" that is not the same as stringing a sentence together in "regular gibberish". It is difficult to explain. Try speaking in tongues for 2 minutes. It is difficult to do it with any fluency.
Thank you. Spot on. This is an excellent article. I think "brain hack" is very close to what it is. Sometimes you don' know that you know something until someone else articulates it for you. It's almost 30 years since I had that experience. I have not given it any thought for years but the fluency surprised me when I brain hacked myself :) recently. I am certain what SIT definetly is not (i.e. god stuff) but just was not sure exactly what it was. It is gibberish spoken fluently and possibly with that part of the brain kids use when learning language being hacked into.