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.

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Yes makes perfect sense. We by the power of our invisible friend command that your invisible friend leaves the mind of someone because he is uttering gibberish and we speak the truth. It's easy to get your head around (360 degrees around)) the concept :~)
Mike Decaro started a newer discussion like this that has some responses, but I'll be posting here since it was first. (Mike simply asked I am curious is speaking in tongues a form of Tourette Syndrome?)

As suggested, I only read the conclusion of Dissociative Experience and Cultural Neuroscience: Narrative, Metaphor and Mechanism. So I think the paper's more about how to study the phenomenon than how to explain it? Anyway...

Here's my usual non-scientific speculation. (I only recall reading somewhere that--as in some religious experiences--there's a part of the brain that becomes inactive during glossolalia. This part of the brain usually holds focus for attention in consciousness. I don't mind being corrected here!)

Firstly, it wouldn't sound far fetched to me if the neurology of such babbling is much like the neurology of babies babbling naturally, as if by instinct. Perhaps the ability to babble comes first, followed in life by learning how to focus the babble into coherent speech. If this is a reasonable assumption, then one question about it is "what eventually causes strong inhibition of the incoherent babbling". I wouldn't even be surprised if studying other baby-to-adult animal vocalization behaviors help here.

Secondly, especially in the case of humans, the functionality of (and "reason for") language is to communicate socially, for numerous pro-survival benefits. As (I think?) I've mentioned elsewhere, I speculate that human social behavior and human tendency to feel spiritually connected might be related, neurologically. I don't mean that such connections naturally lead to thoughts of God--or at least not until humans eventually added words like "God" to their vocabulary, but I do mean that such perceptions of spiritual connectivity probably coincided with beneficial (selection-wise) feelings of connectedness with other beings, and the rest of the world. I.e. we only learn to manipulate the world (and beings) around us by first feeling connections with it/others.

To get to the point of the "Secondly" paragraph (above, without blabbing speculatively on and on) is that the human behavior of speaking in tongues to me seems like further evidence that may help support theories to explain evo-psych origins of lingual-social-spiritual behavior.

Before anyone spanks me for being so speculative-sans-science; ok, I'd be happy even if these ideas were only stated in science fiction, somewhere! (Admittedly, I don't read enough, in any case.)

But I can't stop there. I have to add that Thirdly, these lingual-social-spiritual behaviors also seem to be linked in the should vs shouldn't (i.e. prescriptive/proscriptive) parts of our neurological processes. I.e., the socially pervasive prescriptions/proscriptions of language rules, social graces vs faux pas, and perhaps peer pressure to believe (dare I say snobbishly) in the same in spiritual preconcptions, gods, etc.

(Am I making any sense here? The focus is SIT, so don't let us diverge far from that. Shoot, and I want to talk about human empathy in all this, too. Oh well.)

Hi Paul, The first point you make is interesting It is almost impossible to concentrate on anything else while SIT. I just tested the idea :-). An analogy might be the sensation one gets when driving a car and talking on a cell phone – where it is only after the call that you realise you sometimes were driving on auto pilot. I suppose it is true of many other things too like it is not easy to full concentrate on a book while also listening to opera. The essence of what you say is definitely correct in that the rest of the brain is inactive.

Most people get the “ability” because they are told they will by the end of a certain bible course or meeting. Usually it happens to several people at a time. I believe it is brought on by group expectation and the evangelical atmosphere of the occasion. It has become normalised by hearing the group leader SIT on previous occasions. Then other things like conformation bias from peers keep it going. I would enjoy hearing a few good swear words uttered. I suppose it may originate in the same area of the brain as Tourettes but people can control when they SIT even if they do not formulate the words in their mind before they are uttered. It is effortless to speak but it IS meaningless babble.


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