Speaking in Tongues – The real story

As proof that ‘God’ has poured out his spirit, there is a manifestation known as “Speaking in Tongues”. Those seeing it for the first time sometimes find it to be a bit creepy or bizarre, especially if they don’t know what is going on. It usually happens during times of open prayer within Pentecostal churches or other similar types of groups with a Charismatic leaning. Sometimes one individual will appear to loudly break out into a prayer or song in what sounds like a foreign language, but not any language ever heard before. There is also a variation in which the entire group will all do this together; except of course for those not in the know or not ‘gifted’ yet.

Normally when considering religion, concepts such as “spirit” are vague, immeasurable and meaningless, but here is something solid that we can actually measure and determine if there is anything significant happening. Over the years there has been a lot of serious independent scientific research of this specific practise. One very good example is the long and detailed study carried out back in the early 1970’s by the famous Professor of Linguistics, William J Samarin. From all around the world he gathered and recorded many samples of “Speaking in Tongues”. All this data was then put through an extensive analysis over a period of five years. His conclusions were as follows:

  • While speaking in tongues does appear at first to resemble human language, that was only on the surface.
  • The actual stream of speech was not organised and there was no existing relationship between units of speech and concepts.
  • The speakers might believe it to be a real language, but it was totally meaningless

[Samarin, William J. (1972). Tongues of Men and Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism. New York: Macmillan]

Note that this is not just a blog opinion, its peer reviewed research carried out over many years by a highly qualified open-minded linguist. Speaking-in-tongues is nothing but empty babbling by devoted believers who have deluded themselves into thinking it to be a sign of the Holy Spirit. I should know; I used to be a practitioner myself at one time and truly did believe in the reality of it, but realise now that I was motivated by my desire to blend in and was only fooling myself.

If you dig a bit deeper and consider the history of it all, you find that the modern practise as we see it today is not all that old, it dates back to about 1906 in Los Angeles. Having first started in a revival there, it has since then spread in a viral like manner both geographically around the globe, and also chronologically on to each successive generation. Modern practitioners claim that what they are doing is exactly the same as the experience described within the Book of Acts (2:1-13), however one huge discrepancy is that the story within Book of Acts describes recognised languages from all around the Roman Empire being spoken. In stark contrast, nobody understands the modern mindless babbling.

What is even more fascinating is that the modern manifestation is a lot more widespread then most might appreciate. Other non-Christian religious groups also practise it. Felicitas Goodman, a Hungarian anthropologist compared it with recordings of rituals from Japan, Indonesia, Africa and Borneo and concluded that there was no distinction, it truly is universal and quite easily crosses religious divides. [Goodman, Felicitas D. (1972). Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural Study in Glossolalia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.]

Finally, just to prove the point that there is no sky-magic involved and that this is just a learned behaviour, there was a study carried out with a group of 60 non-believing undergraduates. 20% could accomplish it after listening to only a 60 second sample and about 70% could succeed with some moderate training. [Spanos, Nicholas P.; Cross, Wendy P.; Lepage, Mark; Coristine, Marjorie (February 1986). “Glossolalia as learned behavior: An experimental demonstration”. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 95]

The Bible states in 1 Cor 14.22 that “tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not”. Well, this non-believer hasnow weighed and measured it all and found it to be mindless babbling. The only sign that this gives is that the believers who practise this are delusional. (I include my past self in that last sentence).

If you are still a believer, and are starting to have doubts, then you might be interested in chatting with me to understand why I am not longer a believer (I promise a friendly discussion) – contact me at skeptic [at] skeptical-science.com (forgive the cryptic email, its to avoid the bots auto- scraping the email address and spamming me)

To those who still believe and have reached here with the, “But I know its real” thought still intact; well, that’s exactly how I felt. What you have to realise is that you are in the grip of a very powerful psychological trick. Before you move on, pause and carefully consider what you have read; I’m not presenting you with an alternative opinion, but rather with hard solid scientific proof that it is not real.

430 thoughts on “Speaking in Tongues – The real story”

  1. I spoke in tongues twice as a teenager in the early 80’s. It’s an uncontrollable action that science cannot disprove!

    20 years later I remembered a few words and decided to try to translate them online. Basically what I had said two decades earlier was, “God is great”. Now (in my early 50’s) I can’t remember the mysterious words that came out of my mouth.

    All I can do is laugh at scientists who try to say “it’s not a real language”. They come to conclusions to justify their own disbelief and expect people to accept it as facts.

    Scientists really need to keep their anti God views to themselves!

    Reply
    • Science is neither pro-god nor anti god. The way science works is this. An observation of something is made. People then formulate an idea that explains it. They then test that idea to find out if it is or is not wrong. If it is not wrong then we have a provisional understanding until more evidence or a better testable idea emerges.

      So far there is no verification that tongues is anything more than a human emotional response. This is neither a pro-god nor an anti-god stance. It is simply an honest conclusion when all the available evidence is analysed and tested. If you have better verifiable and independently tested evidence, then please do feel free to share it, publish it and shout about it, because it would be a truly fascinating discovery.

      Reply
  2. I my self was curious about speaking in Tongues, but those who don’t understand of course is not within the spirit of God. Reread Acts and dissect every word.. You cant just take classes to be a part of this, just to know if it’s true. I really get a kick out of people who try to LEARN or SPEAK a celestial language. Yes you can learn to speak different languages but not celestial. In order to really be gifted with (speaking in tongues) The language of tongues is a SPIRITUAL GIFT, and it comes FROM the HOLY SPIRIT.
    Key word is ( It comes from the Holy Spirit) not a teacher or a professor. Everyone is entitled to there own opinions, but if you truly want the gift you must submit yourself to GOD and he’ll take care of the rest. When I first heard someone speaking in tongues I was confused but also intrigued.
    I started to attend services and submitted myself for God, and one of my prayers that I wanted answered was ( The Gift of speaking in tongues) and of course everything is in Gods timing. I prayed for months and months for this gift.. One day I prayed in my room.. I definitely felt gods presence, I started to proclaim his name and focused on worshiping him… Once I felt the Holy Spirit of god.. he take over …I started to praise him out loud until my English praise transformed to a fireball of tongues.
    My spirit or my soul started to speak in tongues.. a unknown language I’ve never studied for or practiced.. I know it came from God, Because when you submit yourself to God he will answer your prayers and your souls desire as well as the gift of discernment of knowing what is from god or what is not.
    I consciously knew what was happening but the spirit took over,, I was listening to each word that came out my mouth. Once I received that amazing blessing I did my homework and looked up the words I spoke, also asked God for wisdom

    AB•BA Aramaic language meaning Father
    Allah : is the Arabic word for God in Abrahamic religion

    Sometimes it might just be our soul communicating with God speaking angelic languages, that not human nor angels or demons understand but just God.

    (1 Corinthians 14 :: NIV. Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.)

    So if you can’t interpret the languages, then it’s just not ment for us to.. because it’s our souls that’s communicating with God himself.

    It might be a msg for the church ! Or a Particular msg for someone who truly needs it.

    I can personally say Speaking in tongues is real. Not because I studied it or tried to Learn it by teachers,, but because I actually had a connection with God.. a personal spiritual connection. I can definitely beat if you ask these experts if they ever had a fully spiritual connection with God, meaning if they ( confessed there sins.. Worshiping God in a regular basis.. reading Gods word .. fully submitting themselves into gods presence ) I’m sure they never have experienced any of it.
    People might say I go to church every Sunday or I pray.. but there’s so much to it then just a Sunday brunch..people are more focus on science and will you give answers that will draw you away from god.
    Now if you believe in God .. your underestimating his power, I dare you or anyone reading this to have a deep spiritual connection with god.. if your writing about it and say it’s not true your still In search of finding the truth.
    Just how there are people of God there is also people that worship evil,, that being said not everyone that says there holy are holy. I’ve seen supernatural Demonic possession, where they have spoken in tongues. That’s why we always must pray for the discernment of the Holy Spirit to know what is from God.
    But that’s another subject, it gets deeper. But other then that this is my personal experience my testimony on how I use to think like you, but when you fully submit yourself God will prove to you that his gifts are real.

    Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable

    Matthew 12:30-32: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, any sin and blasphemy can be forgiven. … And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

    I have no doubt about this at all, and I can truly say that, My god is real as well as his promise of his Holy Spirit and his gifts. I’m presenting the truth the light and the way.. not what men say…but what God has Promised to us. The enemy will always try to find a way to gear you the wrong way.

    Think about it...again I dare you to have that spiritual encounter with God and you will see the truth. Ask and you shall receive !!

    Matthew 7:7-8
    Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye. shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh. findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

    Reply
  3. @Marrtin… the miracle is in both, depending upon the biblical story. Peters story is different.
    what you’ve said is different from the arguement. The point is no one understands anyone in today’s act of speaking in tongues. Completely different from Peter speaking 3k understanding. Oh by the way, some understood Peter’s language. Many thinks the miracle is only in speaking. What’s the point of speaking if no one understands it?

    Reply

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