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Lying about supernatural experience - leo the lamb - 02-11-2016

I'm reading a thread elsewhere about the Holy Spirit, and something someone posted got me wondering.

There is no way that all or most of the apparently supernatural experiences that people talk about and observe in Christian circles are legit. There's just too much confusion and contradiction, and plenty of exposed charlatanry. I'd always assumed that the charlatans were the ones in positions of influence, but now I can't help thinking it may be more widespread than that.

If a believer becomes disillusioned about their system of faith after a lifetime of really really believing, and even having had paranormal experiences which they felt were real, they have a choice to make. They can repress their doubts and continue to believe superficially, going through the motions and clinging to any hope of evidence they can find; they can refuse to continue believing against reason, and deal with the ramifications of their situation and decision; they can shut down internally and do their best not to think about belief or unbelief while they try to live a regular life. They can even go back and forth between these choices.

Or, they can acknowledge their disillusionment and keep it to themselves, using their reputation and insider knowledge to fool people into believing that they still believe. The worst of them do this to gain influence among their friends or over their underlings, and/or for profit. But maybe there's more than a few who do this simply out of fear. They're afraid of losing their friends and status, afraid to find out what's on the other side of the wall. So they keep on keepin' on, living and telling a lie.

I'm wondering just how often a supernatural experience or spiritual manifestation which is observed by others is just an act. How many times is a word of prophecy or a prayer in tongues or a miracle nothing more than a trick of perception? How many regular mild-mannered church people are pretenders who are fully conscious of their deception?


RE: Lying about supernatural experience - WalrusWrangler - 02-11-2016

I was never in a Pentecostal church where prophesy or tongues occurred. The Baptist church where I grew up had a lot of spirited worship, though. People would testify, shout, run the aisles, and sometimes get even crazier. What was legit and what was for show? I really don't know. Some people would be so absurd with their expressions of worship that I suspected they were just looking for attention. For example, I had a family member who would scream like a banshee. She didn't shout or say amen. In the middle of singing when people were getting shout-y, she would let rip a blood-curdling shriek like something straight out of a slasher flick. Maybe she just didn't realize what she was doing was odd, but I always suspected that it was just for attention (based partly on her personality as well).

If someone says that the spirit is leading them to do this or that, I normally try not to judge. They could be mistaken, but I don't like to doubt that they genuinely believe what they say. Guessing at motives is a dangerous game.

The exception is if they're being manipulative toward others. I didn't see it often, even in fundamentalism, but sometimes someone would say, "The spirit is leading me to tell you..." then follow it up with some command. One of the craziest examples is someone I know who had a man tell her, "God told me that it's His will for you to be my wife." How's that for a pickup line? They didn't get married, or even date as far as I know.


Lying about supernatural experience - rtgmath - 02-11-2016

Great topic. I don't know how to quantify these things. They may not be able to be accurately measured.

Then again, I could do a web-based survey instrument. If I had the time. That is something I might think about for the future.

But I would say most people won't admit to not believing. Since whole social groups are based on belief and particular forms of belief, to admit unbelief would exclude you from the people you consider your friends. I didn't even come close to admitting unbelief. I just started asking questions that people couldn't answer, and that pretty well got me excluded.

As for whether the most fervent are the ones struggling the most with belief, I can see that as a possibility. Then again, maybe they do believe that strongly - if only for a time. Can people fool themselves? I think so. People are manipulative. I'd bet a large percentage of pastors don't believe what they are preaching. If they didn't, they'd soon be out of work.


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RE: Lying about supernatural experience - leo the lamb - 02-12-2016

Walrus is right about guessing at motives. It doesn't help anyone. I just wonder if my theory that lying is more widespread than I thought can offer a bit of an explanation for all the strangeness. And note that I am thinking about this mostly in terms of the 'spiritual gifts' exhibited in pentecostal type churches, though it applies in a broader sense to loss of faith. It is impossible to quantify, and anyone who is pretending to have spiritual experiences is not likely to admit as much.

I guess the takeaway here could be not to worry too much about whether or not someone's experiences are legit, but to take anything said specifically to you with a grain of salt. I still struggle with the idea that Christians should have perfect discernment via the Holy Spirit, but if there's room for doubt it could be very counterproductive to accept things at face value.


Lying about supernatural experience - rtgmath - 02-12-2016

I know Christians don't have perfect discernment. I don't. And the squabbles, fights, battles and posturing over positions show it as well. The only way it could be asserted that Christians have such perfect discernment would be if no one was a Christian but you.

That doesn't make me any more likely to accept something as legitimate, however. IF an experience or position moves one to show more fruit of the Spirit and honest searching for God, I can accept that. Something that produces a negativity, hatred of people and a desire to harm, that I absolutely reject.


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RE: Lying about supernatural experience - WalrusWrangler - 02-12-2016

Most people I've known who claim to have perfect discernment are of the manipulative sort. They don't say outright that they're perfect, but they will tell young, impressionable high school students that they know God's will for their life (going to a particular Bible college, for instance). Anyone who claims to know God's will for someone else is a snake, in my experience.


RE: Lying about supernatural experience - leo the lamb - 02-12-2016

(02-12-2016, 09:19 AM)rtgmath Wrote: The only way it could be asserted that Christians have such perfect discernment would be if no one was a Christian but you.

Yep. Or you + a select few who agree with you on (almost) everything.

Quote:That doesn't make me any more likely to accept something as legitimate, however. IF an experience or position moves one to show more fruit of the Spirit and honest searching for God, I can accept that. Something that produces a negativity, hatred of people and a desire to harm, that I absolutely reject.

That's a very good guide. Though a cunning person could use something that sounds good to manipulate. Even saying something like "Get deeper into the Word" could cause unnecessary doubt and guilt. But each individual must make up their own mind on such matters.