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Welcome to the ninth edition of Your Sunday Atheist.

We are going to take a closer look at the Pentecostal practice of "speaking in tongues" (a.k.a. glossolalia), a practice which is current in the Assemblies of God churches, where Sarah Palin spent twenty years as a worshipper.


This week's diary will take several hours to get through, if you view all the video clips and click through and read all the links.

If you skip the longer clips, and don't follow all the links, it should go much quicker. :-)

Let's begin with the 40-second version of the videotape that has been all over YouTube: PASTOR MUTHEE praying for Sarah Palin's success in politics and asking Jesus to keep the witches away from her.


Here is the longer version, if you have ten minutes to spare. Palin enters around the 7 minute mark. Before that, Muthee is talking about how christians need to infiltrate the US government.


Seems to me that Pastor Muthee took several giant steps over the line separating church and state here, as he speaks both in general and very specific terms about how he wants his listeners to vote.

We still do not have any video of Palin herself possessed by the "holy spirit" and "speaking in tongues", even though it is fairly certain she has undergone that experience. Until such video surfaces, let's take a look at video of some others while they are "under the influence" of "divine possession."

This is Glossolalia (according to The Skeptic's Dictionary):

glossolalia consists of strings of meaningless syllables made up of sounds taken from those familiar to the speaker and put together more or less haphazardly .... Glossolalia is language-like because the speaker unconsciously wants it to be language-like. Yet in spite of superficial similarities, glossolalia fundamentally is not language (Nickell, 108).


When spoken by schizophrenics, glossolalia are recognized as gibberish. In charismatic Christian communities glossolalia is sacred and referred to as "speaking in tongues" or having "the gift of tongues."

The above video runs just over 8 minutes. The most audible examples of glossolalia are from the guy with the microphone, who alternates between "speaking in tongues" and a hypnotic sing-song hymn and exhorting everyone to  a state of "holy ghost ecstasy." Check out all the American flags behind the speaker. Hyper-patriotism and hyper-religiosity are often combined in these churches.

Note at about one minute fifty seconds, the boy in the left foreground is not responding like the other children. His head is actually forced down my the man behind him, and soon he is surrounded by other adults urging him into submission.

The video below is a particularly disturbing clip (about 80 seconds long) from the film JESUS CAMP.


Just after the 30 second mark, the woman in the pink sweater gives us a little taste of glossolalia.
NOTE: There are links to the entire JESUS CAMP documentary at Your Sunday Atheist #4.

The Wikipedia article on glossolalia is too long to dissect in this diary, and the article itself is only a bare-bones summary of the subject. The point of this diary is that "speaking in tongues" (glossolalia) is part and parcel of Pentecostal Christianity today, which includes the Assemblies of God churches, of which the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate was a member in excellent standing for 20 years.

excerpt from Wikipedia article on Glossolalia

Learned behaviour

The material explanation arrived at by a number of studies is that glossolalia is "learned behavior". What is taught is the ability to produce language-like speech. This is only a partial explanation, but it is a part that has withstood much testing. It is possible to train novices to produce glossolalic speech. One experiment with 60 undergraduates found that 20% succeeded after merely listening to a 60-second sample, and 70% succeeded after training:

Our findings that glossolalia can be easily learned through direct instruction, along with demonstrations that tongue speakers can initiate and terminate glossolalia upon request and can exhibit glossolalia in the absence of any indexes of trance ... support the hypothesis that glossolalia utterances are goal-directed actions rather than involuntary happenings.

That glossolalia can be learned is also seen in the traces left behind by teachers. An investigation by the Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn showed that the influence of a particular leader can shape a group's glossolalia: where certain prominent glossolalists had visited, whole groups of glossolalists would speak in his style of speech.

Quoting again from Wikipedia, this time their article on Pentacostalism:

Estimated to number around 115 million followers worldwide in 2000, Pentecostalism is sometimes referred to as the "third force of Christianity." The great majority of Pentecostals are to be found in Developing Countries, although much of their international leadership is still in North America. The largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, the Assemblies of God, has over 12,311 churches in the U.S. and 283,413 churches and outstations in over 200 countries, and approximately 57 million adherents worldwide.

The video below (from ABC News) is less than three minutes and gives us a few more tastes of glossolalia. The anchor mentions that if elected, Sarah Palin will become the most powerful Pentecostal politician in US history, far more so far John Ashcroft or James Watt.


There are 16 "Fundamental Truths" according to the General Council of the Assemblies of God. Item number 8 on that list is speaking in tongues (glossolalia):

The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance. The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues, but is different in purpose and use.


Numerous churches draw a distinction between "speaking in tongues," which is an ecstatic utterance granted by God for prayer, and "the gift of tongues," which is a rare miracle in which God enables a Christian to speak in a foreign language he has not previously studied in order to proclaim the Gospel.

Here is a short list of related links for further reading:
Destructive Cults
Love Bombing

Well, this has been a pretty depressing diary, so let's try to close on a lighter note:


As long as the Pentecostals just dance around frenetically, releasing their pent-up sexual tension, the rest of us shouldn't have anything to worry about. Unless they are dancing in the White House, that is.

Here are a few useful links:

American Atheists

American Humanist Association

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Freedom from Religion Foundation

Full disclosure: I am a member of the above organizations.

Now let's start a list of some great atheist blogs (and blogs by atheists):


Richard Dawkins

Sam Harris

Anyone else have a favorite blog to nominate for this list?

Apparently, yes!

Center for Inquiry

The Panda's Thumb

Please check out earlier editions of the series:

#8: Follow the Money Edition
We discuss the PULPIT INITIATIVE and breaking news of the Wall Street Bailout.

#7: Relax
We comment on some CRAZINESS in the news related to Sarah Palin and Tony Alamo, and reply to some comments from readers of YSA #6.

#6: Political Porn Edition
In which we learn a plurality of kossacks have a low tolerance for a certain Indian-born medical quack, even when said quack supports Obama.

#5: Dalton Trumbo Edition
Looks at the new documentary on writer Dalton Trumbo and the Hollywood blacklist.

#4: Child Abuse Edition
Discusses three award-winning documentaries exposing the abuse of children at the hands of preachers, evangelists, and Catholic priests.

#3: Barna Evangelicals
Explodes the myth of Monolithic Evangelicalism in the USA (sort of).

#2: Contraception & Abortion Edition
Discusses the Bush Administration's recent attempts to blur the distinction between contraception and abortion.

#1: Anti-Puritan Rebellion Edition
Discusses the John Edwards kerfluffle and the effect America's obsession with illicit sex has had upon society.

As always, here is your Video Reward for making it all the way to the end.

Hollywood glossolalia, circa 1933!


NEXT WEEK'S EDITION OF YOUR SUNDAY ATHEIST (number ten in our series) will feature famous atheists from yesterday and today. Use some of those handy dKos tools, like SEARCH or SUBSCRIBE, and keep up to date on this series as new diaries are published.

Originally posted to rdbaker43 on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 03:30 PM PDT.


The whole speaking in tongues thing is

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