The lesson on the Christian belief in the Trinity included the claimed experiences of Charismatic Christians. There was a video clip from ABC television’s nightline programme which looked at the phenomenon of “speaking in tongues.” Neurologists were interested in what happened in the brains of those who attended Pentecostal worship. The pastor and a member of the congregation being studied submitted themselves to brain scans which allowed researchers to determine which parts of the brain were active when they spoke in tongues. The scans revealed that the frontal lobe which was active during the prayers of Buddhist monks and Christian nuns, remained relatively inactive during the experience of tongues. The neurologist explained that the research showed that the experience of tongues was quite different from other spiritual experiences, what it did not do was to explain the origin of the experience.
One member of the class looked unimpressed. “It has been scientifically proven that people can kill others just thinking about it happening,” It was hard to discern a link with what had just been watched. Pressing for some evidence of such a startling claim brought the response that Charles Manson could do it. Among the bizarre claims about the 1960s cult leader, the suggestion that he could kill by thought waves must be one of the strangest.
Another student, a propos of nothing in particular, said the world was just coming out of an ice age, although couldn’t recall where the information had appeared or what evidence there was.
After the lesson, a third told student told me that the plan to storm the United States’ military base at Area 51 in Nevada on 20th September had resulted in the death of one of those who had participated. Searching online for evidence, it transpired that out of the two million who had responded to a joke post on Facebook, declaring themselves interested in attending an Area 51 festival in Nevada, just 1,500 had attended the festival. A tenth of that number, just one hundred and fifty people, had joined in the attempt to break through the perimeter fence of the base. There were no reports of anyone having died.
It seems odd that in a post-religious age, when authority should lie with scientific method, when empirical evidence should be the arbiter of claims, people have become as credulous as they were in medieval times, accepting stories without a thought for testing assertions and without a thought for testable evidence.
It was G.K. Chesterton who wrote, “when men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” There seem good grounds for his assertion.