In the new documentary Kumaré: The True Story of a False Prophet, film maker Vikram Gandhi explores the topic of human spirituality by posing as an Indian guru in Phoenix, AZ to great success. The trailer looks fascinating - as it shows those he convinces to follow him experiencing profound religious and spiritual moments - even though the guy is lying to them and has no real power other than to work a camera. This reminds me of my own spiritual journey.
I am fascinated with religion and what causes people to develop such strong feeling about something that really makes no logical sense. Most of this comes from my former life as an evangelical United Pentecostal Jesusfreak - the kind where women can't cut their hair, have to wear dresses, and can't wear jewelry or make-up - but not the kind that dances with snakes.
Speaking in tongues is a requirement for salvation, and that above anything was what I struggled with the most as I tried to reconcile my religious beliefs with my sexuality. I have spoken in tongues on multiple occasions, and I have to be honest - it was some of the best highs I've ever felt.
But now I am no longer a Christian, and my old friends from home ask, "How do you dismiss what you felt? That has to be God."
I do not discount the experience, I just no longer believe its origins were heavenly. I believe the human mind has power we do not understand, and a drive to feel connected to something larger. For some, religion fills that void. Trance like states happen across multiple religions, and the power of suggestion can easily push those feelings along.