I found this claim in a Protestant Christian web-site (which prompts this question): "In just about every part of the world, glossolalia can be observed. Pagan religions all over the world are obsessed with tongues. These include the Shamans in the Sudan, the Shango cult of the West Coast of Africa, the Zor cult of Ethiopia, the Voodoo cult in Haiti, and the Aborigines of South America and Australia. Murmuring or speaking gibberish that is construed to be deep mystical insight by holy men is an ancient practice."

Glossolalia is the term for what is more usually called 'speaking in tongues' as practiced in some charismatic / pentecostal denominations. The quote came from https://www.gotquestions.org/glossolalia.html but there was nothing more about the non-Christian practice, because the page was out to present a biblical view.

It was just that claim that I wanted to ask about, preferably getting answers from Christians sympathetic to what they view as modern-day Holy Spirit speaking in tongues. Would they readily admit to that non-Christian (and, therefore, non-Holy Spirit) phenomenon? Or would they deny such a thing went on in non-Christian religions? (Which is NOT to invite arguments for their practice being authentic while non-Christian practices were a sham.)

I'm not asking for theological explanations about glossolalia but whether it goes on in non-Christian circles and, therefore, whether that presents a challenge to Christians sympathetic to its practice in their ranks, or not.

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    @Spirit Realm Investigator Granted that xenoglossia is the ability to speak fluently a language the speaker has never learned, and that THAT is what the N.T. speaks of, I have chosen the word 'glossolalia' because most of the time, Christians sympathetic to 'speaking in tongues today' refer to that, and NOT fluently speaking a language they had never learned.
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 14:40
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    @Anne It is interesting that those who 'interpret' tongues never tell us what 'language' the 'tongue' is. And there appears to be no occasion when one 'tongue' is identical to another 'tongue'. So glossolalia would appear to be the correct term to use as no apparent effort is ever made to identify or categorise 'tongues'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 15:54
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    The spiritual realm is rife with counterfeits and should not shake the Christian foundation. The Christian test of ANY spiritual gift is whether or not the Lord Jesus Christ is glorified thereby and the Church edified, which is the Holy Spirit's role and the purpose of the gifts. Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 13:19
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    @Mike Borden Yes, and any Holy Spirit event that seemed to have supernatural gifts or events or words of knowledge given, always, but always, maintains utter agreement with God's written word in the Holy Bible. Anyone claiming to be Holy Spirit led but who violates what the Bible commands /instructs is following a deceiving, lying spirit.
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 14:11
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    The expression "whatever is of God, the devil imitates" springs to mind. The difference between what is from God and what is from the enemy is that the Holy Spirit always gives glory to Christ Jesus and points to Him.
    – Lesley
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


To second RobJarvis's answer, and as I already indicated in a previous answer to a related question, there is evidence from the arena of demon possession and exorcism suggesting that demonic spirits can sometimes manifest through Xenoglossy in possessed individuals. I'm copy-pasting the relevant portion of my previous answer below:

Another source of similar kinds of anecdotes is found in the arena of exorcisms. In the preface of his book Demonic Foes: My Twenty-Five Years as a Psychiatrist Investigating Possessions, Diabolic Attacks, and the Paranormal, Dr. Richard Gallagher shares the following:

The world’s leading psychiatric authority on demonic possession delves into the hidden world of exorcisms and his own transformation from cynic to believer over the course of his twenty-five-year career.

Successful New York psychiatrist Richard Gallagher was skeptical yet intrigued when a hard-nosed, no-nonsense Catholic priest asked him to examine a woman for a possible exorcism. Meeting her, Gallagher was astonished. The woman’s behavior defied logic. In an instant, she could pinpoint a person’s secret weaknesses. She knew how individuals she’d never known had died, including Gallagher’s own mother, who passed away after a lengthy battle with ovarian cancer. She spoke fluently in multiple languages, including Latin—but only when she was in a trance.

This was not psychosis, Gallagher concluded. It was, in his scientific estimation, what could only be describe as paranormal ability. The woman wasn’t mentally disturbed—she was possessed. This remarkable case was the first of many that Gallagher would encounter. Sought after today by leaders of all faiths—ministers, priests, rabbis and imams, Gallagher has spent a quarter-century studying demonic activity and exorcisms throughout history and has witnessed more cases than any other psychiatrist in the world today.

In this eerie and enthralling book, Gallagher chronicles his most famous cases for the first time, including:

A professional who claimed her spiritualist mother had “assigned” her a spirit who “turned on her.” A petite woman—”90 pounds soaking wet”—who threw a 200-pound Lutheran deacon across the room to the horror of onlookers in a church hall; And “Julia,” the so-called Satanic queen and self-described witch, who exhibited “the most harrowing” case, a “once-in-a-century” possession. Going beyond horror movies and novels, Demonic Foes takes you deep into this hidden world, sharing in full details of these true-life tales of demonic possession.

In an article titled "Psychiatrist believes demonic possession and exorcism is real" (link), Dr. Richard Gallagher is reported to have said the following as well:

He's heard the voices speak in ancient Greek. He's heard them speak in Latin. Dr Richard Gallagher says they converse in Chinese, Spanish, French; that they're wildly smart and manipulative.

The voices and the languages come out of people, he says, but they're not actually human.

They're demons. They're real, and so is evil, he says. Demonic possession exists, and he has seen it firsthand.

One could argue that, if demons are causing people to do xenoglossy today, the Holy Spirit should be more than capable as well (just like He was at Pentecost, in Acts 2).

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    Thank you for confirming the quoted claim in my Q. It's always been the case that, whatever is of God, Satan imitates with a view to deceive, including getting people to speak in languages those around them cannot understand, plus known languages (as in Acts 2). But re. your last sentence; there's never been any idea in Christianity that the Holy Spirit is not capable of causing genuine tongues today (or ever). His capability is not in question! It's our gullibility that is! God's Spirit always point to, and honours, Christ. Demons never do!
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 16:46

From Anne's question:

It was just that claim that I wanted to ask about, preferably getting answers from Christians sympathetic to what they view as modern-day Holy Spirit speaking in tongues.

I gather from this that you are asking for opinions or viewpoints from so-called tongue-talking Christians. I belong to that category, so here's my two cents:

I readily acknowledge that there are spiritual experiences and phenomena outside the realm of biblical Christianity, just as I recognize that there are spirits other than the Holy Spirit. In fact, John told us to test the spirits, to see if they are of Christ (1 Jn. 4:3). Therefore, it is not difficult for me to admit that glossolalia in pagan circles exists.

Further, I recognize the glossolalia practiced by Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians to be a spiritual gift of the Holy Spirit (of course, discounting some who are "faking it"—not for me to judge who, but it happens).

My conclusion, then, is that glossolalia experienced by anyone lacking the Christian new birth must be demonic in origin.

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