Religious Cults Expert Provides Context to Spiritual Experiences

Industry: Science

Cult expert Joe Szimhart discusses how genuine spiritual experiences can be exploited by religious cults.

San Diego, CA (PRUnderground) May 11th, 2011

Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Joe Szimhart. During the interview Mr. Szimhart explains how religious cults use spiritual experiences to their advantage:

Alex Tsakiris: We can explain away spiritual experiences with materialist science, but that doesn’t really hold up very well, or we can look at the explanations cults give, and we know that can lead to some harmful behavior… so, from your experience, what should we do with these spiritual experiences?

Joe Szimhart: The key words are “stop and think.” And that’s something that people don’t want to do. To break it down and think about it and analyze it, you tend to lose what it is. Cults tend to tell people that the only thing between your heart and God is your head, my contention is that if that experience is as real as one feels it is, it’s not going to go away upon analysis. In fact, it can be strengthened if the analysis holds up the context of the experience.

Alex Tsakiris: I want to make sure that you’re not denying or trying to explain away that people are having these spiritual experiences. Do you believe there is such a thing as a genuine spiritual experience?

Joe Szimhart: Yes, to put it in one word. To back that up, I’ve had them myself. And to back it up even further, I’m a practicing Catholic. Now, a lot of people are very surprised when they hear that about me, but I have looked at its history and I understand all that’s wrong with it. I don’t deny any of that. But a Catholic has certain beliefs in miracles and all that sort of things and the Communion of Saints… it’s an article of faith.

Alex Tsakiris: Why would you offer up to us this strange little tidbit that as a Catholic it’s an, “article of faith”? Why would any of rational, logical person go there? I’m a believer in spirit and spiritual experiences as are you, but I don’t take anything as an article of faith.

Joe Szimhart: Being involved in Catholicism, I have to be very agile. In fact, some of my approaches, my personal approach to Catholicism could border on heresy. I don’t know. So it’s very difficult. It’s not easy. It’s an adult problem, you know? There are no clear, absolute answers to this, whether you’re a Catholic or not.

The Skeptiko interviews with Joe Szimhart (audio and transcript) are available at:

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