Belief in the Supernatural Gone Wild: Snake Handling

If there is any one aspect of supernatural belief that is completely nuts, it has to be the practice of handling snakes to test one’s faith.

Snake Handler 1

During my magical thinking days I might have thought I’d seen a ghost, or had a moment of déjà vu that made me believe in some angelic force, or supposedly had a premonitory dream, or even maybe I prayed and thought that prayer came true in some sense; but never could my disposition for the supernatural prompt me to test what I believe, in the face of poisonous snakes.

Snake Handler 2

According to the Wiki page, Snake Handling seems to be an American phenomenon, originating in the Appalachian Mountains. The page tells us, not surprisingly, that the practice is derived from passages from the New Testament.

And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

Snake Handler 3

So here we have it, belief in the supernatural gone wild. According to what I have seen in videos, the practice involves a congregation that sings gospel music while men of faith parade around the room grappling rattlesnakes, maniacally boasting their connection with God.

Snake Handler 4

The presiding factor over the matter is to suggest that because one believes so deeply in the power of God, the loving creator will, in return, and through the intervening medium of a supernatural force, protect them from harm.


I guess Pastor Wolford wasn’t as clear as he thought he was in his relationship with God. What I find most intriguing is that, once again, we have the behavior of people being governed not just by belief in and of itself, but in the words of a religious text. I find it very interesting that in the modern age, when we have man-made crafts scanning objects throughout the solar system and that science has led the medical field into the capability of producing human organs with a computer printer, that the words of a two-thousand year old book can still be taken seriously. Let me rephrase that to be respectable: religious texts are important for understanding our past as humans; this is about as seriously as they should be taken.

Of course, it was the science of the Internet that helped me to realize the reality about the supernatural, so I can hardly blame humans for the lack of self-introspective progress. However, it is kind of uncanny that even during those days when I did believe, I always had a nagging sense of, “Huh? Moses parted the Red Sea?”

Nevertheless, having come to terms with reality, I am just glad I was able to escape from the champing fangs of religion with my life. Sadly enough, there are millions who do not, and maybe we can examine more of these in our next edition of Belief in the Supernatural Gone Wild: The Suicide Bomber.

This entry was posted in atheism, LIfe, Psychology, religion. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Belief in the Supernatural Gone Wild: Snake Handling

  1. john zande says:

    “a nagging sense of, Huh?…

    That is a great description :)

  2. Reblogged this on myatheistlife and commented:
    It’s a fucking shame we can’t nominate these ‘individuals’ for the Darwin awards but then the awards would rise to a new level of skill and style that just doesn’t exist elsewhere at such a confoundingly steady pace.

  3. Alice says:

    it was the science of the Internet that helped me to realize the reality about the supernatural

    Or maybe is was the DEVIL!!


    I often wonder why there is not more outcry from Christians to stay away from the web.

  4. LEjames says:

    Hi Alice,

    It’s an interesting question ponder, really. I think that the Christian community sees the net as an opportunity to proliferate their message…only, it doesn’t seem to work as well.

    If the religions of the world want to stay with the times, they have to be a part of technological advancement so they can fill their congregations, and yet statistics are showing an increase in non-belief since the net became ubiquitous. It’s a conundrum for the sentinels of belief, and seems to reflect on the nature of truth; and, of course, the decreasing capability of keeping opposing information at bay.

    Very nice to hear from you and hope you are staying warm!

  5. Ghastly Von Gore says:

    I’ve always been fascinated with this practice.. I just don’t understand the thinking behind this in any religious fashion. Great read though:) I had no idea that it had originated in the Appalachians…fascinating!

    • LEjames says:

      Yes it is fascinating, and highly insane too. It must feel like a very paranormal activity to be in the room watching something like this, but I couldn’t imagine.

      • Ghastly Von Gore says:

        absolutely, I’m sure it’s quite the experience. I’d love to talk with someone who has taken part in this practice..perhaps an interview in the future lol

  6. Ghastly Von Gore says:

    Reblogged this on Ghastly Girl : Paranormal News and commented:
    It’s amazing how something so peculiar has become so commonplace in some areas. Great read from Captivating the Masses on the history and a bit of the thinking behind Snake Handing

  7. CHope says:

    Oh yes, from my home state of Tennessee. Fantastic! (Insert snarkiness here.)

  8. LEjames says:

    We love Tennessee here at Captivating the Masses. Never been there, but it looks like this might be a good theme for a restaurant. Okay, maybe not.

    • CHope says:

      Geez, you don’t know the half of it. I hate summer time around here, my family practically hides! People are more addictive to VBS (Vacation Bible School) than they are to meth and that’s saying a lot for Tipton County! Seriously, every brand of Baptist, Assemblies of God and Word of Faith Churches does it all summer. I’m not kidding, at least one church will have it for a whole week every week of the summer. They have some programs that run from 8 or 9 am to noon and others have VBS from 5 to 8 in the evenings.

      As far as the snakes are concerned, I never handled any while I was a Christian, nor did I hang from chandeliers, but I did pray in tongues, prophesy, pray for people, dance, soak, minister (in the US and the UK), speak, work in the nursery and sung in choirs, trios, worship teams and even did a few solos. I was even a CBN phone counselor for their affiliate while I went to “Bridal College” in Dallas.

      Anytime somebody tries to friendship evangelize me I show them the door. Hell, I can usually school them about Jesus, God, Holy Spirit and the Bible. :)

      • LEjames says:

        Vacation Bible School, my word, and in all that sweltering heat. And friendship evangelizing, it’s like the assault of a vampire, scary stuff. This is all very interesting to someone from the West Coast. It’s as though if I were to travel there, I’d have to go prepared, with items of mental protection or something.

  9. Daniel Digby says:

    When I was a wee lad (well, more like junior high school), I rode my bike to a tent revival on the edge of town. Pentecostals were still foreign to me, but we had just what you’d expect, and after the offering, they started passing around the snakes – mostly copperheads, but a few rattlesnakes for those who felt truly blessed. I was impressed with how organized they were, taking up offerings before the snakes. Anyway, I politely declined, although no one was bitten that night. God was obviously watching over us. It seems some pastors neglect the first step of getting right with God, and God lets them know. My faith was insufficiently strong that night.

    Thanks for the memories.

    • LEjames says:

      “…but a few rattlesnakes for those who felt truly blessed.”

      Wow, test level stratification in the practice of snake handling, that is a new one.

      It’s good to know you weren’t hurt though.

  10. psalmsdaily says:
    These people are taking the scriptures out of context. If some one loses faith just because of other people and their practices then their soul (desire) is not truly centered on knowing Yeshua. Scripture is spiritually Discerned. The carnal mind as in the example of these people mentioned above displays their own corrupt understanding of scripture.

    • LEjames says:

      Thank you for setting the story straight.

      “Scripture is spiritually Discerned.”

      What does this mean? Or rather, why the emphasis on capitalizing the letter “d” in discerned?

      The sentences you’ve provided before and after this line are slim on data.

      • psalmsdaily says:

        Hello, I see that you replied to my comment and it has been a while since I logged back in to wordpress. It is clear to me that you are picking apart my english, writing skills, or whatever. You may rather do that than open yourself up ( be open minded) to believing the truth of Almighty God’s words. I am a man and prone to error. You have the ability to make mistakes also. I do not want to point out your mistakes accusingly and wish you would not do that to me also. If I did that I would be making a mistake, because that is not kind.
        If you don’t have or desire to have or are seeking to have anything found below then you will never know truth. There are many spirits that exist beyond what you and I can see with our own eyes.
        Basically or fundamentally there are two different types of spirits.
        Spirits of truth (the spirit of truth) and deceiving spirits. If you have the right spirit helping you you can understand truth. It is common sense to some degree, but I must admit some of us are just spiritually blind. I admit that I was not always seeking to know or understand my own spiritual condition.
        Almighty God knows your heart. He is not going to give you understanding unless you turn to Him. If you ask Him for truth with the right intentions, He “might” (my word not His) give it to you.
        The Beatitudes
        He said:

        3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
        for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
        4 Blessed are those who mourn,
        for they will be comforted.
        5 Blessed are the meek,
        for they will inherit the earth.
        6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
        for they will be filled.
        7 Blessed are the merciful,
        for they will be shown mercy.
        8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
        for they will see God.
        9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
        for they will be called children of God.
        10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
        for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
        11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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