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Although outlawed in many states, serpent handling remains an active religious practice—and one that is far more stereotyped than understood. Ralph W. Hood, Jr. and W. Paul Williamson have spent fifteen years touring serpent-handling churches in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia, conducting scores of interviews with serpent handlers, and witnessing hundreds of serpent-handling services.
In this illuminating book they present the most in-depth, comprehensive study of serpent handling to date. Them That Believe not only explores facets of this religious practice—including handling, preaching, and the near-death experiences of individuals who were bitten but survived—but also provides a rich analysis of this phenomenon from historical, social, religious, and psychological perspectives.
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1. "They Shall Take up Serpents"
2. The History of Pentecostalism Absent the Serpent
3. The Media and the Man: George Went Hensley
4. Serpent Handling Endorsed by the Church of God
5. The Serpent: Sign and Symbol
6. Trance States: Tongues Speaking and the Anointing
7. Extemporaneous Sermons in the Serpent-Handling Tradition
8. The Experience of Handling Serpents
9. The Experience of the Anointing
10. Near-Death Experience from Serpent Bites in Religious Settings
11. Music among Serpent-Handling Churches
12. Serpent Handling and the Law: History and Empirical Studies