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Religion and Neuroscience

By Edited Jun 7, 2016 1 0

God Brain
Credit: www.rationalscepticism.org

Religion On The Brain

How Religion Can Be Explained By Neuroscience

Before Xanax There Was Religion

Religion has run humanity for as long as historical records have been kept. Man’s search for something bigger or more significant has been the catalyst for so many different religions and allowed them to support their infrastructure. Religion has also been the culprit for many problems humanity faces on this Earth. Can we sift through all the static and single out the real reason religion is so dominant in human life? If one was to pull apart all the layers of the human brain to understand religion, what would be found, behind the idea of wanting something more significant, would be anxiety.

For thousands of years billions of humans have built their lives around an idea that a creator was out there looking down on them, caring for them, and protecting them. What if that isn’t the case? What if God is not looking down, is not caring, and is not protecting us, but instead is just in our minds. Well, according to experiments done by the Koren Helmet (aka God Helmet), designed by Dr. Michael Persinger, this is exactly what is occurring. 

The God Helmet

The God Helmet applies complex magnetic signals to the head person who is wearing it. The fields don’t work by inducing patterns in the brain. They have patterns that bear information and magnetic fields, that appear from electrical activity, in the brain pick up the information.[2]

Dr. Persinger wanted to bring God into the lab and try to experiment. What he would do is put volunteers into a sealed chamber, hook them up to the God Helmet, and turn of the lights. Dr. Persinger’s research team would then watch the subject's brain activity for one hour. Dr. Persinger would then activate a magnetic coil, that sat over the right side of the brain, the power from the helmet focuses on the brain cells in the right temporal lobe. Dr. Persinger theorizes that these cells will stimulate the subject's brain into thinking that, “Someone” or “Something” is present. Dr. Persinger tells why he thinks that God is created inside our minds:

“We hypothesize that as the human beings developed the ability to forecast their own self-dissolution, their own death, which is tremendously anxiety-generating, that another concept emerged which allowed that anxiety to be reduced. And whatever that concept was it had certain parameters. It had to be infinite, and forever and everywhere, otherwise it would have an end - if you have an end, then you have anxiety. So there had to be a concept inculcated within the brain itself that there is something out there that goes on forever and if you somehow relate to it and can be a part of it, the idea of anxiety becomes, non-event.”[1]

Dr. Persinger believes that the effects of our brains right temporal lobe to relieve the anxiety of death is what we sense when we think we are sensing the divine. The God Helmet was designed to produce this effect in subjects on demand. Most subjects report sensing or feeling something more around them while under the effects of the God Helmet. Some subjects even report sensing that something divine has visited them. Similar effects have been reported by patients who have suffered Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and stroke.

Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor received the research opportunity of a lifetime when she had a stroke. During her stroke she felt euphoria, bigger than herself, and felt completely connected to the universe while the left hemisphere of her brain was disconnected. She explains how, from her experience, the left hemisphere of the brain exhibits a character of selfishness, for lack of a better term, and the right hemisphere exhibits a character of oneness with the world. With these two together they create who we are in relation to reality. The space in which Taylor enters when the left hemisphere shuts down is a reality composed of infinite possibilities and no worries. This is an example of how an educated individual can have an experience of what an another individual might feel as being involved in what God is. All of these feelings within humans has the capability of being corrupted and controlled by man in the form known as religion.

Religion's Fallacy

Religion is a set of beliefs that a group of people agree upon and organize around. Through history certain humans have slid themselves into positions of authority within these organizations through subterfuge in an attempt to solidify their agenda. Not to say that everyone who was a leader of any religious organization was corrupt, but that the tendency of man to adapt to his lifestyle and want more is a huge factor. With the emotions of humans and the anxiety created by our minds, religion was the perfect antidote to justify and escape those feelings. 

Religion can sometimes be a safe and positive place for humans to gather and socialize, relieving stress. In many cases though, especially throughout history, religion has been known to create fanatics and people ready to destroy and mutilate others for their own gain or for what they think God wants them to do. Needless to say religion isn’t all bad, but if people understood the reasons why they feel the way they do maybe this fact can change the way people react to these feelings. We might be able to reduce the fanaticism and mitigate the impact of corrupt individuals if we understand our emotions.

The GOD Delusion

The God Delusion
Amazon Price: $16.95 $5.20 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 7, 2016)
With rigor and wit, Dawkins examines God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong but potentially deadly. It also offers exhilarating insight into the advantages of atheism to the individual and society, not the least of which is a clearer, truer appreciation of the universe's wonders than any faith could ever muster.

The Neuroscience of Religious Experience

The Neuroscience of Religious Experience
Amazon Price: $109.99 $74.40 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 7, 2016)
Recent technical advances in the life and medical sciences have revolutionized our understanding of the brain, while the emerging disciplines of social, cognitive, and affective neuroscience continue to reveal the connections of the higher cognitive functions and emotional states associated with religious experience to underlying brain states. At the same time, a host of developing theories in psychology and anthropology posit evolutionary explanations for the ubiquity and persistence of religious beliefs and the reports of religious experiences across human cultures, while gesturing toward physical bases for these behaviors.
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Bibliography

  1. Melissa Karnaze "Does belief in God mask the fear of death." Mindful Construct. 26/10/2011. 21/03/2014 <Web >
  2. Murphy "The God Helmet." Innerworlds. 21/03/2014 <Web >

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