Is Religion Good For Your Brain?

When you think of religion does your body get invigorated? Do you feel your soul flutter? Does your brain reach a higher state of functioning? In answer to the last question, Jeffrey Anderson, assistant professor of nueroradiology at the University of Utah states that,

We think we have the tools now to do a study of brain activity during the really profound and deep types of emotional and social interactions associated with religion, and we’re really excited to try and understand more.

religion science god

Religion constantly falls under the close scrutiny of science.

Anderson and other researchers are launching a new study that will examine exactly how religion and spiritual rituals impact the human brain. The study will consist of participants between the age of 20 and 30 who are currently active in their faith. An MRI scan will be performed while the participants are surrounded by faith oriented activities, such as listening to spiritual music, listening to proclamations from their religion, and acting out religious rituals associated with their particular faith. Very interesting indeed, but it will take some time before the results of the study are posted. If you believe your self to be a prime candidate for the study, and of course as long as you are in the immediate area of the University of Utah, you can apply to be a participant on the Religious Brain Project website.

Related ArticleMorals or More Rails (to guide us)

The study does beg another set of questions however: can religion and belief be measured by science? Or rather, should science be used to gauge religion? Is it morally correct to accept religion over science, or vice versa? Essentially we arrive at a very pertinent question: should religion be completely replaced by science within the school system as a more viable teaching strategy?

Bill Nye (yes, the science guy) and Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis, supporting the side of religion and creationism) squared off in a debate last night about religion which addressed these issues directly. The overarching question of the debate was : Is creation a viable model of human origins in today’s modern scientific era? Both sides had their own opinions as well as evidence to back up their claims.

religion creation science

Which Religion is right? Which book do your prefer? sciencebasedlife.wordpress.com

In the debate, Ken Ham defends religion by stating that science should be split into two separate categories. The first would pertain to observational science (a science based on models). This category involves what we experience now and how the world works today. The second category involves historical science (a type of theoretical science of origin) which is used to define our origins and makes sense of the world around us from a historical perspective. He stresses the importance of separating the two to help with the confusion that children are being exposed to. He gives the example that by only teaching evolution, which to most starts with a random beginning for no reason other than “it happened,” we limit children to thinking that science is just as random. This randomness can crate incredible confusion when making conclusions about existential quandaries children are trying to work through. Ken Ham asserts that instead, children should be taught religion and to embrace the idea of God because it empowers them to think they are indeed special, as they are made in the image of God.

Related ArticleIn 1610 God Was a Binary, Fractal, Self-Replicating Algorithm

Bill Nye on the other hand focuses on accepted scientific evidence to disprove Ham’s assertions regarding religious truth. For example, he refers to the different layers in stone and snow that have been compressed to form ice which would take far longer than the amount of time Creationism allows for. He talks about the allotted four thousand years since the Great Flood and the improbability of the amount of species we see today to exist with the limited time that Creationists claim elapsed since then. He stresses the idea that we need to depend on natural law and orders, not religious or divine laws, to predict practical and accurate future theories and laws. He asserts that the basis of scientific education must be information derived through the scientific process, such as evolution, in order for children and future scientists to make reasonable scientific predictions in the future. In essence, he is claiming that one must understand and accept theories like evolution which have been supported with scientific evidence in order to understand why a fish can come to walk on land, why there are over 8.7 million different species on Earth, why layers in rocks and trees and ice exist, and so on.  He stresses that by allowing religion and Creationism to thrive in academic settings we are impeding the scientific literacy of future generations and essentially stifling the United States in future scientific breakthroughs.

Related Article: Watching Evolution Occur

The debate finished with questions and rebuttals, but the underlying theme of the debate, I fear, was lost. Instead of trying to prove why one or the other is wrong in the school system, it turned into a contest of ego and the denouncing of each others ideals.

religion science stats

Some surprising statistics about religion and science. blog.faithlife.com

I wonder, why not accept both ideas? Why not teach every child in every classroom the idea of science, and then, on your own time, teach your children your worship, your religion, and your belief. Allow for both religion and science to be taught in their own settings (in schools and at home/place of worship respectively) and allow for the child to then choose which idea they support and believe. What is with this unyielding hatred between the two schools of thought? What ever happened to being free and allowing for choice? Most importantly though: can’t we all just get along?

In the end, much of the issue is largely based on opinion, some opinions stemming from facts, others stemming from observed information. One thing is for certain, all this debate and speculation on religion is definitely causing your brain to function at an elevated level. Maybe you’ve been unintentionally participating in Anderson’s experiment this whole time!

To feed your own opinions further, or for the sake of debate itself, check out the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate on Creationism vs. science in the video below!

Cheers!


Sources:

Religious Brain Project

Deseret News: What’s the effect of religion on the brain? U. launches new study

University of Utah

Youtube: Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham

Youtube: Bill Nye: Creationism Is Not Appropriate for Children

Youtube: Ken Ham Responds to Bill Nye “the Humanist Guy”

Answers in Genesis – Creationism

Wikipedia: Genesis flood narrative

Backreaction: Models and Theories

Models, Theories, and Laws

How many species on Earth? 8.7 million

 

Wondergressive: Watching Evolution Occur

Wondergessive: Morals or More Rails (to guide us)

Wondergressive: In 1610 God Was a Binary, Fractal, Self-Replicating Algorithm

The Almighty Escapism: Creating Distraction

Contention 1: Life is suffering.

Sword makers of old understood that the more they heated the steel, the stronger the blade would become. The mightiest tools have always been forged in the fiercest fires, and, likewise, the trials of man’s life sharpen the tenacious ones into razor-edged forces that shape the annals of civilization. To the initiated, life’s sufferings are turned to purpose, and this is why the greatest achievements in history are often preceded by the greatest defeats, because life, like the aged swordsmith, knows to test the metal it’s forged with before setting it to its Herculean tasks. Whether one defiantly taunts adversity or nestles into safety, life is suffering, and suffering is abound on life’s road to enlightenment.

Contention 2: Enlightenment is the purpose of life; we are all already enlightened.

Among the countless teachers professing to be enlightened, one of the most common yet ironically dualistic claims is that each of us is enlightened already. Christ, Mohamed, Zoroaster, Osho, David Icke and even Scientology’s L Ron Hubbard all pointed out that divine wisdom is our true nature. Yet, simultaneously, they say reaching for enlightenment is our reason for being, the so called great answer to life. Wait what! Become what I already am? Not being enlightened (or rather, aware of the inherent enlightenment ever-present) we struggle to wrap ourselves around how this double-talk isn’t some cosmic catch-22. If reaching for enlightenment is the highest purpose, then survey a thousand pedestrians on what they want more than anything and how many would say “divine understanding?” Not many.

There is a calculated purpose, though, behind why countless methods of realizing our divine nature within a single lifetime have been known to humanity for millennia, such as Kriya Yoga or sun-gazing, yet go widely unheard-of in general. Delusion is mandatory for existence. Yes, the transcending of mind, a necessary step, is often misunderstood to mean forfeiture of critical thought, and this is one of many pitfalls, but the harder pill to swallow and the reason for epidemic ignorance is this: Without deception, without lies, there is no meaning to anything.

Contention 3: There IS a soul; the soul DOES reincarnate.

Imagine the soul this way: energy, the pulsating power rippling through existence, the animating essence behind your beating heart and thinking mind, is inherently incapable of being either created or destroyed, according to the first law of thermodynamics; this power that drives you is absolutely eternal. This notion, for many, is proof positive of the immortal soul and its propensity for reincarnation. For the “seeing is believing” mind of western understanding, there is Dr. Ian Stephenson’s Expansive study into reincarnation back in 1975, lauded by the Journal of the American Medical Association as a “painstaking and unemotional” collection of cases that were “difficult to explain on any assumption other than reincarnation.” This study has been a vital resource in the tipping of the collective scales toward acceptance of this ancient belief structure. European Cases of the Reincarnation Type is the title but the study continues.

Ok, so what are you getting at?

So on the pretenses here that enlightenment is the ultimate purpose of life, reincarnation is an absolute, and this life cycle will continue indefinitely until the soul realizes its oneness with all existence, let’s take this train of presumptions one step further. When Hunter S. Thompson took his life after the end of the 2005 football season, perhaps it was because he understood this great truth: like water and breath, entertainment and distraction are a finite resource. Man’s inability to sit with himself in a quiet room can be seen as the root of all modern man’s problems in a perfect way, because distraction itself serves only one enormous overarching purpose: delaying pain. And pain, further still, is what we feel when we fear what we’ll realize when there is nothing left to worry about. When there is nothing left to consider, you are simply a human “being” (not a human ‘doing’ or a human ‘having’), just being, or, in other words, enlightened. Entertainment, therefore, is our barrier to enlightenment.

Contention 4: Life is but a dream.

Because we are all enlightened by default, all of civilization and its achievements can be seen as a massive distraction from this state of is-ness. When we are enlightened, the cyclical cosmic ride is over and we merge with the almighty oneness of existence, the Godhead. Here is the point. In order to perpetuate existence, collectively we must be distracted from the truth, because the truth is there is no existence (Descartes said, “I think, therefore, I am,” but I only think I am, therefore, I am what I think).  If it seems at times that everything is a lie or too crazy to be true, that is because it is… Everything the senses perceive and interpret is a fabricated dream we are collectively creating to allow the Godhead (us) to experience itself as the illusion of less than everything. That old stoner question of “if God is so powerful, can he make a stone that not even He can lift,” has an answer: You are God, and you have told yourself the stone is too big so you can experience your only limitation, lack of limitation. Without believing the illusion that you are separate from the mountain, moving mountains makes no difference.

So what does any of this have to do with creation?

Creation, in every conceivable form, from writing a novel, doodling a stick-figure, building a desk, or amassing an empire, all expand the Godhead. Here’s how. Your unique experiential wisdom, through what you create, is transformed into a vessel for others to divine new relative wisdom, previously unexperienced.

When we consume escapism and distraction (TV, drugs, games, work, sex, anything at all), it eventually leads to boredom (“I’ve already seen this movie, heard this story, been here, done that a million times”). The boredom, in its beautiful necessity, drives us to create (a new game, new idea, new records and feats), adding to the collection of consumable distraction from is-ness for the hive. Rinse. Repeat. But every creation is meaningful in its own way, as a portal to move another into your same state of consciousness. This is why the greatest art wells up the strongest emotional charge.

Starting in the mid-60’s, Dr. David Hawkins lead a 40 year global kinesiological study on levels of human consciousness, with hundreds of thousands of subject. His findings systematically proved man’s divinity. His map of levels of consciousness (above), on a graded scale, showed how even the most ignorant of racist rants (terrible) holds value, because there is wisdom to be found for an audience of child-rapists (more terrible).

When we create, we activate a higher level of our minds, advancing ourselves. But through advancing ourselves, we contribute to the advancement of humanity as a whole via the ones we affect and the ripple effect. When Roger Bannister became the first in history to run a mile in under 4 minutes, he lifted a veil of possibilities that 36 others, in only the subsequent year, followed him beyond. When you create, the realm of the possible expands.

When you learn you have the power to move mountains, you’ll know you were already the one who put them there.

Sources:

Greatest Achievements of Human History (rationalwiki.org)

50 Famously Successful People Who Failed at First (onlinecollege.org)

Jesus Christ Quotes and Dying Statements (free-spiritual-guidance.com)

10 Prophet Muhammad Quotes: A Taste of Honey (islamicrenaissance.com)

Zoroastrianism (heritageinstitute.com)

Osho on Enlightenment, Osho Enlightenment Quotes (oshoteachings.com)

Remember Who You Are – David Icke (youtube.com)

My Philosophy By L. Ron Hubbard (lronhubbard.org)

thefreedictionary.com

In 1610, God Was a Binary, Fractal, Self-Replicating Algorithm (wondergressive.com)

Europe PubMed Central (europepmc.org)

Living of Light Research (home.iae.nl)

Meditation – Pitfalls on the Path (lifepositive.com)

First Law of Thermodynamics (grc.nasa.gov)

Ian Stevenson (wikipedia.com)

European Cases of the Reincarnation Type (amazon.com)

The Last Words of Hunter S. Thompson (phrases.org.uk)

Veritas Publishing (veritaspub.com)

Gold Eluded Banister, But Track Immortality Did Not (nytimes.com)

Elizabeth Gilbert: The Elusive Creative Genius (youtube.com)