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Instinct?

In Jesse Berring's book titled: The God Instinct, one of the topics addressed is the instinct to believe in a god.

As a believer, have you ever considered that god, souls and destiny simply are a set of seductive cognitive illusions, that can be accounted for by the unusual evolution of the human brain?

In a couple of the other questions asked today, the exploration of other religions was addressed. As much as I think that is a good idea, I wonder if believers ever get even more objective in their thinking, and look at the human brain in general, and it's impulse to thought patterns that end up as beliefs.

If you are a believer that has contemplated or studied the human brain and/ or psychology, do you see your own patterns objectively and question the possibility/probability, that beliefs are nothing besides neurological patterns? Or do you cling to your beliefs and automatically dismiss that variable?

 
clarity333

Asked by clarity333 at 9:15 PM on Jun. 14, 2011 in Religious Debate

Level 22 (13,098 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (17)
  • I am a believer and I have taken psychology and statistics, and that always leads to me to objectively question studies of correlation...because rule #1 of stats is that correlation does not imply causation...I often gag at how reporters don't know how to report studies of correlation, they always inaccurately use the word "cause."

    As far as I've seen these studies show a general area of brain activity in regards to spiritual moments...a strong correlation...but it can't answer causation. Does the brain activity cause the spiritual moment? Or does the spiritual moment cause the brain activity?

    I fail to think of any ethical method study that could fool- proof answer that question...but psychology is still a young, fledgeling science, maybe in the years to come, they'll find a way.

    Dkhilly

    Answer by Dkhilly at 9:40 PM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • And while we're on this topic, which I find fascinating btw...I'll tell you of a psychological/spiritual thought that occurred to me a few years ago.

    The reason a baby finds peek-a-boo so thrilling is that a baby's mind isn't developed enough to understand that things continue to exist that they can't see. To a baby, when you're face is hidden it's like it's completely disappeared from all existence...and when you uncover your face, it's like it's popped out of thin air.

    I was standing behind my baby one day, knowing that she perceived me being completely gone from existence, and I said to her "I know you can't see me, but I'm still here."

    I think it's like that way with the spiritual things, our minds are so underdeveloped, that it could be right behind us, and we can't grasp its existence.
    Dkhilly

    Answer by Dkhilly at 10:42 PM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • (cont)

    Also, while some might say I'm hell-bound, wasting my time on false gods or others might say that I'm just wasting my time with something that doesn't exist, I find that the act of reverence for the earthly representations of the cosmos-at-large result in a greater appreciation and a deeper understanding of my "place" in this world, and a connection with humanity as a whole--for me, its a matter of pragmatism.
    thalassa

    Answer by thalassa at 7:16 AM on Jun. 15, 2011

  • IRL, I have a biology degree, and am quite interested in evolution overall...so yes, I have looked at such studies. As a believer in deity that is honest enough to admit that I might be wrong on all counts, I also believe that it doesn't matter. I fully acknowledge that I make a conscious choice to believe in deity based on my subjective experiences. Whether deity exists, or what form it exists in, ultimately does not matter--what I believe in works for me, and if it happens to be an anthropomorphic archetype, doesn't make the experience any less "real".
    thalassa

    Answer by thalassa at 10:53 PM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • I love the idea that was presented to me when I listened to the interview on NPR of Dr. Eagleman. He's a neuroscientist, and it's partly because of his research that he calls himself a "possibilian". He was raised to be an Orthodox Jew, but, like me, couldn't make himself believe in what he was taught to believe, and determined that he was Atheist. Then he became more and more involved in science and was faced with all of the unknowns in the universe and realized that he can't rule out those things which haven't been researched and discovered. It's the same with our brains. There is so much that's still unknown, but the brain reacts to certain things in a remarkable way--like to music or to meditation (or prayer). I'm still reading Dawkin's The God Delusion, and he comments on many of these ideas.

    jsbenkert

    Answer by jsbenkert at 12:27 AM on Jun. 15, 2011

  • What do you suppose it is, besides emotion, that tethers you to a god concept enough to make you say it's "real"? 
    For you personally, does faith trump objective reality?

    I'm a pantheist...so, for me, the Divine *is* objective reality as much as the meaning conferred from it is based on my subjective experiences.  I don't actually believe in anything that directly disagrees with objective data, but rather my beliefs fill in the gaps and are fluid as data changes.  In terms of actual worship however, I'm just as much of a soft polytheist, and I actually do recognize deities as anthromorphic archetypes--just because something isn't literally true doesn't make it allegorically false.

    thalassa

    Answer by thalassa at 7:16 AM on Jun. 15, 2011

  • I'm not a 'believer' in the way most people seem to mean, and consider God to be a poetic way to describe the Universe or the laws and forces of Nature. So, yes I've considered whether experiences of God or a presence are manifested in our minds. I just saw an episode of Through the Wormhole on the Science Channel, and they were talking about a researcher who has a 'God Helmet' where he has been able to produce God-like experiences (for both religious and non-religious people) in a lab about 80% of the time by stimulating a portion of their right brain. I thought that was really interesting.
    pam19

    Answer by pam19 at 9:29 AM on Jun. 15, 2011

  • Yes, I can see how a lab can get that part of the mind manually stimulated...I would guess a sort of manual stimulation also happens with some religions that use known hallucinogens or mind altering chemicals to induce a spiritual state.

    What we can't answer in a lab is, can an actual divine or spiritual source also stimulate that part of the mind?
    Dkhilly

    Answer by Dkhilly at 10:33 PM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • As a believer, have you ever considered that god, souls and destiny simply are a set of seductive cognitive illusions, that can be accounted for by the unusual evolution of the human brain?

    Nope.
    popzaroo

    Answer by popzaroo at 11:28 PM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • Thanks for answering Dk, I'm going to try and find the link I read recently about spiritual experiences such as OBE's, visions,etc being re-created in a lab by touching certain parts of the brain with electricity, showing  the origin of the experience being the brain. There was also a thread here recently that discussed the area of the brain possibly being adversely effected by meditation and strong religious beliefs(? can't remember exactly how they nailed that down) in a way that causes that area of the brain to weaken.


    Did you ever read, The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat? It's written by a neurologist. He writes about people in some cases, who have what they think are spiritual experiences, and they turn out to be disorders in the brain. * Note, I am not saying believers have brain disorders.*

     


    I agree, science of the mind is young, I'm not concluding, just observing.

    clarity333

    Comment by clarity333 (original poster) at 10:02 PM on Jun. 14, 2011

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