The Science of Religion

Source: maharishiyagyaprogram.eu

Perhaps a potentially interesting area of exploration for neurological and psychological researchers is the science of religion: the science of discovering not only how religion wires the human brain in general but how different religions shape it differently. Perhaps it is indeed worth exploring how a Muslim’s brain is wired to work, perceive, and process ideas differently to a Hindu’s brain and how the religious conditioning changes their outlook on life and society. And more importantly, why people following different religions tend to be tribal or communal in their mannerism.

Of course, it would be going too far to suggest that certain channeling of thoughts would bring about a physiological change. But would it be too far off to suggest that this channeling of thoughts would force certain neuron routes in the brain which could have existed in another state had this intervention not occurred? Would it not inspire or prevent the construction of new patterns of cognitive practices which otherwise would not emerge? Or is it possible that instead of the subtle differences between the religiosity of a Hindu sadhu or a Sufi ascetic and an orthodox Muslim cleric or a Jewish Rabbi, the wiring of the brain would only be apparently different between a religious dogmatic and a rational agnostic?

I know it may sound like an unworthy subject for such a deep exploration but it is of little doubt that these different belief systems nurture a completely different set of behaviors altogether. There have been works which acknowledge the impact of religiosity and spirituality on the human brain, effects of prayer, and explore the neurological basis of religion, but can we study the impact of different faiths? The only problem with this idea is setting up science to “evaluate” religions and their impact on society. However, there must be a way to do so without political controversy as unlikely as it seems.

It would not be unreasonable to suggest that factors such as religious upbringing or inspiration can shape a person’s personality to be a certain way. However, what do we mean when we say that? It definitely implies a pattern in which that person behaves and thinks with certain individual nuances in the context of that cultural tradition.

The politics of such a study is indeed going to be controversial in the postmodern era with many likely to be jumping to comparing it to a pseudo-science such as eugenics in terms of being discriminatory to religious communities. However, it is not necessary to see this potential study through the lens of morality, of right and wrong, and of virtuous and evil. It will merely be a psychological and sociological experiment with possible physical dimensions if anyone gets to discover them.

But at least questions can be asked. How a person would think if they are told about the existence of God and how would they think if they are told there is no God. What would be their behavior if they were to believe if divinity can take different forms of life and how it would be different if divinity was held to be off-limits to mortal creatures? Would there be a difference if they were raised in a vegetarian culture as opposed to a carnivorous tradition that relishes hunting as a sport? Will any such biases impact whether they are more receptive or hostile to people from another culture?

This indeed sounds intriguing but the future of humanity is not depending on it either.

The Deep Roots of Human Prejudice

Source: buzzfeed.com

Source: buzzfeed.com

The roots of human prejudice are so deep, and it is so pervasive, that it almost feels like second nature to man.

While it is widely believed that men are born free of prejudices, you would find it hard to believe just how naturally they come to us. It almost is the best, most suitable reasoning shortcut.

What if prejudice were an inseparable trait of an intelligent species? And if it isn’t. Why do people continue to indoctrinate their children with prejudiced ideas and undoubtedly have been doing so for centuries? And does prejudice go beyond nationalistic, ethnic, and religious boundaries? Apparently, it does.

What if prejudice is a problem that possibly cannot be separated from the act of thinking?

We are surely the only prejudiced species, or so we believe.

 

Is liberal education enough to get rid of prejudice?

Liberal education may or may not cure someone hellbent on antisemitism give up support for Nazism, for instance, but it certainly does improve the odds of minimizing that.

One way or the other, you would be shocked and surprised at how deep the roots of human prejudice go. It’s a huge challenge.

And is training for critical reasoning enough to get rid of our intrinsic, deeply embedded prejudice and biases? Even despite learning about all the logical fallacies, biases, and flaws?

 

Are we really free of prejudice when helping others escape it?

And do we really when we think that we have escaped it? Judging others for it?

 

So how deep are the roots of human prejudice?

Guess we’ll never know.

The Cruel Plan

Source:www,immoderati.it

Source:www,immoderati.it

The more you study the condition of nature with cold, hard scientific facts, the more you come to the conclusion of how much of a disaster life actually is.

It is simply shocking how vulnerable and condemned to doom every living organism is. The physical nature of this condition is not as much shocking as the psychological and emotional struggle requried to sustain it.

It is important to consciously acknowledge that at least any human being, if not all sentient animals, need a functional psychological and emotional balance to get through the ordeal of living.

Given these disturbing and disabling facts, it is only amazing how an intelligent species capable of making up completely meaningless concepts to feel better about their meaningless existence. Especially when the meaningless concepts cruelly promise to liberate from God’s cruel plan, which only makes the misery of it even worse.

Sorry, if the word God offended you, but most of us like to personalize someone at the back of this cruel plan. Otherwise, it is hard to make any sense of it.

So, what to do about it? Because for the incurably depressed and perpetually curmudgeonly, the eventual logical step is suicide. I believe it is an intellectual conclusion, despite everything.

But life is strong, self-protective and self-preserving. Pretty strange for a meaningless creature, but not so much for a cruel one.

 

Therefore, the most important function of conscious, sentient life is to overcome the realization of the condition of life and to indulge in the meaningless meaningful, fulfilling, yet distracting concepts of self-fulfillment.

 

Drugs Should Be Free

The highly specialized urban society in our world comes with a price. The price of stress and depression out of the lack of freedom that a person would like to have to control his or her life. It would actually be a little unfair to say that this disadvantage is exclusive to the highly specialized urban society, though I considered it important to mention, because such stress would also be experienced in a close-knit homogeneous society, perhaps in a different form. But it would be safe to say that both the kinds of societies offer their own challenges and disadvantages.

The stress and depression have the power to take away the will of living from individuals. While this statement may appear a little exaggerated, I have reasons to believe psychologists would find no hesitation to support it, as it is one of their most frequent observations anyway. This drives most people to find an instant psychological and neurochemical distraction to curb the feeling, which leads to the consumption of drugs. Strong or mild, dangerous or lethal, but some sort of drugs. This again depends on access, which would cause further stress in case of deprivation.

While you may have anticipated a left wing rant in the post from its title, it is not really the case. The vicious title to this post actually makes one point. Having access to the drug of choice, once initiated, should be a human right. But then again, there are economic factors behind access. But if that argument be accepted, then the same is true for food, clean drinking water and some other commodity that is considered indispensable to human life. A critic would assert that such an analogy would be flawed since those are basic necessities and a drug is not, but in most cases, drugs do become a necessity than a luxury, once initiated. The social imbalance and the human nature can be and are actually used as means to a form of slavery.

While some people on the left would not find this possibility perfectly harmonious to their views, drugs can easily make people dependent. No wonder why Karl Marx used the analogy of opium for religion. However, what needs to be understood here is that drugs are not just confined to chemicals that affect your consciousness. Every person can choose their own drug and adapt to it as per the availability constraints. The availability constraints can either be social or legal such as alcohol in a dry country, or even personal. But dwelling on that too much is immaterial to matter at hand.

Sex is not really a drug but does involve neurochemical and hormonal reactions in the body which actually involve pleasure, something that addicts seek in a drug. Pleasure brings relief from stress and depression and that is why some people become sex addicts, while others simply become obsessed with it. It is all pretty much understandable, though not socially acceptable. Most drugs are not socially acceptable too. Caffeine is, and perhaps nicotine, or may be it used to be, and alcohol, and maybe some other drugs depending on the particular society.

The idea that the access of drugs should be a human right and that they should be free is neither a demand nor an assertion, but a thought to be examined by the philosophers, the politicians, the moralists, the theologians, the humanitarians, the medical experts, the realists, the idealists and above all the policy makers of our world wherever they are. I don’t care which drug you consider, what drugs you allow, what drugs you take away. But I want the possibility to be considered. I know some drugs can kill people and I don’t think people should take such drugs. But if they do, they should be offered help, and demanding money from them is not really helping them.

In one way or another, every drug works like a slow poison. But so does oxygen. And besides, no one ever gave a second thought to the health threat that drugs pose when they started consuming them. But maybe some of them do. I am not arguing here about how risky or safe drugs are. We all know the medical and scientific facts about them and you can ask any physician or a psychologist about any drug you want and you will get a good deal of information about what a drug can do to your mind and body. Please read this post with an understanding that all the risks of drugs are understood while we consider the idea that drugs should be free and that their access should be considered a human right.

Once you start considering the matter just like you consider things like food, water, healthcare and education as the rights of every individual and that they should have free access to them, regardless of their nationality, race, religion or any other attribute that can be attached with a prejudice. It sounds like a socialist dream but it is a thought worth considering and exploring. If only, to be rejected. We reject the ideas of food for all and healthcare for all and education for all anyway. It would not be something unusual if we reject this idea as well. By the way, if you anticipated the post to be talking about free drugs, as in free medicine for all, I would be really delighted as I really support that idea even strongly.

But why do people need this neurochemical distraction in the first place? This brings us to the point from where we started. To fight stress and depression, but most of all, to extract pleasure. While there are a number of things which people can find pleasure in, drugs seem to be an option that does not involve other people, does not involve intruding into the lives of other people and involves changing their state of mind in a way that they cannot be achieved in any other way. Not implying that drugs should be recommended for these reasons. Just saying that people are more likely to use drugs than go for anything else which may appear any saner to any other person for these reasons.

So what do we establish. Should drugs be free?

Or maybe, Pleasure should be free.

Cape Fear

Source: tompaine.com

Fear is the new Law.

In fact, it is anything but new.

It has always been the Law.

It is something that keeps things in order.

It is something that prevents chaos.

You know, the fear of chaos.

It paralyzes your brain.

It changes the way you think.

Board the boat before the ship sinks.

…From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.

                                                                                         – Niccolo Machiavelli 

This is how they rule the world anyway.

Fear is your religion.

Fear is your wars.

Fear is your knowledge of the stars.

Fear controls the way you think.

 

Fear controls you.

 

 

Fear even controls how you spend your money, or how you hoard it.

Fear will make you do things you never thought made any sense.

This was particularly well illustrated by a well researched blog post in the “Washington’s Blog”. It certainly is worth reading every word. Revisit it if you have already read it, and read it again.

I am not a regular reader of this blog, or of any for that matter, and found it accidentally on twitter and am glad I did. It is an old article but every word of it is worth reading and is as relevant today, in the July of 2011, as it was in the November of 2009, and perhaps will be in the next hundred years to come. It is titled:

Investor Psychology: Fear Turns People into Sheep 

I post this link with due respect to the sheep folk.

Source: tolweb.org