Spritzophrenia

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Archive for the ‘agnostic’ Category

Sick Sick Sick

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 28, 2011

Writing from my sickbed, thanks to stomach bug brought home by my son, MasterT. (Just a man-flu, no big drama ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) I had good intentions of writing about the earthquake (bad), my first class of this semester (good), a book about Agnostic Christianity (average), but I shall content you with an appropriate song/video by Queens of the Stone Age, who sadly didn’t play in my town due to the earthquake. Next time ๐Ÿ™‚

Also see my more provocative post, Blessed Are The Sick.

“Sick Sick Sick”

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Posted in agnostic | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Should We Tolerate the Intolerant?

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 17, 2011

Thankyou all for your comments yesterday, I found them really helpful.

In American Fascists Chris Hedges quite seriously analyses the US Christian Right as a fascist movement. One thesis of the book disturbed me. He quotes Karl Popper:

Unlimited Tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

~ The Open Society and Its Enemies 1:263

Christian Fascism

Hedges himself writes:

Debate with the radical Christian Right is useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want a dialogue. It is a movement based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion. It is not mollified because John Kerry prays or Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school. Naive attempts to reach out to the movement, to assure them that we too, are Christian or we, too, care about moral values, are doomed. This movement is bent on our destruction. The attempts by many liberals to make peace would be humorous if the stakes were not so deadly. These dominionists hate the liberal, enlightened world formed by the Constitution, a world they blame for the debacle of their lives. They have one goal– its destruction.

~ page 202

These quotes make me uncomfortable. What would we think if it was the Christian Right saying this about us? Is it true that the only exception to tolerating all, is not to tolerate the intolerant?

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Slayer | Cult
“Religion is hate, religion is fear, religion is war”

Posted in agnostic, Christianity, ethics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Help – I Need Your Study Ideas

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 16, 2011

So I’ve enrolled for my post-Grad course in Sociology. Lectures start in ten days, and I have to come up with a thesis topic pronto. I want to study something interesting, and perhaps controversial (because that is more motivating and publishable). I was hoping to study something relating to religion, and the topics I had were things like:

* Gay and Lesbian Perceptions of God
(do gays perceive of God differently?)
* Green Spirituality
(what kinds of spiritual beliefs do environmentalists have?)
* The Spiritual Beliefs of Academics
(is it true that academics are less spiritual?)
* Catholics and contraception
(how many actually practice the “official method”?)

Unfortunately I’ve been told that they can’t supervise me for sociology of religion. So now I have to find something else I can get passionate about. Maybe you can suggest some ideas?

studying

Other areas I’ve come up with that I might be able to get interested in:

* Music? (Usually studied under “popular culture”)
eg “The ethnicity of heavy metal fans”
* Zombies (“popular culture”)
* Sociology of Food?
* Power – Foucault. The power of … academics?
* Drug use among working professionals
* Social Media – Facebook, Twitter etc

Think of a group in society and something you’d like to know about them.

Things Sociologists are interested in: Age, Gender, Sexuality, Ethnicity, Class, Status, Deviance, Family, Ideology, Postmodernism, Power, Globalism.

Institutions Sociologists have studied include: Law, Science, Health, Internet, The Military, Education, Media. For more ideas of topics see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociology

Ideally it would be something I can study by surveying and interviewing people.

Are you able to suggest any controversial/interesting topics?

Thanks!

Posted in agnostic, Sociology | Tagged: , | 27 Comments »

Why Divorce? Why Marriage?

Posted by spritzophrenia on January 19, 2011

How do you write when you don’t know what to say? I’ve been chatting to another friend whose marriage is breaking down. I have feelings, emotions, thoughts, theories, hopes, despair. I certainly don’t have answers.

I’ve met a lot of people who are in marriages that are ending, or who are seriously contemplating ending their marriage. Or who ended it… returned… struggled with it… are considering ending it again. It gets complicated as kids are usually involved. The stories of our lives are often stranger than soap operas. I’m divorced, and have had several significant relationships that ended. I offer no judgement. I know how difficult it is to find someone you can truly live with and be satisfied with. In my case, it’s taken years for me to become the sort of person I’d want to live with.

A large number of marriages end in divorce. I wonder why we continue to seek such relationships? I wonder why gay people are seeking an institution that straights are busy messing up? (It’s about equality to mess up too.)

divorce

Whether we choose to get married or not, most of us seek long term partnerships. What is it we’re seeking? What can a partner give us that a full life of satisfying work and deep friendships cannot give us? I guess it’s intimacy. Sure, that includes sexual intimacy, but goes far beyond it. I guess we’re seeking a person with whom we can be completely ourselves, who we trust implicitly and know will always be there for us. (That perfect person sounds like God, actually. But I’m not going to advocate God as a solution because few people I know have ever managed to achieve the level of intimacy with g0d that can replace human love. I’m certainly not going to advocate the kind of conservative marriage that assigns roles to each spouse.)

I think our situating happiness in a person is partly because we buy into the romance or “soul-mate” myth. All you have to do is watch a Julia Roberts movie to have the impression that we will meet one person who will be the perfect lover, provider, friend, co-worker, co-parent… the perfect everything. No human can do that. Yet we keep a huge industry going, encouraging us to seek this impossible kind of lurve.

When we don’t find satisfaction in our current lover, we begin to look elsewhere. Perhaps we are lured away from our marriage/relationship by the promise of someone better? Perhaps the sex is better, perhaps they understand us more deeply. Yet in time, the cracks begin to show and we realise we’re hooked up with someone who is not completely perfect after all.

Happygirl and I read Sex at Dawn a while back. I’m now quite sceptical of some of the research behind it. Also, it tends to reduce relationship difficulties merely to sex: “If we could be emotionally committed to each other, but let our partners have sex outside the marriage, everything will be all right”. The book doesn’t actually say that, but it’s easy to draw that conclusion. Nevertheless I do think the questions it raises are worth considering.

So I’m left with the mystery of why us humans keep on doing something which often doesn’t work. Why we keep seeking an intimate life partner. Or even one who will last a few years.

What can I do?

Keep talking about it

I don’t think any of us have the full answers. We all need help in finding, and growing with that someone special. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Support friends who are going through divorce

Divorce is never fun or easy, even in the most amicable of cases. Most of us have been there or know someone who has. Let’s get rid of the judgement and simply offer support.

Helpful Stuff on Divorce for Christians

When I was a christian, reading Walter Callison eased a lot of guilt for me. He takes a good look at Jesus’ words on divorce and concludes that divorce is not only acceptable, but sometimes the loving thing to do. Article here, book Divorce: A Gift of God’s Love.

Other ideas?

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Joy Division | Love Will Tear Us Apart

Posted in agnostic, Christianity, hardship | Tagged: , , , , , | 48 Comments »

Funny and Weird

Posted by spritzophrenia on January 10, 2011

When God comes down to do miraculous things, people fall over. Or is it just that religion makes people weird? A little while back I wrote about my experience of NOT being “Slain in the Spirit”, as pentecostals like to call it. If you want to see an extreme version of this, here are two hilarious videos featuring Benny Hinn. Hinn is somewhat controversial as he preaches a “health and wealth” message which many Christians consider goes counter to the actual teaching of Jesus. “God wants you rich”, and needless to say, Hinn is fairly rich.

Anyway, these are funny.

Benny Hinn, Dark Lord of the Sith:

Great music, “Let the Bodies hit The Floor” by Drowning Pool:

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Is anyone else disturbed by this? What do you think?
I do want me one ‘o them holy lightsabres ๐Ÿ™‚

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Posted in agnostic, Christianity, humor, humour | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Those Darn Religious Folk

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 31, 2010

I’m reading the wonderful Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, courtesy of Happygirl. Early in the piece she’s working as a waitress in a bland hotel restaurant where, despite her best intentions, she discovers “customers are the enemy”.

The worst, for some reason, are the Visible Christians– like the ten-person table, all jolly and sanctified after Sunday night service, who run me mercilessly and then leave me $1 on a $92 bill. Or the guy with the crucifiction T-shirt (‘Someone to Look Up To’) who complains that his baked potato is too hard and his iced tea too icy (I cheerfully fix both) and leaves no tip at all. As a general rule, people wearing crosses or “What would Jesus do?” buttons look at us disapprovingly no matter what we do, as if they were confusing waitressing with Mary Magalene’s original profession.” ~ p 36

Depending on whose statistics you read over 75% of the USA identify as Christian. That’s three out of every four people you meet! So: How come the USA has the huge crime rate, divorce rate and sectarianism it does? Why do political debates there turn into hate-fests? Why is racism, homophobia and sexism still so common? Why is the US military still killing thousands overseas? Why is the USA not a paradise of love and acceptance? Why are there so many poor and homeless people and drug addicts there? Why is alcoholism and spouse abuse rampant? Why is the USA the world’s largest producer and consumer of porn?

Why, if the USA is largely populated by people who follow Jesus, do so many working people struggle in poverty and debt even while the richest 1% earn hundreds of millions annually? I don’t mean to offend anyone, I dearly love both the country and my friends who live there. There just seems to be a huge disconnect between beliefs and practice.

When I was a churchian, this sort of thing would make me sad. It still makes me sad. There’s something about hypocrisy that rankles us worse than many religious crimes.

What about you?

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waitress

Posted in agnostic, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , | 36 Comments »

The Crowd of Unknowing

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 23, 2010

A while back I wrote a brief summary of my life story for Crystal’s blog which I’m re-posting here. There was a word limit, so I condensed a lot. You earn extra points if you can pick where my title above comes from ๐Ÿ˜‰

My Agnostic Journey

It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while… But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.
~ Yann Martell, Life of Pi

I used to agree, so how did a born-again Christian become agnostic?

After university I became bored with a church culture inherited from 19th century Europe. I read about rave churches, picked up the newly published Post Evangelical and tried to do church from within my own culture. These days we call this “emergent”. I love techno, extreme metal and folk music. We support contextualisation for other cultures, why not our own, right?

Skipping ahead a few years, divorced and drifting, I decided to return to a more conservative faith. I prayed, “God, I don’t understand why, but I’m gonna try and do things your way,” specifically praying for a Christian girlfriend.

question

Shortly afterwards, I met a Christian woman and considered this an answer. Long story short, I fell in love but sheโ€™d been lying all along. It ended with my suicidal despair after discovering her multiple betrayals. I raged at divine betrayal too; I was angry at God for years.

I know that compared with the suffering others go through, mine seems incredibly trivial. But we can only experience our own suffering, and for me it was shattering. My departure from churchianity was caused by three archetypal problems: Why prayer isn’t answered, the problem of evil, and the hypocrisy of Christians. Ironically, Iโ€™ve always been an intellectual and spent many hours wrestling with these arguments. Conclusion: It would have been so easy to make a couple of small changes in my life without violating anyone’s freedom or requiring miracles. God failed and a twenty year faith died. Or did it?

I’m not sure I could honestly claim to be an atheist after God let me down. For a few years I simply ignored God. I still find nihilism compelling, if I were convinced there were no God I think I’d become totally self-indulgent, and for a while I was.

When I came to think about spiritual things again, I found myself not knowing if God is there or not. I’d become agnostic. Agnosticism is about knowledge, and is a solid belief, rather than an in-between state. I’m an open agnostic, but it seems the majority are atheists in practice. I’m not satisfied with standing back and assuming God isn’t there, I’m still searching. There are even Christian agnostics, though I donโ€™t count myself among their number. I’ve written that all believers are un-knowers.

What’s it like being agnostic in day to day life? I never pray, lost the habit. After reading through the entire Bible every year- even the boring bits- I never pick it up. Occasionally I’d like to find a local group of similar souls, but this is hard. And Iโ€™m SO over meetings. Wiccans have a concept of the solitary practitioner, perhaps Christians need to recover that practice, based on the desert fathers?

Do I feel guilt? Well, one of the really good things I took from Christianity is the concept of grace, something that seems to be lacking in most public Christian proclamations.

My gateway to God was always the mind; reading Antony Flew’s biography and a book on the Mystics inspired me recently. My girlfriend gave me the three volume Integrative Theology, I love that stuff. At this point I’m closer to believing in a g0d than for some time, but it’s an expansive g0d, a beautiful Mind behind the universe. If I do return to Christianity, it will be on my terms. I cannot believe in a God who condemns gay people, treats women as second-class or tortures people eternally.

Iโ€™m agnostic but Iโ€™m genuinely seeking truth. I find the search wonderfully fresh and am surprised at the progress Iโ€™ve made. I donโ€™t know if God is there, and maybe I never will. I do know that love is more important than belief. I think Iโ€™m OK with that.

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Paul Collier | Facing the Unknown

Posted in agnostic | Tagged: , , , | 26 Comments »

How God Tickles Our Brain (Part Two)

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 17, 2010

Religious experiences, near death experiences, mystical oneness, spiritual feelings: How are they experienced in our brain? What bearing does this have on the question of God’s existence or our escape from Samsara? Bill continues his guest post from part one:

The lobes in the mind become active from some source of input, and your mind reacts to that stimulation.

For example, there are localized spots in two lobes (the nucleus accumbens and the ventral pallidum) which, when activated, give you a deep sense of pleasure. (Aw, come on, there has to be something in the brain that causes the pleasure sensation). An experiment with Rhesus monkeys (who have similar spots) involved giving them a button, which when pressed, stimulated their pleasure centers. If left to their own devices, those monkeys would have starved themselves to death as they became fixated in a non-stop cycle of pressing their button.

When someone tells you that the purpose of human life is to seek pleasure, it is not impossible for that purpose to be fulfilled by a suitably engineered helmet.

The lobes in the human brain fall into two broad groups: the four lobes that make up your conscious mind, and all the others that make up your subconscious.

brain and skull

A large number of activities in the sub-conscious are reflex conditions that have evolved over time, and exist in us because that reflex in ancient times made our specific ancestors survive in primitive settings.

Being subconscious, we are not aware of the mechanism, but we are aware of the resulting emotion. Public speaking today is often difficult because our successful ancestors fled when surrounded by eyes, and survived. We have a built in reflex to want to flee when surrounded by the eyes of an audience.

Our personality is not inherited – it is a mix of life time experiences reacting with the underlying reflexes. And in acquiring our personality, we acquire our belief system.

There is constant feed back from those we trust as infants (infants who have trust in elders tended to live longer in primitive times, so we also have a built in trust during our infancy). This feedback influences our personality, and as a side effect, our belief system.

Some beliefs rapidly become self-evident through proof: pain is unpleasant and avoiding it is worthwhile.

Some beliefs become self-evident through repetition: if you are bad you will go to hell.

And some through reflexes giving us internal input-response relations. When I stroke a pet cat, it purrs and that gives me a pleasurable sensation. Therefore it is nice to stroke a pet cat.

Now, there was a relevant experiment that used human volunteers. It involved a helmet that stimulates the subject’s temporal lobe.

The temporal lobe’s prime purpose is to give us feelings of empathy with others – it meant that humans could work in packs a long time ago, and as teams nowadays.

When there is no one present, stimulation of the lobe causes the person to emphasize with no-one, and through a process known as agenticity, create some sort of “being” to account for the presence felt.

The device became to be known as “the God helmet”. It was placed on the subject’s head, the button was pressed, and the subject reported a sensation that was consistent with the subject’s core religious attitude.

It was found that the stimulation of a theist’s temporal lobe produced the presence of the relevant god, of a Buddhist led to a heightened oneness with the universe, and atheists reported a warm and fuzzy feeling that they couldn’t quite pin down.

To understand religious belief mechanisms properly, we need to tie to this phenomena those of the Limbic system and the three lobes that carry religious conviction. Then we shall be able to decide if religion is a by-product of stray neurological activity, or the way a God “tickles” lobes to confirm his presence to the believer.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I was once in the triage ward of a hospital. I was waiting for surgery to deal with an internal burst blood vessel. In the early hours of the morning, my blood pressure caused an alarm to sound, and suddenly my bed was surrounded by several nurses and a doctor, doing all sorts of presumably coordinated activity. One nurse smiled at me, stuck a syringe in my arm and said “You are going to be ok” A few seconds later, I went to sleep, and when I woke up, all had been put good, and I was discharged a couple of days later.

Now – something very strange happened in the period between the needle jab and falling asleep.

I was suddenly aware that I was in the presence of an invisible (to me) entity that had an intellect vastly superior to my own. What is more, I instinctively “knew” that this being was totally aware of every single detail of my entire life.

When I was discharged, you might be curious as to why did I not run to church? Well, there was in my way of thinking a serious fault in what this superior being had done – or rather not done. Why had it arrived at that particular moment, and then simply watched as an idle bystander? Why no communication? And where was he or it all the rest of my life? This did not seem at all rational. And I found no solace in the catch-all “God moves in mysterious ways”.

I later came across a paper published by Dr R. Joseph. His research material showed that activation of the amygdala, hippocampus, and temporal lobe are responsible for religious, spiritual, and mystical trance-like states, dreaming, astral projection, near death and out-of-body experience, and the “hallucination” of ghosts, demons, angels, and gods.

These lobes are not part of the four bits that make up the conscious part of the brain. When stimulus in the subconscious turns on the images visible to the conscious, the conscious part of the brain has no idea where those images are coming from. And the conscious is absolutely certain that the images are not self induced.

More than one F-84 pilot flying at night, through a cone-of-silence, reported on landing safely that during the scariest part of the flight, they had hallucinated that they were sitting on the wing of their jet fighters, watching themselves fly the airplane. This was originally thought to be a consequence of spatial disorientation, but is now seen to be a result of limbic stimulation caused by the extreme anxiety of flying solo at night in life threatening circumstances.

In short, when the limbic system is activated the subject has strong religious experience, when the temporal lobe is activated when no one is present, the subject has a mild religious experience, and when the conscious part of the mind becomes aware of the subconscious part, the subject invariably reports being in the presence of an invisible all knowing being who has total knowledge of the subject’s life.

These three responses has a causal effect in that three other lobes of the brain may then hold a belief in a deity, either for the first time, or to reinforce an existing belief.

A side effect of the three lobes holding the belief, is that whenever input is heard or seen that challenges that belief, the conscious brain looks for any reason whatsoever in order to be able to discount the input.

The same thing happens with non-believers – they are also constantly looking for any reason possible to discount any input that might disprove their non-belief. We all inherit the same systems.

The limbic system, the temporal lobe and mind expansion can be triggered by stress, drug, illness, random internal neural activity, external electro-magnetic activity, input from any of the five senses and, not proven but included for the sake of completeness, a deity activating these components as part of his divine will.

So – you look at a starry night, a newborn child, a perfect rose, a portrait of Christ – whatever – and the sheer majesty of the emotion evoked from what you see or feel causes the temporal lobe to activate. You could become convinced you are in the presence of god, whose presence now explains the mystery of what you are seeing.

The only thing you have to resolve is whether that temporal stimulation is natural or supernatural.

In my case, I became convinced it was natural.

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Is there anything missing here? Does this change your ideas about spirituality?
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Masif Djs | Reaching Into My Brain (Edison Factor Mix)

Posted in agnostic, Biology, God, god, Science | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

How God Tickles Our Brain (Part One)

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 16, 2010

You’re probably aware that in the last decades brain research has revealed a lot about religious experiences, near death experiences and similar. It’s an area I’m interested in but haven’t looked into much. Recently Bill wrote an article on the AgnosticsInternational forum and he’s kindly allowed me to reproduce it here. I think it’s a particularly clear and useful overview:

The Sensation Known As Religious Experience

I want to look at how the human brain works, and how it processes religious ideas: not to attack religion or theism, nor to support them, just so we can add this new dimension into our debates.

I shall take some short cuts and simplifications: if you need fuller and more complex material, I can give you such links. I do not feel that you need to know every nook and cranny of this field of science to gain some benefit from some knowledge of it.

Let us look at the human brain itself – it is made of localized areas called lobes, and these lobes “do” things when electrical activity takes place within them. Communication between the lobes is virtually simultaneous, and most of us would like to think that our brains are a seamless whole.

However, each lobe has its own specialization. One lobe processes your thinking and reasoning, another handles input from the five senses, another deals with speech and yet another is your short term memory. These lobes are the conscious part of your mind – it is where you see, hear, think and react to the world outside. Although these lobes are part of the integrated whole, just for discussion purposes and not as a definition, it is useful to group these lobes together as a single unit, and call it “the little brain”.

The rest of the brain deals with everything else from controlling your heart rate to providing emotional responses to holding long term memory. Again, purely for discussion, it is useful to call this subconscious area of your brain “the big brain”, for it really is very much larger than the conscious brain.

The technology of fMRI allows doctors to study what is wrong with any one lobe, and researchers to examine what each lobe does. Some of the research simply confirms prior theories, and some gives new insight and explanation.

For example, we now know that the little brain processes about 2,500 bits of data per second, constantly during waking hours, and never varies much from that figure. Big brain processes about 4 billion bits per second, some lobes in constant agitation and others at rest until their functionality is required.

One early discovery explained the experience of deja vu. When a subject loses the short term memory of a sight or sound just after seeing or hearing something, the sound or sight is present in long term memory. That is, the sight or sound entered both short term and long term memory simultaneously, short term dropped it for some reason, and found that long term memory recognized the sight or sound – even though it was being sensed for the very first time. Deja vu really is nothing more than a brain blip.

We now know that the ability to believe in religious ideas is held in three separate lobes, which do other jobs as well. This ability piggy backs on those lobes. That is, there is no special religious belief lobe. (It would have been a very odd god who had the human mind built in such a way that it was impossible to believe in god, and the mechanism neither adds nor subtracts from theology). The first piece is [unfortunately this section is missing. Can anyone help fill in the gap?]

The second piece is the temporal lobe. When this lobe is activated, it gives us the ability to empathise with others. It is normally activated by seeing somebody or something, and we sense whatever it is that the person or thing is experiencing. Sometimes it gets activated when no-one is present, and we then sense the presence of that no-one. One cause of such activity is temporal epilepsy – and such epileptics have so many religious experiences that they are considered to be blessed by some cultures. Another cause of such activity is an experimenter providing the lobe with micro-electronic stimulation, and the subjects consistently report religious experience, consistent with the prior teaching of what a religious experience consists of. Christians report sensing the presence of Christ, jews the presence of God, Muslims the presence of Allah, buddhists a state of nirvarna and so on.

The third piece is the Limbic system – several lobes deep in the lowest reaches of the subconscious that provide, among other things, the ability to get ready to have sex, to fight, to flee in fear and so on. One thing we have learned about this particular area is that it is where all Near Death Experience originates – with its hallucinations, ghosts, and light beckoning from the other side of death’s door. Some brave people have had NDEs invoked upon them in laboratory settings.

However, outside of such experiments, the strength of NDEs produced by the limbic system are so overpowering, that atheists have been known to become theists after such an event.

We need to look at these three pieces in some more detail – but we have gone far enough for an overview.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Before looking at religious belief itself, I’d like to take your time to look at how the belief system works in general.

The events you conscious mind witness pass into your subconscious instantaneously. The subconscious processing of those events causes emotions and memories to be evoked and the results often are passed back to the conscious mind equally instantaneously.

But sometimes the mechanism does not always work properly.

For example, you meet a person and big brain gives you an instant signal that you know this person. May be with some images of shared experience, and so on. Definitely with a signal if this person is friend, foe or an unknown quantity. But the person’s name may escape you. How can that be? Big Brain definitely knows a lot about this person, and must have that name stored somewhere – it is just the ability to get to that memory sometimes stalls. Hypothesis: until modern times, recognizing friend or foe was far more important than remembering names, so our brains are still more geared to the friend/foe recognition than to trivial side issues.

There is a similar effect when you mislay something. Short term memory has no idea where your keys are – someone tells you left them in a particular place – and Big Brain’s instant confirmation makes you slap your head as you say “Doh!” Hypothesis: Big brain sometimes is working to an agenda that does not necessarily match that of little brain. Being at a subconscious level, we have no idea what that agenda is at any one time.

When it comes to what we believe, the sequence is that input to the conscious is processed by the subconscious and the subconscious sends a “true/false/don’t know” sort of signal to the conscious mind.

If I say “Madagascar is a large island in the Indian Ocean” you probably get a “true” signal – even if you have never been to that place in your life. Your subconscious measures the statement, finds it consistent with everything you have been previously been told, and you get the “true” signal.

If I say “Frenchmen live on a large island called France in the middle of the Atlantic” you could get a “false” signal. If the person making the statement is someone you trust, you might get a momentary “don’t know” to see if there is some special meaning, or joke, tied up in a statement clearly at odds with everything you have previously been told about Frenchman and France.

The signal for true/false comes as early in receiving input as possible, and then affects everything that follows thereafter. (This really is very recent research, and may need further work to get it clarified into a predictive phenomena). But it has been shown that if someone makes an early statement that the recipient holds to be false, all the following statements made are scrutinized purely to see where they also fail to be true.

The mechanism is very powerful: a professor of English found that he could dismiss a 27 page essay showing that William Shakespeare might not have been the “real” author of the plays and poems ascribed to him. The professor had published a paper supporting the opposing view – that Shakespeare was the real author. He dismissed his student’s essay out of hand, without further comment, because the wrong year was given in it for King James’ coronation. It mattered not how trivial the error was, it gave his Big Brain all it needed to satisfy its agenda that the submitted essay was wrong.

The sub-conscious acquires its stock of what is true and what is false over a relatively long period of time. Once something is held to be true or false, the belief mechanism is designed to keep that belief intact. When something is moved from being true to being false, or vice versa, the emotion involved with such a switch is very strong. We call it an epiphany.

Once a belief is established, it is very hard to get it changed to something different.

Which is why we will consider next the Jesuit truism “give me the child before he is 7 years old, and I will give you the man”

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DJ Jan & X Santo | Reaching Into My Brain (1995)

Posted in agnostic, Biology, Science, spirituality | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

The Universe Is Out To Get Me

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 9, 2010

Funny news, especially in light of our discussion on what “The Universe” might be:

Universe Admits To Wronging Area Man His Entire Life

‘Dave’s Got A Right To Be Angry,’ Says Cosmos
MINNEAPOLISโ€”Following decades of allegations from the 44-year-old data processor, the vast conglomeration of all matter and energy known as the universe admitted Tuesday that it was directly responsible for every single hardship in the life of Dave Schwartz, and apologized for continually foiling him at every turn.

“Dave has good reason to say the universe is conspiring against him, because, well, it is,” said the cosmos, acknowledging that it has thwarted Schwartz’s hopes and dreams from the moment of his conception. “He may sound melodramatic when he goes on and on about the whole world having turned against him, but he’s actually not that far off. The forces of time and nature genuinely want him to fail at life, and fail hard.”

“So, yes, his anger and frustration are totally understandable,” the universe added. “Pointless and futile, but totally understandable.”

Universe

The rest of the spoof is at the Onion. Seriously though, what do people mean when they talk about “The Universe”? You can read about that here.

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