Saturday, 24 January 2009


Why do some well-educated, otherwise intelligent people persist in irrational religious beliefs?  Are some brains more  susceptible than others; do some people have 'god centres' or 'godspots' due perhaps to hyperactivity in  particular nodes of the brain?

Richard Dawkins thinks there might be something in this (he calls it the proximate explanation) but considers the Darwinian ultimate explanation to be of greater significance; i.e. what would be the natural selection pressure that favoured development of godcentres or godspots in the first place?

However, for those involved in the campaign to diminish the influence of religion in modern life surely the reverse is true. Proving the proximate explanation would be  of great importance. If it could be shown that religious people preach and act under the influence of  a particular form of neurological activity rather than divine revelation it would strike a powerful blow for atheism and humanism.


  1. I've long suspected that religion was a neurosis, but it would be interesting to find scientific evidence to back up my hunch. Of course I won't declare that my hunch is true until the evidence is forthcoming. Unlike religionists.

  2. This is what Dr.Arthur Janov say's:
    Why Religion and Psychotherapy "work"
    When I say “work” I mean that they can make us feel better. If they didn’t, they would surely fade away. There are many explanations for this. What we learn from placebo (medicine that is “sold” as a pain-killer but is inert) research helps this understanding. Aside from the merits or their lack in religion or psychotherapy, one reason they make us feel better is because we expect them to do so.

    In placebo research the subject is put in pain and then told that the drug they are injecting will kill it; and it does in most cases. So expectations cause the very same neurojuice secretion as when the drug is really given. But there is more; the placebo stimulates the brain circuits in the same area where the real drug works. The brain does not know the difference. The dentist can go on drilling to his heart’s content because belief is producing pain-killing chemicals in the same circuits where painkillers work. The brain has deceived itself; the result is no pain. If you can produce the very same chemicals that exist in a tranquilizing pill how can you ever tell the difference? That is why thinking you are getting well is not the same as feeling it. Thinking is malleable; feeling is not.

    I treated a man who was getting to very deep and painful feelings. We suspected for some time that he was a victim of incest. As he got close to this memory he sat upright and told me that he just saw God and was saved by him; he didn’t have to get to the feeling. He felt much better. What he saw was relief; his brain manufactured something that wasn’t there and eased his pain. Something that was there was his brain’s ability to manufacture symbols. That was a reality that he conjured up, and it became real to him. So on the verge of horrific emotional pain he produced painkillers, and they produced images and thoughts and killed the pain.

    What comes first? Pain, then images and thoughts, then relief. So belief is one excellent way of blocking pain. That is why the alcoholic can give up booze when he finds “God.” He simply has found another convenient way to inject chemicals into himself from the inside.

    If I believe in psychotherapy and go to a warm concerned therapist I am likely to think the therapy works. Because if you “think” a psychotherapy works, it often will. You think you are getting better because you think you are getting better. The belief is all. Diabolic, but true

  3. But, in the case of religion doesn't the belief have to come before any evidence that it works? It is, simply, "blind" belief.

    I might consult a psychotherapist as an experiment to see if he can make me feel better. But I can't make myself believe in the supernatural as an experiment! The belief would have to be there to start with and then, I agree, it is quite conceivable that prayer might make a believer feel better.