Thursday, 8 November 2012

God & the Brain

How God changes your Brain - A Neurotheological approach written by Dr. Walid Sarkis. Further emphasized by Joseph Kaiser. 

Science and religion are not opposed to each other. Christians should not fear trying to understand how the two compliment each other”
Pope Benedict XVI to the Vatican’s doctrinal department
Friday 11th of February 2006

Here is one of Michelangelo's master pieces. God reaching towards Adam to give him a soul. But what's unique about this picture? If you've seen the original pic, the cove or shell God is residing in has a remarkable resemblance to the Human brain. Not many people know that Michelangelo as well as other Philosophers, Scientists and Theologists first hypothesized that the entire concept of God is in the human brain. This picture holds many keys and other trivia but I won't progress further for they are irrelevant. The important part is that you understood that the God and the Brain concept isn't something new - it's been around for quite some time.

When the word 'God' comes up, what do we think? What do we feel? Stirs up more emotion? Causes controversy? Causes more love and hatred? Inundates society at every level?

Ways of approaching the concept of God:

1- Theological

2- Evolutionary

3- Psychological

4- Neuroimaging

Can we prove God's eXistence or non eXistence through scientific inquiry? At this point - No. However, Science can tell us how God - as an image - feeling, thought or fact - is interpreted, reacted to and turned into a perception that feels meaningful and real. We can use Science to determine the effect of God on the brain and body.

Perception and Phenomenology:

If a belief in God provides you with a sense of comfort and security, then God will enhance your life.

But if you perceive God as a vindictive deity, such belief can actually damage your brain as you act out in socially destructive ways.

So, where in the Brain do we 'think' and 'feel' God? Books such as 'The God Neuron' and 'Why God won't go away' use state of the art instruments to locate an area in the Brain responsible for this.

Here is your average favorite citizen. Now take a pen and pinpoint or mark the area between 'Your ad here' and 'TV Time' That point area between your Prefrontal CorteX and Temporal lobe is the God part of the brain.

Here is an fMRI scan of the Brain at Baseline.

Here is an fMRI scan of the Brain while a believer is undergoing prayer.

If you notice the bottom left part that is red is the language area of the brain since you're 'talking' even in thought. But what's the interesting part? Look to the top left area of the brain that's glowing red. That's the God part of the brain activated. This area of the brain releases hormones that makes the person feel 'safe, happy and at peace' as well as make the person feel one with the Universe.

For atheists who were asked to pray, this area remained inactive and turned off. However something interesting to add. You can say there are two types of Atheists, which I'd call Complete Atheist and Unsure Atheist. When a complete Atheist is asked to pray, that area is turned off but when an Unsure Atheist prays, that area has a little glow that's activated. Why? Because a sure Atheist doesn't believe in nothing and nothing at all. The Unsure Atheist may believe in, say - The Big Bang. Now the Big Bang isn't God but the fact they believe in it, the brain recognizes it as a compensation for what it's lacking. You can say that the brain normally wants to believe just like how the stomach wants to eat. Surprisingly, many of these 'Atheists' go through Psychological Defense Mechanisms constantly attacking beliefs and religious concepts. Truth is, all of them are having an unconscious war with their brain that makes them react and transfer these actions socially.

How does the 'Brain' 'think' about God?

Involves the Parietal Lobes
Oneness of God
Oneness of all things
Importance of the concept of God as a unifying force

Willfulness and Surrender

Feelings of willfulness and surrender comes from the frontal lobes and from the prefrontal ones.
What happens when we surrender ourselves to God?
What about speaking in tongues?

As you can see, when we surrender ourselves to God during prayer, this phenomenal activity happens. The brain reaches its own state of 'Nirvana' with all areas fully indulged and activated. Call it a Braingasm.

The eXistentional function:

The brain believes the things it perceives are real
We assign reality based upon the degree to which something seems real
In conjunction with binary operator, we can establish eXistence from non-eXistence
So why do some believe God eXists and others do not?
So as you can see, the Brain is created and programmed to believe in a higher entity. The argument that society created God is completely wrong. Nobody is born an Atheist. The argument that society created religion is true, but not God. When you have a brain that wants to believe in God, it is normal for people to create something called Religion. Just like we have a stomach that's hungry, it's normal for people to create something called kitchen and cooking class. It doesn't need a genius to figure that out. 
  This picture above is another fMRI scan taken during a meditation practice. As you can see, the brain started to become active and more active. The results were: 
Subject had improved in a verbal fluency test
Subject had concentration levels substantially improved
Subject's health, breathing, heart rate etc were also remarkably improved. 
So what does God look like? 
     This was drawn by a boy (age 6) with God as an Old man with a long beard and having a dominating presence and voice. Clearly this boy was lectured by his father or any other male archetype in order to have reached this idea of how God is. So basically, this kid drew a picture of his own father without consciously grasping it. 
Here is another picture of a girl, aged 12. 
You can say this is a more mature drawing. This girl drew symbols of peace, the sun - the source of life and light on the planet - the gender symbols as unity all revolving in a circle of love in the universe. This girl has a healthier idea than the previous picture.

So other results as a summary of what God looks like?

60% drew abstract or nature scenes
20% drew faces
15% were blank
But blank did not always mean “no answer”
Of atheists, 50% left it blank
So what does God feel like? 
  Baylor study (2010)
Four types of God
Is there a fifth type?
Mystical God
The right way to perceive God is Benevolent because you give and receive and sets you in a path of self journey, fulfillment and also helps in achieving the most important thing: Humility. 
So what happens when we have a negative view on God?
1 - Negative views on God can be very detrimental. 
2-In the individual, it can cause stress, anXiety and depression. Studies have shown that Atheists are in a higher severe chance of developing stress, anXiety and depression for reasons far less than they should. 
3-When God is perceived negatively, the scans showed that the brain structures associated with negative emotions are activated to create a stress response.
4- Causes outward destructive behaviors. 
In conclusion, to believe in God doesn't mean you lose your independence. You  can have a relationship with God without being part of the constitution. If you communicate with God in your way, it is healthier than none at all. God is a personal thing not an entity found in Church. The belief of God helps the mind and body as Science has shown us. In the end, all that can be said:
Have Faith! :)