Friday, September 25, 2009

There's Just No Winning With Some People.

Over at Newsweek's website, their underlying views regarding religion are on display for those who care to look.  I offer two exhibits.
  1. Sharon Begley's (Un)wired For God.  Because of the speed at which highly developed societies like those in Western Europe lost the Faith, Begley's article explores the fact that religion may, in fact, be a crutch that the mind clings to when things are bad, and discards when things are good:
    More interesting is the fact that if social progress can snuff out religious belief in millions of people, as Paul notes, then one must question "the idea that religiosity and belief in the supernatural is the default mode of the brain," he told me. As he wrote in his new paper, "The ease with which large populations abandon serious theism when conditions are sufficiently benign . . . refute[s] hypotheses that religious belief and practice are the normal, deeply set human mental state." He posits that, rather than being wired into the brain, religion is a way to cope with stress in a dysfunctional society—the opium-of-the-people argument.
  2. On the sidebar on the same page, there's a link to a video called "Is God All in Your Head?," which describes the neurological impacts of prayer.
So if your brain is hardwired for Faith, God's all in your head.  And if your brain isn't hardwired for Faith, God's an opium of the masses.

Or look at Begley's own introduction:
At last check, intimations of mortality had not been banished from the human mind—the Grim Reaper still stalks our thoughts. Nor have our brain circuits shaken their habit of perceiving patterns in chaos, such as seeing the face of Jesus in a piece of burned toast; imagining the invisible hand of a supernatural agent in acts of randomness, as in "answered" prayers; and conjuring what anthropologist Pascal Boyer of Washington University calls "non–physically present agents."
The assumption is that the hand of God is "imagined," "conjured," and "non-physically present."  A few sentences later, she throws us believers an only mildly patronizing paranthetical: "Of course, humans might believe in God because a deity designed that belief into our brains, but that hypothesis is not amenable to scientific investigation."  Assume for a moment that this last sentence is entirely accurate.  Does it follow, then, that "non-testable," means "non-existent"?

Quick thought experiment.  Imagine that God is real, and that prayer is communication with the Eternal Triune God.  Are we surprised that this occurs more often when people are desperate?  And are we surprised that this form of communication stimulates parts of the brain not stimulated when we communicate with one another?  If not, how do either of these sets of facts disprove the notion of God at all?

Certain atheists, Begley perhaps being one of them, are so against the idea of God that they'll buy any theory, no matter how irrational, that "explains away" God - even if the theory doesn't explain much of anything at all.  It's no different than those very lonely scientists who try and "disprove" romantic love by showing the biological impulses that help stimulate it, or the brain's reaction to it, and so forth.  These people need our prayers, because it's not really the latest scientific fad that's keeping them from God.

1 comment:

  1. Funny how the first thing that jumped to mind this morning when I read this was a quote from C.S. Lewis, and then another post shows up on the subject with his name in the title.

    If you haven't read it, "Religion and Rocketry" (in The World's Last Night, here) is an excellent piece. I like using the last line when people toss out the argument that science has disproven Christianity.

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