Victoria NeuroNotes

How I Fell In Love With Jesus & Why I Stayed A Devout Christian For So Long

153 Comments

Bonding Hormones

holy communionThere are specific words and phrases used in the bible that can play a major role in the release of reward chemicals — also known as bonding hormones neurohormones or neurotransmitters.  Words/phrases such as suck and nurse, milk of the word, birth, born again, bosom, Jesus as the bridegroom, the church as the bride, etc.  Isaiah 60:16 states:  “You shall suck the milk of nations; you shall nurse at the breast of kings.”  1 Peter 2:2 states:  “Like newborn babies crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,”

Catholic nuns wear a wedding band to signify that they are married to Jesus.  When I was a kid going through First Holy Communion, the girls dressed like child brides during the ceremony. Not only does Jesus represent a caring husband but he’s also representative of a protective, nurturing mother. (see Belief Pics image)

Here’s what the neurological research shows about maternal and romantic love:

“Romantic and maternal love are highly rewarding experiences. Both are linked to the perpetuation of the species and therefore have a closely linked biological function of crucial evolutionary importance.  Yet almost nothing is known about their neural correlates in the human. We therefore used fMRI to measure brain activity in mothers while they viewed pictures of their own and of acquainted children, and of their best friend and of acquainted adults as additional controls. The activity specific to maternal attachment was compared to that associated to romantic love described in our earlier study and to the distribution of attachment-mediating neurohormones established by other studies.

Both types of attachment activated regions specific to each, as well as overlapping regions in the brain’s reward system that coincide with areas rich in oxytocin and vasopressin receptors. Both deactivated a common set of regions associated with negative emotions, social judgment and ‘mentalizing’, that is, the assessment of other people’s intentions and emotions. We conclude that human attachment employs a push-pull mechanism that overcomes social distance by deactivating networks used for critical social assessment and negative emotions, while it bonds individuals through the involvement of the reward circuitry, explaining the power of love to motivate and exhilarate.”

What’s interesting about these bonding hormones deactivating certain neural networks (for critical social assessment) is that when an individual forms a strong attachment to another, they may have a difficult time seeing certain aspects about the person they love deeply.  For example:  have you ever seen a kid act like a brat, but the parents didn’t see it?  Have you ever seen someone who was a real jerk to their partner but their partner/lover/spouse still swooned around him/her?  Same phenomena happens with pets.  A beloved family pet, i.e., dog, can chew up and destroy furniture and carpet, and crap everywhere, and his/her caretaker will still remain lovingly attached to the dog.

Love Is Blind

Nature can fool us in order to ensure the perpetuation of our species.  Religion, such as Christianity, works along these same lines.  This helps to explain why people who are deeply devoted to their religion have a difficult time seeing the very negative aspects of their belief system, or they justify these actions due to their blind devotion — attachment to their god of choice.  They are getting a neurochemical reward, plus some neural circuitry in the reasoning part of their brain has been deactivated.

As many of you already know, I was raised Catholic.  Around age 18 I left the RCC and became more of a free thinker. I still believed in God, but was not associated with any organized religion and neither was I religious.  It wasn’t until after I got married — towards the end of my marriage that I was reintroduced to religion by my late husband.  I know that many of you who read my blog already know my partner became hyper-religious several years after sustaining a traumatic brain injury.  I’m repeating the information for those readers who may not have been aware of this.

Though we didn’t know it at the time, his sudden religious conversion and hyperreligiosity were symptoms of temporal lobe epilepsy which manifested  due to his TBI.  So he went from being agnostic to having an obsession with Christianity, God, and the bible.  He was working the 2nd shift as a chemist at a factory, and was up most of the night when he got off work.  Sometimes he would wake me up in the middle of the night, excited at some revelation he thought he discovered and read scripture to me.  You’re probably thinking, WTF?  Though still half asleep, I tried to be supportive of his enthusiasm, especially since he had been battling with depression.  As you read further in this post you will understand why being exposed to these readings while half asleep is relevant.

After my partner ended his life I moved out of state to live closer to my family.  Shortly after moving into my condo I ran into my brother’s childhood friend who lived in the same neighborhood.  He had never been religious before — that I was aware of.  I later learned that he experience a traumatic event in his life when he almost died from a tumor in his colon.  Mike invited me to his church and fellowship dinner.  I always thought he was a cool guy so I went. It was an evangelical church.  Everyone seemed very nice and caring.

After having just experienced trauma, I was very low in both serotonin and dopamine. The fellowship felt good.  Neuropharmacological studies show that dopaminergic activation is the leading neurochemical feature associated with religious activity.  One of the reasons is due to a sense of community and belonging that religion can offer.  Humans are a social species.  Oxytocin was already coursing through my gray matter, which is normal after giving birth.  I was primed for conditioning, for attachment.  I remember the pastor telling me that Jesus would step in and be my surrogate husband.  In my fragile state of mind there was something very comforting about that.  Matthew 11:28 states:  “Come to me (Jesus), all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

But about 10 or so years into my devotion it felt as though the mother eagle was removing the soft lining from the nest each time I opened the bible.  The once cushy nest was getting uncomfortable but I wasn’t fully aware why.  It didn’t happen all at once.  My unexpected, gut-wrenching free fall would come later.

iStock_000006935624XSmallResearch shows that when the brain experiences shock, deactivated neural circuitry can reactivate.  An example would be someone discovering that their partner-lover-spouse was having an affair.  Suddenly they start seeing the red flags.  They may think to themselves “Why didn’t I see them before?”  This happened to me with regard to the bible.  I’d been conditioned to believe the bible was inerrant. It was a huge shock when I realize it wasn’t.  The painfully piercing lights of reason pricked my corneas.  As parts of my brain came back online I was stunned by the inhumane atrocities and insane behaviors boasted as holy and righteous. Pink cotton candy dissolved into acid.

Emotional Manipulation

For many years, during my “pursuit for truth”.  I was  director of music in various churches/denominations.  I was also the head sound room technician in the last church I was a member of.  I knew the ropes.  Under supervision of the church’s hierarchy, I planned music each week that I hoped would move people — help them feel closer to Jesus.  To God.  Each week I had to submit my choices of music and their order for approval.  I didn’t realize there was a method to their madness.  My intentions were honorable, although I unknowingly contributed to one of organized religions’ most powerful tools of indoctrination:  Emotional manipulation.

bulbline

It never dawned on me until I became interested in studying the brain and neurotechnology, such as brainwave entrainment and neurofeedback. Initially, I  got involved with this neurotechnology to help me relieve stress, incessant mind chatter and insomnia.  Later I would use it to deprogram myself from indoctrination.

 

The Power of Fear and Guilt Techniques

In America, during the eighteenth century, Christian revivalism was spreading.  Jonathan Edwards, a Christian preacher, philosopher, and theologian was widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian.  Edwards was considered one of America’s greatest intellectuals and played a major role in the 1st Great Awakening.  He was the grandfather of Aaron Burr, the third Vice President of the United States.

Edwards oversaw some of the first revivals in 1733–35 at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts.   He delivered the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“.  Apparently these revivals gave Edwards an opportunity for studying the process of conversion in all its phases and varieties, and he recorded his observations in A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton (1737).  He writes:  “Even though this change has occurred, many Christians have no imagination that they are now converted.”

“A year later, he published Discourses on Various Important Subjects, the five sermons which had proved most effective in the revival, and of these, none was so immediately effective as that on the Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners,”

Sources state that he accidentally discovered the techniques during a religious crusade in 1735 in Northampton, Massachusetts. By inducing guilt and acute apprehension and by increasing the tension, the “sinners” attending his revival meetings would break down and completely submit.  Professional hypnotists, Dick Sutphen, in his article “Spiritual Brainwashing:  A Battle For Your Mind” states”

Charles J. Finney was another Christian revivalist who used the same techniques four years later in mass religious conversions in New York. The techniques are still being used today by Christian revivalists, cults, human-potential trainings, some business rallies, and the United States Armed Services . . . to name just a few”

Sutphen says that he “strongly believes that this is one of the major reasons for the increasing rise in Christian fundamentalism, especially the televised variety, while most of the orthodox religions are declining.”  I agree.

From Wikipedia — scroll down to title “Present Day” — click on the picture to the right  — of children who have succumb to this same inhumane technique at an Assembly of God bible camp.  It’s heartbreaking.  Take note of this graph (click on image to enlarge) developed by members of the mental health community regarding childhood religious indoctrination.

 

waveform

Manipulating the Brain Waves

If you’ve ever been to a revival meeting or to a church with praise and worship music, you’ll notice a certain pattern.  They usually start off with upbeat music — specific beats per minute.  People are clapping hands, swaying, bouncing up and down and haven’t a clue what’s happening with their brainwaves.

There is a term called cortical evoked response a.k.a. frequency following response.  That’s when our brain is presented with a rhythmic stimulus.  These rhythms are mirrored in the brain’s electrical impulses (brainwaves).   So, for example, when we want to relax, we often play music with a slower rhythm; and when we want to be energized we will listen to more upbeat music (more beats per minute), like rock.

Our brain has billions of brain cells called neurons.  These neurons use electricity to communicate with each other.  The combination of millions of neurons sending signals at once generates a lot of electrical activity in the brain.  Because of its cyclic, wave-like nature, the combined electrical activity is called a brain wave or brainwave.

Photo credit: Transparent Corporation

This diagram shows that when the brain experiences a stimulus through the senses, it emits an electrical charge in response — a cortical evoked response.  When rhythms resemble natural internal brainwave activity, the brain can synchronize its own electric cycles with the external stimuli.   To entrain brain waves, you start with their current brain wave state, e.g., the lower to mid beta range — 14 to 18 hertz.

 

Once the brain waves have synchronized with an external rhythmic stimulus, they can easily be brought down to a high theta – low alpha brainwave state, which is usually between 6 to 9 hertz.  This is also a meditative brainwave state.  In other words, the music gradually gets slower and so do your brainwaves. That’s how brainwaves are capture or entrained.  Then the brain is primed to receive suggestions — the offering plate is passed around, and the sermon begins.  Some people may even fall asleep during the sermon.  Not necessarily because they are bored but because their brainwaves have been lowered to a state that one is in just before falling asleep at night or during a nap. (Remember the middle-of-the night scripture reading I experienced?) However, a very high percentage will experience an eyes-open altered state of consciousness, unaware that they are in a suggestive brainwave state.

From Scientific America:”The Power of Music:  Mind Control by Rhythmic Sound

“Rhythmic sound “not only coordinates the behavior of people in a group, it also coordinates their thinking—the mental processes of individuals in the group become synchronized. This finding extends the well-known power of music to tap into brain circuits controlling emotion and movement, to actually control the brain circuitry of sensory perception.

This discovery helps explain how drums unite tribes in ceremony, why armies march to bugle and drum into battle, why worship and ceremonies are infused by song, why speech is rhythmic, punctuated by rhythms of emphasis on particular syllables and words, and perhaps why we dance. Within a few measures of music your brain waves start to get in synch with the rhythm…]. The EEG recordings showed that the waves of brain activity (alpha and beta waves) became synchronized around the auditory rhythm.  Rhythmic sound synchronizes brain waves.”

So, how do evangelical – fundamentalist preachers keep you in a suggestive state during the sermon?

Voice Roll

Last month, my daughter and I went to Hendersonville, North Carolina to visit one of my favorite places downtown; The Mineral & Lapidary Museum.  We parked the car and had to walk a block.  Right on the corner, there was an evangelist and several young members of a fundamentalist congregation holding signs up like “Turn Right or Be Left”, and “Repent of your sins; Jesus is coming back soon”.   But what I found interesting, but not surprising, was that the evangelist was using a technique called “voice roll” which works along the same lines as music.  Here’s an example that took place at the Hendersonville Apple Festival.  And another at the Spartanburg, SC Gay Pride Day parade.  The preaching starts at minute marker 1:38.  Notice the rhythm or patterned pace.

Sutphen writes:

“A “voice roll” is a patterned, paced style used by hypnotists when inducing a trance. It is also used by many lawyers, several of whom are highly trained hypnotists, when they desire to entrench a point firmly in the minds of the jurors. A voice roll can sound as if the speaker were talking to the beat of a metronome or it may sound as though he were emphasizing every word in a monotonous, patterned style. The words will usually be delivered at the rate of 45 to 60 beats per minute, maximizing the hypnotic effect.

As if that’s not bad enough, church hierarchy is spending the congregations financial contributions to hire technicians who strategically install sound systems and lighting to enhance a suggestive, altered state of consciousness.  Even Rick Perry appeared to use this strategy at a 7 hour “pray rally” in Houston, TX while running for president.  There were over 30,000 people attending from all 50 states.  The Texas Tribune stated:

“The event, which cost the sponsors over $1 million, was highly orchestrated and choreographed, and organizers were careful to keep the element of surprise.”

There’s a short video of the event in the Tribune article.  Note that the reporter said the event had all the elements of a revival including “music of different beats”.  Notice that many had their hands raised in the air and were experiencing feelings of deep emotions — even moved to tears. They appeared to be in an altered state.  In the article “A Battle For Your Mind”, Sutphen states that there is a “build-up” process.  The music, the preacher, evangelist or speaker induces an altered state of consciousness and/or begins to generate excitement and expectation.  There are many more persuasion and decognition techniques used which I won’t go into here, but are mentioned in Sutphen’s article.

If you have any doubts of the power of the mind, the power of the placebo effect, the power of our biochemistry, the power of suggestion, the power of brain wave entrainment,  please watch this superb documentary, taking special note of parts 3 & 4.

youtube.com/watch?v=JJfaaPdP0kI

I must admit that it took me a good while to get over the disappointment and anger I felt when I learned I had been manipulated and deceived; that my good intentions and innate altruistic behavior was taken advantage of; that this had happened en masse and continues. I’m not against someone believing in God or fellowship.  I am against fear-mongering, deceptively beautified, mind controlling methodologies the hierarchies of organized religions often use to fatten their bank accounts.  Then use that money to influence laws and benefit the powerful.  Enough is enough!

 

 

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Author: NeuroNotes

Victoria predominately blogs about religion, and the brain's role in religious type experiences.

153 thoughts on “How I Fell In Love With Jesus & Why I Stayed A Devout Christian For So Long

  1. My dog chewed my t shirt today. Do I worship him? No. But he will grow out of it.

    I get what you are saying about the whole thing – I love Elmer Gantry – Er, but it’s totally illogical. That’s why I’ve never bought into it. So why do others believe in what is, quite frankly, rubbish?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry Victoria, I’m not doing you justice. I switched into the video and switched off. However much you explain, I will never get it. Seriously.

    My neighbour was confirmed 12 years ago. Does he go to church? Or do his parents or his grandparents? My neighbour (his grandma) says the church costs money and is a waste of space.

    What gets people sucked in in the first place? That’s what I don’t get.

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    • That’s cool Kate. I don’t expect you to get it. You’re apparently not wired to get it. Approximately 84% of the world’s population believe. I find it interesting and necessary to understand how the brain is programmed. It’s rubbish to you so you don’t want to invest the time to understand. I understand your reasoning.

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      • It is not logical. It is not empirical. It does not hold water. Doesn’t matter how you say it, it just does not make sense. You are right. I’m not wired that way. Neither is my partner. When people say, ‘when he calls us’ and gaze skyward I nod politely. I don’t even subscribe to the ‘when your number us up’. Life happens and then it stops.

        I’ve seem my father dead in his coffin. He died because he was ill. His body fell apart. He didn’t look like he was drinking double rums in fairyland.

        I am sorry I sound harsh and unsympathetic. It’s not intentional. But I believed more in good dog Tarquin who would always rescue me. But he was real. Therein lies the difference.

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        • I’m glad there are people like you and people like me in the world. I am empathic towards those who’ve been duped. I aim to bring awareness to assist in curtailing the programming, indoctrination of innocent children by parents who, themselves, were most likely programmed, indoctrinated as small children. If religions like Christianity were all like fluffy pink cotton candy it would be one thing — but it’s not. No child should be exposed to such a teaching — that an innocent, perfect god had to suffer a horrible death — had to die because those children have a ‘sin’ nature.

          It’s child abuse. I for one won’t be complacent and apathetic about it. Neither is Phil, Zoe, John, Ark, Ruth, Charity, Ron, Ken, Nate, Jeff, Violet, Matt, Janelle, Arch, and so many others who get it. Social change never comes about by apathy and a lack of anger.

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          • Beautifully articulated my friend. Thank you for being on the moral side of humanity.

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          • Add Zoe to your list.

            Thank you Victoria for your writing.

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            • Zoe, your comment meant a lot. I have edited and added you to the list. If anyone understands why bringing awareness about this issue is important, it’s you and I can’t thank you enough for your support.

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              • ❤ I realized just now that my comment looked like an order. 🙂 I just meant to throw my name into the mix. I do appreciate you adding me in though.

                As I've mentioned before, it was neuroscience that helped me understand I could get to a point of some healing and recovery knowing I could rewire those neuropathways. I didn't have blogs at that time, just books and my medical knowledge and I always wanted to write like you are now in my earlier days online. I hinted and dropped clues but just lacked the physical and emotional energy to do so. Neuroscience also helped me to understand how and why I believed and at some point in the journey post-deconversion I began to extend willingly to myself (though it was a bit of a chore) compassion.

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                • Oh, I didn’t take it that way at all, Zoe.

                  It took me several years of collecting data before I started posting the info. I mostly did it in comment sections on various forums at first. Then as the picture got bigger and bigger I thought I was going to bust at the seams if I didn’t start writing it down in one place. But the data is massive so it felt overwhelming to me to try and put it all together, cohesively, in posts. I still struggle with it, and I have so many unfinished posts in draft. But eventually I’ll get to them all. As I’ve shared with others before, neuroscience saved my sanity and questions I had asked for the better part of my life were finely being answered. It’s wonderful to read that neuroscience had the same effect on you.

                  I love what you said about extending compassion for yourself. Neuroscience not only helped me find compassion for myself but for humanity in general. It helped me find forgiveness, too. As a believer, I didn’t have the kind of compassion that I now have as an unbeliever. As a Christian, I was indoctrinated to believe that humans were depraved and naturally ‘sinful’. I looked down on my own species and my gender, too. But when I realized that the very practices that authoritarian religion condoned played a huge role in negatively impacting the environment, brain development, behavior, it was eye-opening. Religions like Christianity and Islam have caused the very “sins” they condemn. It was a huge revelation for me. Like Jon Stewart poignantly stated — religion has given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.

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        • And remember Kate — your interests, your activism lies elsewhere. There’s nothing logical about inequality, the oppression and subjugation of women. There’s nothing logical about cruelty to animals. That doesn’t mean that because something. — a behavior seems illogical we sit on our asses and do nothing.

          That you should get.

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          • I do get that. But I fight where I can. I honestly have no patience to fight with the religious. I have an intellectual problem with it.

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            • It’s good to keep in mind that women have, throughout history, been programmed to submit to their husbands and did so willingly. Many still do. Religion has played a huge role. You can’t blow that off. When you understand the root causes then you might be able to make some headway in social change.

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  3. Superb post!!!! You are a light in the darkness of Faith my friend. Your blog is outstanding, a lifesaver in the sea of drug known as religion.

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    • Jeff, I have no idea why I’m just seeing this, but your comment meant a lot. I think you and I both know that necessary change won’t come about by just focusing on the positives aspects of religion. One well meaning commenter told me that’s what I should do — focus on the good that religion brings. Well, how’s that working out for us? I think the comprehensive CDC study “Adverse Childhood Experiences” really put me over the top. Is it any wonder that our country is plagued by dysfunction when child learn from a very early age that there is a hell, a loving god who will send them there if they don’t behave, and that because of their ‘sin’ nature, someone had to suffer brutally and die for them. Phil nailed it in that video how children react to the crucifixion story. It’s as barbaric as it gets. Research shows that shame is epidemic in this country.

      Garbage in, garbage out.

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      • The “good” religion does is vastly outweighed by the harm it has and continues to cause. There is no good religion has or can do that secular humanism can’t. The intrinsic message religion gives us, christianity in particular, as I’m most familiar with its message, is that we re born stained and evil and need “it” religion to be saved. The repeated message in the bible is that children are chattel that are owned by their parents and their parents can go so far as to kill them if they refuse to obey. Therein lies the root of child abuse in America. The kid gloves need to come off in regards to religion and deference needs to stop being given to it. The Catholic Church needs to answer for its crimes against humanity in the same way Nazis did and do. Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift are my guides in my quest to destroy the diseased notion that belief in invisible shit warrants special treatment. Fuck it. Hard. Religion is an addictive drug that has entranced humanity for too long. Fuck being nice about pointing this out. People matter. Kids matter. Women matter. Not 6000 year old books and not pedophile priest rapists and the tax exempt institutions that breed and protect them. Religion sucks. Fuck you if that hurts your fucking feelings. Wake the fuck up!

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        • That may be appropriate in some circumstances. But sometimes pushing some people too hard may drive them away from your message, even if you’re right.

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          • I don’t have a message, nor am I trying to convert anyone to anything. I have no respect for religion, it’s institutions, or those who’s feelings are hurt because I hold it in contempt. Fuck religion. Fuck giving deference to it and fuck it if that cramps someone’s pants. To the Catholic Church, an institution that creates, harbors, and nurtures little boy rapists I say, Fuck you. To christian shit-bags who condemn my gay friends, wish to deny them rights, and cherry pick passages from the bible claiming some fucking god or other wants it this way, I say, Fuck you. To the followers of allah who wish to wipe infidels like me from the planet I say, Fuck you. To religious institutions that get tax exempt status because they worship invisible shit I say, Fuck you. To those who don’t like that I say, Fuck you to such institutions I say, Fuck you. I have no respect for the pain, hypocrisy, and sickness religion has brought to my species. Fuck it. Now I feel better.

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            • “I don’t have a message

              “Fuck you and your beliefs” is a message.

              “nor am I trying to convert anyone to anything.”

              Are you sure? Because at the end of your first message, you did say,

              “Wake the fuck up!”

              which suggests you do wish people would change and snap out of it.

              So one option (at times) will be to chill out, meet people where they’re at, and try to plant seeds and enlighten them. Another will be to curse and belittle just so you “feel better” (again, your words). The former will probably usually be more productive in getting others to change, which could actually result in there being just a little bit less for you to actually be mad about.

              I’m not saying that your anger is unjustified. However, if you react to religious people only with such spite, then you’re arguably guilty of a failing similar to what’s described in this post–allowing emotion to overtake your rational mind.

              Still, you make some good points. Better to do it here than to the face of a religious person who might just dig in his/her heels, methinks.

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              • Gah! No blockquote support here, and no warning of that before posting my comment.

                Victoria, can you fix that? Either add blockquote support, or at least make it give an error if a user tries to comment with the tag, then give an opportunity to edit the post. (Someone’s blog does the latter. Is it Ruth’s?)

                Anyway, the 1st, 3rd, & 5th lines of my comment above are supposed to be quotes of inspiredbythedivine1. Feel free to edit to make that apparent.

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              • Rational? Naw. Nothin’ rational bout me. Hungry? Yep. Hunger to eat christians! Just had one for breakfast! Yummy! See, the religious are good for something. Sucks when someone is just SO opinionated and on one bloody side of the coin AND angry about it that just can’t have a gosh darn conversation with ’em on another point of view. Thanks for gettin’ the message. Now, please send me a cashiers check for15,000 U.S. dollars, tax deductible, BTW, and you too can be a member of the Loving Church of the One-sided argument. Amen.

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  4. Another great post, Victoria. I love how you weave your personal story in. Hope you are doing well.

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  5. An exceptionally informative post. Guilt and fear are such powerful forces that they create a natural allure for exploitation by both disingenuous interests and ideological fanaticism. Such cultural manipulation is inherently destructive, although it doesn’t always produce “negative” outcomes when viewed retrospectively. An example of a “positive” result is the radically religious Abolitionist Movement which triggered the disastrous American Civil War, yet eventually outlawed the practice of slavery. It’s kind of ironic.

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    • Well said, Robert. I’m glad you brought up the Abolitionist Movement. Religions, i.e. Christianity, have some good qualities — if only they’d do like Thomas Jefferson did with the bible — cut out all the bad parts and not use fear, shame, bigotry, inequality, etc., as part of their doctrine. If only they would do something about the extremism in their belief system, posts like this wouldn’t be necessary.

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  6. I savour these posts, and drink in the information like a hopeless glutton 🙂

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  7. Oh how well I remember the “voice roll.” So glad I don’t listen to it anymore!

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    • Hear, hear. I’ve even seen voice roll induce seizures in people yet everyone in the congregation thought the person had been overcome by the “holy spirit”. This lady doesn’t go into a full blown convulsive seizure, (not all seizures are convulsive) but clearly this preacher’s voice roll has affected her brain.

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  8. “I must admit that it took me a good while to get over the disappointment and anger I felt when I learned I had been manipulated and deceived” I’m still there–still getting over it. In this meanwhile, I’m so thirsty to learn. I’m learning so much from your blog; this post is no exception. Thank you.

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    • Janelle, it took me several years, and that doesn’t include my deconversion period. I’ve only recently, as a blogger, shared my experiences. I can still get angry when I read other people’s profoundly negative experiences and it keeps the fire under me to continue to bring awareness. It’s reassuring to know that what I share is beneficial. Thank you so much for your encouragement. 🙂

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  9. I “liked” this post. Where’s the “love” button? 🙂

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  10. “I moved out of stated”

    typo: stated -> state

    “[John Edwards] writes: ‘Even though this change has occurred, many Christians have no imagination that they are now converted.’”

    I don’t understand this sentence. Have no imagination?

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  11. AMEN!!!!!!

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  12. “However, a very high percentage will experience an eyes-open altered state of consciousness, unaware that they are in a suggestive brainwave state.”

    Fuck. Me.

    (I’m honestly not sure how to express that thought more clearly…)

    “’A “voice roll” is a patterned, paced style used by hypnotists when inducing a trance. It is also used by many lawyers, several of whom are highly trained hypnotists…'”

    Did you just ruin Boston Legal for me? I love that show! =p

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  13. “I unknowingly contributed to one of organized religions’ most powerful tools of indoctrination: Emotional manipulation.”

    Even as a Christian, there was at least one little place where I noticed this: when e.g a preacher was closing in prayer after a sermon, or even while closing (before prayer), and the worship team would start in with soft slow music in the background. I HATED that, because it always seemed to me like such blatant emotional manipulation–it took away from the mental awareness of the words and meaning of the prayer itself.

    Another hint: the whole idea of “worship”. I could never understand how it wasn’t an ego trip for God. (Didn’t stop me from participating, but anyway…) I even wrote Warren Wiersbe about it. (Can’t say I recall why I chose him in particular.) He wrote me back. His response did not resolve the issue for me.

    If only I had thought a little more broadly.

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    • “I could never understand how it wasn’t an ego trip for God.”

      Exactly. As I mentioned in my post about it feeling like the cushy lining of the nest was being removed, the more I studied my bible the more I saw a haughty, narcissistic god.

      “Even as a Christian, there was at least one little place where I noticed this: when e.g a preacher was closing in prayer after a sermon, or even while closing (before prayer), and the worship team would start in with soft slow music in the background. I HATED that, because it always seemed to me like such blatant emotional manipulation”

      Spot on. Same thing with the “alter calls”. Total emotional manipulation.

      Looks like capitalism has caught on. Thought you might find this interesting:

      “Studies in America have shown that the tempo of background music affects the pace at which shoppers move and diners eat. Faster music in a restaurant can speed up the flow of diners. Slower music can lead people to spend more time in stores, so that they are more likely to buy something. Mr Treasure is a fan of “generative music”, which relies on computer algorithms and is faintly hypnotic. BAA, an airport operator, recently tested a “soundscape” made up of generative music, birdsong and crashing waves at its Glasgow terminal, alternating it daily over a period of eight weeks with silence. (The soundscape can be heard here.) When the soundtrack was playing, takings in the terminal’s shops went up by as much as 10%. ”

      http://www.economist.com/node/9079881

      The timing of passing the offering plate in church isn’t a coincidence. 😉

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      • Excellent information. I must say, Victoria, I learn more about the brain and how religion affects it on your blog than anywhere else. Actually, I’ve learned more about neuroscience and the brain on your site in general than I have anywhere else. The time and dedication you have in doing the research for your posts is to be highly commended. Thank you so much for doing it. I’m thinking of adding some soft music to go along with my calculated, angry, one-sided rants. That way I can hypnotize the unwary into believing all I say more fully. At the very least, some slight bell chiming and incense burning during my morning meals of christian infant and lutheran toddler will be nice. I also find repeating the word “fuck” at the end of every declaratory pontification I make lulls people into a trance wherein I get to react the way I want them to. I’m getting a Nobel Prize for it, at least I should. Don’t you think?

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  14. And lastly, a big picture question: How do you prevent this understanding [of how people can emotionally manipulate each other] from causing your rational, critical mind to be always at the forefront, always wary–to the potential detriment of your emotional health and humanness?

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    • I’m not fully sure I understand your question — but I think I get the jest of it. After I became aware that my emotions had been manipulated, I experienced what is known as the Guardian Response. I still experience it but it’s more of a feeling of being aware than feeling anxiety. That really takes time, though, and a rebuilding of trust.

      But if I attend a seminar where they try to get you pumped up about their message, or walk into a store and hear a sales pitch, I just roll my eyes now. 😀 Sometimes, if I’m asking about a product I might be interested in and they start with their memorized rhetoric, I just ask them (diplomatically) to cut the crap.

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  15. I rather enjoyed the Phil Hellenes video. About the power-cutting idea, my experience has been that they’ll usually continue acoustically, so it doesn’t seem to affect much. In fact, it kind of seems like a big “FU” to the failing power (or to Satan or something), since it’s like, “Ha! We can worship anyway!”

    Nice idea, though. 😉

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    • Ratamacue, you reminded me of something. Yesterday I was thinking about some praise and worship music I used to love listening to when I was a Christian. One was “Bonded Together” by Twila Paris, a tune about being bonded with Jesus, which is ironic because of the nature of my post. I was feeling the oxytocin when I sang or listened to tunes like that as a Christian. This morning I woke up with the music playing in my head. No oxytocin though, LOL.

      So yeah, cutting the (external) electricity isn’t always effective for some. 😉

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  16. Superb post. I slept in most of the sermons 😀 maybe that explains why I didn’t suffer much when I deconverted.
    Thank you for sharing this

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  17. Sorry about the confusion. Sometimes my brain sees one thing and my fingers type another.

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  18. RAmen! Having once been a church pianist, I can confirm that the hymn selection and order made all the difference between a rousing service and a snooze fest, and pastors who delivered too many of the latter didn’t last long. The most intense sermons were the ones that ended with an alter call while the choir sang “Just As I Am” in the background.

    (btw, cool site! I was directed here via a link left by archaeopteryx1 on Nate’s “Finding Truth” blog)

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    • Hey Ron — what a pleasant surprise and thank you. 🙂

      I’ve always enjoyed reading your comments. You know your stuff. Now I understand why. I didn’t know you had an evangelical background, and was a church pianist to boot. Thanks for dropping by.

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  19. Hey V- – I just came to say goodbye for a few reasons – I know your background and I understand much of where you come from, but I cannot read your posts anymore, and part of it is because you cannot take verses out of context and then use them like you do – also – the Christian community in general is a hot mess – we get that – especially in the States – but that does not necessarily represent faith accurately and all Christians do not fit into that erroneous group that is plagued with issues – and this feels like bashing….

    In closing, I also want to add that while I know that we disagree on many things – especially when it comes to the many posts you keep putting up about Christianity-

    well please know that I admire your passion and I think you have a heart of gold – I really do – I really believe you spend your time on these posts with a caring motive –

    and I also really love ya as a person and you have a very warm place in my heart from the blog things we shared last winter – through shared comments – and well, that winter slideshow you made was soooo breathtaking – that Yellow song will always remind me of you – and that gem post – with your ear photo – was the best

    Okay, best wishes to you –
    and peace ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
    ~yvette

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    • Yvette, I understand. We’ve already discussed this via email, but I will mentioned it again — that you inspired me be true to my voice when I was having trepidations several months back about offending people of faith’ those who are not deliberately causing harm to others by voting people into power who want to impart their religious beliefs on others. And those who are using religion to bring harm to others including the decision that was made today by the Supreme Court of the United States. You’re quite right when you say that the Christian community is a hot mess. Their own house is divided and over 41,000 Christian denominations have a different interpretation of scripture.

      I thank you for the season we had together, and I wish you peace and all the best, as well. 🙂

      Take care,

      Victoria

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  20. Interesting. Have you noticed that your blog is replete with scientific facts relating to the reasons why the human brain
    ” turns on” to god-belief and the somewhat insidious ( though not always intentional) methodology used by its practitioners and I do not recall dickhead theists the likes of Mike Anthony, who has currently pretty much hijacked Nate Owens blog , ever coming over to challenge you on these aspects?
    Very telling I’d say.

    Excellent post as per spec. Victoria.

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    • Ark, a little over 10 years ago I would have never envisioned myself becoming an unbeliever. But as the neurological research mounts, scientific method is the only tool we have to prevent us from confirmation bias because there is overwhelming evidence that our brains have evolved to fool us — to delude us. Then add common neurological disorders to the mix that cause people to become hyper-religious where they think they are chosen of god — exhibiting symptoms very much like the main characters you see in “holy” books. To add insult to injury, as you know, there is significant evidence that the Pentateuch is myth.

      I learned that I was just too damn trusting and took other people’s word for it. As Dan Folgelberg once wrote (and sang) “lessons learned are like bridges burning — you only need to cross them but once.”

      Thanks so much for reading and for the kudos. 🙂

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  21. Compassion – another paradox – because this seems to be the essential capacity that the fundamentalist believer lacks; yet at the same time expects it of their god for themselves. This seems to me to be infantile behaviour i.e. in the sense that individuals concerned have not become emotionally adult.

    An interesting thing about so-called primitive pagan beliefs of traditional African societies, is that although many believe in the notion of a single creator, and prayers and offerings might be made to same from time to time, this being is considered remote and largely disinterested in human affairs. On a daily basis the force for maintaining social, political and moral good conduct is based on kinship obligations with both the living and the dead. In this sense, all of life (and death) is sacred in and all its parts, and every individual has responsibilities in relation to others both across peer groups and across the generations. I may be wrong, but this strikes me as rather more ‘grown up’. Puberty rites that mark the transition from childhood to adulthood are of course an essential part of this. To us, many of these practices may seem ‘barbaric’ in that you could call them a period of enforced growing up. But I have often thought that the lack of some similarly functioning rites in industrial society has left very many of us in a state of perpetual infancy, and thus more readily susceptible to the kind of emotional attachments you describe. (??) I’m just thinking ‘aloud’ here. Thanks for the excellent prompting.

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    • Reading your comment about primitive pagan beliefs of traditional African societies and puberty rites (especially for males) reminded me of a book I read by Joseph Campbell — The Power of Myth. One of the main problems I see with the Abrahamic myth is that it seems to foster death anxiety (fear of hell) and so many seem willing to cling to this god of their culture even though this god (the father of Jesus who says “I and the Father are one) clearly exhibits psychopathic behaviors. It is common for Christians to say that scripture is being taken out of context or that it is being misunderstood. But one would have to be rather stupid, delusional or neurologically blinded by their love for god to not see the condoned violence, approval of slavery and oppression of women and girls in holy writ.

      Another thing I hear often from Christians (generally born again Catholics and Protestants) is that without belief in god life has no meaning. I think that Campbell eloquently expressed the meaning of life when he wrote: “Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.” On Noel’s blog, John Z wrote something I also think compliments what you wrote regarding African tradition, which I thought was excellent: “Why cannot the highest ideal be the betterment of society?” Here in the U.S., approximately half of Americans polled believe that Jesus is coming back by 2050. So their attitude is “why concern ourselves with the betterment of society when Jesus is coming back soon?”

      Through the years I’ve met many Christians who were and still are focused on the promise of heaven because they’ve been programmed to believe that the world is wicked, will continue to get worse, and that they are “in the world but not of this world.” That the earth is going to be destroyed by their god because it is a sinful place — all apparently due to two people this all knowing god created.

      I deconverted around 10 years ago. I lived and still live in the most religious region of the U.S., so I count my deconversion as a miracle, lol. But many people here see me as an enemy to their god as stated in the bible. I never talk about my lack of belief in my “real world” unless I’m backed in a corner, and for good reason. Now that parts of my frontal lobes have come back online, I am flabbergasted that I fell for this Abrahamic myth — hook, line and sinker. While I have to contend with the constant fallout from the very religious in my “real world”, I have never felt more at peace and have more compassion for humanity then I did as a Christian.

      “On a daily basis the force for maintaining social, political and moral good conduct is based on kinship obligations with both the living and the dead. In this sense, all of life (and death) is sacred in and all its parts, and every individual has responsibilities in relation to others both across peer groups and across the generations. I may be wrong, but this strikes me as rather more ‘grown up’.”

      I couldn’t agree more.

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      • Thank you so much for sharing your views. Re your question on my blog: do I like living in the UK, well one huge advantage is greater freedom of thought and speech than you currently enjoy (and yet another paradox: you in the world’s greatest ‘democracy), although even here it doesn’t always do to test that assumption of freedom. I have US friends who come to the UK every year to have a breather from the right-wingism. I often wonder what believers imagine heaven will be like FOREVER, or what Jesus is going to give them come the second coming – or does it go no further than the yearning to be ‘safe’/ to have no obligations or responsibilities, to have all needs and wants met; life as an everlasting miracle; too awful to contemplate.

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        • Tish, a while back I watched a movie you may have seen, The Help. If not, its about a young white woman, and her relationship with two black maids during the Civil Rights era in America (the early 1960s). The white woman is a journalist who decides to write a book from the point of view of the maids (“the help”), exposing the racism they are faced with as they work for white families.

          There is a scene where one of the black maids looks up at a picture of her son who was murdered by white racists. Next to her son’s picture was a picture of Jesus. I was deeply moved by this scene as I could see how much she needed to believe that someday she would see her son again. And looking at it from a slavery point of view, I can also see the survival mechanism at play where slaves lived most of their life in grueling conditions and the hope for another life, a better life, i.e. Heaven, may have played a huge role in helping them cope with their traumas.

          The most religious here in America are the blacks (African Americans). I understand why. They, however, are not the ones who are causing all the problems. It’s conservative white evangelicals and conservative white Catholics. As I’ve shared in past posts, I am not against someone believing in God — it’s the toxic fallout that comes from authoritarian religions. I do find it interesting, though, that Jesus never condemned slavery yet has such a huge following among African Americans in this country. And getting to your last question — I do think that heaven represents (for many if not most) that yearning to be safe and to have all their needs and wants met. After all, isn’t that what all babies and children want? A loving caregiver/parent(s) who loves them unconditionally?

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          • Will get back to you on this. Had to dash to the allotment to pick raspberries and mulch beans etc. T 🙂

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          • Will look out for The Help, Victoria. As to clinging to religion for support in times of trauma, yes, this is entirely understandable. Sometimes people are so disempowered, there seems to be nothing else. When Kenyatta became Kenya’s first president, he used to make a joke, saying when the missionaries arrived in Africa, they had the bibles and the people had the land. In no time, though, it was the other way round. The missionaries had the land and the people had the bibles. And on top of that fear of what would happen to them if they ‘were not saved’. Hell was not something they had conceived of until the Europeans came!

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            • “When Kenyatta became Kenya’s first president, he used to make a joke, saying when the missionaries arrived in Africa, they had the bibles and the people had the land. In no time, though, it was the other way round. The missionaries had the land and the people had the bibles.

              Tish, I’ve been looking for an article I shared on Ark’s blog a while back when dialoging with a women from Nigeria. I haven’t found it yet. Ark’s rather prolific. 😉 But it’s from a Nigerian man who shared how Christianity all but destroyed their culture and was a catalyst to them becoming dysfunctionl. When I do find it I’ll pass it along. Thanks for sharing.

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  22. You’ve been on quite the roll lately! This was fascinating to read. I’ve seen and experienced (and participated in) emotional manipulation. For most of us, it isn’t purposely harmful, it is how we communicate, unhealthy as that may be. But you don’t get to be one of the most powerful forces in the world without learning how to do it intentionally.

    Like

    • “You’ve been on quite the roll lately!”

      Madalyn, once I got over my concern about offending people of faith, I have been able to express a lot and share my findings which I’ve pretty much kept to myself in my “real world”. So blogging has been beneficial to me to let “stuff” out. This less traveled path has given me a better understanding of why people do what they do and how religion and indoctrination affects the brain. So much good has come from this downtime in my life. While things may not be so rosy for me right now due to losing my social network, and so much more after I deconverted, I can find comfort in the research, the knowledge I’ve gained, and from the awesome people I’ve met online, present company included. 🙂

      For many, life can be cotton candy dandy when they stay in the herd. But I have an awareness I never had while I was grazing the same pasture. Positive social change does not come about by fearing you might offend someone’s beliefs and/or tickling their ears. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

      —————

      “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” (Attributed to Marcus Aurelius)

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  23. What a story! I was never really religious at any point in my life. Sure, when I was a kid and until I was in my early teens, I was forced/guilted into going to church by my mother but I always hated it. It was boring and stupid as far as I was concerned. fast forward to about my mid/late 30’s and I now have satellite radio and listen to Howard Stern on a regular basis (much less so these days) and he had a clip of Christopher Hitchens ripping the (newly) late Jerry Falwell a new one. I became an instant fan. I started reading books by him and Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett. I have been very interested in the topic of religion (the critique of it) for the last 3 or 4 years. I now have no choice but to consider myself an agnostic, an atheist and an anti-theist.
    I’ll be dropping by to check out your blog on a regular basis.
    Oh, and have fun arguing with av8torbob! FYI, it’s like talking to a brick wall.

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    • Hi Ashley, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      “Oh, and have fun arguing with av8torbob! FYI, it’s like talking to a brick wall.”

      LOL — I sorta figured that out with his first comment on the post, but my reply was pretty much for the sake of lurkers. Such senseless (programmed) comments from people like av8 remind me of the excellent lecture (and book) by Dan Dennett — Breaking the Spell. Here is part 4 of the lecture. You only need to watch the first three minutes to see my point.

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      • Cool! I’ll watch it when I get home (work computers don’t allow streaming video). I read Breaking the Spell about a year ago or so. I see that Dan and Sam have had a bit of a tiff over the idea of free will so I’ve been trying to keep up to date on that.
        I thought your rebuttal points to av8tor were well done. He won’t heed them, but people like me and lurkers certainly take notice and hopefully makes them think about what they’ve read.

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        • I appreciate that, Ashley. I agree; he most likely won’t heed them. His programed rhetoric is very familiar and so many like him appear to be under complete control of religion representative of the lancet fluke or parasite, as noted in the video clip. The brain is very programmable, malleable, and the religious hierarchy know this.

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  24. A very important post, V. I think Dennett’s lasting contribution will be the argument he has brought into being in favour of studying religion not in any theological sense but for its remarkable effects in neuroanatomy. What your post so effectively does is introduce us to some of these components… components we may have never realized are used for their effectiveness rather than their content. Of course, the content is advertised as the virtue under the guise of piousness but in terms of neuroanatomy what we’re looking to better understand is the causal links between the way the message is packaged and how this allows (or fosters) the meme transmission.

    It is so difficult to get people to stand back and see the bigger picture rather than bogged down in details in order to make the kinds of connections you present here between understanding common religious techniques (it doesn’t matter what the religion actually is) and efficacy (why contrary religious beliefs are held to the same degree of certitude by otherwise intelligent people). This is where research needs to go to follow the evidence, and just how fraught with peril such a quest is when faced with such pious hostility to daring to question the content.

    This is why leaving a faith is no simple undertaking and requires such courage and integrity of character; one has to re-furrow the circuitry in the brain (often called ‘learning’). Sounds simple but, as avi8torbob demonstrates, it requires hard work many are not able or unwilling to do. Presenting posts like this really do offer much needed help in showing why the de-conversion process is a process and not an event… much like doing physiotherapy is a process to rework and strengthen muscles to bring about a lasting change to some other condition. The religious meme is just such a condition. The desire to change has to be initiated with those already imbedded with the condition (demonstrable by the geographic correlate for religious belief condition and not the specific content of it).

    Because deconversion is hard, I hold much more hope for the next generation able to see the meme for what it really is – a sales job – before their brain plasticity begins to lessen. It’s much easier to overcome indoctrination when the brain is already undergoing a massive transformation in the teenage and twenty-something years.

    I also find it interesting how closely your thoughts about the importance of myths parallel my own in your response to Tish; I used that same connection (I’m a huge fan of Campbell’s ability to make myths accessible) in my thesis defense about how we learn (and the importance of symbols for meaning-making… not just awake but in our dreams).

    All so fascinating! And we’re in such early days of this remarkable new field of science that we’ve barely scratched the surface.

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    • Tildeb,

      My apologies for this late response. Well, it’s my second attempt at addressing your comment. The first attempt was lost in cyberland. I’ll spare you the details. Thanks for your comment. A couple of things you mentioned stood out.

      You wrote: “It is so difficult to get people to stand back and see the bigger picture rather than bogged down in details in order to make the kinds of connections you present here between understanding common religious techniques (it doesn’t matter what the religion actually is) and efficacy (why contrary religious beliefs are held to the same degree of certitude by otherwise intelligent people). This is where research needs to go to follow the evidence, and just how fraught with peril such a quest is when faced with such pious hostility to daring to question the content.”

      It is difficult, T, and I think that a lot of the reason has to do with the fact that people get rewarded neurochemically in many cases so the thought is — if it feels good — it must be right — and/or from god. Neuropharmacological studies show that dopaminergic activation as the leading neurochemical feature associated with religious activity. I’m not against congregating — fellowship — or god belief, but I am against manipulative, brain altering techniques used by those in the know. It’s deceptive to say the very least. It’s no different than what big corporations are doing — hiring neuro-marketers (spending millions) to see what chemicals used in junk food will light up the reward system of the brain. This helps ensure that people will buy and consume more which can lead to addiction. It’s the same neurotransmitter (dopamine) they target.

      Last week a book “The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture” by Psychologists Darrel Ray was brought to my attention. I haven’t read the book yet, but I did watch the lecture on YouTube. http://youtu.be/ejHX1vplUbs He addresses similar issues and analogies that Dennett addressed in Breaking the Spell, as well as what I highlighted in this post regarding voice roll, music, hypnotic/suggestive brain wave states. People should be upset that their brain is being altered without their awareness — but I don’t see many who are. Instead, they get angry at those (myself included) who bring awareness about it.

      You wrote: “Because deconversion is hard, I hold much more hope for the next generation able to see the meme for what it really is – a sales job – before their brain plasticity begins to lessen. It’s much easier to overcome indoctrination when the brain is already undergoing a massive transformation in the teenage and twenty-something years.”

      I concur. The next generation will (hopefully) be more curious and indignant and bring more attention to it collectively. While much information is readily available now, if you search for it, there seems to be apathy, a lack of interests and curiosity, especially in my generation. The religious hierarchy hope to maintain status quo because it’s making them filthy rich.

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  25. Hi Victoria.

    Just thought I’d share this very moving deconversion story by a young man named Eli. Interestly enough, his faith began to falter when he realized that something wasn’t quite right about the musical worship services (part three). For those lacking time (~87 min), I’ve transcribed what I consider to be his most insightful points from part six:

    5:05

    “Christians can acknowledge many ways a person can become an ex-Christian except for one, except for the most genuine: a broken Christ-follower who tries desperately to not become an atheist, but is finally forced to accept that the message of Christianity—that Christ died for your sins, that you are defective by your nature, corrupt and lost without God—is not true. And if that happened to you would it be your fault, or would that make your life an involuntary testimony to the poverty of Christianity? What would that mean about other Christians? And what would it mean to those you care about? What if you were 21 and you thought you were the only one?”

    20:20

    “If an idea can’t stand on its own truthfulness, it has to find another way to survive. And often the way that happens is by the gradual, unintentional, or intentional refinement of the highjacking of our emotional architecture. Possibly the most effective, most powerful way a belief could do this would be to devalue or eliminate all other sources of self-affirmation— which Christianity does with devastating efficacy—so that there is no hope, or beauty, or meaning, and more importantly, no integrity of the self without it.”

    21:39

    “If a belief can do this to you, you will have almost no chance of being able to critically evaluate its truthfulness. Christianity alters your identity to ensure the survival of itself. And the ones who are the most vulnerable to this message are the ones who already deal with the insecurity of feeling like they are not good enough: young people who want to understand love and truth, and what it means to be good, which is the very nature of being an adolescent. And to them, as the adults they trust and look up to, while believing we are doing what is loving, we tell them that you can never be good enough—unless you accept this: this is what love is, this is what you deserve for your flaws. That is the Gospel—the death of Jesus has no meaning unless you first believe that it should have been you.”

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    • Ron — I’ve had many irons in the fire lately, so I apologize for the delay in my response to your comment. I got very excited when I saw that you posted these videos. I subbed to this guy a while back and watched all his full deconversion video series. They are powerful and I can’t thank you enough for bringing them to my attention again. I really wished people of faith would watch these videos so that they wouldn’t see us as angry atheists or agnostics who are out to destroy their faith. If their faith is strong enough, it won’t, but at least they can see how deceptive and manipulative organized religion is. Why would anyone in their right mind not want to know this?

      And thank you for taking the time to post these excerpts. 🙂

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  26. Victoria, I’m having bonding hormones for you after reading this! 😉

    I knew I’d thoroughly enjoy this subject and post. No secret, we see eye-to-eye on many life principles given our similar paths through traditional and evangelical religions and indoctrination. This was an EXCELLENT post Victoria! A favorite of mine because it takes the stories and theology out of the pantheon-of-awe and down to an undeniable personal, inner Pandora’s Box. Lovely!

    I just came up with a new antidote for “fear”:

    “‘Here be dragons and demons!'”
    Indeed, confront them,
    embrace them,
    and tame them
    until they purr for you.”

    I KNOW you know of what I speak. 😉

    P.S. I will try today to get to more of your delicious posts as time permits! — hugs —

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  27. Thanks, this was a bit of a mindblowing read (as are all your posts I read up till now). It reminded me of the mother of my best friend. I never met my friend’s mother, but I do know she suffered from a tumor in her temporal lobe, became obsessively religious and ended up taking her own life…It would seem that’s not unlike the fate (and I use the word ‘fate’ loosely) your late husband suffered.

    It’s very interesting to read about the relationship between religion and neurology, and the parallels between religion and relationships. And disturbing how even supposed devout Christians such as Rick Perry resort to neuroscience to push their point.
    Thanks for sharing your journey in the matter!

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  28. Hey Victoria – glad I finally found the time to read this post in it’s entirety and fully digest it’s meaning. Our minds are the targets of so many salesmen in this world – whether it be that cool new electronic product they want to get off their shelves or if it’s that perfect religion they want us to buy into. Awareness of this is essential for everyone and that’s a big reason I like this post.

    I wasn’t all too familiar with the voice roll as a Christian, but I do vaguely remember the cultish preachers on my college campus sounding a bit like those videos you linked to here. There was also one time that I remember visiting a pentecostal church many years ago, and I remember thinking – “whoa, now that was a bit much”. I’m pretty sure I had witnessed the “voice roll” then too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awareness of this is essential for everyone and that’s a big reason I like this post.”

      Yes it is, Howie. When we realize just how plastic, (malleable) our brains are, we should be very aware — educated about the tactics used on individuals, but especially the masses. It’s with the masses that their tactics seem to be the most effective. I don’t know if you watched the video linked at the bottom of the post, but if you haven’t, I can’t recommend it enough, especially parts 3 and 4. Don’t let the title fool you. This is a powerful documentary. It was brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago by Ken (kcchief1)) after I published this post, and I updated my post with the link.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment. It’s great to see you. 🙂

      Like

      • I’m only done with part 1 of that video – very interesting so far, and a bit disturbing as well. Great to see you as well – hope things have been going well for you.

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        • Howie, thanks for taking the time to watch the doc. Parts 1 and 2 lay a foundation and are not a big attention grabber (IMO), but the meat is in parts 3 and 4 and is far more disturbing than what you’ve witnessed thus far.

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          • Just finished the video. What stood out to me was the human ability to continue along with a belief even after it has been clearly proven wrong. You could sense the cognitive dissonance when they interviewed the couple who had trusted that their son’s brain tumor would be healed even after he had died. It was very sad.

            I was also very interested in Dr. Neil Abbot’s study with the healer (or lack thereof) hiding behind the 2-way mirror. I searched on while for a while and finally found a few references to it that were interesting.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Howie, you rock. I really appreciate you honoring my recommendation. I must tell you that I wept for that couple, and you are right — you could sense the cognitive dissonance when they were interviewed. This kind of knowledge about human behavior and brain plasticity often ends up in the wrong hands, and the masses are clueless about what’s happening — the battle for their minds.

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  29. Hi Victoria

    A very interesting analysis. I had noticed the music manipulation at Churches. It always troubled me why music was needed to get the Spirit of God to touch a church meeting. Surely if it is really God at work then music would not be necessary.

    What is more I noticed how musicians who claimed to be guided by the Spirit actually planned the sequence of their songs very carefully, especially the transition from upbeat to gentle contemplative music. People would be touched emotionally by the music and then attribute this to ‘the Spirit of God’ when it was the same sort of feeling that one could experience at a secular music concert.

    I was reading recently part of the testimony of Charles Templeton, he had been a successful evangelist during Billy Graham’s early days, but eventually doubts caused him to walk away from a faith in God. He said that twice he healed people by laying hands upon them even though he did not expect this outcome. In one case his auntie was healed of cancer. This led Templeton to suggest this is an area that health professionals might consider further. It might be that there are aspects of how the body works that we don’t understand, like a version of the placebo affect.

    I better understand from your comment here why some commentators suggest that the Apostle Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus might have been an epileptic fit.

    So often in churches people talk about the Spirit’s leading. What has troubled me for some time is why would God’s Spirit seem to give contrary directions to His people. Clearly not everyone was hearing the same Spirit, or more likely they were hearing their own imagination.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Peter, it’s great to see you here. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the excellent documentary “A Question of Miracles” http://youtu.be/JJfaaPdP0kI , but if you can find the time, I can’t recommend it enough. Parts 3 and 4 are especially eye-opening and educational. I agree with you that there are aspects of how the body works (especially the power of our brain) that we don’t understand — not yet, anyway. Also, I’m sure you’ve heard of spontaneous healing or regression. The frequency is estimated to be about 1 in 100,000 cancers.

      I think you will find the documentary fascinating as it exposes the tricks of the trade when people are assembled and takes the placebo effect to another level most are not aware of. Here is another interesting video “How To Convert An Atheist”. Dan Brown exposes the simple methods used that can make a person (in this case an atheist) become completely convinced they just had a God experience.

      http://youtu.be/51B8MzcxOX0

      I appreciate you taking the time to read this lengthy post, and for sharing your own observations. 🙂

      Like

      • Thanks Victoria

        I am still involved with Christianity as a minister but am having serious doubts. Over the last month I have been reading the Bible with fresh eyes and it has been a revelation. I am only now starting to appreciate how much I had rationalised away troubling passages.

        I am presently reading through the Book of Numbers and have realised that God seems very temperamental and bad tempered there. When the people grumble God sends plagues, snakes, earthquakes, fire the list goes on. It portrays God as someone who is very easily angered.

        One of the things that has stopped me breaking my links with Christianity is the question of some supernatural type events. I was at a service once when a mild mannered lady came forward for prayer and as the person was about to pray for her she fell to the floor screaming, they took her away and said they expelled two demons from her. This happened about three foot away from where I was sitting. I know it was not a ‘put up job’, but I do wonder whether there is a medical explanation for these types of happenings.

        On a couple of occasions I have prayed for people and felt something like a current of electricity flow through my body as I laid hands on them. Christians tend to assume this is from God, but I did not feel especially holy. I wonder whether there is a natural explanation for such phenomena. One person I prayed for said they felt intense heat coming from my hands and where I had touched them was still hot about an hour later. Could there be some natural explanation for such an outcome?

        I was interested to hear a talk by a Christian historian on the matter of talking in tongues. He gave the example of a Christian revival in Africa. There were two separate regions involved, in one region prior to the revival there had been teaching about tongues, in the other no such teaching. Subsequently tongues was only manifested in the region where it had previously been taught.

        I read a study on the spread of religion by a sociologist. It provided a very cogent case that it is social factors that explain the best the spread of religion. The spread of Christianity from its early beginnings accords very well with such a model. People generally convert when the majority of their social contacts belong to the group.

        Thanks for your blog.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Peter, thank you for sharing so personally. I won’t be addressing everything in this post as I have a few other resources I’d like to find and share with you that I hope might answer a few of your questions. As far as the lady falling and then screaming, it sounds like she had a seizure, and unfortunately, as you may know, it has been assumed (no thanks to Jesus supposedly casting out demons when people were convulsing), that seizures were demonic in nature, especially in evangelical denominations and the Roman Catholic Church.

          The Effects of Epilepsy On the Body:

          “During a seizure, misfires from the brain can tell your muscles to contract and relax. A seizure may cause muscles to jerk uncontrollably. In some cases, you can lose muscle tone so quickly that you fall down. When muscles surrounding your vocal cords seize up, it pushes out air. It sounds like a cry or a scream.”

          http://www.healthline.com/health/epilepsy/effects-on-body

          An excerpt from:

          Neither Gods nor Demons But Misfiring Brains
          By: Robert J. Gumnit M.D.

          “People with seizures look like everyone else when they are not having a seizure, and seizures are not contagious. Yet, as far back in history as we know, people with seizure disorders have been viewed with fear. In many civilizations, they have been shunned; in others, they have been thought to have a special ability and be in communication with higher powers—good gods in the case of the Romans, the devil in the case of early Christianity. The early Greeks called epilepsy “the sacred disease,” but it later became known as “the scourge of Christ,” probably as a result of the passage in the Gospels in which Jesus casts out an unclean spirit from a young boy. The boy’s father says (in the Gospel according to Luke), “Teacher, I implore you, look on my son…Behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it confuses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.” To this day, many ordinary people still believe patients with epileptic seizures are “possessed,” and a person with seizures is forbidden to take Holy Orders (become a priest) in the Roman Catholic Church.

          Many people have a rather fixed image of what a seizure looks like. Consider this passage from The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (who himself suffered from epileptic seizures). The hero, Prince Myshkin, is about to be attacked by a man with a knife:

          “Then all at once everything seemed to open up before him: an extraordinary inner light flooded his soul. That instant lasted, perhaps, half a second, yet he clearly and consciously remembered the beginning, the first sound of a dreadful scream which burst from his chest of its own accord and which no effort of his could have suppressed. Then consciousness was extinguished instantly and total darkness came upon him. He had suffered an epileptic fit, the first for a very long time. As is well known, attacks of epilepsy, the notorious falling sickness, occur instantaneously. In that one instant the face suddenly becomes horribly contorted, especially the eyes. Spasms and convulsions rack the entire body and all the facial features. A frightful, unimaginable scream, quite unlike anything else, bursts from the chest.

          One of every eleven people has a seizure sometime in his life.”

          http://www.dana.org/Cerebrum/2004/Neither_Gods_nor_Demons_But_Mis%EF%AC%81ring_Brains/

          I’ll be back.

          Like

          • Thanks Victoria.

            Last month a friend of mine who is a pastor in another church told me he had prayed for a person in his church and concluded the person was possessed by a demon. When he prayed for the person, the ‘demon’ answered him. It apparently spoke in a totally different voice to the persons normal speech. It was a low groaning voice that said something like, ‘do you know who I am’.

            I was not there, but my pastor friend said that he rebuked the Demon and it stopped talking then he exorcised it from the person. I have no reason to doubt the integrity of my friend who is a sincere decent person. However I really don’t know quite what to make of such stories.

            Another person I know had been a chronic alcoholic and drug user. He said he was filled with hate. Even the Salvation said he was a hopeless case. However by his own testimony he said he cried out to God for help one night. The next day when he went to to drink alcohol he felt physically ill and could not touch it. He later went to a church and he was prayed for, he said it was like something was wrenched from him, all his hate that had consumed him for years suddenly left him. He is now a most kind and gentle person. It is this type of testimony that makes me wonder is there something more.

            I suppose there are some things we will never know with certainty.

            Like

            • Hi Peter,

              From what I can gather, you are a minister or in the company of evangelicals or perhaps Catholics? The reason I ask is that in all the years I was a believer, and attended church on a weekly basis, the only time someone was supposedly possessed by a demon was either those attending evangelical/fundamentalist churches or Catholic churches. From Father Joe’s blog, here’s an excerpt from his post titled “How True Was The Exorcist Story“: https://fatherjoe.wordpress.com/stories/how-true-was-the-exorcism-story/ Excerpt —

              “J. de Tonquedec (1886-1962), a psychologist and the official exorcist of the diocese of Paris for over 20 years, doubted that he ever found a real case. He wrote:

              “Exorcism is an impressive ceremony, capable of acting effectively on the unconscious of a sick person. The adjurations addressed to the demon, the sprinkling of holy water, the stole passed around the patient’s neck, the repeated signs of the cross and so forth, are very capable of creating a diabolical mythomania in word and deed in a psyche already weak. Call the devil and you will see him; or rather not him, but a portrait made of the sick person’s idea of him. It is for this reason that certain priests, due to their inconsiderate and imprudent practice of exorcising, create, confirm and encourage the very disorders that they want to suppress.”

              —————————————

              The movie Exorcist, the story about it was sensationalize and after extensive investigation, it was discovered that most everything was blown way out of proportion including answering back in a different voice. Way out of proportion. We someones see what we expect. When people do their homework they will see that they’ve misunderstood neurological disorders and explainable environmental phenomena that have natural causes. The result? Superstition. This topic hits close to home for me. My partner had non-convulsive seizures after sustaining a traumatic brain injury that caused hallucinations and delusions. He had just started attending a new church and sought council. The pastor did not recommend he see a mental health professional, but instead told him he was being possessed and oppressed by a demon or demons and recommended exorcism (deliverance). In his fragile state of mind, this irresponsible and unprofessional counsel led him to commit suicide just hours after the counsel. I write about it here

              With regard to the person who had a drinking problem — how many people are there in the world who have sincerely prayed and prayed and prayed to overcome alcoholism? A lot. I’ve seen it through the years — people in churches and they totally surrendered to God, yet nothing. Instead they had to find tools like rehab and support groups to help them recover. The urge to drink was still strong. Most do not have a spontaneous recovery. Sounds to me like the conditions were ripe for an interhemispheric intrusion. I write about it here:

              I’ll write more later. 🙂

              Like

              • Hi Victoria

                The events I was relating took place in a Pentecostal Church. My Pastor friend is someone of very fundamentalist beliefs. I see him bristle when I casually mention that I don’t think it is an important for Christians to have a view on issues like the rapture of the millennium. My own church tradition is evangelical, but more traditional mainstream.

                The pastor had told me previously that this particular person had many ‘issues’ so I would not doubt he had mental health issues.

                I sometimes think back to a lesson from the Lord of the Rings books. The Hobbits thought the Elves used magic, however it was not magic rather it was greater knowledge. Human nature is such that we tend to assume what we don’t understand is supernatural. However it might be we just don’t understand it. I was interested in your comments (elsewhere) that paranormal activity increases in line with solar mass ejections.

                Animals can predict weather changes and earthquakes, but we know now that is not magic, rather it is is to do with air pressure changes and deep earth vibrations. Pets can also sense when their owner is unwell, some can even predict death. I don’t believe this is supernatural, but rather a perceptive ability many humans have not developed.

                Thanks for your comments, they are much appreciated.

                Like

      • I did watch “How to Convert an Atheist” before. Given how things are done for TV, I wonder to what extent it’s an honest portrayl…but I found it fascinating. (I also question the ethics of the deception…but still fascinating.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ratamacue, if you can find the time, I recommend watching to doc “A Question of Miracles”. I think it will assist in helping to answer your question about that conversion scene being an honest portrayal. I can also understand the question of ethics with regard to the deception as she clearly had a profound experience, and I’m sure it took a while for the dust to settle before she could look at this experience through the lens of a scientist. Yet, this sort of deception goes on all the time within the walls of churches and revivals, and the ethics of said deception is rarely questioned. Churches are getting tax exemption in America (literally rewarded) while many are knowingly deceiving their congregants.

          Like

      • Hi Victoria

        I had a look at the video. It certainly makes one think. That is the big issue I am finding, being prepared to think, being prepared to accept alternative explanations for phenomena other than being caused by’God’.

        I had a look at the comments below the video and was interested to see that the results of the experiment were dismissed by people of faith. I would have reached a similar conclusion to them only a couple of months back, so I understand why they argue as they do.

        What I do not know is how to persuade people to genuinely consider that their beliefs might be in error. People may actually think they are being open minded and actually make an effort, but I suspect we can delude ourselves at times.

        You have helped me to understand the ‘supernatural’ side of religion. I had already found my faith in the Bible had eroded as had my confidence in God answering prayer, or acting in a way other than could be explained by the laws of probability. So this is really completing the picture for me.

        Though it is hard to move on from something that has been a key part of your personal identity most of your life.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Peter,

          I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back with you sooner. Thank you for taking the time to watch the video. I think about you often. We are following some of the same blogs now so I have been reading your comments. You remind me so much of myself at the stage you’re in now. As I read your comment here, tears began to well up. There are Christians who leave the faith and never bat an eye it seems. Then there are people like you, me, and others who took our faith and our so called “personal” relationship with the biblical god, very seriously.

          I could share a lot more information (regarding the research on what’s been deemed supernatural but has natural causes) that I discovered during my own journey, but I don’t think I need to at this point, unless you ask. I’m also aware that there are some things we just don’t fully understand — not yet anyway, but I’m OK with that. I’ve read the research in detail about how faith can be beneficial for people, and I really have no issues with people who have a quiet faith. It’s personal. But for me, I don’t want a doctor to prescribe a placebo. It’s far more empowering to me knowing that I am capable of making positive change without being duped into believing something or someone else did it.

          I can tell by your comments here and elsewhere that you have really made an effort to go out of your comfort zone, question and seek understanding. I really admire you for continuing to go the distance, leaving no stone unturned. I can completely relate to what you said with regard to how hard it is to move from something that has been a key part of your personal identity most of your life. It’s the main reason why this journey can be so difficult. It certainly was for me — gut wrenching. You’re also swimming against the social tide and that can be exhausting and certainly lonely at times.

          Feel free to drop me an email anytime. My email addy is located in my gravatar. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment, and I especially appreciate your integrity and forthrightness.

          Like

          • Just two quick critical comments about the video A Question of Miracle.

            The first is the misunderstanding the moderator repeats several times in the final part, namely, that placebo means the brain’s healing of the body. That’s NOT what placebo means at all. The placebo effect is all about subjective symptoms… where reporting bias can play a major role. Studies have shown, in fact, that there is no significant “healing” that occurs due to placebo effects – no objective biological improvement. This is really important to understand. Placebo means a self-reporting effect… something other than a physiological response to a biologically active treatment. That’s why change in reported ‘pain’ or ‘mood’ or ‘feeling’ is often used as anecdotal evidence for woo which is clearly a placebo effect when no physiological efficacy accompanies the report. It’s not evidence: it’s placebo. Also, included in this should be the nocebo effect, where the patient presumes harm from some treatment and then self-reports the same kind of effects as placebo but in negative terms.

            The second bit is just how disappointed I was in the last few minutes of the video that goes from introducing science based explanatory models of what’s really going on to suddenly making the standard apologetic genuflections and seemingly mandatory rump osculations towards other just-as-groundless religious claims in healing through faith. But because it’s Lourdes and Catholicism, presumably it must be somehow qualitatively different? I don’t think so. In fact, there is zero evidence it is any different.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, I definitely concur with your assessment (and disappointment) regarding the last few minutes of the doc. It’s like it came out of no where — and really didn’t fit into the rest of the documentary — and neither did they associate that with the power of suggestion. Regarding your first comment, I understand where you are coming from with regard to the studies showing, that there is no significant “healing” that occurs due to placebo effect.

              However, that was definitely stated by the scientists in the doc and those who had produced the doc when they investigated the people who had claimed they’d been healed, including several who were bouncing and hopping around during the so called healing crusades/rallies. Their medical records indicated that they had, in fact, not been healed. It was temporary due to the circumstances that took place in the carefully, and strategically orchestrated rallies.

              There is a fairly rare phenomena which I don’t recall it being mentioned in the video, and that’s spontaneous healing also known as spontaneous regression. But it’s not a respecter of persons meaning that there doesn’t appear to be any association between religious belief and spontaneous regression.

              From the documentary:

              “You have these groups in the kind of ecstatic states, a kind of expectancy state, then you have the individual come out, the speaker who will coordinate all these experiences among the mass of people. This person must be a kind of orchestra leader to maintain his great orchestration of cognitive experiences. As the speaker begins to give the message, the people are full of emotion — full of imagery.

              These images take on tremendous personal value because of the elevation of the opiates. Because of the groups state of ecstasy, and within the gathered crowds, you see the features of these opiate releases. They may cry. Individuals sway. You get the smiles, a mild glow, like a mild drunken state. These experiences are associated with mild electrical changes deep within the brain.”

              Thanks for taking the time to watch the video and for your feedback. I think it is clear from that documentary just how powerful the power of suggestion is.

              Like

              • Mid way through last year a person I know from church went to a healing meeting led by someone with a nationally recognized healing ministry. This person suffered from Parkinson’s, after prayer they were able to ‘throw away their walking stick’. They gave a wonderful testimony of the healing to the Church. Now less than six months later they are no longer able to attend church because of the deterioration in their illness.

                Like

            • The part of the video that resonated with me was the person’s feeling of a ‘supernatural’ love that overwhelmed them. I have heard so many testimonies of the great saints of the past that have such an experience of ‘God’s love’ that they found it overwhelming. In various Christian circles this can be termed a ‘Baptism of the Spirit. I thought the experiment in the video showed well how this can be induced from within ourselves, but our natural tendency is to attribute it to some force outside of ourselves.

              Like

              • Indeed.

                People either forget or are unaware that we have, in effect, two brains in our little noggin… joined by the corpus callosum that regulates communication between them. Each side communicates with the other, which means both sides have ‘voices’, so to speak. Yet how many of us really appreciate how that bicameral communication presents to our awareness? Could the ‘voice’ we usually don’t hear be the caring and compassionate yet deeply familiar and loving voice we presume comes from somewhere else?

                Like

    • As a christian, it used to really bother me when the worship team would play that slow quiet music during prayer. (Usually after a sermon, often before continuing with more worship.) That bit in particular seemed like such a blatant emotional manipulation to me, even then.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hmm, my comments don’t seem to be nesting in the right places. Hopefully you can infer where they go (in response to Victoria and Peter).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ratamacue, if you were intending for your first comment to nest my comment, it did, and your second comment nested under Peter’s first comment. My nesting may look different from yours because we have different templates. Mine doesn’t get narrow(er) even though I have my nesting set to 10.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Hi ratamacue0 in case you are wondering I am the same Peter who recently commented on your blog. As I mentioned there I can explain away 95% of Christianity, it is the remaining 5% that I am working through. This sort of post goes a fair way towards addressing that residual 5%.

        Cheers

        Peter

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Peter,

          Yes, actually I was chatting with Victoria, and she mentioned you had commented here, so I was interested to see what else you were saying. Hope you don’t mind.

          I understand about doing your due diligence.

          I’m glad you are finding answers. (Not that I have all the answers, or think they’re all even available to be had…)

          Like

          • My Auntie had belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She eventually left them and said to me’God now has to prove himself to me’.

            She told me two things that have really been on my mind of late:
            1. she prayed and prayed and prayed, but God never answered;
            2. when she spoke with the leaders they always told her the problem was her, there was always something else she had to do.

            At the time I thought to myself the problem was that she followed a cult that was not truly Christian and if only she followed true Christianity these issues would be resolved. Suddenly I am seeing her comments in a different light.

            It had puzzled me why cults like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses were so successful given they were not following the ‘truth’. However if one considers that their ‘truth’ is no worse than the rest of Christianity then their growth and success is easily explained on sociological grounds.

            Liked by 2 people

  30. Pingback: Are Brainwashing Techniques in the Bible and Strategically Used in Churches? | Victoria N℮ür☼N☮☂℮ṧ

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