There 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.
Research 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
“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.
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!