Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

How the Brain Creates the Experience of God

131 Comments

Peter: When I used to read the Bible I sort of assumed that God spoke to the people of old in a very clear way that could not be misunderstood. Why didn’t he speak to me so clearly? A lot of people claim to hear from God now. However when really pressed on the matter, the honest ones will admit that it is more a type of impression on the mind that they think must be God.

Violet: Hey Peter, I’d thought god had spoken to me very clearly. He had a real voice and everything, and used plain English when he talked to me in my head. This did not happen to me very often…only when I was under extreme duress.

Those quotes came from a conversation several of us were having on Violet’s blog (There is no R.A. in A.S.D) this week about people claiming to have had “God” experiences. There’s been a lot of discourse lately with people (specifically fundamentalist Christians) claiming that God speaks to them—that they hear “his” voice—feel “his” presence—are filled with the Holy Spirit, etc.

Violet is an atheist, but she used to be a devout Christian. Sometimes she’d hear what she believed was the voice of God. Not everyone has to be under extreme duress to experience this. The power of suggestion is, well, powerful. But there’s other activity going on in the brain that can cause a person to believe they’ve experienced a sensed presence, the god of their culture, or demons, angels and ghosts. The following are excerpts from an article written by Todd Murphy, a behavioral neuroscientist, whose main interest is in understanding how the brain contributes to mystic, religious, and spiritual experiences.  I have added links and brain animations (not included in Murphy’s article) for educational purposes.

God In The Brain

“There is a body of evidence about ‘seeing God’ for science to study; there is a picture emerging about how it happens.

The conclusion that’s taking shape has a lot in common with the traditional Hindu view (shared by many Buddhists) that if one comes face-to-face with God, one is actually being confronted with one’s self.

And the self is now a matter of brain science. It has fallen to the neuroscientists for two reasons. There’s a neurological disorder that sometimes leaves people seeing god, or at least claiming to. And there’s a neurological picture of the self emerging.

Limbic_lobe_animation

Animation credit: Database Center for Life Science (DBCLS) — Wikimedia Commons

Within neuroscience, both the self, and the disorder that seems to make visions of God concern the limbic system, the middle and lower portions of the temporal lobes, parts of the brain that are activated very easily. More easily, in fact, than any other parts of the brain.

There are two pieces of evidence behind this. One is that psychological ‘disorders of the self’ usually involve differences in the limbic system. A schizophrenic hippocampus is different from a normal one. A depressed person’s amygdala (there are two – one on each side) works differently from a normal one.

 

The other important evidence is a thing called “The Forty Hertz Component.” It’s a component of a typical EEG readout. It appears from the temporal lobes, and it’s there when a person is awake, there when the person is in REM sleep, but it’s absent when a person is in dreamless sleep.

 

We cannot remember dreamless sleep, but we can recall dreams, and what happens in ordinary, waking consciousness. And those are the times when the 40hz is present. A conclusion follows. One that a lot of people don’t like too much. The ‘self’ is what we experience when a specific pattern of brain activity is happening. It might BE that activity, or it might only require it. In either case, “we” aren’t completely made of any sort of spiritual or divine energy. Some of what we are, at least, can be measured, recorded, ‘logged in as data’, and all that.

When ‘we’ exist, we’re always using our brains in specific ways, and one of the few constant ways we do it is by maintaining the 40hz component.

The 40hz activity appears out of the temporal lobes. It’s pathways have come to be understood after studies of people who had trouble in the temporal lobes (epilepsy, head injury, etc.). It involves the surface of the temporal lobes, and two of its deeper structures, the amygdala and the hippocampus.

More to the point, it involves these two sets of structures, on two sides of the brain. We have two selves, or two senses of self. One on the left, and one on the right. They’re not equals, though. The left-sided sense of self is dominant in most people. It’s the one where language happens. It becomes dominant when we learn to speak in childhood. After that, we use language as our main way of relating to others. We maintain an almost constant stream of inner words, inner monologue and thoughts, in words, about almost everything we experience.

On the other side of the brain, following the rule that each thing on one side of the brain does the opposite of what the same thing on the other side of the brain does, we get the conclusion that there is a non-linguistic sense of self on the right side of the brain.

Ordinarily, our two ‘selves’ work in tandem with one another. The one on the left is sort of in charge of things, but constantly gets input from the sense of self on the other side. Both of them are accustomed (or habituated) to this arrangement. But, once in a while, (or for some people, quite often) the two fall out of phase with one another, and the left-sided ‘self’ manifests by itself.

When this happens, we experience our own, right-sided, silent sense of self coming out where the left sided sense of self can and does experience it.

The experience has many forms, possibly a different form for each person who has it. And maybe a slightly different one each time they have it. Dreams do that too. And so does the sensation of having a self. Of being ‘me’.

The Visitor Experience

All together, they’re called ‘visitor experiences’. In its most subtle form, it appears as the feeling that one is ‘not alone’ or that they’re ‘being watched’. They might feel a ‘presence’ in the room with them. When they turn to look to see who’s there, they find themselves alone.

In another one of its many faces, a person who’s engrossed in a job, like writing or doing art, might find that they no longer feel that ‘they’ are doing it. The words they write; the pencil lines that appear; seem to be coming from somewhere else. The right-sided self has taken over the job, and its presence is manifested through its behavior. Absorbed, the person working with such a ‘muse’ has no attention left with which to stop and ‘sense a presence’.

The sensed presence is on one end of a spectrum. Actually, it’s two spectrums.

One spectrum is of intensity. The other is of feeling.

Let’s look at intensity first. How ‘powerful’ the experience is. The Sensed Presence is at the lower extreme. It’s easily ‘shaken off’. The experience involves the few brain parts we mentioned before.

However, if there is enough electrical activity in these structures, ( the experience gets more intense), it will ‘spill over’ into other nearby structures.

organ08

 

And that’s when things get REALLY interesting.

 

How the experience unfolds from here depends on which brain parts the activity spills into.

If it catches some of the visual areas, the experience can become a vision of an entity of some kind or other.

If it involves the olfactory areas, the person can find that the visitor has a unique smell.

If it involves the parts of the brain that help us perceive our own bodies from within, we might find ourselves having tingly feelings. Or that we are being lifted up, or thrown down.

If it involves the language centers, we might hear a voice, or music, or noise.

If it involves areas that deal in long-term memory, we might find that the experience includes an episodic ‘vision’. Not just a flash of an image, but an inner world where the person interacts with others, feels real emotions, and so on.

That’s all in the spectrum of intensity. The other spectrum is of feeling.

There doesn’t seem to very much in the middle of this one. Just at the extreme ends.

 Right and Left Amygdala

On one extreme, there is the ‘demonic’ or evil visitor, and on the other extreme, there are more angelic visitors. It depends on which emotional center (amygdala), left or right, is more active.

Amygdala large

Right and Left Amygdala — 3D animation credit: Database Center for Life Science (DBCLS) — Wikimedia Commons

If the negative one (meaning the one that supports fear) is more active, the visitor experience will become a visitation by a demon, Satan, or a terrifying ghost. On the other extreme, it could be an angel, a spirit protector, or even God.

The experience of God seems to be an extreme example of the visitor experience.

It takes extreme circumstances to manifest the experience, of course, but the experience of God doesn’t have any features that don’t also occur in other brain-derived experiences.

If God is actually a part of our own selves, then prayer might just be a way we talk to ourselves to bring out that silent self. There are types of prayer that traditional spirituality respects most, like those of thanksgiving, prayers for others well-being, and healing, and prayers to be granted spiritual gifts, like healing skills, wisdom, insight and faith. When a person prays in these ways, they divide their attention between positive thoughts, and positive feelings.

Because positive thoughts (involving the right hippocampus), and positive feelings (involving the left amygdala) are on opposite sides of the brain, prayer changes the balance of activity on the two sides. Whenever that’s happening, the chances of the activity on the two sides (for these areas) falling out of phase with each other goes up substantially. Sensed presence experiences become more common until the day arrives when God’s presence is something the person feels at all times.

Their behavior matches the mood of their prayers more and more. Eventually, the day can arrive when the person’s experience of God goes past just feeling his presence, and begins to appear as a guide, even one with a voice. The person can surrender to what they feel is ‘divine will’, and ‘let go of their ego’.

Remember we’re talking about the sense of self here. This process can unfold to the point where ‘they’ are all but gone, and the boundaries between their self, and God’s presence begin to blur. Carry that to its extreme, and you might find people saying things like “I and the Father are one”. And we all know where THAT can lead……”

 


Excerpts reprinted with permission.

 

 

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Author: NeuroNotes

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

131 thoughts on “How the Brain Creates the Experience of God

  1. I am very attracted to this idea of ‘out-of-phase’. I think that captures the communicative aspect of these experiences – experiences used as a central pillar of asserting ‘evidence’ for some god or exterior agency.

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    • Absolutely. It’s fascinating to see split-brain studies, when the two hemispheres have distinct personalities, as though there are two separate people inside one brain. In this patient, one side of his brain was a theist and the other an atheist. The side (dominant left hemisphere) that was an atheist was/is no different than the biblical god Yahweh, who was/is also an atheist with very human qualities.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I adore Ramachandran. I’ve followed his work for over a decade (I was investigating phantom pain at the time) and it’s little real world points like these that demonstrate just how embedded with useless conjecture fundamental theology really is.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Same, here. Dr. Ramachandran has invested a lot of research in studying brain disorders like temporal lobe epilepsy, a.k.a. complex partial seizures. It is amazing when you see so many similarities of behaviors between hyper-religious TLE patients and those recorded in the Bible who were considered prophets and apostles, and today, that behavior is noticeable in highly religious clergy. In a two-part video interview (The Temporal Lobes and God) with a TLE patient, he was never religious before he started having temporal lobe seizures. He states in the interview he could easily get a following.

          Liked by 1 person

      • As he said, this finding should raise profound theological implications. But of course it is ignored by the Church’s.

        After all if ones belief is affected by the brain then it really makes a lie of the whole Christian claim.

        I know the answer! The part of the brain that thought it was Christian, was not a real Christian!

        Liked by 4 people

  2. if one comes face-to-face with God, one is actually being confronted with one’s self.

    The brain does act as an independent thing. A while ago I was reading (or watching?) something about the physical decay that occurs when a person goes without water/food. It was fascinating, especially the point that the brain will turn against the body to save itself. It directs the cells to first consume the muscles, then the organs, all in an attempt to keep feeding itself.

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    • That is fascinating, John. When the body goes without water or food, as in dehydration and starvation (or fasting for some) then it is most likely a person will experienced The Sensed Presence Effect. Whether Jesus was a real person or not, I would think that if someone fasted for 40 days in a desert, they would encounter a sensed presence. Jesus encountered Satan. I laugh now when I see all the similarities in the Bible to the research on this phenomena — coinciding with the brutal conditions of the Iron/Bronze age, followed by the proliferation of writings of people experiencing a sensed presence.

      In his book, The Third Man Factor, John Geiger documents the effect on mountain climbers, solo sailors and ultraendurance athletes. He lists conditions associated with it: monotony, darkness, barren landscapes, isolation, cold, injury, dehydration, hunger, fatigue, and sleep deprivation. Michael Shermer said that he has repeatedly experienced its effects and witnessed it in others during the 3,000-mile nonstop transcontinental bicycle Race Across America. In the article he wrote for Scientific American (linked in the first paragraph), he says that four-time winner Jure Robic, a Slovenian soldier, recounted to the New York Times that during one race he engaged in combat a gaggle of mailboxes he was convinced were enemy troops; another year he found himself being chased by a “howling band” of black-bearded horsemen.

      Charles Lindbergh talked about experiencing a sensed presence during his long transatlantic flight to Paris. He stated: “The fuselage behind me becomes filled with ghostly presences—vaguely outlined forms, transparent, moving, riding weightless with me in the plane … conversing and advising on my flight, discussing problems of my navigation, reassuring me, giving me messages of importance unattainable in ordinary life.”

      Shermer writes about his brother-in-law, Fred Ziel, who climbed Mount Everest twice. He told Shermer that both times he experienced a sensed presence. The first time was when he was frostbitten and without oxygen at the limit of physical effort above the Hillary Step, and second on Everest’s north ridge after he collapsed from dehydration and hypoxia at 26,000 feet. Both times he was alone and feeling desirous of company.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Superb, informative post as usual, Victoria.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Victoria! Thank you for sharing this info. Do you think prayer and meditation still have a place to develop focus for an individual struggling with balancing their unconscious thoughts and desires to that of their external reality? Can one be spiritual by connecting through prayer and mediation and being one with all parts (or connections within the brain) of oneself? I am not astute on this subject but I am familiar and have studied the id, ego and superego and know that these parts of ourselves are constantly at “war” with one another and you have explained this from a biological perspective. I have told you as a result of traumatic experiences from childhood on- I battle social anxiety disorder, OCD, anxiety and depression, and PTSD. I was told by a therapist that using prayer and meditation would help me shift my focus from the negative that fogs my mind constantly to more positive and productive thoughts. I often get in loops and obsess about one thing over and over so this has seemed to help me. Would you say there are positives and benefits to a person exploring the possibility of connecting and focusing through prayer and meditation?
    Thanks 😎❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Would you say there are positives and benefits to a person exploring the possibility of connecting and focusing through prayer and meditation?”

      Based on what I’ve read — yes. It’s about rewiring your brain and atrophying disadvantageous neural pathways. Traditional meditation doesn’t work for everyone, but there is evidence that it is beneficial, especially mindfulness meditation. Leave out the religious garb, and basically what you are doing is just as you mentioned — working towards deactivating or pruning neural circuitry associated with those loops and obsessions. Also, there is evidence that you can rewire your brain to where you are functioning more from your left amydala (positive emotions). As far as praying goes, I know that it seems to be beneficial for some people, but it can also backfire if people have high expectations that their prayers are going to be answered.

      Sometimes you have to tell that dominant SOB (left hemisphere) to shut up. 😀 My religious upbringing exacerbated the situation by telling me that my body and “spirit” were at war with each other. Well, it wasn’t my body and spirit, it was my hemispheres, and the left hemisphere wanted all the attention. lol

      Liked by 2 people

    • I have to agree with Victoria, prayer can be iffy because of all the other ideas that seem to come with it. Who are you talking to? Will you wind up with expectations of fulfillment that are unrealistic?

      As for meditation, some of the effectiveness of that will be on the type of meditation you try. I’m not familiar with mindfulness
      meditation but I have seen self teaching videos and such about it. Remember, that if you’re not driving the bus, someone else will be, and that’s not a reference to angels or demons or gods even, it means other human beings will take advantage of you and play/ply their control games. You might as well drive, it’s your bus! Good luck with your project, we can take control of a lot more of our thinking processes and brain function than society usually portrays.

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      • Mariah wrote: “I wonder if, based on the information in this article, that might be why women seem to have more mystical/spiritual etc. experiences?”

        Could very well be.

        “In one of the largest studies looking at the “connectomes” of the sexes, Ragini Verma, PhD, an associate professor in the department of Radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues found greater neural connectivity from front to back and within one hemisphere in males, suggesting their brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action. In contrast, in females, the wiring goes between the left and right hemispheres, suggesting that they facilitate communication between the analytical and intuition.”

        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131202161935.htm

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  5. This is especially interesting to me, V. I imagine I’ll be referring to it from time to time.

    Our ability to break down and understand ourselves and our experiences is invaluable in going forward as a species. Accepting our reality is a necessary step in taking care of ourselves and our planet. It isn’t easy for a lot of people to do at this point, but the knowledge is available and that is huge in and of itself. Thank you for sharing this information, V.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wholeheartedly agree, Madalyn. This information is, in my opinion, incredibly empowering. Well said, my friend.

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  7. Hey Victoria.
    I had come to the conclusion that the search for god leads to the finding of self. One discovers at the end that it was always themselves. And now with this information, I think I was right all along

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  8. Love this post. The brain is so fascinating.

    “If God is actually a part of our own selves, then prayer might just be a way we talk to ourselves to bring out that silent self.”

    Yeah, I think so. Kind of like when we talk ourselves through a problem. We sometimes don’t even realize we’re muttering out loud. We constantly hold mini-conversations in our head.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “We constantly hold mini-conversations in our head.”

      Indeed, and sometimes we can have more than one internal dialog going on simutaneously. Like Linden commented above, these conversations with ourselves can loop. This looping can reinforce neural networks. CG, I’m glad you loved the post. The brain certainly is fascinating. The late Wilder Penfield, a pioneering neurosurgeon, stated:

      “The brain is the organ of destiny. It holds within its humming mechanism secrets that will determine the future of the human race.”

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  9. This is beyond fascinating. While I had both visitations and the occasional conversations with god, I also was joined by the devil on a few occasions. Interesting how the good guy or bad guy appears depending which side of the amygdala is firing. I’m someone with no mental health issues/diagnoses (other than being an extremely devout believer in the past), and I felt perfectly sane while these things were going on. The research here explains an awful lot.

    I have to run out with my son but will be back to read more thoroughly and check out the comments. Thanks for putting this post together, Victoria. ❤

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    • Violet, I’m pleased to know this research has been beneficial to you.

      You wrote: “Interesting how the good guy or bad guy appears depending which side of the amygdala is firing.”

      I know, right? If we have been exposed to the preaching and reading of scriptures that promotes punishment, hell, demons, Satan — taxing our right amygdala (fear), this can impact gray matter volume. So, the more one is bombarded with this negative rhetoric, such as “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8, that kind of indoctrination can change the brain, and our perception of reality. That’s why I believe the literal teaching of fear-based scripture is child abuse because that indoctrination takes place during crucial brain development.

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      • A famous saint of the early Church, the first hermit monk, St Anthony, went into the Egyptian desert to escape the temptations of the world. But according to legend, his temptations followed him there and he was nightly assailed by demon attacks that even, allegedly, left physical marks on his body.

        Reflecting on this story in light of the research casts a new light on these sort of stories from legend.

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        • Peter, that is a common thread in the lives of many of the Catholic saints, that they were attacked by demons all night long and, of course, fought the good fight. Interesting, I had always associated the “event” with sexual frustrations and feelings which often come out in the quiet time of the night, but some kind of temporal epilepsy would also fit the bill. In Catholic school, we were encouraged to read the lives of the saints during quiet times, that was a very common thread indeed!

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  10. Very informative and fascinating! I’ve had three experiences similar to the following excerpt from the post (although I didn’t attribute them to “God”):

    >>> “All together, they’re called ‘visitor experiences’. In its most subtle form, it appears as the feeling that one is ‘not alone’ or that they’re ‘being watched’. They might feel a ‘presence’ in the room with them. When they turn to look to see who’s there, they find themselves alone.”

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    • Have you ever read about this? http://skepdic.com/infrasound.html

      NASA has done extensive research on this which is where Vic Tandy got a lot of his research to explain what happened in the “haunted” lab he was working in.

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      • “When he measured the infrasound in the laboratory, the showing was 18.98 hertz–the exact frequency at which a human eyeball starts resonating. The sound waves made his eyeballs resonate and produced an optical illusion: He saw a figure that didn’t exist.”

        – amazing!

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      • Infrasound. I’ve never heard the term. But it makes sense that such frequencies interact with matter so why wouldn’t there be ‘unexplained’ events where conjecture can create whatever agencies we like? This is just another example in a veyr long line of exampels where the religious conjecture does not aid inquiry but replaces it with some pseudo-explanation as if adequate. Again and again, I always seem to back to the idea that without a link that can be verified, conjecture and evidence look an awful lot alike.

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        • I recall the story on another of Victoria’s posts about the girl who started to Ghostly apparitions in her room at night. Eventually it was found to be the impact of the frequency of her new clock radio. When that was removed they stopped.

          Likewise the sighting of ghostly apparitions is highly correlated to emissions of various types of discharges from the sun.

          People often are sort of seeing something, but it is more a type of optical illusion.

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          • I’m glad you brought that up Peter. Here’s the BBC documentary “God On the Brain” — and if anyone is interested in watching the segment about the girl who was having ghostly apparitions caused by her clock radio, it’s at the 26:55 minute marker.

            And this:

            “Data from the 19th century on hallucinations and magnetic disturbances were found to exhibit a direct and statistically significant correlation. The aa magnetic index over the period 1868-89 and concurrent visual hallucinatory activity were found to co-vary. Magnetic influences on the pineal hormone, melatonin, are suggested as a source of variation. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2012623

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      • Another problem of that leads to “haunted” houses etc. is EMF radiation from faulty wiring in the house. Fix the wiring, ghosts go away.

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  11. So what about those of us that never had this…. I was a Christian for over 30 years and never in my prayers did I hear God. Sometimes I would say to myself, “hey, are u bored yet…. I wonder what’s on TV” :/ That was another reason for my De-conversion… Why did God never talk to me like he did others? I even asked my husband and he said that yes at times he hears him… And i was like, wtf is wrong with me lol.

    I do think “prayer” can be useful in that it allows our minds to focus on a problem we are facing and calms us down. I know at times I would pray over issues with my children, things beyond my control. I never heard God, but I would relax and would be ok with not being able to control everything. Maybe that was God, but I think it was myself focusing and then relaxing.

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    • I had the same lack of experience with God. There were times when I had a thought or impression that I wanted to believe was from God, but it was never clear at all. I think it’s like those Magic Eye books, where you stare at them and then see the hidden picture. Some people (me) can’t see a thing. Something is just different about my vision (it’s pretty lousy).

      People’s brains are not all the same, and perhaps some people react to prayer differently. They sense “God” more strongly than others. Based on the research presented here, that may be what is going on.

      There was/is nothing wrong with you.

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    • Sally, some people are naturally more ‘spiritual’. What I mean by that is that the part of the brain that senses these sort of things is more active. But it is frustrating and at times even distressing when we might be the one who seems to have the sub[par relationship with ‘God’. It can just add to feelings of guilt and unworthiness, thinking it must be our fault.

      Apparently around 15% of the population is really not ‘spiritual’ at all. Because of how their brain is ‘wired’.

      When I started to understand these factors I realised it was part of the evidence against the divine. Because if there was a God, it would make no sense for that God to cause some people to be less receptive to ‘his presence’ purely based on natural factors. If there really was a ‘God’ then surely everyone would have the same receptivity,

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      • I was along that same line, I was not aware of the way our brain is wired. But, I didn’t understand why God audibly spoke to others and never me. Also I never had a desire to pray and i felt if the Holy Spirit was real and was inside of me, that desire would be crazy strong by now.

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      • When I started to understand these factors I realised it was part of the evidence against the divine. Because if there was a God, it would make no sense for that God to cause some people to be less receptive to ‘his presence’ purely based on natural factors. If there really was a ‘God’ then surely everyone would have the same receptivity,

        Or maybe you didn’t “hear” God because you really were a sinner and didn’t really believe? that would make a great sales line for the preacher class!

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    • Sally, I never technically heard “God” either. What I did “hear” in my head were scriptures, and because Christians have been indoctrinate to believe that the Abrahamic god is male, I heard the scriptures being repeated in a male voice in my head. I associated those scriptures as communication from god. So, for example, if we study the bible, and have memorized scripture over the years because we’ve read the bible a lot or heard the scriptures repeated often, then that can create and reinforce neural networks associated with scripture. I also heard “God” communicate with me in Christianese. LOL

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      • Christianese!!!!! Ha ha ha

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      • Victoria, it reminds of advice from a Christian as to how to make the Holy Spirit work more effectively in your life:
        1. read more Scripture: as the Holy Spirit will only bring to remembrance the Scripture you have read;
        2. when preaching read the chosen text a week ahead of time to give the Holy Spirit time to show you the lessons of the text.

        Of course on reflection this just shows it is not the Holy Spirit at all but adopting practices that allow for the normal working of the mind.

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        • I agree Peter. After I left Christianity 15 years ago and became an unbeliever 10 year ago, those scriptures were still coming to my remembrance, and to this day, I could speak to a Christian and recite scripture by memory and they’d have no idea I wasn’t a Christian. They would walk away thinking that “God” just used me to “minister” to them. 😉

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  12. Great post and very interesting, this goes a long way into explaining indoctrination, radicalisation and the visitations either religious or extra-terrestrial.

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  13. Fascinating, Victoria – just fascinating. Also makes so much sense. Now to convince the fundamentalists that it really is THEM making their own decisions, not the power of the ‘holy spook’ (to borrow Arch’s description). . .

    I remember having a discussion with my girls when they were teenagers about kids at school who seemed to be in hot water constantly. I remember that, after much discussion I said, “You know when you are considering doing something, and that little voice pops up and say, “I don’t think that would be a good idea! . . .well, maybe those kids don’t have that little voice.” It was the best I could come up with at the time. (I know. . lame. …) But reading through this piece, I am thinking that maybe I wasn’t far off the track. 🙂

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  14. This is SO fascinating! “God” used to speak to me primarily though my dreams, the last time this happened was 5 years ago when Jesus appeared to me and told me “You are okay” (indicating his complete acceptance). I’d often feel God’s presence especially when listening to music. I’ve also had what I thought was encounters with demonic entities which involved auditory hallucinations, what felt like a change in air pressure/temperature, and inability to breathe as if being sat upon.

    I am now no longer a Christian or a believer in God and I am so glad to have read this post as now I don’t feel so crazy.

    (Btw, autocorrect keeps changing my g-o-d to G-o-d. Even autocorrect is religious!)

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    • I used to beg and plead for a vision of Jesus. What did he look like?

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      • It’s hard to remember the EXACT details as I remember more of how it made me FEEL. I do remember that there was nothing striking about him (every day man), on the shorter side of average height, average build, dark longish hair with a hint of red, and tan skin.

        When I looked into his eyes (which were brown? Hazel?) I realized it was Him and I felt like everything in my life and in the whole universe made sense.

        He looked into my eyes and told me I was “okay,” which sounds kind of lame, but to me it meant I was NOT a mistake and that I was completely accepted exactly how I am. I lived off that high feeling for years. Whenever I’d feel depressed I tried holding on to that dream.

        Now that I no longer believe in the divine I have been a bit complexed trying to figure out what that was. I will have to do some more research on this business of the right and left hemispheres of the brain and on what creates these kinds of experiences.

        As far as your begging God for a vision. I can understand why you would want to experience something like that: to be closer to God, to understand His plan and your place in the universe.

        I thought I had this psychic “clarity” and thought surely that would mean there would be specific actions (a particular mission) for me and was always seeking such a thing. I sincerely believed I was on a higher plane of spirituality and faith than most others. Yikes, that sounds intensely crazy!

        Liked by 2 people

    • Quixie, that’s quite fascinating about the auditory hallucinations and the inability to breathe as if being sat upon. Have you heard of sleep paralysis? A common description is that a person feels a presence of a supernatural malevolent being which immobilizes the person as if sitting on his/her chest causing them to feel as though they can’t breathe. Hypnagogic and hypnopompic visions and hearing a demonic voice when resistance is attempted are symptoms commonly experienced. I was curious if you had these experiences when you were drifting off to sleep or upon awakening.

      Regarding your other comment during your childhood reminded me of an excellent book titled “A Mind of its own: How Your Mind Distorts and Deceives”, by Psychologist Cordelia Find. She states that for many if not most people, magical thinking is a necessary delusion. For example, children display this tendency while talking to their toys and animate them. So if you are indoctrinated from a very young age to believe in god and that “he” talks to you, then toys are replaced with a god.

      http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Its-Own-Distorts-Deceives/dp/0393331636

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      • I had never looked into sleep paralysis before but that does seem to explain some of it. However, on two separate occasions I had someone in the room with me who experienced the same things that I did at the same time. Is there any research on simultaneous sleep paralysis?

        I can’t say that I was indoctrinated at a young age as my parents weren’t religious neither did they raise me as religious however there was a short period of time (around the age of 4) where my parents sent me to sunday school (even though they themselves didn’t attend the church) until they pulled me out after learning that the church was teaching me about hell. That may have had an affect on my psyche somehow.

        Although imaginative I was never the kid who had imaginary friends nor talked to god or other invisible entities. I think I may have thrown up prayers every once in a while in my childhood. I became “saved” at church camp at age 15 but didn’t really become “born again” until college and that’s when I started really praying.

        Thanks for the book recommendation. It looks really good. I plan on reading it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “I had someone in the room with me who experienced the same things that I did at the same time.”

          Who said what first? I have seen several documentaries and read studies on experiments that demonstrated the power of suggestion. Btw, I thought you might find this interesting and bizarre.

          http://listverse.com/2009/03/16/top-10-bizarre-cases-of-mass-hysteria/

          I think you will really like the book. Here’s an article by Cordelia Fine that I think you may find useful.

          http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2006/jan/26/features11.g22

          Liked by 1 person

          • “Penis panic!” 😂 I shouldn’t laugh as it must have been terrifying for those men. But still…ha

            I had considered mass hysteria, even as a believer, after the panic died down. However since I believed in demonic entities at the time that seemed more probable. 😕

            Looking back I can see the lead up to this sort of thing. For example, on our honeymoon my husband and I were staying in an area that I knew was part of the Trail of Tears where all sorts of horrible things had happened to Cherokee native Americans. We were both fairly urban and lived near sea level but this cabin was in the middle of no where in the mountains and so the change in air pressure, the strange animals noises, and the history of the place probably set the stage.

            I heard footsteps slowly walk towards my side of the bed and a felt a menacing presence that my husband also heard and felt. It seemed to stop walking when I said the name Jesus. We felt like we were being pulled into sleep against our will and for hours were in that half asleep/half awake stage. My husband and I felt intense anger towards each other that we couldn’t explain and extreme terror. When we woke up in the morning it was all gone. Except that our car door was unlocked and the window rolled down despite our having checked it before we came inside. We also found the door to our cabin unlocked. Our cabin was about a quarter mile away from the nearest (empty) cabin. 10 minute drive into town.

            It is actually a bit more frightening that this was all in our minds than the idea of a demon, believe it or not. But the bottom line is we must have both been in an alternate state of consciousness with my own thoughts and fears having made the suggestion.

            I liked the second link. I’ve struggled with clinical depression my whole life and have been told by counselors that I have a narcissism/ego deficiency. It’s interesting the suggestion that the higher our self-worth the more we can loosen our grip on our tightly firmed beliefs because that is exactly what happened to me. Once I started getting well I began to entertain other possibilities/become more open-minded.

            Again, thanks for sharing.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Fascinating list, but as a nurse in Southern California I learned that mass hysteria was not actually the cause (and I don’t remember exactly what it was, only that it was related to OTC medication Gloria had taken) Riverside General Hospital wanted it to be mass hysteria so they wouldn’t have to pay out anything for any damages. Since the intern and the ER nurse dropped at about the same time, and it was very limited to the room they were in, mass hysteria doesn’t seem to work very well in this case. It makes a great excuse to ignore what may be very real problems.

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  15. Fascinating stuff, Victoria! Thanks for posting this.

    Last weekend, I went to a Josh Garrels concert with my wife and kids. It was Christian music. Rock/Folk. The music itself was really good. I actually introduced this artist’s music to my family a few years ago. Anyway, the guy’s latest album is called “Home” and a lot of the lyrics were a bit traumatic for me to hear, as they were all about coming back to God after some kind of absence.

    I got up this morning, and the lyrics “return to me” were going through my head. I started down the trail of wondering if that could possibly be God talking to me. But as I thought about it, I kept wondering why, in all my years as a Christian, when I heard something in my head (never audibly for me) that I thought about ascribing to God, it was always guesswork. Why was it never clear? No other relationship is like that. I don’t have to guess whether or not people are talking to me.

    This research is really interesting as it explains how we can have the sense of having a conversation with someone in our heads. It’s actually left-me communicating with right-me and vice versa.

    Interestingly, the artist mentioned that while working on that album he suffered some panic attacks. What he described sounded very similar to what I had been going through. Overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility and wondering if I would fail. He took a month off and prayed a lot. He got better. He ascribed that to God healing him. As a previous commenter mentioned, it seems plausible that prayer could help with something like anxiety, not due to divine intervention but due to whatever effect it has on the brain. Reminds me how apologists try to say that prayer is meant for changing us, not getting stuff. That is the only tangible result of prayer they can point to, and perhaps it is effective for that purpose for the same reasons people say meditation is effective.

    “It’s all in your head” usually means “imaginary”, but for some purposes that’s where the action is. It’s not the agent most think it is, but it is not imaginary either. It is oneself.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The most uncanny experience I ever had was when I was visiting a church in late 2013. There was a visiting speaker using a hands free microphone that was way too loud. I was really uncomfortable about it (I tend not to like loud noise). Anyway it was a though a voice from outside myself (it felt like it was coming from my back not my head) said to me “rather than whinging about this, you should pray”.

      So I prayed “Lord please turn down the volume”. What made it seem uncanny to me a the time was the very instant I silently muttered that desperate prayer, the speaker stopped and said “Am I too loud, I am not sure I cannot tell with this headset on, but I feel I might be too loud”. Then the volume was turned down.

      Now when confirmation bias is operating one will see God’s hand in this. But of course it was probably just coincidence. Humans are very poor at understanding probability and thus ascribe more significance to coincidence than is appropriate.

      But what did stay with me was that ‘God’ seemed to speak to me differently on this occasion to other times. Though a simple explanation might be the stress I was under at the time.

      Liked by 2 people

    • My pleasure, Charles. Studies show that prayer is another form of relieving stress, like exercising, meditation, listening to music, having an orgasm, eating chocolate, watching comedy (laughter), etc. They all release endorphins, which has a calming effect. Also, there have been brain scans studies of people who were praying, and when they were in intense prayer, an area of the brain in the frontal lobes associated with focus, problem solving and behavioral control had increased blood flow. So it comes to reason that when people say they had insight or got some direction in their life, or experienced behavioral changes after praying (associating it all to god), it’s because of the fact that they were intensely focused.

      Notice that the language center is also lit up.

      You wrote: “It’s not the agent most think it is, but it is not imaginary either. It is oneself.”

      Indeed, and nobody knows that better than those who were once Christians and have since deconverted.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Interesting stuff Victoria. I had read some about this before, but it’s always good to learn more. What I think is interesting to contemplate is what the conditions are the would make us think we were having supernatural visions to begin with. If we had never heard of the concept of God would such visions make us think we were seeing something supernatural or would we simply chalk it up as a hallucination? In sort of a chicken and egg question, it seems to me that it is the concept that must be learned first before we would necessarily chalk up some hallucinations auditory, visual, or both to the supernatural. But perhaps not. Of course we learn these things from very childhood, but I wonder if at some point back in human history whether the concept of an all powerful being, or beings was derived at through some sort of attempt at rational explanation, or whether it was a series of these type of hallucinatory events that began the human imagination to leap to the conclusions that something was out there. In the God delusion, Dawkins hypothesizes that one source simply could be our consciousness and that when we are young we don’t realize that we can be aware of our thoughts, have a conversation inside our own head and as a result we start off with this sense of duality within us, and that we might fool ourselves into believing that someone else is talking to us. Add a few hallucinations in there and perhaps we have ourselves some sort of supernatural being. It’s probably a questions we can never really know as we’d have to go back pretty early into our evolution to find out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In sort of a chicken and egg question, it seems to me that it is the concept that must be learned first before we would necessarily chalk up some hallucinations auditory, visual, or both to the supernatural.

      Swarn, after a brain wave training session which included audio entrainment neurotechnology. I came into the session room to evaluate my client. She was weeping. I was immediately concerned, but she said they were happy tears. I told her that I would leave the room and give her some private time. She said that wasn’t necessary and started to tell me why she was crying. She said Jesus had just visited her in a vision, and she had been given some answers/guidance. I asked her what Jesus looked like. My client was African-American. She described Jesus as having blue eyes, long medium brown hair and a trimmed beard. The common image many if not most American Christians have of Jesus, Northern European style.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It would be interesting if there was a study that compared peoples vision of Jesus and Heaven.

        After my mother died I read quite a few books from people who claimed to have spent time in heaven. I did note that the differences seemed greater than the similarities. This puzzled me at the time, and only later when my faith crumbled did I really start to see that it was a powerful pointer to it all being self generated.

        Like

        • Peter, I’ve read many studies about near death experiences, and it’s fascinating to me that their experiences usually always reflect their culture.

          Journal of Near-Death Studies
          March 2001, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 161-178
          Near-Death Experiences in Thailand

          Abstract

          “Near-death experiences (NDEs) in Thailand do not demonstrate the episodes most noted in those collected in the West, but they do show consistent features. I argue that these features, including harbingers of death, visions of hell, the Lord of the underworld, and the benefits of making donations to Buddhist monks and temples, can be understood within the framework of beliefs and customs unique to Southeast Asia. The simplest explanation is that the phenomenology of NDEs at least in part fulfills the individuals’ expectations of what they will experience at death.

          These expectations are most often derived from the experiencer’s culture, subculture, or mix of cultures. Culture-bound expectations are, in turn, most often derived from religion. One case, quoted at length, shows features that suggest that the individual was experiencing stress as a result of living in both Thai and Chinese cultures. Although the phenomenology of Thai NDEs is at variance from those in the West, the typical episodes that appear in each seem to follow a comparable sequencing. This similarity in structure suggests that NDEs in both cultures have a common function.”

          Like

      • Interesting. So let’s say if we lived in a world without the concept of God or Jesus, the hallucination we would have would be probably of someone we knew, or a character from a movie, or some other persons image that we were familiar with. We’d probably be less likely to attribute such things to the supernatural if it was your friend from high school talking to you. Lol. Although I suppose we might believe in ghosts more if we had a hallucination of our mother who has passed away or something talking to us. And I guess that’s how a lot of such “ghostly” experiences happen.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Indeed. There’s a large body of research showing that the more stress and uncertainty people face, the more likely they are to engage in what psychologists call “magical thinking”: superstition, belief in the supernatural. In 2008, researchers Jennifer Whitson and Adam Galinsky published a paper in Science demonstrating that when you remove the amount of control people have over their situation, they tend to engage more in “illusory pattern perception,” which. as you know, is the psychological process that creates belief in the supernatural. For example, after 9/11, people flocked to churches. They were, in fact, overflowing. Look at people living in the Bible Belt. They have the lowest well being across the board and the highest poverty in the country; so it is no surprise they are also the most religious — superstitious.

          http://www.sciencemag.org/content/322/5898/115.short

          Abstract
          “We present six experiments that tested whether lacking control increases illusory pattern perception, which we define as the identification of a coherent and meaningful interrelationship among a set of random or unrelated stimuli. Participants who lacked control were more likely to perceive a variety of illusory patterns, including seeing images in noise, forming illusory correlations in stock market information, perceiving conspiracies, and developing superstitions. Additionally, we demonstrated that increased pattern perception has a motivational basis by measuring the need for structure directly and showing that the causal link between lack of control and illusory pattern perception is reduced by affirming the self. Although these many disparate forms of pattern perception are typically discussed as separate phenomena, the current results suggest that there is a common motive underlying them. “

          Liked by 1 person

        • Other research has shown that people living in war zones tend to engage in more magical thinking.

          Abstract
          “The present study investigated the relationship between psychological stress and magical thinking and the extent to which such a relationship may be moderated by individuals’ tolerance of ambiguity. Questionnaires assessing different types of magical thinking and tolerance of ambiguity were administered to 174 Israeli citizens who, during the Gulf War, resided in areas that were either exposed (high-stress condition) or not exposed (low-stress condition) to missile attacks. Magical thinking emerged more frequently in Ss under high-stress conditions than in those under low-stress conditions. Furthermore, high stress levels exerted a more pronounced effect on the emergence of magical thinking in individuals with low tolerance of ambiguity than in those with high tolerance. Results are discussed in relation to the concept of personal control and coping strategies adopted by individuals for attaining such control. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)”

          http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=1994-41054-001

          The hub of 3 major religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — have been warring among themselves for several thousands years.

          Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow. Excellent. Awesome stuff. I have had conversations with myself, but was always pretty damn sure it was me I was talking to.

    On the other hand I have seen mental illness manifest in such a way that the person was sure they were talking to god. And many have noticed the way the uber religious understanding of what the god expects of them, usually falls in line with their own desires. Nice to see research helping us understand these inner workings of our noggins.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “And many have noticed the way the uber religious understanding of what the god expects of them, usually falls in line with their own desires.”

      I tend to agree, especially from a male perspective. For example, Christopher Hitchens was interviewed regarding women and religion. He states that one of the reasons men invented the Abrahamic god was to own women — that women would not be likely to submit and obey if it was expected from men but if god wanted it, then they would probably be more inclined to surrender their autonomy.

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      • I agree for the most part. May not have been why it was invented to start with, I’m inclined to think perhaps explaining the wrath of nature might be the underpinnings, but along the way they sure as hell decided to throw the women under the bus.

        Either way, we can see it for what it is now. And it is ugly and rotten to the core.

        Like

      • The Bible basically implies the wife is part of a mans property:

        Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. Exodus 20:17

        A study of the history of the west shows that the position of women in society deteriorated when Christianity became the dominant religion in the 4th century and did not really improve until the 19th century when the impact of the enlightenment started to push aside the values of Christianity.

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  18. Thanks Victoria, I feel chuffed that Violet and I inspired your post.

    It would be good if you could persuade our friend Bruce to read this type of analysis.

    When my Christian faith started to slip away, it was the experiential aspect of religion I find hardest to explain away. So this type of analysis is very helpful.

    It used to puzzle me why Catholics tended to have visions and dreams of Mary, but Protestants have visions and dreams of Jesus. But if it is internally generated it makes a lot more sense.

    Sometime back on Charles blog he raised the matter of dreams. Christians often make much of Muslims converting to Christianity after a dream involving Jesus. To some this provides real evidence of the truth of Christianity. However it was found that Muslims report of converting to Islam after dreams as well. The fact that it happens both ways is powerful evidence it is all in the mind, like a power of suggestion.
    https://skepticjourney.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/well-meaning-friends-dreams/

    When I was a Christian I found it challenging when I heard that Mormons (who I knew were following a lie) reported spiritual experiences that seems very similar to Christians. This caused me to question just how ‘authentic’ the Christian experiences were.

    Thanks again for your posts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “It would be good if you could persuade our friend Bruce to read this type of analysis.”

      I doubt I could, Peter. Bruce says he asks his god what he should and shouldn’t read or watch. How convenient, eh? 😉

      “It used to puzzle me why Catholics tended to have visions and dreams of Mary, but Protestants have visions and dreams of Jesus.

      LOL — that’s a good point.

      “Thanks again for your posts.”

      My pleasure, Peter — and thank you for the inspiration. 🙂

      Like

      • I posted a comment on Bruce’s blog once, it was associated with the reformation and the disagreements among the protestant reformers. He would not let it past moderation because he said he would not allow anything on his blog that could damage peoples faith.

        I objected pointing out that what I had written was accepted historical fact, not subject to dispute by any party as far as I was aware. I queried why ‘accepted, non disputed historical fact, could be damaging to peoples faith?

        Bruce did relent and allow the comment.

        But I have provided him with detailed reasons why I doubt the Bible is divinely inspired. He has failed to address any of the reasons, instead pointing to his ‘experience’.

        But having said all that I quite like Bruce, he is not the sort of Christian that troubles me, I more feel sorry for him. I don’t doubt his sincerity. I doubt his judgement but not his sincerity. As Mak implied in his recent post it is better to dumb with integrity than smart without integrity.

        It is some of the more cunning and patronizing folk that I object to, these are the folk where I do have questions about sincerity. The ones who pretend to allow discussion and debate, but in reality carefully distort the actual discussion.

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        • Peter, you wrote: “But having said all that I quite like Bruce, he is not the sort of Christian that troubles me,”

          People like Bruce are the very ones who contribute to the abuse that so many people in the church experience, primarily because they have a reputation of having integrity. Bruce is the exact same personality that contributed to the suicide of my husband. He may be sincere but his sincerity can be quite harmful. In Psychology Today, Psychologist Izzy Kalman writes:

          “The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions. I absolutely love this maxim. Whoever came up with it is an incredible genius. It helps explain most of the problems in the world.

          Very few people have bad intentions. But most of the problems in the world are caused by good intentions. They may not seem good to us, but they seem good to the one taking the action. Good intentions alone are not enough to make our actions moral.

          All of us justify our actions to ourselves. It is human nature to do so. Leon Felsinger’s theory of Cognitive Dissonance posits that we feel psychic distress when we do things that consciously violate our own values, so we create justifications for what we do, allowing us to comfortably live with ourselves. Even Hitler, the modern symbol of ultimate evil, had good intentions, as did his followers. Otherwise, he would not have been able to convince intelligent, educated, enlightened Europeans that the world would be a better place without Jews and other impure people like homosexuals, Gypsies, blacks and intellectually deficient people. However, his good intentions spawned the most horrific genocidal crusade in human history.

          During the Middle Ages and afterwards, well-intentioned witch hunters in Europe and America burned tens of thousands of women alive at the stake in the hope of ending epidemics, and they instilled paranoia in the populace, for anyone could be suspected of being a witch or a consorter with witches.

          In 1919 our government instituted Prohibition of alcohol with the intention of reducing crime and other social problems associated with the consumption of alcohol. The intentions were excellent but the cure was far worse than the illness.”

          Liked by 1 person

  19. Reblogged this on Tiffany's Non-Blog and commented:
    One (rather generous!) perspective on why people claim to experience a god. I personally think it has more to do with dishonesty, but I’m not in other people’s brains, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Utterly fascinating.
    The question that immediately comes to my mind is how do devout christians/ other religious folk react to this information, especially if faced with the scientific evidence?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ark, surely you know the answer to your question!

      Liked by 1 person

    • As a recent Christian (I deconverted 3 months ago) I can answer this question 🙂 I would have skimmed the title of this post and then immediately dismissed the whole thing. My assumption would have been that non-believers are really reeeeaaaaccching, trying to find ANY excuse possible for not believing in God that had made himself SO OBVIOUS. That would have been my defense when the reality was that I was too scared to take this information into consideration and any curiosity on the matter I would have dismissed as the devil trying to seduce me to the “dark side.”

      Liked by 4 people

      • So true, Quixie. I just got through quoting 1 Peter 5:8 in my reply to Violet. Looking back, I would have assumed the same thing if I ran across a post like this because this devil mongering is so prevalent in conservative Christianity.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 3 months ago? Congratulations. Welcome to the dark side.

        There will be x-ian baby BBQ at InspiredbytheDivineOne’s place, and all kinds of depraved activity among the regulars here and elsewhere @ the WP blogroll. 🙂

        We are such terrible people… Though not very dull.

        Your reply sounds just about right. Ignore that which causes intellectual discomfort, and write it off as the devils work.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the warm Welcome! I’m already starting to love this “depraved” community. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

        • I have been involved in these internet discussions now for about five months now. I started immediately after my Christian faith crumbled. Over that period of time of have come to see another side to Christians and it is a very ugly side.

          Generally the more literally a person takes the Bible, the more bigoted, arrogant, hateful and judgmental I have found them to be. In fact I have concluded many are actually liars. What I am not sure about is whether it is deliberate deceit, or a deceit subconsciously driven by a need to defend their world view from reality.

          This is something that pained me greatly. I had hoped to find mature Christians on-line who were prepared to honestly address the issues that concerned people who struggled with their faith. The only Christians who showed a capacity to do this were the more liberal Christians.

          It is the fundamentalists Christians who are driving me to the position where I am starting to conclude that they actually are the Dark side, masquerading as light. If God does exist and they accurately represent God, then all I can say is that such a God could not be good. It seems John Zande has indeed discerned the truth.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Tis an inevitable conclusion once the path to rational thought is taken. Which is why they try so hard to tamp down the ability to think for yourself, or ask questions.

            The dark side isn’t so terrible at all really. It is freedom. It is knowing you and you alone are responsible for your actions. It is knowing that the afterlife is a security blanket for those who are afraid of the dark. It is knowing that your legacy is what you will impart to those who are close to you, and that legacy will be what you make of it. It is not having the need to rationalize things that don’t jive with what the religion tells you. Everything about evolution, astronomy, geology, time, archeology, it all has a certain beauty to it, without having feel like it is the devils work. It is freeing yourself of the blinders and the shackles, it opens up your mind to all of the real observable wonders of the universe. It means you appreciate every day you get, and all of the beauty you see around you. Indeed you seek them out knowing your time here is short. It gives you firm legs to stand on knowing your understanding of the world jives with all of things modern science tells us.

            The only cons I can think of are the close knit social bonds that a church may have to offer. But what the hey, that’s what the internet is for. And you do not have to sacrifice your intellectual integrity here.

            …and Mr. Zande is definately one of the good ones.

            Liked by 3 people

            • Thanks, it is the social network of my Christian friends that I miss.

              Like

              • At the time I had decided that I was no longer buying any of that crap, I too had friends/aquaintences I knew I was leaving behind. Thing is it was their own words and actions that helped me make that decision. So I knew I was walking down the road and not looking back.

                To this day I do not regret it. The entire process was more the lifting of a burden than a feeling of something lost.

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                • Well said, SD. One of my friends that I used to attend church with over 15 years ago came by to visit me this week. I will say that she was the only Christian from my large Christian community (outside my immediate family) who didn’t shun me. She has a caring nature. But it is apparent that we are worlds apart in how we perceive the world, and I find it difficult to hold an intelligent conversation with her. She brought up the news this past week about the Cascadia fault line — the prediction that at any time the Pacific Northwest could encounter a m9 earthquake. Then she said — “just more evidence that the prophesies are being fulfilled.”

                  Sigh.

                  Then she brought up the Pope coming to America, and some religious conspiracy theory as to why he’s visiting. Something she learned from the pulpit. I can’t agree with you more that the entire process of leaving Christianity was more the lifting of a burden than a feeling of something lost. While it can get lonely living in a sea of ultra-conservative Christians, I’d rather feel loneliness from time to time than go back to that mental hell where “reality” is centered around the devil, spiritual warfare, sin, punishment, dying daily, unanswered prayers, penal substitutionary atonement, shame, and 24/7 surveillance by a deity, etc.
                  No thank you.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • “Then she brought up the Pope coming to America, and some religious conspiracy theory as to why he’s visiting.” Obviously the Pope is visiting to join with Obama, the Anti-Christ, to take over the world and make things rough for TrueChristians everywhere. Simply because of my beliefs, and because I demand deference for having them, I insist you believe everything I tell you is true. If you don’t, I’ll make faces, pout, call you names, and cry. In a nutshell, because I am A True Christian, all I say is undeniably true. And, if you doubt me, you’re wrong. See? Simple, ain’t it?

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • “Obviously the Pope is visiting to join with Obama, the Anti-Christ, to take over the world and make things rough for TrueChristians everywhere.”

                      LMAO — She also brought up Obama’s birth certificate. Never a dull moment around here. 😀

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Oh, I know the type. I deal with friends of the same nature. Ugh.

                      Like

                    • I liked President Obama’s joke in Kenya that some critics said he was going to find his birth certificate:
                      http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/barack-obama/obama-makes-birth-certificate-joke-kenya-trip-n398381

                      A former good friend of mine told me at some length that Obama is trying to get Islam to take over the United States. When I pointed out Obama was a Christian this had no effect, just more information on how it was all a ruse.

                      Last year I visited a Church where the pastor had a whole sermon on earthquakes and the end! I went home and looked-up the real stats and found his stats on earthquakes were all bunkum. The telling factor is that he said ‘God’ had told him to preach on that topic.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Peter, I saw that on the news, I think it was either Thursday or Friday, and I thought it was hilarious.

                      I went home and looked-up the real stats and found his stats on earthquakes were all bunkum. The telling factor is that he said ‘God’ had told him to preach on that topic.

                      I laughed because of the way you presented it, but on a more somber note, it’s also disturbing because this is so common — fear mongering by evangelists. It can impact the architecture of the brain of followers and not in a good way. It also impacts their wallet.

                      “The world is coming to an end soon. Please make your checks payable to TASBEM Ministries.”

                      Like

                  • I feel your pain. Any general conversation with anyone around these parts nearly always leads to some sort of god reference. You have to inwardly roll your eyes, continue the conversation like that didn’t just happen, and hope like hell it doesn’t come up again.

                    I don’t like to be rude, but if I get confronted with much of that shit I can. And have.

                    One of my best friends, he died a couple years back, anyway I called his house, his wife answered. She is what I call a Pentecostal from hell, and in our little talk she out of the blue went straight to (their daughter was about to graduate a x-ian school and was looking at college) “those college professors don’t know anything nyuk nyuk”, I was like umm, gee look at the time, I gotta go, and hung up. I knew if I said anything at all it wasn’t going to be pretty.

                    I don’t know how many times I have just said “I have no use for any religion” in a face to face, it just seems to go right past them. I soon move on, and do not look back.

                    I at least have kids who think clearly, the wife is a deist at best we get along, and the internet is a great place for the likes of us to socialize.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • “I don’t like to be rude, but if I get confronted with much of that shit I can. And have.”

                      I honestly think that Christians who cross boundaries like my friend are indoctrinated to believe that boundaries are non-existent. This past visit, I got frustrated with her when she claimed that her brand of Christianity was “the truth”. I told her she wasn’t alone as over 41,000 other Christian denominations/sects believe they are the ones who have “the truth”. She had the look on her face as though she was thinking those other 41,000+ sects weren’t “true Christians™”.

                      I love my friend. There are many wonderful qualities about her, so it’s hard talking about her like this. But I just wished she knew how she comes across when she starts talking about her religious beliefs ➡ like a programmed robot.

                      Like

                    • I hear ya. I think that woman I hung up on had forgotten who she was talking to and just started yammering on like it was one of her Pentecostal buddies. It was weird. She never really was the same towards me after that. I didn’t care. Her husband though was perhaps the best friend I’ve had to date. Shame he died of brain cancer. Diagnosed, and 3 months later gone. He wasn’t a church goer and we had a lot in common.

                      …and you are right, it is as if they have no idea that other people could hold a differing view. never even crosses (no pun intended) their minds.

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                    • Victoria, I have observed a trend that when Christians are in a minority in society they tend to band together and put aside denominational differences. However when in the majority in a society they devote more of their energies towards focusing on denominational differences.

                      Although not totally on message, I think Monty Python show up the general theme here:

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • “hell where “reality” is centered around the devil, spiritual warfare, sin, punishment, dying daily, unanswered prayers, penal substitutionary atonement, shame, and 24/7 surveillance by a deity, etc.
                    No thank you.”
                    Before I ever listened to Christopher Hitchens, I would never have really labeled myself anything I guess other than an atheist. After listening to him, I have no choice but to label myself an anti-theist, because it would be absolutely horrible to think that any of what you mentioned above could be true. Furthermore, I can’t understand for the life of me how anyone could possibly ever want it to be true and I never will. The desire to live as a slave or a serf, in a constant state of fear, is truly baffling to me and seems incredibly counter productive to the development of human civilization. But then again, I don’t think that people who think and talk like that have any other choice because they have been indoctrinated from a very early age and it wasn’t their fault. It’s a vicious and very tragic cycle.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • “I don’t think that people who think and talk like that have any other choice because they have been indoctrinated from a very early age and it wasn’t their fault. It’s a vicious and very tragic cycle.”

                      Indeed. I think people are so accustom to the psychological abuse they don’t recognize it as such. IMO, Christianity is the epitome of Stockholm syndrome.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Which is exactly how we end up with people like our friend David from the previous post who doesn’t see that telling little children that they are going to hell is tantamount to child abuse.

                      Liked by 1 person

            • Unluckily or is it luckily for me, by the time I became godless, I had stopped going to church and I can’t say I miss their company.

              Liked by 1 person

    • “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” ~Mark Twain

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: Some of my Favorite Blogs | Godless Cranium

  22. When I was involved in Christian ministry I was interested to find that many people (I would say around a quarter) had experienced some sort of supernatural experience. Some wear near death, some were visions, some were ‘visits’ by dead relatives, especially just after death, some were ‘encounters’ with demons.

    However there was absolutely no consistency or pattern to them, except for one factor. They virtually always occurred at a time of severe emotional or physical stress.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Pingback: How the Brain Creates the Experience of God | Scotties Toy Box

  24. Victoria, I recall somewhere that women also have a certain amount of language function on the right side of the brain as well as the left. I wonder if, based on the information in this article, that might be why women seem to have more mystical/spiritual etc. experiences? If the right side of the brain speaks, even in a limited way, that could alter the picture here.

    This was great, thank you for putting it up. Your oddball theist here wonders if 40Hz isn’t the frequency that the brain needs to be in in order to access the Cosmic? And, of course, it doesn’t really matter, because who we are right now is the critical thing. Be the best that human can be!

    Like

  25. Reblogged this on Mass Delusions a.k.a. Magical & Religious Woo-Bullshit Thinking and commented:
    A very good article – among many others – from the blog victorianeuronotes.wordpress.com. About how our human brain functions and how it creates an experience – a sensed presence, or rather delusion – of divine beings.

    Victoria Neuronotes’ blog is also full of valuable and important information about what is often called the religious trauma syndrome (RTS).

    Victoria Neuronotes describes herself like this:

    Victoria is a secular humanist and an advocate for human and animal rights, brain injury awareness, seizure disorders, and the environment. She blogs about the brain’s role in religious type experiences, and the numerous ways the environment impacts gene expression, brain development and human behavior.

    BTW, here’s another blogger who is an expert on the religious trauma syndrome: Valerie Tarico. I strongly recommend blog too – see for example http://valerietarico.com/2013/03/26/religious-trauma-syndrome-is-it-real/ – for those of you who want to learn more about how dangerous and poisonous religions – or rather religious people – can be. And believe me, they ARE, indeed, dangerous.

    Like

  26. So how did I have a dream about making green mittens the day before my friend gave them to me?
    How did I dream my father had walked from England with a walking stick. He said one leg was 1 1/2 inches shorter now. 2 days later I got a letter from him. He had fallen and broken a hip. One leg was 1 and 1/2 inches shorter. How come my daughter was describing her new bikini she had bought. Instantly I knew it was hot pink a moment before the words came out of her mouth.
    Some things you can’t explain.

    Like

    • That’s true — some things you can’t explain (yet), but that doesn’t mean these mysteries are supernatural. There’s been many mysteries throughout the history of humankind that are no longer a mystery, thanks to science.

      Welcome, Roma.

      Like

    • Roma, they are interesting experiences.

      There is some anecdotal evidence of this sort of knowledge. Like when a dog howls after its owner has died even though the owner is elsewhere. Arthur C Clarke cited a case he could not explain when a person sensed someone was trapped below the ice on a river. Acting on this advice polic saved a person just before they would have died. So these sort of things do happen from time to time.

      As to why they happen, well I don’t know. Does this point to a higher power? Would that higher power be the Biblical God?

      I do wonder whether we have other senses that are less tangible that have not been understood by science. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones once noted that there was a particular person who seemed to have some capacity of ESP that baffled science. This person was not a Christian so the preacher Dr Lloyd-Jones said it was a Satanic gift. But I wonder whether there is some sort of sense that all of have which was more developed in this person.

      As Victoria suggested many things had seemed to Supernatural but later are found to be explained by science. Perhaps there is some sort of psychic link between people who are close. In you case I noted that all three instances involved knowledge of something that had happened to, or was done by a person you knew.

      I am just speculating. But I can see how such experiences would have an impact on you.

      I was wondering did you see these experiences as a communication from God?

      Like

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