How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks The Brain- Psychology Today

by Brokeback Watchtower 12 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Brokeback Watchtower
    Brokeback Watchtower

    In moderation, religious and spiritual practices can be great for a person’s life and mental well-being. But religious fundamentalism—which refers to the belief in the absolute authority of a religious text or leaders—is almost never good for an individual. This is primarily because fundamentalism discourages any logical reasoning or scientific evidence that challenges its scripture, making it inherently maladaptive.
    It is not accurate to call religious fundamentalism a disease, because that term refers to a pathology that physically attacks the biology of a system. But fundamentalist ideologies can be thought of as mental parasites. A parasite does not usually kill the host it inhabits, as it is critically dependent on it for survival. Instead, it feeds off it and changes its behavior in ways that benefit its own existence. By understanding how fundamentalist ideologies function and are represented in the brain using this analogy, we can begin to understand how to inoculate against them, and potentially, how to rehabilitate someone who has undergone ideological brainwashing—in other words, a reduction in one’s ability to think critically or independently.
    How Religious Ideologies Spread
    Similar to how organisms and their genes compete for survival in the environment and gene pool, ideas compete for survival inside brains, and in the pool of ideas that inhabit them. The famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has used this insightful analogy to explain how ideas spread and evolve over time. In his influential 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, he refers to ideas as “memes” (the mental analog of a gene), which he has defined as self-replicating units that spread throughout culture. We are all familiar with many types of memes, including the various customs, myths, and trends that have become part of human society.
    As Dawkins explains, ideas spread through the behavior that they produce in their hosts, which is what enables them to be transmitted from one brain to another. For example, an ideology—such as a religion—that causes its inhabitants to practice its rituals and communicate its beliefs will be transmitted to others. Successful ideas are those that are best able to spread themselves, while those that fail to self-replicate go extinct. In this way, some religious ideologies persist while others fade into oblivion.
    It is easy to see why religion quickly spread through culture once it emerged. When humans gained the cognitive capacity to reason and plan for the future, they became aware of their own mortality. The realization that oneself and all one’s loved ones will someday die is naturally terrifying, and this existential fear perfectly set the stage for anxiety-reducing ideas, like ones that offer a never-ending afterlife. But religions are complex ideas, and the psychological effects they have on minds go beyond just relieving anxiety.
    Essentially, the brain is a biological computer, and an ideology is a set of coded instructions, or “cultural software,” that is running on the brain’s hardware. Esteemed philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett insightfully described how ideas can control minds when he said, “The haven all memes depend on reaching is the human mind, but a human mind is itself an artifact created when memes restructure a human brain in order to make it a better habitat for memes.” In this regard, it is often not the brain that controls the mind, but the memes that compose the mind that control the brain. This is especially the case when the meme is a religion...…….

  • Brokeback Watchtower
  • new boy
    new boy

    I have very deeply looked into the endless destruction and genocide that religious ideologies and dogma have inflicted upon human beings. I have seen how damaged human souls are, how deeply depressive, meaningless, and prone to exploitation are the lives that many live. Religious dogma is at the root of this epidemic meaninglessness. Behind that is the thirst and cry for love. ----Mark Seelig

    P.S. Dennett is brilliant!

  • Brokeback Watchtower
    Brokeback Watchtower

    People need myths to live by,but the fundamentalist myths and interpretation of myth needs some serious rework to stay relevant to modern day life.

    Improper interpretation of scripture and making that interpretation of scripture a mandatory belief or else become shunned and cast out of the group is where an abuse of authority happens and unknowingly forces the convert into a thought pattern acceptable to the leaders.

    Force beliefs in order not to be destroyed by the Deity lends it self well overt coercion by fear for one's life. A brain operating under this type of stressful situation causes brain damage, or controlling ones thoughts and emotions by means of implanted fears shrinks the brain:

    A neurologist has published a new book in which she asserts that religious fundamentalism could soon be classified as a mental illness. University of Oxford neurologist Kathleen Taylor says that it’s not only religious fundamentalism that could be categorized as a mental illness, but other forms of extreme or radical beliefs as well.
    The Times reports that Taylor says people who have fundamentalist religious beliefs, cult members, and even people who think it is a good idea to beat their children could soon be viewed as mentally ill and received corresponded treatment to cure their illness. Taylor explained:
    One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated. Someone who has for example become radicalized to a cult ideology — we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance…I am not just talking about the obvious candidates like radical Islam or some of the more extreme cults. I am talking about things like the belief that it is OK to beat your children. These beliefs are very harmful but are not normally categorized as mental illness. In many ways that could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage, that really do a lot of harm.”
    Her new book, The Brain Supremacy, delves into the issue of religious fundamentalism but it also contains a warning about the development of new technologies that have the possibility of altering humans’ brains to such an extent that the idea of what is considered “good” or “bad” could be permanently changed:...……
    In addition to the possibility of religious fundamentalism being treated as a mental illness in the near future, other scientists have found a link between shrinkage of the hippocampus, a large and significant section of the brain, and those who hold deeply religious or spiritual beliefs. In a study entitled Religious Factors and Hippocampal Atrophy in Late Life, lead neurologist Amy Owen wrote that deeply spiritual people with no religious affiliation as well as born-again people affiliated with various religious groups showed atrophy in the hippocampus:
    Significantly greater hippocampal atrophy was observed for participants reporting a life-changing religious experience. Significantly greater hippocampal atrophy was also observed from baseline to final assessment among born-again Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation, compared with Protestants not identifying as born-again.
    There have been numerous studies that link religious experiences with less depression, but a more recent and widespread study by bioltechnologist Tom Rees found that religious belief did not ha

  • Finkelstein

    Religious fundamentalism suppresses rational thinking.

    Doctrines of fundamentalism were established thousands of years ago , mankind has learned a lot about himself and the world in which we live since then.

  • Vidiot
    "...religious fundamentalism hijacks the brain..."

    I think that's just about the most astute and insightful thing I've heard in a long time.

  • Newtonian

    As Gandhi realized, Jesus taught love and peace - in fact - to even love our enemies - Matthew 5:44.

    This is one reason Jehovah's Witnesses do not go to war (see Isaiah 2:2-4).

    To have the love Jesus taught in our hearts is a very good thing - quite contrary to religions which are part of this world and allow their members to go to war (see John 18:36).

    In short:

  • Half banana
    Half banana

    Why are you preaching to us Newtonian? We already know the Bible here. (We welcome you nevertheless!)

    No one is going to disagree with showing love but belief in God is not a necessary ingredient to show love for our fellow man.

    It is demeaning to imagine we need instruction especially, JW instruction, from the conflicted and ancient Bible to be able to live a good life.

    Lastly how can you prove the statement "God is love" when there is no tangible, testable, provable evidence for his existence? This fatuous line God is love, has no more weight than me saying my cat is love and you can only show love if you know my cat. The Bible here is saying that only lovers of God can show love; this is irrational and should be dismissed. Do try critical thinking for a change.

  • Hendrixgrip

    Wonderful video, thank you. I particularly appreciated Dennetts point at about the :54 second mark. Religion has the potential to steal our ability to think with reason. For instance, in an effort to keep this post on topic, I would like to borrow from the post made by Newtonian.

    “To have the love Jesus taught in our hearts is a very good thing - quite contrary to religions which are part of this world and allow their members to go to war”

    ignoring the false dichotomy that only Jehovahs witnesses show love, I would like to focus on the word “in our hearts” and “allow” which appear in the same sentence. The manipulation of people’s mental abilities can be seen in this conveniently placed sentence.

    The implication at first is that Jehovahs witnesses have it in their hearts not to go to war, which is probably true for not only them, but most people. However just a few words later, we get to the truth. They aren’t allowed to. We know that the pattern of being told “this is how you feel in your heart because this is how we will allow you to feel” is a thought altering manipulative tool used by the society. Fundamentalists don’t have to concern themselves with how they really feel, which limits their capacity. Thank you Newtonian for the quote.

  • Half banana
    Half banana

    The only ones who can't appreciate what fundamentalism is are those taken hostage by it. It's like a lobotomy, very difficult to reverse.

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