Religion And The Brain
On Discover Health's Web Page [http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/behavior/brain-religion.htm] examines the controversial topic of neurotheology. It states, “Paul's story is interesting not just to biblical scholars, but to neuro- scientists as well.
Some scientists claim that the account of this conversion, found in the book of Acts, contains enough evidence to diagnose Paul with temporal lobe epilepsy.
The flash of light, the voices and the fall to the ground are the evidence of a seizure, according to these neuroscientists, with the blindness a result of the postictal state that follows a seizure [source: Brorson, Brewer]… Like the story of Paul, this study seemed to suggest that the temporal lobe has something to do with religious feelings… These examples represent the intersection of science and religion, a field currently known as neurotheology. The goal of neurotheology is to determine what's happening in the brain during a religious experience. Obviously, the field can be a bit controversial; those with deeply spiritual beliefs about the connection between a person and his or her maker aren't thrilled about reducing religion to something happening in the brain. But the work of the scientists does seem to show that there's some connection with our gray matters and our pray matters.”
The article continues, “Because of the work connecting temporal lobe epilepsy and spiritual experiences, scientists previously believed that the temporal lobe was the only part of the brain involved in religious feelings. Recent imaging studies, however, have shown that many parts of the brain are activated during a religious experience.” The study then goes on to track Tibetan Buddhist Monks, Nuns, and Pentecostals during prayer and meditation.
Michael Persinger has even gone so far at to invent the “God Helmet”. “Persinger has gained attention for his work with the "God Helmet," headgear so named because it may induce a person to feel the presence of God. The God Helmet includes electrodes that Persinger uses to alter the electromagnetic field at the temporal lobes. Persinger claims he can create a religious experience for anyone by disrupting the brain with regular electric pulses. This will cause the left temporal lobe to explain the activity in the right side of the brain as a sensed presence. The sensed presence could be anything from God to demons, and when not told what the experiment involved, about 80 percent of God Helmet wearers reported sensing something nearby [source: BBC].”
I am not sure how neurotheology and religion coorelate, but I do know from experience one thing: Our belief system and moral system is connected with brain activity. When my wife was in “major depression” she doubted her salvation, experiencing severe guilt over it. When she went manic her three doctors at the hospital were “the Father”, “the Son”, and “The Holy Spirit” and all her nurses were angels. Yet what has gotten her through her bouts with mental illness? Her Faith! In the midst of a drug induced comatose period of her recovery she dug deep down inside her spirit and prayed a remarkable prayer that I can not wait to discuss with the Lord when I get to heaven. (I have already done that on earth!) She prayed, “Father, You are faithful; You have always been faithful; By your faithfulness heal me.”
As Christians we have dialogued about our faith coming from “our heart”? Really, physically? Or are we trying to say from “our emotion”? Emotions are connected to our neuro systems, so maybe our faith can be connected to our brains somehow? Brains are so complicated that we are only beginning to touch the surface on how they work and operate.
As Christians we have dialogued about our faith coming from “our spirit”, thus it was easy for the Church in Europe for centuries, and the Puritans in America to look upon mental illness as demon possession. The Brain is part of the body, but how does the “spirit” theology work? Can the body (science) and the Church (spirit) find common ground to help those suffering from Mental Illness? I guess that is the question this blog poses?