Comments about ‘What's the effect of religion on the brain? U. launches new study’

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Published: Tuesday, Feb. 4 2014 3:45 p.m. MST

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Wanda B. Rich
Provo, UT

Sounds like a witch hunt. As was pointed out above, spiritual experiences are rare, but they are also unpredictable and cannot be constructed. Reading scripture, watching LDS videos, and praying may produce some nice feelings, but producing a genuine spiritual experience is a one-in-a-million chance, akin to closing your eyes and hitting a sparrow at a hundred yards with a BB-gun. Good luck.


"It all depends on the kind of religion. True religion based on Jesus Christ enriches and nourishes the brain while false religion based on murder, hate and Jihad is toxic to the brain and personality as a whole"

Or true religion based upon the teachings of the Buddha. Or Hinduism. Or even Islam. Even some Christians are hate filled and are toxic.

Potsdam, 00

There is an open and closed door to this.

1. the closed door : And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
(Alma 12)

2. the open door : in Abraham it says about the Facsimile 2/11...Also.If the world can find out these numbers, so let it be. Amen

My 2 cents : ...and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters (Abr.4)

Such spiritual activity may calm down our neural functions, but to test the Spirit by any measure will be quite impossible.You cannot pray for fun or a medical exam.,Impossible.

You cannot receive revelations to prove faith, nor can you digg up the Golden Plates to find evidence for men. And you cannot receive revelations twice.

MR. MD you are either no member of the church, or you are trying to go where no man has gone before ?

Apocalypse please
Bluffdale, UT

@1.96 Standard Deviations
I agree that it's pretty amazing that people can look at the same evidence and draw entirely different conclusions. Confirmation bias undoubtedly plays a huge role as we filter information. I do admit that I don't follow the conclusion that because Mormons have a longer life expectancy therefore the LDS church is Gods one true church. But I wouldn't go so far and say that no amount of evidence is going to change a believer or skeptics mind. The formation of beliefs is pretty interesting stuff. Anyway I'm way off topic.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

The article makes no mention of the religious backgrounds of the three researchers doing the study, not that I’m insinuating that they must be intending to predetermine an outcome. But since they are seeking returned missionaries under 30 who are still active members to be their study specimens, I’d like to know about their own backgrounds.

1.96 Standard Deviations

Apocalypse please:

For a recent example of how individuals can view the same scientific data differently, did you see the Bill Nye vs Ken Ham debate the other day? If you have the time, the 2 hour and 45 minute long recording is available on YouTube. Do a search for "Bill Nye vs Ken Ham debate." I personally don't agree with everything Bill Nye or Ken Ham said, but it was a fascinating debate nonetheless!

Counter Intelligence
Salt Lake City, UT

@Apocalypse please

"Reducing people to either antichrists or believers is a pretty narrow world view. I wonder if the study is powered to find a relationship between religion and persecution complexes."

Since it was you who used the anti-Christ label; who exactly has the persecution complex?

American Fork, UT

And why is a state run school being given money for this. Were are all the agnostics screaming about church and state.

Good Mojo
Tooele, UT

There is no scientific consensus as to what a "religious" or "spiritual event" is. Is kissing snake at a pulpit to prove your immune to venom a religious or spiritual event? Does claiming you had a vision from a heavenly messenger qualify? I worked at a mental hospital for a decade and a half, and these kinds of experiences or not uncommon to some. On the other hand, though having been raised by an atheist father (an atheist at least while living), I am an active temple going "Mormon" (and am quite comfortable being in evolution). I don't claim to have had a divine visitation, but I've had everything short of that. The reality is there is no standard measure for these kinds of experiences. Everyone has faith in something, just pick you're poison and live with the consequence of you're decision. "Seek and ye shall find", or alternatively no seek, no find.

Ottawa, 00

I believe that God has constructed this world so that things like this will never be provable, at least, not in a scientific way. Of course, we all have our own ways of knowing truth, and there's no doubt that a person can know things that are unprovable scientifically. The instruments (sensitive though they may be) may never be capable of picking up changes caused by metaphysical experiences since they are (in most faiths) independant of the physical world. Like trying to discover where in the body the mind is located (rather than just where is the brain,) I see this exercise as futile. But maybe they will get lucky and discover something useful along the way, regardless of their intentions.

Phoenix, AZ

@brtherJonathan, perhaps where you are off the track is in the definitions of absolutes and influences.

clearfield, UT


OK I'll bite. Where are the teachings of Hindu, Budda, Islam, or Christian hate filled and toxic? That some may interpret and do evil in the name of such teachings does not make the teachings themselves hate filled and toxic. For the most part it seems that religion is trying to teach the basic golden rule to people. And, I have heard that studies of the brain do show different human reactions to input that is either good of bad. Images of horror, like in war atrocities does elicit different brain wave reaction than images of something like babies or puppies, or images of a religious figure, like Christ. I think the study may yield some interesting results from the U of U.

Bakersfield, CA

That is an excellent point, cavetroll. What about examining brains of any religious persons who end up deviating from the peaceful doctrines or ethics of their belief system? This would necessitate having a large set of samples beforehand, but would be very informative on the effects of "violence" on the brain. Be sure to include a non-religious control group for comparison.

I have long wondered what happens to whole societies who turn to torture and murder. From wartime Germany to Serbia, North Korean to Somalia, Communist China or Russia, etc. We cannot fathom the Nazis or their complicit countrymen anymore than we know what turned the Iron County Militia in 1857. But something happens in the human brain to trigger violence of that magnitude when it overrides formerly civil people.

One available group for this study, sadly, would be military personell, before and after combat. The high percentage of military suicides are PTSD-diagnosed.

I hope the UoU study will go deeper than superficial cataloging and give useful data for future generations.



I was responding to "patriot" who stated that as long as the religion was true and based upon Jeses Christ and not a religion that preaches war, evil, Jihad. To assume that only Christian religion allows for spiritual experiences is completely ignorant of "patriot". I do agree with you.

Bakersfield, CA

@patriot- I would like to agree with you about peaceful religious tenets vs those advocating jihad. But unless the peace adherents adhere to peace, it's just philosophy, right?

1- Sadly, today's LA Times reported of Christian mobs terrifying/looting Muslim communities and vice-versa in Bangui, capital of Central African Republic. What was sectarian violence has turned to full-scale retribution on both sides. Muslim militias attack Christian villages not even involved in the prior looting.
2- Arab Christian men are siding with any of the several insurgencies fighting against al-Assad in Syria because of the governments' destruction of whole civilian sections of Homs. This, despite the fact that the al-Qaida militias are known to have targeted young Christian women exclusively for rape and torture.

Obviously retribution and war affect human "spirituality". I just wonder what happens to happy RM brain waves (or any other religious soul) when exposed to wartime atrocity and trauma. I think the brain goes into a whole other universe then, which nullifies the ethereal experience on a level we cannot comprehend.

Filo Doughboy
Bakersfield, CA

For Jared Nielson, the LDS: Will he push for a good control group? I hope there is more to their study than observing young LDS missionary brains. How about the brain activity during religious experiences of young, focused jihadis? Or voodoo-trance activity, Santoria adherents, substance-enhanced Yemeni, peyote-high American Indians, etc?

Or, sans chemical influences: Throw in brain activity of Salafis during dervishes, Holy Rollers, tongues-speaking Charismatics. The control group should be brain activity of participants at rock concerts, Super Bowl games, political rallies.

I'm betting fighting over the remote will come in a close second to enhanced "plasticity"- IF you come up the winner. Third: The chocolate fountain at Golden Corral.

Where do I sign up?!

Provo, UT

The philosophical understanding of mind/brain questions has been examined by thoughtful people for centuries. While neurobiology affords some fascinating new glimpses into this unknown country, there are still limits to what the technology can tell us. There is much we can infer. FMRI is useful for mapping regions of brain activity, as indicated by metabolic state, but we still cannot discern much about what that brain is actually doing. There is no magic machine that can actually read my thoughts and delve into the brain mechanisms that seem to constitute the mind. There is great value in the understanding of the nature of human thought.

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