Sunday, October 14, 2007

Finding God in the Brain

I ran across this article recently, and thought I'd share:

Searching for God in the Brain, from Scientific American

As one who is fascinated with religious experience, I was intrigued by the finding that mystical experiences, speaking in tongues, and the like can be positively correlated with activity in specific regions of the brain.

Here's my bias: I think that any religion worth its salt should be able to provide its adherents with profound experiences. In that light, do you think Laestadianism measures up? Does it provide an experience of divine union? if so, which practices or beliefs facilitate this?

Although atheists might argue that finding spirituality in the brain implies that religion is nothing more than divine delusion, the nuns were thrilled by their brain scans for precisely the opposite reason: they seemed to provide confirmation of God’s interactions with them. After all, finding a cerebral source for spiritual experiences could serve equally well to identify the medium through which God reaches out to humanity. Thus, the nuns’ forays into the tubular brain scanner did not undermine their faith. On the contrary, the science gave them an even greater reason to believe.


What do you think? Do these kind of findings have a positive, negative, or no effect on your faith?

I'm with the nuns. I think it's exciting that there might actually be a part of the brain that allows us to experience the Divine.


-ttg

24 comments:

  1. Would that be the same part of the brain that allows us to experience the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy?

    I'm more interested in using the part of my brain which would allow me to experience scientific methodology and logic.

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  2. I would say that God is in our brain. The Holy Spirit lives in you when you are a Christian. I believe its the Holy Spirit that gives us all good thoughts. Our thoughts control our actions. So I definetely think we experience God with our brain, how else would we know what to do?

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  3. Well T Tikka, if you read the article, you would have learned that they in fact did use scientific methodology when they were investigating this. I'll leave you to check it out for yourself.

    Sarcasm is an easy out to a complex question. Try to look at both sides.

    Why would you think that the scientific method would have to rule out anything to do with God? I find that the more I learn about science, the more it reinforces my belief in a creator who, by the way, is an absolute genius!

    I found the article quite interesting, Tomte. Since we are all unique, it stands to reason that each one would experience these things in slightly different ways.

    I don't remember having any experiences that were brought about through specific practices when I was in the LLC. The rituals/services were usually routine and predictable.

    No, I take that back. Once, I experienced something I couldn't explain--I still don't know what--during communion. However, people felt much more free to express emotion during communion, so it could have been because of that, as well. My emotions are often triggered through empathy.

    But since then, I've had physical experiences that have defied explanation, and the emotional reaction accompanying them were just as mystical.

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  4. Daisyaday, I wasn't particularly shooting for sarcasm. And I did read the article, so I was not trying to indicate that scientific methodology was not practiced in the study.

    You ask "Why would you think that the scientific method would have to rule out anything to do with God?"

    When has the scientific method ever verified *anything* to do with god?

    People believe in god because they want to, or because they were successfully brainwashed in a fashion they don't have the mental acuity to overcome.

    To leave Laestadianism, the subject of this blog, and find yourself still believing in a god seems to me like jumping from the fire into the frying pan.

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  5. hello, t tikka

    I'd be interested to know how you found this blog, if you're willing to share that info.

    If I'm reading your posts right, you seem to be saying that one can only believe in God if they are brainwashed to do so, stupid, or choose to do so even though it makes no sense.

    If you read His Word, the Bible, I think the Holy Spirit will help you to know the Truth. Maybe that's why you're here chatting with us... to start your journey.

    Maybe it was kind of "like jumping from the fire into the frying pan" when I first left the OALC. That jump to the frying pan was my first step away from "the fire" and towards safety (in His loving care)... and I keep trying to jump further from the fire every day-- and closer to Him.

    I pray you'll keep coming back and chatting with His believers here, so we'll know you in Heaven forever, and you'll never have to know the reality of "the fire".

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  6. Thank you for clarifying that. It sounded like a flip answer to me.

    I didn't say that science verified the existence of a God. I said it didn't disprove it. Then I said that science reinforces MY belief in a creator. It doesn't necessarily for everyone.

    I'm not sure about where you're going with this, but there's an edginess to some of your comments that seems to indicate some strong feelings.

    You're welcome to stay and share your beliefs or disbeliefs, as the case may be. We try to be a friendly bunch, although, speaking for myself, sometimes my PMS gets the best of me. I'll do my best. :)

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  7. I hear what Ttikka is saying. I have yet to find any proof of spiritual existense. I was brainwashed and manipulated for 20 years of my life and now stand back and watch people that I love continue to live in this robotic way, which is so black and white from my perspective. I don't understand how and why people desperately need some higher power/religion/God to tell them how to live their lives. I have found no proof(physical evidence)of any such 'all loving God'. I do believe that there was an initial creator, who put this whole thing into motion, but I have no reason to believe that 'it' has anything to do with the world today. I am searching for answers, not accusing or trying to sound bitter here. I left the church 1 year ago and am still very much struggling to make sense of my past and the real world.

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  8. Just because Laestadian teaching is wrong on many levels, does not mean that to reject Laestadianism, you also need to reject God.

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  9. T Tikka said, "Would [the part of the brain discovered in this study] be the same part of the brain that allows us to experience the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy?"

    Well, that's really the million dollar question, isn't it? ;-)

    You do touch on something that I found fascinating, though. When you put a Hindu into the brain scanner and stimulate the mystical part of her brain, she doesn't see Jesus. She sees something that is profound in the terms of her own religious tradition.

    Pop an atheist into the toaster, and they might experience some sense of awe that is not tied to any religion.

    I wonder what would happen if a Laestadian was brain scanned? Would they experience a feeling similiar to confessing their sins before the congregation, or something like that feeling one gets taking communion?

    If the experience is more than a delusion --if the experience truly is a pathway to the Divine, then what does that experience say about the nature of the Divine?

    It seems to me that the Divine can't be the narrow God envisioned by the Laestadians. If "God" is really being experienced in the brain scanner, then that God is far more inclusive and reconciling than what is envisioned by most of the world's religious traditions.

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  10. I have to say that when I left the church, it was quite some time before I decided that I did believe that God existed. I was angry, bitter, and resentful, both at the church and at some of the members (some family, some not) who had made inappropriate comments to me relative to my faith (or lack of it).

    I know that some people who leave never do come to a place in their lives where they believe in God or choose to attend a church.

    I had to be at the point where I didn't accept any of it before I could feel like I was actually choosing to believe it of my own volition. I was at that point for about nine or ten years.

    I would be the last one to force an opinion on anyone else--I had it forced on me for a good many years.

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  11. I came across a ABC News Nightline show about something similar. They did a show about speaking in tongues and what parts of the brain are active during this phenomenon. If you want to read more, right click here and select open in a new window.

    For those of you who experienced rejoicing if you grew up in a Laestadian/Apostolic church, do you think that it compares to the speaking in tongues of Pentecostal churches? Has anyone experienced this themselves? I am fascinated with this. I've heard that most Assembly of God churches believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, after which they believe that you will speak in tongues.

    I guess it's a controversial topic: everyone has their own opinion about it. Hmm...kind of like here! LOL. But I think there might be something to it. I'd be interested to hear where others stand on it.

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  12. I read an article online titled THE ROOTS AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE LAESTADIAN MOVEMENT IN FINLAND. It can be seen at www.apostolic-lutheran.org/history. It is a transcript of a lecture series given by a Professor from the University of Helsinki. He describes the Laesadian groups as pentecostal. That was the first time it occurred to me that it could be desribed that way. I was in the OALC and do not remember any rejoicing, although an older sister says she can remember some from when she was a small child. I do remember during elder meetings one time someone making noises that reminded me of a dog barking. It frightened me at the time. When I was about 15 and went through confirmation I finally had the "aha" and understood that Jesus died for our sins. I confessed my sins, asked for forgiveness from my Mom and recieved the Holy Spirit. I Felt it. I don't recall doing anything out of the ordinary as a result, however.

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  13. I remember these ladies would always pace back and forth during the sermons saying, "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you Jesus." Or else in Finnish, "Herra Jeesus kiitetty!" Lord Jesus be thanked, if I'm translating that correctly.

    They used words so they weren't really speaking in tongues, but I think the effect could be the same.
    It always made tears well up in my eyes, because they seemed to be so overcome with emotion. I only remember that from when I was younger, as well. It seemed to die down as I got older. No one ever talked much about it.

    I wondered what would make people want to be so loud in church--I was thinking that they must know people would be looking at them.

    From my perspective, it usually wasn't a good thing to be noticed in church. I was always afraid I was going to get into trouble for something if I got noticed.

    Also in that history, anon, I think you'll find that when the church first began, it was very common to hear people rejoicing, weeping loudly, and even falling down, very much reminiscent of the Pentecostals of today. But as the religion got more established, it gradually became less common. Today, I don't know. I haven't been to a LLL church since my mom died, and there weren't any people rejoicing at her funeral.

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  14. Very interesting, your description about rejoicing. I never saw anything like it in the OALC. We had "the movement" when individals would be overcome with weeping or sobbing over their sins and asked other idividuals for forgiveness. But no signs of rejoicing, in any form.

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  15. You can still see the kind of rejoicing described by daisyaday above in the European OALC branch. Most of all in Finland, I think, but also in Northern Sweden as well as some localities in Norway. Most Norwegians don't seem to have experienced it, though, and find it very strange if they happen to see it when visiting in other areas, even suggesting someone should stop the disturber, while many Finns consider it a sign of living Christianity. It's getting less common in also in Finland, and the next generation might see it disappear when the old "rejoicers" die out.

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  16. Interesting. I didn't know that. Joy wasn't a big part of my life as an oalcer... it is comforting to know that some do find the joy of the Lord in the church.

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  17. The IALC still widely practices this type of joyful rejoicing as depicted in the early days of the Laestadian movement.

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  18. What other ways does the ILC differ from the OALC, ALC, and the others?

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  19. I've never been to the OALC or the ALC, but from what I've learned on this site, here are some differences:
    (1) Politically, the IALC is more balanced and probably leans a bit more toward voting Democrat rather than Republican. Politics are generally not a topic of discussion.
    (2) Education: I'd make the assumption that the IALC is probably at least as well educated as the ALC, perhaps even more so, with many women pursuing university training and advanced degrees.
    (3) More liberal attitude toward clothing, use of make-up, and jewelry, so much that you'd have a hard time distinuishing a member of the IALC with anyone "in the world." No prohibitions against neckties for men.
    (4) Pro-choice in terms of use of birth control, not abortion. Families typically have between 2-4 children, just slightly more than the American average.
    (5) Like the OALC, ministers are not ordained as in the ALC. Children do go to Sunday school. There is no musical accompaniment to relligious services, no choirs.
    (6) There is no European equivalent to the IALC and no missionaries, etc.
    (7) Congregations are centered around Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, with a few California and East Coast congregations.
    (8) It is not considered essential that a person confess all their sins to another believer, because people would never be able to recount all of their sins. There is no practice of orally confessing sins before the congregation.
    (9) No one is excommunicated regardless of their offenses.

    There are probably more that I have not considered.

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  20. What about Sunday School? In the OALC our entire curriculum consisted of a green book titled Bible History and Cathechism. What do chldren at the ILC use for Sunday School materials? Is there Sunday school for adults in the ILC?

    When I attended the OALC,I lived in MPLS. That church,at that time had a playground for chilren. I understand that it is gone now. Would that bea contorversial thing in the ILC?

    One more question. (I'm afraid I sound like a nosey journalist.) Does the ILC teach that it is the only true church?

    I have often wondered how the churches were different from each other.

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  21. They took down the Mpls playground? But why? I have many good memories of the people at that church. I even remember when they built it; I wonder if they still have "Bob's corner" in the kitchen? -Bob ran a cart into a wall and chipped off a piece. He died before they could fix it so it was left in his memory. Sometimes I really miss the nieve innocence of my youth, but I still wouldnt trade it for the joy and peace I now have in Jesus :)

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  22. For Sunday school they use the Bible and the cathecism. No, no Sunday school for adults. No, no playground but there is a sandbox and I don't know if it would be controversial or not. And yes, they do practice exclusivism--which is usually the main reason why people leave, they usually like the atmosphere and the teachings in general. I do not believe in exclusivism and I have stayed in the church after years of struggle with this issue and am still not completely at peace. I believe there are many many others like me there who are silent, yet are devoted to their faith.

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  23. A new website is now available for those who are leaving the OALC or other Laestadian churches.

    If you are struggling through this dificult transition log on to

    postlaestadian.revival.freeforums.org

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  24. It says that page is not found?

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