virtual reality
If you were hypnotized into believing and experiencing "God", or if you were given a pill that induces mystical feelings of intimacy with a supreme being, could such experience or feeling be equated with God? Most probably your answer would be a resounding 'NO!'

But what if it's our own human brain that makes us naturally prone into believing in the existence of a supreme being and "tricks" us into experiencing "God"? Would religion, in this case, be valid?

This question would have been preposterous if not for the findings of brain scientists who can now probe the links of the brain with religious experiences using brain imaging technology and other advanced bio-feedback machines.

For instance scientists now have a catalogue of brain regions that turn 'on' or 'off' during people's religious experiences such as feelings of being outside time and space, blurring of boundaries between self and others, as well as neural condition seems to trigger vivid, Joan of Arc-type religious visions and voices. The findings had some believers and atheists alike exclaim humans are 'hardwired into believing in God!'

The nagging thought that neurotheology offers is that religious experience is nothing more than virtual reality, making it a repeatable, controllable mental activity that someone with sufficiently advanced know-how could reproduce it synthetically for recreation and entertainment purposes (in lieu of hallucigenic drugs). Indeed, scientists already have a prototype device like this called the God Helmet. And you thought technology was getting smarter?

Needless to say, this technology would work wonders in the hands of evil dictators. Actually, forget evil dictators for now, professional religious cultists and sales evangelists would definitely say 'amen!' to this.

On the other hand, the prospect of the human brain being 'hardwired' to believe in God, could be offered as a kind of proof that God himself did the hardwiring.

This God's-fingerprint-in-the-brain argument is especially attractive because the apparent hardwiring is incomplete leaving enough space for free will and the existence of atheists.

Things like these give me sleepless nights.

Being open minded, I personally regard scientific probes on religion a great service to truth. I specifically would recommend neurotheology to open-minded people, especially the religious ones.

Neurotheological arguments could potentially invalidate, if not cheapen, religion and our idea of God (i.e., did God create us or did we create the illusion of God as an evolutionary tactic for survival?). On the other hand it could challenge us to elevate our religious standards.

Personally I believe religious experiences should never be the basis for considering the validity and purity of a religion.

For me, in so far as something amounts to a bio-chemical processes in the brain, that something is strictly physical and not spiritual.

Incidentally, the religion I adhere to today in the Church of God does not at all give any emphasis on religious experiences. Unlike preachers who induce their members to conjure feel-good religious sensations through hypnotic music and repetitive voice intonations, brother Eli Soriano perpetually point to doctrine found in the biblical texts, tediously read aloud for open analysis. Curiously, I heard Soriano once talk about how saint Paul specifically asks christians during his time to refrain from practicing speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, and others like it which I would presume produce significant amounts of religious sensations.

Does this mean we should distrust religious experiences?

[Posted in JOURNEYIST]

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About the Author JOE VIZCARRA Google+

Joe Vizcarra is a Manila-based independent writer. With an A.B. degree in Communication Arts, his professional background includes writing for local TV news channels, a PR & marketing agency, and a national government agency.


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