If you ever wondered what religion causes in the brain, here you go, this is an fMRI scan of a religious believer having a so-called “religious experience”. And you know what it looks amazingly like? Someone on drugs.
“We’re just beginning to understand how the brain participates in experiences that believers interpret as spiritual, divine or transcendent,” says neuroradiologist Jeff Anderson. “In the last few years, brain imaging technologies have matured in ways that are letting us approach questions that have been around for millennia.”
Religion activates the brain’s reward centers, just like drug addiction, alcohol, love and other highly emotional activities.
“Religious experience is perhaps the most influential part of how people make decisions that affect all of us, for good and for ill. Understanding what happens in the brain to contribute to those decisions is really important,” says Anderson. Unfortunately, I’d say that these decisions, being entirely emotional, are more negative than positive for us all. This is an ongoing study and researchers admit they still know very little about how theology affects neuroscience.
But I don’t think it’s a mystery at all. Religion is just delusion. It is wishful thinking for the sake of wishful thinking and the brain reacts to religious delusion the same way it does to all delusion. It triggers chemical rewards that cause elation and emotional highs. So people feel good and repeated exposure to these chemicals just reinforces the behaviors that lead to them, actually increasing how people act religiously to continue to get greater and greater highs. It’s all just stimulus response. There is nothing unusual about religious belief, in fact, I could have predicted exactly these results had someone asked me before the research began, as I’m sure a lot of the researchers could have as well.
So the next time your local theist tells you that he feels god, explain that science has now shown that he’s just feeling brain chemicals. That’s all it is. It’s the brain flooding itself with feel-good chemicals that make you feel like something is going on when nothing actually is.
Religion is a lie. This is just more proof.