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Vexen Crabtree 2015


Vexen Crabtree's Live Journal

Sociology, Theology, Anti-Religion and Exploration: Forcing Humanity Forwards

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The Causes of Religon: Neurology: Isolated Fits and Seizures

I've added a little to "The Causes Of Religion: Biological Neuronal Dysfunction", Vexen Crabtree (2007), ending with a tie-in to my page on Christianity's St. Paul.

It is not only chronic neurological dysfunction that can cause religious and supernatural beliefs. Some of the founding experiences can be based on single neurological events such as isolated strokes or seizues. Many types of fit do not involve the motor area of the brain, so do not result in obvious, physical signs of fitting. They can be purely sensory in nature, involving sights, sounds and feelings that range from subtle through to overwhelming.

Partial seizures can [...] cause clonic movement of part of a limb [, ... or] may trigger an abnormal sensation, or aura, such as an odd smell or sparkling lights. Most bizarre are the partial seizures that elicit more well-formed auras such as déjá vu (the feeling that something has happened before) or hallucinations.

"Neuroscience" by Bear, Connors and Paradiso, p464

William James remained convinced that St. Paul was converted to Christianity by a vision that was the result of a lone seizure.

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Have you read this article? Discusses some research into the evolutionary basis for religion.

I've read the opening paragraphs recently, but thanks for the link. The author sounds realistic, actually I've just read pages 1,2 and 8... I've never myself learned enough to be able to choose between by-product and adaption theories of the evolution of religious beliefs: my own description of the neurological causes of religious belief work under both systems; our neurology could have been slightly biased in favour of religion as the result of a religious gene, or, by-products of normal psychology could have led to the hyperactive-agent detection that underpins most supernatural beliefs.

I have read other theories that some people are hard wired to believe in religion, it is an interesting argument you put forward. I guess from my own perspective I don't consider myself to be mentally unstable because I believe in God, my own experiences have been translated to me from my up bringing. However both my parents came from non-religious families and converted in their mid teens following influential religious friends who came into their lives, so perhaps one could argue that they had some kind of 'seizure' at that time?

I think that choice to convert to religion largely depends on if you are convinced of their point of view, if you are not then you won't convert. My work colleague is married to a Muslim, she is not Muslim, she has read through the Koran and decided that whilst she respects her husbands right to believe it is not for her. My partner is an atheist (and Richard Dawkins biggest fan) she has discussed (long into the night) with me about my beliefs however she has also decided that it is not for her but respects my right to chose what I want to believe.

I suspect there are some of us who are pre-programmed through evolution to lean towards spirituality, but largely it can also be down to experiences and what someone gets out of religion.

It's never so simple that some people are wired for religion, but, certain traits and certain neurlogical developments make it more likely that a person will be religious - that is what is generally meant by a gene for religion. Like genes for people wearing black ;p

Sorry I cut off my last reply before I'd finished!

The case isn't that people are "mentaly unstable" if they're religious - that is a long way from what a background cognitive dysfunction is, and a long way from I was saying, or would say. (But, I wasn't sure if you was saying I was saying that, or if you were saying that some people might consider all religious people to be mentally unstable).

... and conversion to religion can be for many reasons - logical for some people, social for others, tradition for yet others, and underlying all of them are different genes exerting different effects upon character and mind. It is a very complicated issue, conversion, and understanding it is generally a different endeavour to that of understand the factors that allow supernatural beliefs to be possible in the first place (which is what my text approaches).

Your point on experience is an important one - our responses to our experiences may be the way in which religious-promoting genes for behaviour exert their influence. My page The False and Conflicting
Experiences of Mankind
explores the varied responses of people to experiences, even internal ones... for example, night terrors are experienced by some people to be attempted demon possessions, to others they are proof of alien abductions, and to others they are psychic battles with Earthly foes and witches... but underlaying all these responses, is the same physiological event. Experience, and interpretation, as you open and close your message with, are the be-all and end-all of the foundations of religious and supernatural beliefs.

Anyway... one last thing... I am Richard Dawkins' biggest fan :-)

Hey I hope you're doing well, I bump into your LJ from time to time, take care.

I have been analyzing what I believe for sometime actually. I am not a fundamentalist, and belong very firmly in the liberal progressive camp, but more recently I have been asking myself why do I believe? And I guess it is from my experiences, which if analyzed are very subjective and lacking in evidence, so it is understandable why Richard Dawkins gets frustrated with religious believers. I admit this to Louise who gets equally annoyed with me ;)

I read your stuff and it is always thought provoking for those of us who spend time thinking lots about our own beliefs.


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