My views on belief, religion and the psychology that drives it.
(Palmdale, California, USA)
Photo Credit: Eek The Cat
Hi! I have been reading and writing about the psychological basis of religious convictions for a over a year now, and the fascinating thing about this is that the deeper I get into the subject, the more information and knowledge I dig up.
The start of the whole project was my own decision to step away from the emotions that arise when thinking about religious concepts and to try and understand why these emotions and feelings are so persistent and powerful. No easy task to be objective about something that can be so deeply personal.
In the process of exploring this subject I have been led down numerous paths. This include developmental psychology, evolutionary psychology, the history of religion, the history of psychology and numerous other paths. It has been a fascinating journey and one which I hope will never end. Obviously, this would also mean that I would never come to a full understanding of the topic, but that is okay with me. I never anticipated becoming all-knowing on the subject but I do believe that I have learned, and am learning, things which I can apply to my own life, as well as those of others who at some point doubt the validity and truth behind commonly accepted societal value systems.
Of the various areas I have been exposed to on this journey, I think that evolutionary psychology has been of the greatest interest to me. Obtaining an understanding of how our evolutionary past affects our behavior in these modern days has explained s much to me and has made life much more easy to understand.
With regards to the religious background of some of the research I have done, it has become clear to me, from a psychological perspective, that the sense of "knowing" is perhaps one of the greatest inhibitors that prevents the mind from expanding into other levels of understanding, and for people to become more familiar with why they believe what they believe. In my research I have certainly looked into the influences of society, personal history and experience, but in discussions with religious adherents I have found that perhaps the most efficient way of addressing their convictions is to illustrate the nature of faith and to focus on the fact that faith in one deity is no different to faith in another deity. Pointing out this obvious fact seems to have the effect of causing a degree of introspection on the part of the religious person, something which is often quite difficult to do.
The psychological basis of faith, being brain-based and the result of neural activity is not that difficult a concept to grasp for most people. This follows an illustration of how the brain is affected by disease and injury which, in line with the Phinneas Cage story and others, which shows the listener that who and what we are is based on the brain's interpretation of our environments. It is also helpful to illustrate how chemical manipulation of the brain results in different perceptions and behaviors, something which once again is very easy to explain and prove.
From this basis it then becomes much easier to explain religious behavior. My attempts are seldom to change their belief systems, but merely to create within them a better understanding of the impact that the brain has in their lives, and how what they believe about certain "certainties" in life is really nothing other than the results of neural activities which can be manipulated and altered by various means.
Many thanks for submitting such a well written and thought provoking article (David, UK).
so that I can continue to create free content and resources for psychology students and educators.