Neureligion

Amit Majmudar
May 11, 2013
Comments 1

 

There is very little (if any) variability in the brains of human beings regarding cortical localization. That is, the motor cortex responsible for, say, left arm movement, is reliably located on the right side of the brain, and in a specific location at that, in all human beings. Whether you flex, extend, or rotate the left arm at the shoulder is a matter of activating this or that part of the cortex; you are capable of all three movements.

I imagine religious thought as having its own bit of real estate in the brain, metaphorically at least. To think atheistically, to think monotheistically, to think polytheistically: These are all movements of the mind. The subordinate details of language and culture may vary, but the monotheistic thinking at the heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam follows the same neurocortical pathway. Likewise modern atheism and Epicurean atheism and ancient Indian schools of atheistic thought. Likewise Hindu polytheism and classical Mediterranean polytheism.

Every human brain is capable of all three patterns of activation. The difference is that we allow ourselves, all too often, just one kind of movement, one pattern of religious thought. We cripple ourselves into atheists, monotheists, polytheists; we limit our range of intellectual motion. The proof of our ability to think in any of the three ways, as need be, is doubt, first of all, but also the way people sometimes convert from one way of thinking to another, at some point in their lives. (Though in most cases they are just reconfiguring the sling.)

Well, you might say, in that case I was born a cripple; I have never thought, nor ever could think, in any way other than how I think now; I have always been an [poly/mono/a]theist, and could be no other way.

This matters little. I do not consider flexion, extension, or rotation of the arm a “good” or “evil” in itself: You can extend the arm in a handshake or you can extend the same arm in the same way with a loaded gun. It is the act this motion is in the service of that we judge as good or evil, right or wrong. It is the act, not the motion, that morality interrogates; the act, not the pattern of cortical activity. I care not at all whether a brain activates this or that pathway in its (metaphorical) cortical religion center; my concern is with the act to which this activity is subordinated. And the good to me is compassion, and the evil to me is division. Monotheists, polytheists, and atheists have all, at some point in their history, waxed divisive and antagonistic. And they are all capable of, and have shown, compassion. It is of no account to me by which neureligious pathway you have arrived at compassion. The compassion is the thing.

One thought on “Neureligion

  1. It would be Orwelian to consider the observation that there is an army of civilians who are controlled by electronic impulse directed from a central control station as drones operating in public places. One should search for the origin of this central commander if it is true in the provinces.

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