Author Topic: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain  (Read 379 times)

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Offline Goddess

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How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« on: January 10, 2019, 03:10:37 pm »
I've been doing a bit of work with the JW Recovery board lately, and wanted to brush up on some stuff.  Found this article, I thought was very good at explaining how fundamentalism hijacks people's brains.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mind-in-the-machine/201810/how-religious-fundamentalism-hijacks-the-brain

To start - t gives the definition of religious fundamentalism, which is important because everyone seems to have their own opinion on what religious fundamentalism is, what is seen as moderate by one person can be seen as fundamentalism to another:

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In moderation, religious and spiritual practices can be great for a person’s life and mental well-being. But religious fundamentalism—which refers to the belief in the absolute authority of a religious text or leaders—is almost never good for an individual.


It compares fundamentalism to mental parasites:

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It is not accurate to call religious fundamentalism a disease, because that term refers to a pathology that physically attacks the biology of a system. But fundamentalist ideologies can be thought of as mental parasites. A parasite does not usually kill the host it inhabits, as it is critically dependent on it for survival. Instead, it feeds off it and changes its behavior in ways that benefit its own existence.

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Ideas spread through the behavior that they produce in their hosts, which is what enables them to be transmitted from one brain to another. For example, an ideology—such as a religion—that causes its inhabitants to practice its rituals and communicate its beliefs will be transmitted to others......
......Essentially, the brain is a biological computer, and an ideology is a set of coded instructions, or “cultural software,” that is running on the brain’s hardware.

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Like genes and gene complexes, when an ideology is replicated—or passed from one person or group to another—it undergoes mutations. As a consequence, different versions of that belief system are produced, which generate different types of behavior. As such, there are often good and bad variants of any given religion. For instance, there are moderate versions of Christianity and Islam that promote qualities like a sense of community and a moral code that fosters ethical behavior. These ideas can be beneficial to the host organism, i.e., the religious-practicing individual. At the same time, there are harmful variants of Islam and Christianity—specifically the rigid fundamentalist versions—that cause the host mind to process information in a biased way, think irrationally, and become delusional. Similarly, a harmful ideology disguises itself as something beneficial in order to insert itself into the brain of an individual, so that it can instruct them to behave in ways that transmit the mental virus to others. The ability for parasites to modify the behavior of hosts in ways that increase their own “fitness” (i.e., their ability to survive and reproduce) while hurting the fitness of the host, is known as “parasitic manipulation.”

This jives with some of the new research coming out that shows religious fundamentalism can cause mental illness, as opposed to just attracting those already mentally ill.

This is a big step towards recognizing religious fundamentalism as dangerous and harmful to individuals and to society and hopefully provide some better tools for preventing it and helping people break free from it.

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If we want to inoculate society against the harms of fundamentalist ideologies, we must start thinking differently about how they function in the brain. An ideology with a tendency to harm its host in an effort to self-replicate gives it all the properties of a parasitic virus, and defending against such a belief system requires understanding it as one. When a fundamentalist ideology inhabits a host brain, the organism’s mind is no longer fully in control. The ideology is controlling its behavior and reasoning processes to propagate itself and sustain its survival. This analogy should inform how we approach efforts that attempt to reverse brainwashing and restore cognitive function in areas like analytic reasoning and problem-solving.

I'm still looking for and researching if there are any new ways to break through that fundamentalist brain fog, but viewing it as a mental parasite does put it in a different light and I hope people smarter than me (like Steven Hassan maybe?) can come up with some better ways of inoculating society against dangerous cults/religions.


"A religion without a Goddess is half-way to atheism."

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Offline ?Impact

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2019, 03:21:16 pm »
religious fundamentalism can cause mental illness

I guess I don't understand what mental illness is. I generally go by the causes the Mayo clinic uses:

Mental illnesses, in general, are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors:
  • Inherited traits. Mental illness is more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and your life situation may trigger it.
  • Environmental exposures before birth. Exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illness.
  • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of your brain and body. When the neural networks involving these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems change, leading to depression.

Offline Goddess

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2019, 03:52:46 pm »
I guess I don't understand what mental illness is. I generally go by the causes the Mayo clinic uses:

Mental illnesses, in general, are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors:
  • Inherited traits. Mental illness is more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and your life situation may trigger it.
  • Environmental exposures before birth. Exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illness.
  • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of your brain and body. When the neural networks involving these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems change, leading to depression.

I'm not sure.  Perhaps it could come under any of those categories - environmental, inherited, brain chemistry.  This is the point of the article - religious fundamentalism changes how the brain processes information.  It also says, "in general", so I assume that list is not an exhaustive one.  New research has been fairly recent:

https://campuspress.yale.edu/perspective/religion-and-mental-health-the-connection-between-faith-and-delusion/

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Studies have shown there is a complex connection between religion and mental issues. A 2014 study found that people who believe in a vengeful or punitive god are more likely to suffer from mental issues such as social anxiety, paranoia, obsessional thinking, and compulsions......The American Psychiatric Association issued a mental health guide for faith leaders to help those preaching the word differentiate between devout belief and dangerous delusion or fundamentalism.

It’s also possible that the beliefs and teachings advocated by a religion for example forgiveness or compassion, can become integrated into the way our brain works, this is because the more that certain neural connections in the brain are used, the stronger they can become. Of course, obviously then the flip-side is true too, and a doctrine that advocates negative beliefs, such as hatred or ostracization of non-believers, or even belief that certain health issues are a ‘punishment’ from a higher power, detrimental effects to an individual’s mental health can occur.

There is still a lot more research to be done:

https://www.thecut.com/2014/08/can-harsh-fundamentalism-lead-to-mental-illness.html

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What’s fascinating and provocative here is the implication of adaptive versus maladaptive religiosity. Could it be that certain harsher perceptions of God make people particularly prone to mental illness? It certainly makes some intuitive sense — particularly to a nonbeliever like myself — but this is an area in which the findings are pretty new, so there’s a lot more research to be done.

Again, causation’s always difficult to establish — it could be that people who are already anxious are more likely to develop notions of God as a distant and/or angry figure. But it would be really interesting to see this research extended into, say, fundamentalist communities in which the perception of a harsh, angry God is delivered from on high at an early age, in which people don’t have a lot of flexibility to develop their own version of the supernatural.




"A religion without a Goddess is half-way to atheism."

Offline TimG

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2019, 04:51:51 pm »
Humans are hardwired to be obsessives and religion is only one of many pathways that can turn obsession into toxic extremism.

Offline Goddess

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2019, 05:43:05 pm »
Humans are hardwired to be obsessives and religion is only one of many pathways that can turn obsession into toxic extremism.

Maybe politics is another.  :D

You are correct, religion is one way.  It's the one this thread is about.
"A religion without a Goddess is half-way to atheism."

Offline Squidward von Squidderson

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2021, 12:12:38 pm »
Here’s a brilliant exhortation of religion by Sam Harris.


https://youtu.be/tW21P0BwnxQ


I don’t think it’s just the fundamentalism that is a problem.  I think the moderate religions give cover, so to speak, for the fundamentalists. 

Offline MH

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2021, 01:05:21 pm »
Here’s a brilliant exhortation of religion by Sam Harris.


https://youtu.be/tW21P0BwnxQ


I don’t think it’s just the fundamentalism that is a problem.  I think the moderate religions give cover, so to speak, for the fundamentalists.

I'm a fan, but I don't feel there is much use for podcasters to disparage individual religions.  It only comes through a cultural lens.  All religions should be free, with reasonable limits, and all are ridiculous also.

Offline Squidward von Squidderson

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2021, 01:34:09 pm »
I'm a fan, but I don't feel there is much use for podcasters to disparage individual religions.


Why not?  Is it better to dispariage all religions together?

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It only comes through a cultural lens.

What do you mean?

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  All religions should be free, with reasonable limits, and all are ridiculous also.

I’ve never seen Harris, or anybody else for that matter, argue that people should not be free to follow whatever religion they choose. 

They criticize the ideas and tenets, which is fair game for anything.  Religion shouldn’t get a free pass. 

The best thing Trudeau has done with his time in government was to get rid of Canada’s outdated blasphemy laws.  Most people don’t even know this happened.  Although, they weren’t actually being enforced and may have been struck down if they had.

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Over the summer of 2016, a petition to Parliament asking that the blasphemous libel law be repealed was circulated by several Canadian humanist groups.[17] The petition was presented to the Government in December 2016. It responded in January 2017, stating that "blasphemous libel, along with numerous other provisions of the Criminal Code, are presently under review by the Minister [of Justice] and her officials".[18][19] On 6 June 2017, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced Bill C-51 in the House of Commons, an Act to Amend the Criminal Code including repeal of section 296 of the Criminal Code relating to blasphemous libel and various other provisions of the Criminal Code which have been ruled or may be unconstitutional.[20] The Bill passed both the House of Commons and the Senate on 11 December 2018.[21] On 13 December 2018, the Governor General formally granted Royal Assent, making the repeal official.[22][23][24]
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law#Canada
« Last Edit: September 16, 2021, 01:40:52 pm by the_squid »

Offline MH

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2021, 03:45:20 pm »

1. Why not?  Is it better to dispariage all religions together?

If you are merely a popular orator, probably.

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2. What do you mean?

Fat people point at medium people and say they're skinny.  Skinny people point at the same people and say they're fat.

Fundamental Christians, seculars, Muslims.... what are you going to come up with that doesn't say anything about yourself ?

 

Offline Squidward von Squidderson

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2021, 04:23:59 pm »
If you are merely a popular orator, probably.

Once again….  Why?

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Fat people point at medium people and say they're skinny.  Skinny people point at the same people and say they're fat.

Bizarre analogy that actually doesn’t happen.  What are you going on about?


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Fundamental Christians, seculars, Muslims.... what are you going to come up with that doesn't say anything about yourself ?

That question makes zero sense. 

Questioning ideas is how we progress as a society….  Should we not have discussed whether we allow gay people the same rights as straight people?  You are making zero sense. 

Unless you think that religions should never be questioned.  But this would be a truly bizarre point of view.

Offline MH

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2021, 05:29:57 pm »
Once again….  Why?

I saw this great speaker ... he talked a LOT about the Jews and what's wrong with them.

Boy, he started making SENSE you know ?

And he got the crowd REALLY WHIPPED UP.

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Bizarre analogy that actually doesn’t happen.  What are you going on about?

Cultural relativism.  Of course, if you think you are impossible of uttering anything wrong this sounds like Esperanto to you.

And I just realized who I'm speaking to... Mr. Perfect.

So please just ignore me, I am WRONG.

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Unless you think that religions should never be questioned.  But this would be a truly bizarre point of view.

Of course religions should be questioned.

Do you think it's ok if I run into shul and start calling them money grubbing Israel lovers ?

Your answer is YES OTHERWISE I AM NOT FREE TO SPEAK AND CHANGE THE WORLD.

------

Anyway - I won't proceed unless you answer this first: Can God make a Pad Thai too spicy for himself to eat ?

Offline Squidward von Squidderson

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2021, 05:42:06 pm »
I saw this great speaker ... he talked a LOT about the Jews and what's wrong with them.

Boy, he started making SENSE you know ?

And he got the crowd REALLY WHIPPED UP.

You see no difference between criticizing religious ideas and demonizing people based on their religion? 

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Cultural relativism.  Of course, if you think you are impossible of uttering anything wrong this sounds like Esperanto to you.

He’s from the same culture as the religious ideas he is criticizing!  LOL


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And I just realized who I'm speaking to... Mr. Perfect.

So please just ignore me, I am WRONG.

I might, if you continue to accuse people of bigotry when they are simply questioning/criticizing/mocking/ridiculing ideas. 

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Of course religions should be questioned.

Your response is all sorts of mixed up…. Conflating the criticism of religions with demonizing Jews and then you say religions should be questioned.  Which is it?


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Do you think it's ok if I run into shul and start calling them money grubbing Israel lovers ?

Now you’re equating criticism of religion on a podcast, or a book with going into a place of worship and insulting people with racial stereotypes. 

Can you actually try and be honest about what we’re talking about without the hyperbolic stupidity?
« Last Edit: September 16, 2021, 06:09:22 pm by Mr. Perfect »

Offline Queefer Sutherland

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2021, 06:24:24 pm »
I'm a fan, but I don't feel there is much use for podcasters to disparage individual religions.  It only comes through a cultural lens.  All religions should be free, with reasonable limits, and all are ridiculous also.

It's always useful for people to criticize ideas, especially bad ones, and/or ones that some feel are above criticism.
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Offline Squidward von Squidderson

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2021, 06:27:24 pm »
It's always useful for people to criticize ideas, especially bad ones, and/or ones that some feel are above criticism.

You can’t do that!!!   That’s the same as going to a mosque and calling them all a bunch of camel-jockey terrorizers!!

Offline Queefer Sutherland

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Re: How Religious Fundamentalism Hijacks the Brain
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2021, 06:34:16 pm »
You see no difference between criticizing religious ideas and demonizing people based on their religion? 

This.

Criticizing Jews (a group of people) is not the same as criticizing Judaism as a set of ideas.

A free society means everyone is free to believe whatever they want just as much as everyone is free to criticize the beliefs of others as much as they want.
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