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Opiate of the Masses

By spaceghoti in Op-Ed
Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 03:20:49 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

I have, in the past, spoken out against religion fairly harshly. Richard Dawkins and I are of similar opinions that religion is archaic at best and dangerous in general.

Here I'm going to come out in a complete reversal of previous submissions and point out how religion can have very positive benefits.

An article in Seed Magazine talks about Professor Elizabeth Gould and her paradigm-shifting research on neurogenesis, the notion that the adult brain grows new neurons instead of stopping at puberty or whenever and simply losing gray matter as time goes on. Previous scientific wisdom declared that our brains stop growing new cells after a certain point, in spite of a 1962 paper declaring the opposite. Professor Gould has proven the details in that 1962 paper, and as of 1998 the scientific community accepted this new standard.

This may be old news to you. It isn't to me, but that shows you how well I keep up with modern medical papers.

This article interests me for several reasons. One is that it demonstrates that our brains can recover from injuries just like the rest of our bodies. Maybe a wounded brain won't function with exactly the same function as a wounded bicep, for example, but there is hope. It suggests that debilitating events like strokes and head wounds can be healed. This ought to be good news for my ex-father in law. We're all fairly convinced he's suffered a stroke or two, from the apparent changes in his personality.

But what really got my attention was this:

As Christian Mirescu, one of Gould's post-docs, put it, "When a brain is worried, it's just thinking about survival. It isn't interested in investing in new cells for the future."
Stress shuts down neurogenesis, the process by which the brain grows new cells. When we're stressed, we're not functioning or learning properly. We knew this before, but now we have a smoking gun for it.
As a general rule of thumb, a rough life--especially a rough start to life--strongly correlates with lower levels of fresh cells.
About the time I read this, I started thinking about an old Marxist aphorism: "Religion is the opiate of the masses." People who have a rough life tend more toward belief in a higher power to provide comfort and give them direction.

Professor Ronald Duman was researching Prozac, trying to figure out why there's a thirty day time lag between when patients begin taking the medication and when their depression begins to lift. He was originally researching the role of Prozac in filling the brain with serotonin, but he discovered that wasn't how the drug was helping. Instead, Prozac was creating trophic factors in the brain.

Trophic factors make neurons grow. What water and sun do for trees, trophic factors do for brain cells. Depression was like an extended drought: It deprived neurons of the sustenance they need.
There's another aphorism passed down from the military: "There are no atheists on the front line." How many death row inmates claim to have been "born again," or otherwise embraced religion? Yet another aphorism for you: "There's no fanatic like a convert." My father is a classic example of this. After rejecting my mother's religion for the majority of my life, he was convinced to embrace it shortly after discovering he had cancer - the same form that killed my grandfather, his father. Since this conversion his personality has changed some. He's very enthusiastic about his new religion, but at the same time he's become a lot more intolerant than I remember. This could be a factor from advancing age and stress from battling cancer for ten years, but his attitudes reflect what I remember from my mother (attitudes that are coming out from hiding once again). If the changes weren't so eerily familiar, I could dismiss it as him getting old.

Rather than turn this into a rant I'll point out that religious people, especially the newly converted, often experience feelings of uplifting and relief as though a tremendous burden has been taken from them. They experience periods of enlightenment, of joy. Christians in particular are urged to place all their cares in God's hands and let Him guide their lives. "Take over, God. I can't do it myself." They surrender responsibility for all the things that cause them stress and have faith that God will take care of it for them. In return, their lives are transformed and they become happier people.

It works. I've seen it happen. I believe them when they tell me that they're better off. Religion can have a genuinely positive impact on people's lives. We've been hearing for years that a good attitude is the key to being happy and successful. Now I think we can demonstrate why.

Does this mean God is behind the miracle of neurogenesis? Or does it mean that neurogenesis is the reason why people invented God? That's a question that I believe medical science can never answer to everyone's satisfaction. It's a classic "chicken or the egg" question, and the answer will always depend on how you approach it. If you already believe in God, the answer is going to be the former. If you don't believe in God (or don't believe in God's intercession), the answer is going to be the latter. It doesn't answer any major philosophical or theological questions, it merely shows us the mechanism.

For myself, I still hold to the Deist philosophy. I believe there is a Higher Power that created the Universe and set everything in motion. I just don't believe that this entity or organisation is actively manipulating our lives, micromanaging our affairs. I have no rational reason for this, only faith that springs largely from habit. I have no good reason to believe it, but I have no good reason not to believe it, either. I'm fairly well convinced that we created gods to meddle in our lives, to shift our burdens from our minds and provide the stimulation we need for neurogenesis. There will always be those who aren't willing to provide their own stimulus, and situations that will always overwhelm us. So long as this is true, I believe religion will always be with us.

How do I justify this? Obviously, I'm approaching the question from the perspective of a skeptic. Imagine in the early ages of human development when we existed at no greater than a tribal level. Imagine that we have a problem with some of our tribal members: they're disturbed by things they see, experiences they can't explain. They're worried, stressed and ultimately depressed. They're not very good contributors to the tribe. How do we snap them out of it when they can't do it themselves? Give them something to believe in.

"Don't worry," they're told. "There's nothing you can do about it. Someone else, some higher power is out there taking care of it for you."

Thus, tradition is born. These unseen entities, these new gods are thought of as spirits moving the world unseen, causing the seasons to change. Creating babies in the wombs of women. Lifting the sun in the sky and hiding it at night. Making the wind blow through the trees. Helping our aim or spoiling our shot. Eventually, the notion of formalised worship springs up in an attempt to appease them and coerce them into doing our bidding. We have something to hope for, someone to take over our emotional burdens while we get on with the daily affairs of life.

Maybe one day we'll outgrow our need for gods. I believe that the field of neurogenesis will help us on that path. But it won't happen in my lifetime, and probably not for many after. Hopefully one day someone will be able to look back on our work and point: "this was when we really started to pull ourselves out of our painful adolescence."


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o Proof of the existence of God. 8%
o Proof of the non-existence of God. 6%
o A fascinating study. 43%
o Imagine the potential for boosting intelligence! 16%
o Pure balderdash. 8%
o Fnord 16%

Votes: 48
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Richard Dawkins
o archaic
o dangerous
o Seed Magazine
o neurogenes is
o Also by spaceghoti

Display: Sort:
Opiate of the Masses | 190 comments (150 topical, 40 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1, It;'s a good read. $ (1.33 / 6) (#1)
by akostic on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 03:29:16 PM EST

"After an indeterminate amount of time trading insane laughter with the retards, I grew curious and tapped on the window." - osm
religion is an unavoidable social phenomenon (2.55 / 9) (#2)
by circletimessquare on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 03:37:01 PM EST

if you waved a magic wand and you obliterated christianity, islam, judaism, etc. from human history, what would happen is new religions would immediately spring into existence to fill the void

religion, like shit, just happens

you can't do anything about religion except make peace with its existence, and then make sure that certain geopolitical assholes in religious circles don't try to remove our freedoms, as they want to do, continually

i really don't see any way around this state of affairs, unfortunately. there will always be assholes who want to take hard drugs and turn themselves into zombies. there will always be pedophiles. and there will always be religious lunatics hell bent on destroying our freedoms

all of these people continually come into being in every generation, and all you can do is continually fight them, forever. the only way around this state of affairs is to disrespect free will, which i'm not willing to do. so if you respect free will, then you must accept that free will unfortunately is used by some people to do things which attempt to destroy other people's free will and their own

free will should not be used to destroy free will, but there are always assholes who try. its a deeper unavoidable phenomenon: to respect free will means you must continually, forever, without any rest, fight those who would destroy free will, because free will always results in those who try to use free will to detroy free will itself. its not like you kill these fuckers once and then smack your hands and they never appear in society ever again. no. they are with us, forever, unfortunately

you don't make peace with them, but you make peace with the fact you can't ever totally destroy them. they always breed, and they must always be fought and kept at a low level of destructive potential. it's simple maintenance, the maintenance of civilization: you don't take the trash out one thursday and never have to take out the trash ever again. no, you need to take out the trash every thursday, forever. trash accumulates. no way around that

and besides, the vast majority of religious folk are quite lucid and can be reasoned with and can come to disregard certain moronic tenets of their religion. to them its just tradition, like national holidays. there are only a minority of religious folk who are really quite fucked up. unfortunately, they are also always the loudest motherfuckers around

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Destroying religion (none / 1) (#5)
by spaceghoti on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 03:58:45 PM EST

If you look at my closing remarks, you'll find that I believe so long as humanity maintains its current path, we'll always have religion.  Until we learn to stand on our own and find strength within ourselves, we'll continue to grasp at whatever hope promises to prop us up by proxy.  This is why I have in the past, labeled religion as a crutch, and this new relevation does nothing to change that opinion.

Do I think we need to destroy religion?  No.  Before you remove an old habit, you've got to have something positive to replace it.  To leave a vacuum like that in people's lives and belief structure is to invite catastrophe.

I believe that eventually we'll outgrow the need for religion, that we'll outgrow the need for external influences to boost ourselves and function freely.  That time is not now, and to suggest otherwise would be foolish.  First we must identify that the problem is real and convince people that it exists before we can work to solve it.

As I said, I think the study of neurogenesis can help us down that path.  Imagine a world where everyone has learned how to devote themselves positively toward solutions to their own problems without relying on a crutch.  A world where we don't have to oppress others in order to feel good about ourselves.  If you read the article in Seed Magazine I think you'll find that these topics are touched on briefly, not with the promise that I suggest but like all good science allowing us to draw our own conclusions.

That's what I've tried to present here in this submission.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
wrong in two ways (1.00 / 3) (#16)
by circletimessquare on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 05:14:58 PM EST

1. As I said, I think the study of neurogenesis can help us down that path.  Imagine a world where everyone has learned how to devote themselves positively toward solutions to their own problems without relying on a crutch.  A world where we don't have to oppress others in order to feel good about ourselves.

what the fuck is this? you seem to be proposing something worse than orwell: screw with people's minds?

it's like this: you respect free will. period. unfortunately, when you respect free will, you are also accepting that some people will try to use their free will to restrict other's free will. you can't do anything about that. people make bad choices. so you fight them who would restrict other's free will

but what you can't have is a world where everyone has free will and never makes any bad choices. that's an impossibility. bad choices happen. to prevent people from making bad choices... you have to disrespect free will!

2. the rest of what you say SOUNDS LIKE A RELIGION ITSELF

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

If you say so. (none / 0) (#38)
by spaceghoti on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 09:21:19 AM EST

At risk of repeating myself, I'm suggesting that religion might be a mechanism that society created for people to cope with the needs involving neurogenesis.  I'm suggesting that the study of neurogenesis can help explain why religion was created, and the positive role that it can play in people's lives.

At no time am I suggesting that existing religions should be cast aside in favor of the new god, neurogenesis.  What I am suggesting is that in time, we could learn to manipulate neurogenesis on an individual level so that the role of religion becomes unnecessary, and is gradually abandoned as people realise they don't need it anymore.

I realise you may find this threatening.  I can sympathise with your plight.  But I think it might be an essential step for our growth as a society and a species.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
you're worse than george orwell's 1984 (none / 0) (#67)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 03:39:08 PM EST

What I am suggesting is that in time, we could learn to manipulate neurogenesis on an individual level so that the role of religion becomes unnecessary

you respect free will, period, end of story

what you are proposing is to disrespect free will

that makes your suggestion worse than anything any religion has ever done

fucking with people's minds? you're an evil asshole, worse than anything bin laden or bush could pull out of their asses, you just don't know it

I realise you may find this threatening.  I can sympathise with your plight.  But I think it might be an essential step for our growth as a society and a species.

you already have the half-mocking patronizing tone down pat for an authoritarian evil state torture authority in a b-grade hollywood movie plot

man you are ignorant

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

I find that highly ironic. (none / 1) (#71)
by spaceghoti on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 03:53:48 PM EST

I think that removing the social impetus that makes religion necessary would serve the purpose of free will better than religion itself.  So many people are caught up in surrendering their free will to the catcheisms and traditions of religion that they never really think about what they're doing or why.  How is helping them to get past this an Orwellian act?

Clearly, you're comfortable in your rhetoric and routine provided by your religion.  I never said you shouldn't.  I merely suggest that you can do better.

Then again, I should probably consider the source.  Once again, IHBT.  Oh well.  I thank you for the beginnings of a genuine dialogue.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
i have no religion (none / 0) (#72)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 04:12:24 PM EST

i am not christian, muslim, jewish, etc. i hate organized religion. and i'm smart enough to realize that you represent just another, WORSE version of an organized religion

except yours is compulsory, involving brain interventions

you're one scary blind motherfucker

you're blind to your fascist nature

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Thinking is a brain intervention. (none / 0) (#173)
by fn0rd on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 01:17:08 PM EST

Buddhist monks change the physical structure of their brains over years of practice. They do it of their own free will.

This fatwa brought to you by the Agnostic Jihad
[ Parent ]

Will we be forced to accept neurogenesis? (none / 0) (#76)
by rlazur on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 04:48:33 PM EST

I read the reply not as suggesting that an establishment or movement should remove "free will", but more as a comment on people as rational beings. Can we say that in a rational world if people find more benefit (or less cost) in one idea they will necessarily choose it freely over another? I understand that is what spaceghoti may have been implying regarding neurogenesis processes replacing religion. However I agree that we cannot assume that this will happen because at times we are motivated by other factors right?

The reaction to accepting the benefit of neurogenesis in the future seems to be that if it's inevitable, then it is is something called Fate (and thus not Free Will). I am reminded of Isaac Asimov's fictional idea of Galaxia, and of the implications that brings.

This leads me to a couple of questions. If in a future, idealistic world everybody accepts the benefit of some sort of individual neurogenesis and decrease their reliance on religion, then is that their "free will"? Or simply by making the prediction of inevitability it denies those people that they chose neurogenesis because of its benefits? I don't know what to think, but I agree that we cannot assume nor predict that neurogenesis' processes will replace religion.

Thanks for letting my mind stew on this.

[ Parent ]

holy shit (none / 1) (#79)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 05:25:21 PM EST

The reaction to accepting the benefit of neurogenesis in the future seems to be that if it's inevitable, then it is is something called Fate

spoken like the most rabid of calm, icy, patronizing fascist christian or muslim fundamentalists

"please don't struggle against the restraints my friend, it's your fate to have your mind reprogrammed, its simply fate"

man you and the author really creep me out

are oyu guys scientologists or something?

i feel like i'm talking to some cult weirdos about the need for "benign intervention"

you guys have more purposely harmless sounding code words for violent involvement than the bush administration does for the iraq war

you two are seriously fucked up closet fascists

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

RE: holy shit (none / 0) (#117)
by rlazur on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 04:16:38 PM EST

I do agree that it is not probable that societies, at any time, would be able to accept the most beneficial idea as we are not always rational creatures.

I am a little confused that a person cannot be said to have free will to choose one idea over another simply because someone in the past predicted it would be "inevitable". It scares me because I have a hard time believing in "inevitability" or "Fate", and it appears to be very easy to declare that something was Fate.

[ Parent ]

Free will and fate (3.00 / 2) (#120)
by spaceghoti on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 04:59:27 PM EST

I normally avoid thread chains involving trolls, but you took the bait they offered and asked a pretty good question.  I'm therefore going to brave the waters and offer my opinion.

Free will is tough to define.  What constitutes free will other than the freedom to make our own choices based on the best information and environment that we can manage?  I seem to recall seeing more and more recent research suggesting that many of the choices we make are determined by chemical and environmental factors, sometimes even when information we possess suggest otherwise.  Sometimes the information we possess is deliberately restricted so we're encouraged to make the decisions someone else wants us to make.  Given these factors, I have to ask:  is free will really that free?  Maybe, maybe not.  What I consider to be the most important part is that we are provided as much good information as possible so that we can at least try to make informed decisions.

If religion becomes accepted as an artificial social construct with viable alternatives, will people abandon it?  I think yes; we've seen social forces ebb and surge in that direction in the past.  If the "popular" trend is to reject religion, will people still choose it?  I think the answer to that is also "yes," because religion often offers structure that some people crave.  I think that's a state of affairs that will continue until we learn to rise above it.  And yes, I still think it's something to be risen above.  That may not make me popular with the recent swing toward fundamental conservative thinking, but that's never stopped me before.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Thank You (none / 0) (#125)
by rlazur on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 06:16:38 PM EST

The premise of a "rational world", in which we choose what is most beneficial to us would very well lead to everyone thinking the samething. But since we construct within ourselves subjective and objective differences we will probably never be the same without coercion, which is the fear that circletimessquare brought up.

It's probably best to indicate that you predict individuals, or for the communitarians among us, large groups will choose neurogenesis advances over ritual to relieve pain. This may avoid the confusion of "free will".

[ Parent ]

"rational world" (none / 0) (#126)
by spaceghoti on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 06:56:29 PM EST

It was once considered rational to slay an animal and burn (cook) it as an offering to the gods in order to appease them or otherwise bribe them into doing our bidding.  We don't see that so much these days, partly because modern religions say it's not necessary and partly because our notions of wealth are a great deal more abstract than they used to be.

In a slightly more modern perspective, we've reversed our opinions of what we consider healthy and attractive.  Time was that larger, more obese people were thought of as healthy and attractive while thin people were looked down on.  It's only been in the past generation that opinions have been reversed so that thin and muscular (or just thin) is more attractive than having an extra layer of fat.  Today, Marilyn Monroe would never make it as a sex symbol without dropping a great deal of weight.

People operate under the best information available to them.  Was the shift from fat to thin as an aesthetic an artificial one or a natural evolution as our understanding of human physiology has improved?  It's hard to say.  There are still folk who prefer "Rubenesque" physiques over styles made popular by Twiggy.  I envision the same shift happening from religion to spiritualism or even atheism as our understanding of mental and emotional health improves.

I tend not to pay attention to such extreme interpretations as suggested by circletimessquare.  I'm certain he knows very well I am not and have never suggested a mandate to phase out religion, nor do I condone violating free will by attempting to ban it.  We saw how well that worked in the former Soviet Union.  The change I envision will happen willingly as a consequence of greater understanding, or not at all.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
then please (none / 0) (#130)
by circletimessquare on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 11:24:22 PM EST

reeducate old extremist me

what the fuck is "neurogenesis"?

please, for the sake of mad extremist me, define it in such a way that you are not messing with someone's free will

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

C'mon, you're not even trying now. (none / 0) (#133)
by spaceghoti on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 08:19:50 AM EST

From the beginning of the article:
neurogenesis, the notion that the adult brain grows new neurons instead of stopping at puberty or whenever and simply losing gray matter as time goes on.
This is, of course, my layman's definition.  Then there's the wikipedia explanation, and let us not forget dictionary.com.

Would you like me to define "is" for you, next?

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
what the FUCK is that supposed to do with (none / 0) (#140)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 11:12:07 AM EST

religion exactly?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
I'm done, now. (none / 1) (#142)
by spaceghoti on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 11:41:48 AM EST

If you can't be bothered to read the topic at hand, I'm not going to bother to reply to you any more.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
or rather (1.33 / 3) (#145)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 12:10:17 PM EST

you're fucking daft

loopity loopy loop loop wackjob

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Most people never know (3.00 / 4) (#6)
by Omaze on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 03:58:55 PM EST

Religion is just ceremony or routine.  It's what you revert to when everything else in life is Just Fucked.  Most people never reach this level.  I'm firmly convinced that most agnostics have never had to face homelessness.  After two months of sleeping in a tent, even if you were never religious, you start praying.

It's called hope.

Life is what it is
[ Parent ]

There's a difference (3.00 / 4) (#15)
by curien on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 04:55:25 PM EST

There's a difference between hoping in words (praying to an indefinite god or no god at all) and believing that there's someone on the other end actively helping/hindering you or even just listening.

I suppose I occasionally pray; that doesn't mean I'm not agnostic. I also talk to myself sometimes, but I'm not schizophrenic.

We are not the same. I'm an American, and you're a sick asshole.
[ Parent ]

that's faith (none / 0) (#18)
by circletimessquare on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 05:17:08 PM EST

faith in anything is a form of spirituality, and if you organize that spirituality into forms and procedures, you get a religion

what you describe is the seeds of human behavior from which this religion tree grows

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

astonishingly confused and illogical rant (none / 1) (#8)
by truthiness on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 04:14:01 PM EST

classic CTS! thoroughly entertaining! 3 for you!
"whites ... have been enslaved since the 1960s by civil rights laws and are owed reparations" - baldrson
[ Parent ]
i aim to please nt (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by circletimessquare on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 05:15:33 PM EST

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
lol dawkins (1.80 / 5) (#3)
by tkatchevzz on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 03:51:49 PM EST

teh downskins

What is the Connection? (2.66 / 3) (#4)
by The Solitaire on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 03:53:20 PM EST

OK, assuming that Dr. Gould's research is correct, and depression is caused by a lack of neurogenesis (I am still skeptical of this), all you've got here are two things that are sometimes associated with stress. Sure, stress is associated with depression, and sometimes people "find god" when they are at their worst. I still don't see how the two are connected.

There are other possibilities here. Here are three examples. Note -- I don't endorse any of these, but they would need to be ruled out.

  1. Upon the resumption of neurogenesis, depression ceases, but people are also more prone to god-belief (rational or irrational).
  2. The belief in god changes overall patterns of thinking, leading to neurogenesis, and thus cessation of depression.
  3. Those who are not depressed are more willing to express a belief in god, whereas during depression hid their beliefs.

Furthermore, there are examples of people being depressed, and recovering, all the while steadfastly not believing in god. Likewise, there are many depressed religious people. I don't think that there is even a really solid correlation.

Every link in the chain from stress, to neurogenesis, to god-belief, is flimsy. To make a case, you need a lot more than that.

I need a new sig.

You have to connect the dots. (none / 1) (#9)
by spaceghoti on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 04:15:28 PM EST

If I didn't make it clear, I can re-edit.

I'm not suggesting that everyone who participates in religion is depressed.  I'm suggesting that following the traditions of a religion (Christianity being my best example because of my own experience in it) helps people through difficult times because religion trains them to offload their mental and emotional burdens on a higher power.  They disassociate themselves with their problems, telling themselves it's not their concern because it's all in God's hands.  It's positive thinking after a fashion, one that can offset the effect of negative neurogenesis until they can properly overcome or adapt to the circumstances causing it.  This suggests that religion can promote emotional health, even if it does so through what some may accuse as a ruse.  The placebo effect cannot be wholly disregarded.

I can't give you a clinical study on this, because no such study exists.  The whole field of neurogenesis is in its infancy, and they're still looking at the medical aspects of it.  So far as I can tell, none of the researchers involved have even considered the social aspects beyond the long-term consequences of poverty on brain development.  I am therefore outlining what I suggest may be an informative study, one that will no doubt be highly controversial and probably heretical.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Right (none / 0) (#13)
by maynard on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 04:31:15 PM EST

So your op-ed is speculation of causation based on a non-correlated event (neuro-genesis) to religious rapture. You haven't even offered us readers a testable hypothesis.

However, it might be possible to test for neural growth factors postmortem, which could make for a testable hypothesis (if we knew which factors were responsible for neuro-genesis). Another option might be FMRI or PET scan technology to look for topological blood consumption changes in the brains of the newly religious over time; what that might say is another matter...  

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]

Correct. (none / 0) (#39)
by spaceghoti on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 09:24:14 AM EST

I am speculating at this point.  That's why it's Op-Ed.  Had I been attempting to state proven fact I would have put it under a different section.

The conditions you outline would probably be very useful for a study.  If you can find some volunteers, perhaps you could suggest them to Professor Gould?

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
My suggestions would be too obvious (none / 0) (#68)
by maynard on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 03:41:45 PM EST

or redundant. I'm sure he's better versed in this material than I.

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]
Stress and neurogenesis (none / 0) (#34)
by Znork on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 06:11:46 AM EST

"OK, assuming that Dr. Gould's research is correct, and depression is caused by a lack of neurogenesis"

Actually, if I remember correctly, the actual causality chain is stress hormones inhibit neurogenesis, and long term exposure causes degradation of the hippocampus, leading to the overt symptoms of stress related burnout/depression, such as memory problems and various related cognitive disorders.

Reduction in stress will reduce the stress hormone production, allowing neurogenesis to resume, thus leading to recovery of cognitive functions after burnout/trauma. This is a slow process though, often leading to very long periods of reduced capacity for the afflicted.

This article itself is pretty far offtopic; like you say, the correlation is strained in the extreme. Usually related research and debate (and this isnt really 'news', you can find a large body of research with a simple google serach of the related terms) tends to focus on the actual problems causing the stress levels in the first place and/or generally applicable coping skills like change of scenery, fresh air/exercise and regular sleep, related to the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in more direct ways (ie, making the body and brain think, or reasserting that, there actually is/has been a successful fight/flight response and it can shut the hell up with the stone-age primordial hormones of phear already).

[ Parent ]

Granted (none / 0) (#42)
by The Solitaire on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 09:46:03 AM EST

I have to admit, I didn't even RTFA. :) I have some background in neuroscience, and I know that nothing is ever as simple as I made it out to be in that post. :)

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]
I think God has an opinion on your OP-ED: (3.00 / 4) (#7)
by maynard on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 04:05:43 PM EST


Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
Cute. (3.00 / 2) (#10)
by spaceghoti on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 04:17:44 PM EST

Thank you for your intelligent and helpful contribution, Brother Maynard.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
You're welcome (none / 0) (#11)
by maynard on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 04:20:33 PM EST

I see you've chosen your .sig well...

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]
Hmm.. +1 SP. (2.66 / 9) (#14)
by TheNoxx on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 04:44:05 PM EST

Interesting, well written... Might use a little more meaningful philosophical pontification, but hell, what couldn't.

Most of the things you mention are fairly similar to my own reasons for leaving christianity for buddhism: I did not see anything relevant in the bible aside from the teachings of Christ; and while these were wonderful things, there was much more wisdom and profound nature found in Buddhist thought. Everything else in the bible is a bunch of hearsay and folk-lore. If I don't believe people who make up shit about spirits and angels today, why would I take the word of someone who talked about them in a more brutal, primitive, and dark time, let alone those words after being mistranslated over a few thousand years?
However, I will say that most purely anti-religious folk (namely Dawkins), really get on my nerves. They simply miss the bloody point of humanity and spirituality in general, shit, of beauty and truth in general. Often their reasons are more childlike than the people they rant against; they simply don't want to have to grow up or face something greater than themselves. I find little redeeming quality in people of this sort whatsoever. I am saying this because on many occasions, when I tell an intense atheist that I am buddhist, they get the wrong impression that I agree with them on some level, when in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. Religion has been the guiding light of civilization for thousands of years, an acknowledgement of the truth of sentience and being, and to follow that light. All in all, material technology and chemistry and science are good things, but are essentially meaningless outside of the human condition.

One thing that has been predicted (3.00 / 6) (#20)
by jolly st nick on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 05:44:41 PM EST

I did not see anything relevant in the bible aside from the teachings of Christ; and while these were wonderful things, there was much more wisdom and profound nature found in Buddhist thought.

I've heard the speculation that the twenty first century will see the end of religious authority. People will become like the proverbial "cafeteria Cathlolics", only it'll be more like a religious bazaar in which you can place almost any combination of beliefs and practices on your plate.

It certainly seems plausible to me on several counts. The world is a smaller place, so people increasingly find themselves in a marketplace of ideas and beliefs. And people don't have too highly developed a sense of consistency. No religion succeeds without speaking to people's inner lives on a certain level. It's but small step from there to compiling a kind of "greatest hits of religious thought" belief system.

I read recently an interview with Dr. Sayeed Hussein Nasr, and muslim Iranian intellecual (from his name I presume Shiite). He talks at one point about how whenever Islam is talked about in the west, it's always in the context of "reform". He said something to the effect that the problem with people everywhere is that they want to reform everything but themselves. From his standpoint the Osama Bin Ladens of the world are simply the muslim manifestation of the impulse toward outward directed "reform".

The snippet from your post above made me think of this interview, because he goes on to say that the great religions of the world each offer a distinct and complete path towards this kind of inner reform, if their adherents would only follow that path. I have great sympathy for the Buddhist standpoint. I also have great sympathy for the Christian standpoint. However, one thing Christians could learn from Buddhists is that Buddhism makes allowance for doubt and divergent, beliefs, even allowing that belief can evolve as one matures; it's the path that matters. And, in point of fact early Christianity wasn't called Christianity, it was called The Way.

Sometimes the Christian obsession with dogma makes me want to throw up my hands. How can anybody believe something all the time? And there is more to "teachings" than catechizing doctrine. As I watch the progress of "Christianity" as it muscles its way into politics, I wonder whatever became of Christian practice.

[ Parent ]

Amalgams (none / 0) (#21)
by zephc on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 08:13:06 PM EST

"People will become like the proverbial "cafeteria Cathlolics", only it'll be more like a religious bazaar in which you can place almost any combination of beliefs and practices on your plate."

c.f. The First Amalgamated Church

[ Parent ]

Would you trust a religion (none / 0) (#44)
by jolly st nick on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 09:57:48 AM EST

who's very name is an untruth?

"First" indeed. Syncretic development is the norm in religion, not the exception.

[ Parent ]

You seem sure religion exists. (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 09:10:30 PM EST

Fascinating. What other taxonomies of culture are explained by whirling particles?

Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.

teh Jews! (nt) (1.50 / 2) (#27)
by tetsuwan on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 02:47:37 AM EST

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

i'm serious (none / 1) (#28)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 03:09:29 AM EST

While there is data for human experiences and expressions we call religion, there is none for religion itself. I'm suggesting maybe we imagine religion; it springs into existence when we make comparisons and generalizations designed to trigger a cognitive response in others.

The author quotes Marx about religion being the opiate of the masses. Yet Marx sought to reveal the mystery of social life in the mystic form of capital! And I have no doubt he knew capital in revelatory experiences the same way St-Augustine knew soul, Darwin evolution, and Ramanujan number. How is one supposed to single out the intense inarticulate experiences and intuitions felt by saints and prophets from those felt by geniuses in economics, biology and math without making arbitrary (i.e. cultural) comparisons and generalizations?

Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
[ Parent ]

We'll have none of that here... (none / 1) (#152)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 04:49:05 PM EST

...you dirty nominalist!

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

[ Parent ]
Does this (2.33 / 3) (#25)
by alphaxer0 on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 10:42:34 PM EST

outweigh the horrific violence perpatrated by religious believers. The most profilic and deadly sub-state terrorist groups in history, like Al-Qaeda, the Ustashi, Thugs, and assassins have been religiously motivated.

In contrast, left wing and communist groups have generally engaged in comparatively limited violence. Red Army Faction, GRAPO, ETA, IRA, and the rest have never killed as many as the Ustashi did the 1941-45 period.

um ya.... (none / 0) (#29)
by jubal3 on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 03:47:17 AM EST

cause Stalin hardly hurt anyone....come again?

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
I did limit myself (none / 1) (#30)
by alphaxer0 on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 03:59:48 AM EST

to sub-state terrorist groups, though the 750,000- 1,000,000 killed by the Ustashi might have beaten Stalin in regard to proportion of the population killed.

[ Parent ]
Stalin's religion (none / 1) (#31)
by alphaxer0 on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 04:09:08 AM EST

I know it's probably tacky to double respond to one a post, but I remember reading Stalin's Hangmen, that Stalin's atheism was not "complete" and it was more a rebellion against God, rather a lack of belief in him.
(Rayfield, Stalin's Hangmen, 12)

Tito was another Communist leader who religious leanings were also questioned. Before his decision to try Archbishop Stepnic, he referred to himself as a "fellow Catholic", a remark that deeply disturbed his followers, particulaly Djilas, who had the remark purged from the public record

[ Parent ]

lol what (1.33 / 3) (#40)
by tkatchevzz on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 09:32:58 AM EST

grasping at straws is not an olympic sport, kthx bye kill yrself

[ Parent ]
yes (none / 0) (#61)
by alphaxer0 on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 02:37:03 PM EST

because stating facts, particularly those backed with evidence, is grasping at straws.

[ Parent ]
lol (none / 1) (#62)
by tkatchevzz on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 02:53:20 PM EST

oh noes the insane trollery force has b0rken my trollometer.

unfortunately, it doesn't seem to go past eleven.

[ Parent ]

whats (none / 0) (#69)
by alphaxer0 on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 03:46:44 PM EST

a troll?

[ Parent ]
it's... (1.50 / 2) (#73)
by tkatchevzz on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 04:15:20 PM EST

...a tacky toy for dumb kids.


[ Parent ]

*sigh* (none / 0) (#181)
by khallow on Sun Mar 19, 2006 at 05:18:26 PM EST

Let us not forget that "Communism" as it was practiced in the USSR and elsewhere was a religion (or at least institutionalized ideology). One does not need to come up with some taint from another religion (especially one as mild as 20th century Catholicism or Judaism) to explain the fanaticism of 20th century "Communism".

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Nice troll, but Mao killed 30 million people. (none / 1) (#116)
by Russell Dovey on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 03:26:35 PM EST

And he was a godless commie bastard.

Religion is not required to be a mass murderer.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

There are no atheists on the front line. (3.00 / 6) (#26)
by driptray on Mon Mar 06, 2006 at 11:58:48 PM EST

I've always read that quote differently.

It's only religious people who like to go to war. The athiests are either pacifists or have something better to do.
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating

Ridiculous (none / 1) (#37)
by Lenticular Array on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 09:14:32 AM EST

What about conscientious objectors?
[ Parent ]
omg, logic! (3.00 / 2) (#41)
by curien on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 09:41:18 AM EST

He didn't say ALL religious people are warmongers, he said ONLY religious people are warmongers. Learn to fucking read.

We are not the same. I'm an American, and you're a sick asshole.
[ Parent ]
OK. (none / 1) (#51)
by Lenticular Array on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 11:43:40 AM EST

So the set of all athiests is a subset of all effete intellectuals? Surely you don't think there's not even one counter-example?
[ Parent ]
Of course I do (none / 0) (#54)
by curien on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 12:42:51 PM EST

He was obviously exaggerating/generalizing. I didn't say I agree with him, but he's wrong for pretty much the opposite reason from what you originally said.

We are not the same. I'm an American, and you're a sick asshole.
[ Parent ]
A1 (none / 0) (#52)
by spaceghoti on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 11:46:01 AM EST

The draft is no respecter of persons, nor philosophies.

Otherwise, I trust you compehend the actual meaning behind the phrase?

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
I think upbringing is the reason for that (none / 1) (#87)
by BerntB on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 11:47:04 PM EST

First, I have heard it described less than prayer and more as begging. Artillery fire on a position could last for a long time and there is nothing else for young boys of 20 to beg for their lifes.... :-(

Very few of the people that grow up without religious indoctrination before 5-6 years of age will become religious -- and those people never seem fully stable. The Scandinavian countries is an example. We have "lost our religion" the last fifty years because of that. Symmetrically, the children inflicted with a religious rearing at an early age, will never really shake it fully.

So most atheist soldiers will have those ideas deeply buried in their psyche. Then, when they start to fear for their life, this early mindwash comes out again. Shudder.

If there ever comes a war to Scandinavia again (-: god forbid!:-), read interviews in psychology magazines later to test if it works the same for us that end up in foxholes.

[ Parent ]

That's a common misconception (none / 1) (#101)
by jolly st nick on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 10:37:58 AM EST

Even my brother-in-law, a scholar who has written books on semiotics and national identity, is prone to broad pronouncements on religion leading to war.

As satisfying as it is to have such a ready answer to the world's problems, it is, frankly, humbug.

There has been no evidence that holders secular ideologies have been hampered by their lack of religion in going to war and committing atrocities. When prosecuting a war, regimes use every tool at hand, including religion, economic theory, racial hygeine, and historical determinism. Religion simply flows into and takes the shape of the vessel prepared for it by the engineers of warfare.

[ Parent ]

Bzzt! Wrong! (none / 1) (#110)
by Cro Magnon on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 02:03:15 PM EST

1. Atheists are just as warlike as religious people.

2. What that famous saying really means is that when you've got mortars blowing all around you, you're going to start praying, even if you were an atheist going into the foxhole. You'll also probably start blubering like a baby, but that's a seperate saying.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]

lifelong learning is crucial to happiness (3.00 / 4) (#32)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 04:56:05 AM EST

I am completely convinced that the fact that I've always worked hard to learn new things is one of the reasons I have done so well despite my mental illness.

Most people I know who share my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder sit around all day doing nothing. All of these people fare very poorly.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

IAAWTP (none / 1) (#50)
by toulouse on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 11:35:05 AM EST

I think that once you've decided to stop learning, it's basically equivalent to calling it a day, and your mindset thereafter reflects that.

The trouble, though, is that the daily grind leaves most people without the time and energy to delve into a bout of serious learning. I recently got hold of Hume's philosophy and a second-hand copy of Kandel's 'Neuroscience'. Whenever I've spent some time working at either, I've found myself enthused and fascinated by the ideas and facts contained within; the trouble is that it's hard work. A wise man once said, "The trouble is that knowledge acquisition is like mountain climbing: Exhilarating, but tiring. Nobody wants to go mountain climbing before going to bed."

This is not an assertion in support of being an ignorant slacker, but more a comment on the western world's work-life balance.

'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki

[ Parent ]
That's just it: real learning takes hard work (3.00 / 2) (#81)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 05:33:13 PM EST

even after repeated psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts, I completed my physics degree, and even studied in grad school for a while.

But physics wasn't working out, so I taught myself to program, and at my peak earned a hundred ten thousand in one year. During all this time, I was able to provide for myself.

I'm not into programming the way I used to be, so now I work at writing and my music. But I work very hard at them both, with two or more hours every single day spent at my piano.

But had I listened the many times my doctors told me to give up work or school, and go on disability? I'd be a vegetable by now, maybe institutionalized, or dead of suicide. I'm certain of it.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

[ Parent ]

Meh. Opiates indeed. (2.60 / 5) (#33)
by Znork on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 05:17:31 AM EST

"It works. I've seen it happen. I believe them when they tell me that they're better off."

That's a good argument for dosing the freshwater supply with anti-depressants.

Now, you had one for religion as well, you said?

(I mean, really. How about, instead of various coping strategies and ways of dealing with the fact that life sucks, we try to focus on making life not suck instead? Specifically we can start out with not engaging in coping strategies that to a large extent make other peoples life suck. At least FDA approved psychopharmaceuticals dont, as a rule, turn people into raving crucaders hell-bent on nailing everyone that doesnt agree with them to a tree.)

Taking thing for granted (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by bml on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 06:23:01 AM EST

If I followed your logic correctly, you seem to be asserting the following:
  1. Embracing a Religion relieves stress
  2. Stress relief re-activates neurogenesis
  3. Neurogenesis causes happines
  4. Therefore, religion can make you happy
I have to problems with this. First, I didn't see anything in your article supporting point 3. I don't see how "more neurons = more happiness" necessarily. Also, I think less stress is enough to make you happy without having to throw neurogenesis in the mess.

Please let me know if I got it wrong.

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey

It's pretty interesting stuff (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by Aneurin on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 07:21:03 AM EST

From my limited understanding, increased stress causes an increase in cortisol levels. This leads to  the death and shrinkage of neurons; a stop of neurogenesis in the hippocampus and frontal lobes. When stress levels are reduced and cortiscol levels reduce, neurogenesis restarts.

It has been noted that prolonged lack of neurogenesis is related to depression (behavioral changes including more being more withdrawn etc.), and those that have it kickstarted again do in fact become happier or perhaps more accurately, become less depressed.

The research is from what I gather, aimed at depression and prolonged lack of neurogenesis so I can understand the obvious "less stress is enough to make you happy", but there is more going on than we realise.
Just think: the entire Internet, running on jazz. -Canthros

[ Parent ]

Yeah, I got that, but (none / 1) (#45)
by bml on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 10:05:43 AM EST

correlation does not equal causation.

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]
You're right. (none / 1) (#53)
by Aneurin on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 12:37:34 PM EST

That said, chronic major depression and manic-depression/bipolar disorder are sometimes considered rather similar to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's due to the evident brain cell loss and shrinkage.

Read some of Dr. Husseini Manji's research; he works for the NIMH if I recall correctly-- it's really good stuff. Granted, he makes no claims about causation and only works on drug development, but there is a growing consensus that neurotropic factors are more important a cause of such illness (and 'cure') than just issues with neurotransmitters. I find this stuff pretty fascinating (aslo useful as I'm manic-depressive myself) and the more I learn about it, the more I seem to agree.

The brain is pretty damn complex. :-/
Just think: the entire Internet, running on jazz. -Canthros

[ Parent ]

This neurology aficionado thanks you for (none / 1) (#59)
by bml on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 02:15:58 PM EST

the reference

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]
Step 3 (none / 1) (#46)
by jolly st nick on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 10:30:43 AM EST

3. Neurogenesis causes happiness

I think this overstates the case. There are a whole lot of mental states that are neither stress, nor happiness. It would be more precise to say that 3. Neuorgenesis is healthy, therefore 4. Religion is healthy, at least from a biological perspective.

That said, that religion can make you feel happy is as self evident as the fact that religion can make you feel guilty, ashamed, and fearful.

[ Parent ]

...and I don't see support for point #1... [nt] (none / 1) (#118)
by pb on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 04:51:15 PM EST

"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
There isn't much. (none / 0) (#121)
by spaceghoti on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 05:03:05 PM EST

It's a purely subjective observation, and totally insupportable.  Having made the original assertion in my article, I freely admit that flaw in my reasoning.  However, my experiences being what they are, I stand by it.  A great deal of new converts to religions, philosophies and similar entities experience a "honeymoon" period where they feel enthusiastic about their newfound enlightenment.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Religion as a byproduct of biology (3.00 / 2) (#47)
by wiredog on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 11:13:43 AM EST

From The Atlantic
Is God an Accident?
Recently psychologists doing research on the minds of infants have discovered two related facts that may account for this phenomenon. One: human beings come into the world with a predisposition to believe in supernatural phenomena. And two: this predisposition is an incidental by-product of cognitive functioning gone awry.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

Timely and topical. (none / 0) (#49)
by spaceghoti on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 11:30:54 AM EST


"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
The Atlantic tends to be that way. (none / 0) (#60)
by wiredog on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 02:36:54 PM EST

It's definitely worth the subscription.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Sounds like absolute and utter horseshit. (none / 0) (#80)
by TheNoxx on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 05:29:15 PM EST

Rarely do I come across such a wildly improbable and radical conclusion with absolutely no citation of the study or its authenticity. How, exactly, would a psychologist properly probe the unshaped and fertile mind of an infant for its concept of a subject so incredibly profound and complex and spirituality and being?

This is the kind of egregious academic and scholarly irresponsibility and immaturity that drives me up the wall.

[ Parent ]
And .... (none / 0) (#94)
by jolly st nick on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 10:00:49 AM EST

biology is a product of ...?

** ducks for cover under asbestos blanket **

[ Parent ]

It's fairly simple really (2.50 / 4) (#55)
by balsamic vinigga on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 12:58:54 PM EST

I don't care if you're religious, agnostic, or atheist. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY needs some level of hope and faith to function.  Some people put that faith in themselves and the people they're close to, others in God.  People who have had difficult lives have a much harder time finding faith and hope - and that's no surprise.  For these people i'm thankful to religion because they can often reach them when shrinks, drugs, good advice, and science cannot.

It's no secret that you're going on about this underdeveloped notion of "neurogenesis" bullshit either, because obviously science is where YOUR faith lies.

Please help fund a Filipino Horror Movie. It's been in limbo since 2007 due to lack of funding. Please donate today!

Belief (none / 0) (#56)
by spaceghoti on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 01:06:13 PM EST

I think there's more to it than simple belief.  I think there's a definable medical process that we're just beginning to understand that governs this.  I think mastery over this will help improve us and allow us to overcome previous shortcomings.

Perhaps science is the new religion.  But I'm far more comfortable with a religion that checks its facts rather than a religion that makes spurious claims for the sake of intangible benefits.  If worshiping science will help make our lives better than with previous methods, then I will embrace it and join the priesthood.

For the moment I'm speculating.  I never claimed otherwise.  If you're feeling that your beliefs are being challenged, I think it's all the better.  We should always revisit and re-challenge our beliefs, particularly if we're not in the habit of asking why we believe them.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Science will never be able to help some (none / 0) (#57)
by balsamic vinigga on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 01:13:19 PM EST

if science tells a cancer patient they have a year to live they'll need to find faith in something else.  And if they can't, lack of faith is what breaks people.

I need not turn to religion or science for the time being.  I've had a plush and peaceful life so far so I find it easy to put faith in myself and my family, friends, and fellow man.  That's enough to keep me healthy and of able mind and body.

Please help fund a Filipino Horror Movie. It's been in limbo since 2007 due to lack of funding. Please donate today!
[ Parent ]

Myth and Meaning (none / 1) (#91)
by jolly st nick on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 09:30:49 AM EST

A medical explanation for religion is not unprecedented. Freud thought religion was a means of dealing with psychological conflicts, which in turn were rooted in reproduction and surivival. "Anatomy is destiny."

I am currently reading a Dover paperbook on Chinese myths and legends from the late 19th or early 20th century. It is written from the infuriatingly superior racial pseudoscience perspective, where the author writes in an olympian way about the Chinese character, which is on one hand "sober" and "industrious", on the other "crafty" and "libidibnous". The author is very much taken with the 19th C. idea that myth is a kind of obsolete science, used to explain things like floods and lightning to the ignorant and, frankly childish minds of savages.

The thing is, neither of these viewpoints is demonstrably wrong. In natural things, evolved things are parts of systems and systems in themselves, there is a certain complexity. The identification of a role such a thing plays in a larger context doesn't explain that thing in a comprehensive and exclusive way.

I am quite certain however that Science is not a new religion, nor can it be until our understanding of the brain is far in advance of where we are today. Science is about the observable and demonstrable; it is backed by mathematics, which amplifies it by giving it a method of reasoning to new hypotheses. Religion is about the subjective, what is felt personally; it is about meaning. It too has a methodology for amplifying what is felt into greater levels of perception. That mechanism is myth. Myth, in the past, has served the uneducated classes in the way the 19th century sociolists noted. It may even serve our psyches in the way Freud believed. But these don't preclude other, more sophisticated uses of myth.

I'd argue that while the general level of education in scientific matters is at an all time high, there has been no such corresponding increase in the public on the matter of mythology. I think it may be an exaggeration to say we are mythologically impovershed; I don't have the evidence to say conclusively this is so. The majority of people are vulnerable to manipulation using mythological reasoning by the sophisticated, but this is not exactly new. However an intimate connection with the storyteller is not as common as it once was. We are most likely to encounter an archetypal theme, such as the haunted house, in entertainment, which is to say it is used merely to stimulate and divert. This may be a form of impovershment.

[ Parent ]

speculation on religion (3.00 / 7) (#58)
by sophacles on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 01:23:05 PM EST

I think there may be something to this.  I think it may have less to do with religion than say, beleif in a god (defined here something that I have no control over that can affect my life profoundly).  Part of accepting religion/becoming religious is accepting and believing in god(s).  That is the key.

This acceptance is a way to allow a person to stop attempting to conrol every factor of thier life. When a person says "It is god's will that that person ran a stop sign and totaled my favorite car.", they are also saying, "I accept that I had no control over the idiot driver of the other car, I can't fix it, I cant and couldn't control the outcome."  This is a useful tool because it reduces the stress of being in control of every little detail of life.

I think that (poorly written) explaination has more to do with it than the actual religion.  The Religion is just a tool for generating that acceptance. Perhaps I should say spirituality when I say religion.

Another angle on the same thought (hopefully to clarify a little, by way of strained analogy).

When I am learning a new library in a programming language, I treat it as a black box. I send inputs, I get results.  As I become framiliar with the behavior, I can start using more advanced features of the library, and can break the library into several other black boxes. (example, file.read() at first, until I am comfortable with it, then file.read(20) and file.readline(), become smaller blackboxes for me).  At some point I understand what is happening in a lot of the library, but there is some functionality that is either not that useful to me, or too complex for me to understand.  I leave those areas alone as black boxes. This ability allows me to create a program without understanding everything.

Likewise accepting a god, or even lack of control, allows people to blackbox phenomena they dont understand for now, and get on with life. Maybe later they will understand, or wont, but for right now, they aren't so overwhelmed.

On religion vs spirituality:
I have this suspicion that relgion is the result of people trying to share accpentance tools with each other (especially when there is a lack of decent scientific understanding).  Someone doesnt quite get what they are told, but think "hey it works for this guy" so they do the same.  Since they dont understand all the way, they become rigid in thier tool use, and ritual develops. Later when they meet someone else who has a different tool (and the someone else doesnt quite get that) they kill each other because of lack of understanding.  When a person does understand the tool, and tries to expand/explain/experiment with its use, well that is heresy, and the only cure for that is fire.

-1, oxycodone unmentioned (1.40 / 5) (#84)
by AlwaysAnonyminated on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 07:29:17 PM EST

Posted from my Droid 2.
Tried to make it a non-rant (1.75 / 4) (#85)
by debacle on Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 07:43:25 PM EST

Failed miserably.

Sorry, dumping.

It tastes sweet.

+1 - Neurogenesis (none / 0) (#89)
by k31 on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 01:35:33 AM EST

I like Neurogenesis, so +1 to section for me.

Your dollar is you only Word, the wrath of it your only fear. He who has an EAR to hear....
Missuse of buzzwords (3.00 / 4) (#99)
by Sgt York on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 10:30:47 AM EST

Learning is associated mostly with plasticity, and not so much with neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the formation of new neurons. Plasticity is the formation, removal, and alteration of the connections of existing neurons. Plasticity is how we learn, neurogenesis is how we heal.

The production of BDNF in response to Prozac is an interesting find, but not for the reasons you are thinking. It is thought that learning is a rewarded behavior in humans. This makes sense; our big evolutionary advantage is our ability to learn. Using this advantage should be wired into a reward pathway. This has led to the theory that some forms of depression are due to decreased plasticity in the brain, leading to decreased learning capacity which results in a lowered reward potential, tipping the balance to depression.

By promoting the formation of new connections through the generation of BDNF, the reduction in plasticity is countered, the brain can learn, the reward patrhways are activated, and depression is lifted.

Oh, and our brains can't recover from injury like other tissues. Whenever there is tissue damage, architecture is disrupted. This is OK in many tissues, like liver, skin, and muscle, but the brain is orders of magnitude more complex than those structures, and it is the architecture itself that provides the function.

As for a critique of the essay, it's well-written, but distasteful to me. I really don't like aphorisms, cliches, and anecdotes mixed into a logical argument with scientific facts and jargon. Switching gears like that gives me whiplash in the brain, and it gives me a headache.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.

Fairly said. (none / 0) (#102)
by spaceghoti on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 11:09:04 AM EST

If depression, plasticity and neurogenesis are linked as tightly as it appears to me, it seems that anything that promotes neurogenesis also promotes an increased capacity for learning.  Naturally we will run into diminishing returns, but where there is inhibition of trophic factors, there is inhibition of general function.  As the article says, when the brain is worried it focuses only on survival.

Thus, anything that promotes neurogenesis also promotes healthy functioning.  A society that helps its members cope with depression will be more successful than a society that doesn't.  This is how I think neurogenesis ties in with religion.

I agree that the brain is a complex organism, and disrupting its structure will have necessarily debilitating effects.  But until recently, medical science was of the opinion that once this happens, the brain is stuck that way.  It can do nothing to generate new structures to counter this damage.  We are aware that people can recover some functionality from traumatic damage like strokes, but I believe it was assumed that the brain re-routed through existing neurons.  This new research suggests to me that the brain could be stimulated to grow new neurons that can be taught to take up the function of the old, dead neurons.  Perhaps it's wishful thinking on my part, but just because we don't know how to do it today doesn't mean we can't figure out some way to approach it in the future.  First we had to figure out that it was possible.

I am sorry that this piece was so distasteful for you.  My intention was not to throw a bunch of buzzwords into a blender and hit frappe.  My intention was to suggest a new perspective, and to demonstrate how I arrived there.  In spite of my admittedly authoritarian tone, I do not assume that my conclusions are entirely accurate.  I may have glimpsed only part of the truth, or perhaps not at all.  There's certainly nothing to back up my musings, just a thought train that arrives at a theory I like.  The next step is, naturally, to test the theory.  I do not have the training or resources to carry out this experiment, but I thought I would put the idea out there to generate some thought and discussion on the topic.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
There is a difference (none / 0) (#104)
by Sgt York on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 11:50:05 AM EST

To alter function, most tissues modify existing cells. Offhand, I can only think of two systems that make new cells to modify function (hematopoetic & microvascular). When a muscle needs to increase carrying capacity, no new myocytes are made, existing myocytes just get larger. When the liver needs to react to a new level of waste product or toxin, you don't get new hepatocytes, you get hepatocytes with more ER. When the brain learns, you don't get new brain cells, you get more nerve terminals (synapses).

Proliferation (like neurogenesis) is a response to injury. Plasticity is a modification of function. Proliferation in the absence of injury is generally a very bad thing. It's fibroid at the best and cancer at the worst. That's not to say that they aren't linked, though. They are, very much so. But they do not have the same function. Neurogenesis alone will not promote learning, as that learning requires the formation of new or modification of existing synaptic connections. However, plasticty alone will promote learning, as that it is the actual formation of new connections. Neurogenesis plays a role in the restoration of function lost due to injury. Plasticity plays a role in the gain of new function in response to environmental stimuli. Proliferation is similar, but in response to the very specific stimulus of tissue damage. It's like the difference between mending a sprained wrist and lifting weights. One attempts to restore function, the other gives rise to improved function.

And just to clarify, I didn't say it was bad, just not to my liking. No need to apologize for differences in taste. It's like saying I don't want to eat the cake you made because I hate coconut. I'm sure those that like coconut will love the cake1.

1not trying to imply you're a nut ;)

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Thank you for the clarification (none / 0) (#106)
by spaceghoti on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 12:42:08 PM EST

I think I see what you're talking about.  Neurogenesis itself isn't the holy grail of mental function, it's the process by which a brain attempts to repair and regenerate itself.  We know all cells in the body die and are replaced, but it wasn't until recently that we understood that the brain's cells replace themselves.  Depression results in the brain failing to replace those lost cells in spite of the fact that they're still dying.

I remember reading somewhere that the higher functions of our brains take up a significant portion of the energy we consume, that we traded it for the musculature of other animals.  So this inhibition of neurogenesis could be explained as the body attempting to conserve energy during a crisis.  Of course, we have no conscious control over this, so the brain can't distinguish between a genuine crisis and an internal (emotional) one.  Training ourselves to limit the inhibition of trophic factors can help us improve our overall functionality, but this is not necessarily related to learning.

I can appreciate this not being your preference.  This article is largely philosophical, suggesting social implications for what are otherwise facts generated by pure scientific research.  For someone who focuses on the data, such speculation can be...tedious.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Neurogenesis (none / 0) (#108)
by Sgt York on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 01:59:02 PM EST

It's probably not a high-level baseline process. Most likely, it is induced as needed, under special circumstances. It's certainly more common than we thought a few decades ago, but it's almost certainly not as prevelent as proliferation in say, the gut or the liver. But, the facts aren't all in. It's up in the air at this point, but it could be quite high. Nervous tissue and skin come from the same source cells in development, and skin proliferates like crazy, even at baseline. But that is pure speculation. Based on the requirements of the brain, proliferation is most likely kept in check. The brain doesn't have a lot of room to grow.

Also, a tidbit you'll probably like: A few years ago, a study was done on mothers of boys. On postmortem, they found cells in many tissues that had Y chromosomes. They even found neurons with Y chromosomes. This is earthshaking, as that is shows that fetal cells can leave the uterus, enter the bloodstream, and colonize other tissues, including the brain.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

I don't (none / 1) (#103)
by starsky on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 11:45:27 AM EST

think any religion does specify that God 'micromanages our affairs'. See 'free will' for details.

Anglican or Lutheran? (none / 1) (#109)
by spaceghoti on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 01:59:31 PM EST

Are you familiar with the phrase, "it's in God's hands?"  It's a very common thing to say among folk who talk about various crisis and details in their lives.  "I want this promotion, but it's God's will."  There's a prevailing attitude among many Christians that all things that happen are God's will, that he manages the details.

I remember but can't find a passage in Judeo-Christian scripture about being admonished to be not concerned for food or drink, clothing or shelter because God will provide.

If that isn't micro-managing our lives, I don't know what is.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
You're thinking of the "Great Discourse" (none / 1) (#113)
by jolly st nick on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 03:13:29 PM EST

From Luke 12:27 and Matthew 6:25 on.

From the Gospel of Matthew:

Therefore I say to you, Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Behold the birds of the air: they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to the span of his life?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they do not toil, nor do they spin:

And yet I say to you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Therefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?

Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, With what shall we be clothed?

After all these things the Gentiles seek: but your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.

But seek first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.

Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow shall be anxious for itself. Sufficient for each day are the troubles of its own.

One of the rare instances where the Gospel of Matthew is, from a literary standpoint, more worth quoting than Luke.

In any case, you could interpret this as Jesus saying that God will fix things for you so everything comes out alright. Some people do, even Christians. But this strikes me as misguided to the point of being a bit obtuse, more useful as a straw man than a guide to understanding. Surely the people he was speaking to were no strangers to hardship and suffering. The keys to these passages are: "Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to the span of his life?", and "Sufficient for each day are the troubles of its own." It's about exactly what you are speaking of in your article.

There is a Rabbi and Talmudist in Jeruselem named Adam Steinsalz, who is famous for his splendid exegesis of the Song of Songs. I once read an interview with him in which he asserts that faith is not so much a matter of belief, whihc it is usually made out to be, as it is a matter of trust.

The passage you are remembering is about trust, not because God will make everything all right, but because without trust we suffer.

[ Parent ]

Pat Robertson's does [n/t] (none / 1) (#114)
by Herring on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 03:22:42 PM EST

Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
[ Parent ]
+1FP (none / 0) (#119)
by creature on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 04:51:17 PM EST

This is one magnificent troll. The arguments are going to go on for weeks.

but I don't like conflict, its scary!!! (none / 0) (#123)
by emo kid on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 05:45:02 PM EST

[ Parent ]
BUCK UP SOLDIER! (none / 0) (#138)
by Mylakovich on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 10:02:30 AM EST


[ Parent ]
someone make him stop!!! (none / 0) (#148)
by emo kid on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 02:36:28 PM EST

[ Parent ]
opiates (3.00 / 2) (#129)
by jsnow on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 10:27:23 PM EST

I'm pretty sure television has superceded religion as the opiate of the masses quite some time ago for most of the world.

IAWTP nt (none / 0) (#131)
by sewerpipe on Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 11:54:51 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Religion is to faith as a hamburger is to a cow (2.80 / 5) (#132)
by Low End Dan on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 07:44:29 AM EST

Well thought out - and so much to comment on.

First, let's look at the difference between faith and religion. Faith is your belief in how things work - whether that's with a deity or that the universe just is. Faith in science lets us believe that the universe operates according to understandable rules. Faith in a deity lets us believe that things like love, justice, and ethics have a basis in creation; they didn't simply come about due to social evolution.

When people have faith, they have confidence, hope, and trust. This changes people, especially those facing death, abandonment, and other losses that can be so overwhelming. Faith gives you a more positive outlook - science will find a cure for my disease, I will be reunited with my wife in heaven, etc.

Religion is to faith what a MacDonald's hamburger is to a cow. The cow is alive, enjoys sunshine, eats grass, produces milk, and is part of nature. A MacDonald's hamburger is made from ground up, fried bits of dead cows with a big fluffy white wheat bun and a few other tasty toppings.

Religious systems can be positive or negative, but there is a tendency toward rules and turning off the grey matter. It's easier to believe that everyone needs to trust Jesus for their salvation or they will burn eternally in a lake of fire. It's harder to say and live out that because God loves me I need to love all parts of his creation - even the people who hurt me.

If your father is becoming more negative, don't ascribe that to his faith. It's more likely from narrow legalistic teachings that some hold to so they can feel superior to everybody who believes different. There's still cow between the buns, but it is sometimes hard to recognize after its been ground up and fried.

Maybe one day we'll outgrow our need to deny a God who lovingly crafted the universe, saw humanity embrace sin and turn away, yet continues to love us and always offers to embrace us.

I'll take that over materialism or deism any day.

Dan Knight

Education (none / 1) (#134)
by spaceghoti on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 08:44:54 AM EST

In the end, I think it all comes down to education:  the better educated we are about our bodies and lives, the better we can make informed choices for ourselves and our society.  Granted, some people don't want to be educated, and I can't deny them their right to remain ignorant.

Having said that, I will concede that if research sufficiently demonstrates to me that God (in whatever form It chooses to manifest) wants me to put on my Sunday best and sit in a row with other folk and listen to someone about the best way to worship, then I will do that.

Religion serves the purpose of education:  educating people on how have faith.  Faith serves...God?  We really can't know this, and not everyone is willing to make the leap without sufficient evidence.  That is, of course, the very definition of faith.  However much it may satisfy you, it isn't going to work for everyone.  For one, I can't discount the sheer number of religions and interpretations of religions.  That doesn't even go into the potential for abuse, which is another rant I've discussed in an Op-Ed long ago.

In the meanwhile, we've got some very competent folk trying to reverse engineer the source code, to pick apart the pieces of our world and figure out how they come together.  This article discusses one such path of research that's yielded startling results.  Reading the section on Prozac and the role of neurogenesis in treating depression really got my attention.  A common factor among people who are under crisis is that they tend to turn toward faith to relieve them of their burdens.  This then suggests that faith and religion are a traditional form of, if you'll forgive my blasphemy, anti-depressant.

Social construct or divine will?  You're telling me the latter, but I don't think we can really discount the former.  I know you're solidly convinced that God is willing and able to micromanage your life on a personal level, but I'm happier with my questions, because I find the answers we're coming up with are very interesting.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Questions are good (none / 0) (#136)
by Low End Dan on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 09:34:47 AM EST

You raise more good questions. Religion is a form of education, as is science. And some religions believe in all the believers dressing up on Sunday morning, sitting quietly in the same row they have every week, and hearing a sermon on how to better comform to that particular strain of religion.

True faith is a different thing. It lets us become more ourselves than we've ever been before; it doesn't straight-jacket us. It frees us to love and serve others; it doesn't tell us to judge others. It's like the contented cow in the sunny field chewing her cud - and religion is like the hamburger that's only partly cow and only contains bits of the cow. Religion should point us to the cow instead of selling us hamburgers, but human nature being what it is, religious systems are easier to create, codify, and sustain than relationships.

We're all trying to reverse engineer the universe, to understand why we exist, if there is any purpose to life, whether we matter at all. In a universe without God or with a God who micromanages your life and controls your every decision, we don't matter. Everything happens by chance or predestination.

In a universe with a loving God who lets us make our own mistakes, we matter because life is not about random chance or being a puppet. Relationships require choice and free will; not all religion believes in a micromanager God.

I like your questions and your willingness to discuss things outside your comfort zone. Unlike many atheists and too many religious folk, you're willing to ask tough questions, create dialogue, and maybe even shift your worldview a bit.

[ Parent ]

A self-examined life (none / 0) (#141)
by spaceghoti on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 11:40:59 AM EST

A good friend of mine (who has in the past few years found peace in following the Sikh) has a phrase he once ascribed to me as a praise-worthy description.  He called it "living a self-examined life."  By this he means that a life worth living is one in which you don't simply take things for granted, but you occasionally take some time to reflect and examine your actions, your beliefs and the patterns of your behavior.

Many religions also subscribe to this notion of a self-examined life.  The difference is that they all have their own interpretations of how you should look at things.  Some people think it's as simple as deciding whether you did something for God's glory rather than your own.  Others aren't so sure.

In the end, I think there's only one measure we can all live by:  are you at peace with yourself?  There's always room for improvement, but can you be comfortable with what you see and know that you won't be staying up at night worrying about it?  If you're worrying about it all the time, you're probably inhibiting the trophic factors that allow for healthy neurogenesis.

Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum you have sociopaths who don't worry about anything so long as it benefits themselves.  I certainly don't want to advocate that sort of behavior.  But I think there are many paths, and the more we can learn to be at peace with ourselves and others without needing to impose ourselves and our values on the unwilling, the better off we'll all be.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
What is faith? (none / 1) (#135)
by jolly st nick on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 09:24:57 AM EST

Faith is your belief in how things work.

I don't think that is necessarily true; or at least if you start from that as a definition, you naturally at arrive at certain conclusions that are far from telling the entire story. Religion after all is part of the natural behavior of the human species. As such it is complex, and doesn't have clearcut boundaries that fit nicely into a dictionary definition or neatly in a call-out box in an anthropology text.

While there is no doubt that religion necessarily entails some level of belief, but the idea that it either is belief or that if founded chiefly, or even exclusively on belief is a peculilarly Christian notion. In turn, this frames post-Christian secularist ideas about it. If you frame religion this way, you can create an internally consistent set of ideas about religion which, nonetheless, fail to capture a great deal about how religious practices function in the real world. In other words, you've created a straw man.

When people have faith, they have confidence, hope, and trust.

Peculilarly, this comes very close to Rabbi Steinsalz' (who I mention elsewhere) definition of faith. In this view, confidence, hope and trust don't come from faith, they are what faith is.

Faith gives you a more positive outlook - science will find a cure for my disease, I will be reunited with my wife in heaven, etc.

On the other hand, if science does not cure disease, you get disillusionment. You see, once again we've come back around to the confounding of faith with belief. Of course words mean what people agree them to mean. The etymology of these words is a story in itself. No matter though, if we define religion as something based based on a kind of mental assent to certain propositions, we miss a great deal in our understanding, something subtle which is hard to pin down using crude terminology.

I wish I remember the guy's name but there was a doctor, I think he might have been an oncologist, who wrote a book about what he'd learned dealing with seriously ill and dying patients. There was a quality that allowed certain patients to face pain and death with a kind of bravery. It is not a self-delusion that everything will be returned back to the way it was before, in fact it only made its appearance after that was swept away. It was more a kind of confidence that come what may, you can make the best of it. Again, we don't necessarily have a perfect term for this, but he called it "hope".

Maybe one day we'll outgrow our need to deny a God who lovingly crafted the universe, saw humanity embrace sin and turn away, yet continues to love us and always offers to embrace us.

I think it's interesting to note that people who hold these kinds of beliefs (which you are obviously not one), are in fact embracing a kind of crypto-Christian teleology, in which Progress takes the place of Providence and an ideal purified human culture takes the place of the Kingdom of Heaven. Many religions view time as a cycle of birth and decay, and it could well be argued this is more consistent with history.

I think the lesson is, it's easier to disavow a viewpoint that is deeply embedded in your culture; it's much harder to stop thinking that way.

[ Parent ]

Philosophy (none / 0) (#144)
by milkfilk on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 12:09:48 PM EST

The argument could go on for weeks?  Ha!  The argument has been going on for a million weeks!  This is the same old debate of which is my favorite color?  Except some people who like 'green' think that people who like 'blue' won't go to the afterlife.

I think I need to take a World Religions course again because there are some very interesting points  of view listed here that I didn't ever consider.

Medication isn't 1984 by the way.  Government thought-control through media, language, fear and false-war is 1984.  The book didn't mention mind control through drug use except maybe when Winston is being tortured.  I don't see any connection between the book and religion, certainly not a worthy association.

I do believe that religion brings hope.  It is healthy, I do not hate it.  It is philosophy, unprovable.  So why argue?  I just question why people here in the USA are all Christian if God is universal?  Convenience?  Group think?

There are at least 4000 major religions in the world, that means a lot of people are wrong unless God is a fluffy all-powerful bunny of love.

4,000 religions? (none / 0) (#146)
by Mylakovich on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 12:27:18 PM EST

How do you define Major?

[ Parent ]
I go with groupthink (none / 0) (#147)
by spaceghoti on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 12:28:11 PM EST

I find that a lot of Christians in the US are Christian because that's the way they were raised.  The question of God's existence never comes up, because it's considered a given.  The same goes with the question of religion.

I find it's very difficult to obtain good answers if you don't know how to how to ask the question.  It's impossible if you never bother to even ask.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Religion is good 'cause it keeps us from worrying? (none / 0) (#150)
by smithmc on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 04:31:02 PM EST

There's an easier solution to that - just don't worry about things you don't control or don't know the answers to. I'm an atheist. Do I know how where the universe came from, or how life came to exist on earth? No. Would I like to know? Sure. Do I worry about not knowing? No. QED. The AA motto gets it right ("God grant me the serenity...", etc.), except for the "God grant me" part.

It sounds good, but... (3.00 / 2) (#151)
by spaceghoti on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 04:42:59 PM EST

Not everybody has the discipline to do that for themselves.  To go back to an example I give in my article, my father has a problem with his temper.  He doesn't go flying off in a rage breaking dishes and the like, but he does get upset when something goes wrong, and he stays mad for the better part of the day.  Sometimes he even knows there's no reason for it, but he still feels that way and can't stop.  So far as I know, he's always been this way, and as I recently observed, even his newfound religion can't help him with it.

Some people are taught to worry at a young age.  My now ex-wife is that way:  she's not happy unless there's something to worry about.  According to her family, this is a perfectly normal and natural way to be, and they're genuinely puzzled when I suggest it might not be healthy.  I'm tempted to send Dr. Gould's research to them, but it would just be petty.

It's important to be very careful about imposing your values on other people.  It's an easy trap to fall into, and I'm as guilty as anyone.  I'm constantly reminding myself of this and peppering my speech with reminders that this is my perspective and my way of doing things, not an imperative.  I'm genuinely convinced that others simply need to be led to it in order to share my convictions, but ultimately there's no guarantee and no requirement for it.  Just because you and I can set aside our worries without the assistance of a social construct like religion doesn't mean everyone else can, or wants to.  I think that once people are convinced that there is a better way that they'll start to gradually set aside old preconceptions and traditions.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Okay, *but*... (none / 0) (#160)
by smithmc on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 12:42:50 PM EST

Just because you and I can set aside our worries without the assistance of a social construct like religion doesn't mean everyone else can, or wants to.

I never said otherwise. And if people insist on religion, that's up to them - as long as they keep it out of my face, don't go starting wars and slaughtering millions of people over it, etc. However, they don't seem to be able to do that.

[ Parent ]

Granted. (none / 0) (#161)
by spaceghoti on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 01:19:50 PM EST

I never attempted to claim otherwise.  That's a different Op-Ed.  This one is merely speculation on how religion may have taken hold in society, and one of the positive benefits it might provide.  That is, when it isn't busy burning people at the stake (literally or figuratively) for heresy.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
There is an interesting fact (none / 0) (#153)
by trhurler on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 09:54:46 PM EST

Often suppressed, but interesting nevertheless.

Namely, that religious fervor is in inverse relation to intelligence.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

so where do you preach? (none / 0) (#158)
by army of phred on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 11:12:17 AM EST


"Republicans are evil." lildebbie
"I have no fucking clue what I'm talking about." motormachinemercenary
"my wife is getting a blowjob" ghostoft1ber
[ Parent ]
The Ayn Rand foundation? $ (none / 0) (#170)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 03:48:25 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Are you sure? (none / 0) (#154)
by skyknight on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 10:46:57 PM EST

I believe them when they tell me that they're better off. Religion can have a genuinely positive impact on people's lives.

On what arbitrary metrics are you basing this? Is a doped up feeling stemming from frying your brain with religious psycho-babble such a great thing?

I feel pretty good when I'm drunk on alcohol, but if I were in a state of drunkeness all the time I don't think I'd really be human for any meaningful sense of the word.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
Yes, I'm sure. (none / 0) (#155)
by spaceghoti on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 09:54:58 AM EST

It isn't a guaranteed, one-size-fits-all type scenario.  But yes, I believe that people get an initial thrill of exhiliration when they convert to a new religion.  There's a honeymoon period where they're learning all about their new philosophy, and then gradually it wears off and they go back to routine.

Remember, this is Op-Ed.  I'm speaking from personal experience and opinion, I am not handing down the law from on high.  That seems to be a recurring perception here.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
I get an initial thrill of exhilaration (none / 0) (#156)
by Cro Magnon on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 10:30:34 AM EST

when I convert to a new OS. There's a honeymoon period while I'm learning about it, then it wears off after I discover that the new platform sucks as badly as the old one did. Does that mean computers are my religion?
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Sure, why not? (none / 0) (#157)
by spaceghoti on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 10:40:26 AM EST

This sort of thing happens whenever we embrace change.  It's rare that we can maintain it past a certain time.  What religion does that's different is it attempts to teach people to set aside their stress and have faith that their rituals and traditions will take solve their daily problems.  This gives them a long-term edge that your new computer smell can't match.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
I just got a pretty good buzz... (none / 0) (#167)
by skyknight on Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 04:01:56 PM EST

from riding my bike. Isn't exercise a better idea than religion?

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Exercise. (none / 0) (#168)
by spaceghoti on Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 06:55:10 PM EST

If you use exercise as a means to combat depression (which, I understand, actually works) then it can become a functional replacement for religion.  I was amused when my mother announced that my brother was "struggling" with his martial arts program because she felt it was interfering with his relationship with God.  That is to say, she felt he wasn't devoting all of his spare time to their religion.  When I pointed out that many martial arts help improve meditation which can be used for prayer and the like, she was not amused.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
It makes religion seem pretty silly... (none / 0) (#172)
by skyknight on Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 04:48:07 PM EST

doesn't it?

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
silly (none / 0) (#188)
by rebelcan on Tue Mar 28, 2006 at 05:27:47 PM EST

Well, for the most part, life is silly. When you think about it.

I mean, c'mon. The platypus?

God is dead -- Nietzsche
Nietzsche is dead -- God
but Zombie Nietzsche lives! -- Zombie Nietzsche
[ Parent ]

I can't argue with that. Life IS weird. $ (none / 0) (#189)
by skyknight on Tue Mar 28, 2006 at 06:59:00 PM EST

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
oh i get it (1.50 / 4) (#159)
by wowboy on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 11:41:29 AM EST

so when im stressed raiding and stuff, my brain doesn't grow?

explains a LOT.

Joi Ito article about WoW leadership (none / 0) (#171)
by ducksalve on Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 03:35:38 PM EST

http://joi.ito.com/archives/2006/03/13/leadership_in_world_of_warcraft.html. I just thought you might find it interesting, and maybe comment.

Gentle reader, do you believe that the Bush Regime will not shoot you down in the streets if you have a rebellion? - Paul Craig Roberts
[ Parent ]
yeah but he over complicates it (none / 1) (#175)
by wowboy on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 03:25:08 PM EST

a lot of "leaders" in WoW like to play the boss and over engineer things. look at that nonsense: "class leaders."

in a raid i do most of the talking with the main tanks chipping in. we move quickly and with a purpose. i assign healing duties and everything else also.

none of the hiearchy structure he seems to be creating. that just causes problems.

[ Parent ]

But is your group tens of ppl like his? (none / 0) (#176)
by ducksalve on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 08:30:08 PM EST

And, the point was it was more supportive, and less hierarchy. But, I can't argue the finer points. Thanks for responding.
Gentle reader, do you believe that the Bush Regime will not shoot you down in the streets if you have a rebellion? - Paul Craig Roberts
[ Parent ]
10 don't need that much organization (none / 0) (#177)
by wowboy on Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 12:56:09 AM EST

one or two tanks pull and pin down mobs, hunters put their pets on any mobs that break through, and one rogue acts as main assist who goes around killing everythign and having everyone target their target.

in 40 man raids it's mostly the same but you have more tanks and much more difficult encounters. for example, in MC before Magmadar you have to kill corehound packs. the packs need to die together or they res each other.

i assign each tank a target, they go and get aggro and keep them in the same spot. then we aoe with mages, warlocks and hunters.

just giving you an idea. raids require one person in charge. people who break it down and act as "custodians" don't do well. i've seen the difference.

i think his guild is "casual" and he likes to think it's more hardcore.

[ Parent ]

The virtuous cycle of belief (none / 1) (#162)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 05:11:34 PM EST

Neurogenesis may well help to explain some of the neural mechanics underlying the so-called "virtuous cycle" associated with positive or hopeful beliefs, of which some varieties of explicitly religious beliefs are a species. The idea being that our bodies establish a kind of neurological bias which acts so as to favor positive thinking and hopeful beliefs. Of course, none of this should really come as too much of a shock as "happy thoughts" are, after all, generally rewarded by the body in the form of "happy feelings." Neurogenesis just helps to explain how thinking happy thoughts right now could possibly contribute to a more general sense of overall happiness and mental well being.

What neurogenesis doesn't help to explain though is the "origin" or "cause" of specifically religious beliefs. Personally, I'm convinced that it is a kind of cognitive bias toward anthropomorphic thinking which underlies the phenomenon of religious beliefs. Michael Tomasello, in The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition, gives us very good reason to believe, based upon his and other's empirical studies done on both primates and human children, that many of the distinctively human cognitive faculties evolved under selective pressures which strongly favored the development of social apptitudes. In other words, the rational brain is wired to facilitate manipulating other social agents not to plumb the depths of physical reality in pursuit of truth.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

Duuuuude (none / 0) (#163)
by For Whom The Bells Troll on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 10:11:56 PM EST

An article gets posted with a mere 15 votes?! What has this site come to?

The Big F Word.
Ahmmm... 252 > 15. (none / 0) (#164)
by New Me on Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 08:13:15 AM EST

"He hallucinated, freaked out, his aneurysm popped, and he died. Happened to me once." --Lode Runner
[ Parent ]

Question (none / 0) (#165)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 10:47:04 AM EST

So religion leads to neurogenisis which makes you smarter.  But doesn't being smarter make you less religous?

It seems this plan is doomed to failure and people should just use real drugs like opium to become smarter.  It would still work by the same reasoning, right?

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour

Not necissarily. (none / 0) (#187)
by rebelcan on Tue Mar 28, 2006 at 05:17:20 PM EST

There are a lot of smart people who are athiests, true. There are a lot of very religious people who couldn't put the square block in the square hole if their life depended on it, true. But there are plenty of scientists who believe in God ( or some form of a creator or superbeing ), and plenty of religious people getting phd's and what have you.

Take me for example. I'm a fairly well educated person, and I believe that the Big Bang, evolution and physics are part of the reason we're here. But I'm also half Catholic ( the other half is Buddhist, long story ). How am I able to be both of these at once? Not by using doublethink or anything. After lots of thought on the subject, I've come to what seems like the logical conclusion ( to me, at least ). That God created the starting points, set the inital conditions, and hit the start button. He may have reached in and tweaked things now and then, but for the most part, he ( or she or it, whatever ) is watching, hoping that we'll all somehow learn to get along.

God is dead -- Nietzsche
Nietzsche is dead -- God
but Zombie Nietzsche lives! -- Zombie Nietzsche
[ Parent ]

Religion is an evolutionary advantage (2.25 / 4) (#166)
by svampa on Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 02:05:54 PM EST

Fom Maximum Power by Jay Hanson

"Precisely what we believe is immaterial; what matters is the kind of behavior it generates. This is why humanity is characterized by such astonishing diversity in its belief systems. As far as our genes are concerned, we can believe that the universe is driven by an overweight fairy on a green cheese bicycle provided that such belief effectively coerces us into adopting genetically advantageous behavior in all matters of evolutionary consequence, such as feeding, mating, nurturing, bonding, and protecting family, tribe, and territory."

Suppose two groups of men oppose each other on the battlefield to defend their tribes (gene pools) -- each with equal numbers, skill, and arms. One group believes that if they die killing the enemy, they will spend eternity sitting on clouds playing harps. The other group has studied evolution theory carefully and believes that they will totally cease to exist when they die.

Which tribe (set of genes) has the advantage? Those who believe in everlasting harp playing have the advantage. Why? It's because those who didn't evolve to believe in gods are less likely to sacrifice their lives for the tribe. So genes for scientific thought tend to be removed from the gene pool while genes for mysticism are promoted.

However one could well asume that (none / 0) (#174)
by spooky wookie on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 02:16:00 PM EST

the Scientific tribe would be more advanced giving them the advantage...

[ Parent ]
paradox is the best (3.00 / 2) (#180)
by svampa on Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 01:34:14 PM EST

Social schizophrenia is the best. That is, a small part of society has a scientific though that allows technical advance, and the most part of the society is has a religious thought, that allows a society with strong bounds between members and ready to sacrifice for the tribe.

There is no problem with the contradiction, even a single person is able to accept contradictory arguments in the same speach.

People accepts that the nuclear bomb is posible, so the atomic thory is true, beside this denies that atomic theory says that earth is about 4000 millons of years old.

People accepts that The Ten commandements are right, but ignore them when they want however they are convinced that God is with them.

I don't intend to be cynical, I mean that we don't need to much scientific thought to advance, and if it crashes with our faith we will change the faith, or accept the contradiction, or even change just temporaly our faith without any perception of doing anything wrong.

[ Parent ]
Well, faith is needed for... (none / 0) (#186)
by rebelcan on Tue Mar 28, 2006 at 05:12:09 PM EST

doublethink. Which seems to be what you've outlined.

Scary that something that should be benificial to all ( religion, faith, goodwill towards humanity, etc ) could be a building block for something like that ( the Orwellian Ingsoc state, or whatever you want to call it ).

God is dead -- Nietzsche
Nietzsche is dead -- God
but Zombie Nietzsche lives! -- Zombie Nietzsche
[ Parent ]

The scientific mind is new to human history (none / 0) (#182)
by tetsuwan on Wed Mar 22, 2006 at 05:39:48 AM EST

The scientific mind evolved in the latest five hundred years. Earlier on, it wasn't possible to adopt such a worldview, as rational explanations were all mixed together with mystical ones. So, while the hypothesis that religion provides an evolutionary advantage is sound, your argument is not. You should keep in mind that culture, civilazations and religions have evolved much faster than the human mind.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

scientific mind is part of human brain (none / 0) (#183)
by svampa on Sat Mar 25, 2006 at 04:31:07 PM EST

That's like telling that medicine didn't exist 500 ago. Of course they hadn't our deep knowlegde of human body. However, it was medicine.

Of course the modern scientific method is not very old, but scientific mind is as old as human specie. Archimedes lived more than 2000 years ago. And Socrates was put to death because of impiety, that is denying or doubting of gods.

Every culture, even the most primitive one, has certain science. The scientific thought, the compulsion to find out how the environment works to control it, the necessity of finding reliable information to antipate the future is part of our mind.

Myths as part of the every culture as well. Even the most modern cultures have myths. Check what modern soldiers do before they going war... pray and sing anthems.

[ Parent ]
While Archimedes and Socrates were brilliant, (none / 0) (#184)
by tetsuwan on Tue Mar 28, 2006 at 02:30:18 PM EST

and probably reasoned in a similar manner to us, they do not represent a 'scientific mind' in the way you think. As you say, 'the compulsion to find out how things work' is profoundly human. However, the scientific mind is not. 500 years ago, it was still rational in the given frame to think that birds came from broken twigs floating on the water. Experience, tradition and inductive reasoning ruled the day. For most of human history, there was very little need to explain why the fire became hotter when blown upon. This is knowledge too, but not knowledge provided by application of a scientific method.

Today, maybe 1 out of 10 with nine years or better of education can make a reasonable scientific inquiry. A majority might get the point. In ancient time, only the truly different (one in a million) would try anything as systematic, and they'd better do it in secret. These unique individuals were often religious too. Don't you remember that Newton also was a mystic?

Besides, when faced with flint spears, rocks wouldn't do, no matter with how much religious fervor they were thrown.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

very good piece, spaceghoti (none / 1) (#169)
by SaintPort on Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 09:14:34 PM EST

Very honest and informative. And I liked this...

I just don't believe that this entity or organisation is actively manipulating our lives, micromanaging our affairs.

Strangely enough, I agree, even though I am Born-Again-Christian-Evangelical.

I see God as having set basic laws into motion, which generated a rather complex universe... which He watches all with great interest and is busily working on that which is creation. I don't have a specific theory on that, just that an infinite God in an infinate space can be infinitely busy without micromanaging that which is already created.

I also think that He intended His creation to have feedback control systems, of which religiosity, morality etc. play a part.

And I'll just stop right there lest I abuse my Lent offering.


Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

built it and left it sounds about right. (none / 0) (#185)
by rebelcan on Tue Mar 28, 2006 at 05:04:50 PM EST

As someone who's spent a lot of time reconciling my own views of science and religion, I'd have to say I agree with what you say.

One of the best ways I've heard the "why doesn't God stop bad things from happening" answered was in "Angels and Demons" by Rob Brown ( or whoever wrote the DaVinci Code - my memory isn't all that good ). The way it went was a guard was asking a priest one of those age old questions: Why does God let bad things happen?

The priest asked the guard if he had any children, and the guard said that yes, he did. The priest then asked if the guard had taught his children to ride a bike. The guard again, replied yes. The priest asked how the guard taught his children. Did he hold their hand, every step of the way, protecting them from any and all harm? Or did he show them the basics, and let them learn from their mistakes? The guard said that he let them learn from their mistakes, because not only is that part of growing up, it's part of becoming a well rounded human being. The priest simply replied "Exactly".

One thing I've wondered about though, is people have tried to come to terms with the whole omnipotent/super-benificial thing about God. It just seems to me that people automatically assume that since God knows all ( omnipotent ) and loves all ( super-benificial thing ), that if he existed , then he'd stop bad things from happening. I've never understood why people felt God was required to step in and help.

I'm going to stop typing, before this turns into a long rant better suited to my blog.

Oh, and these are my views and what-not. If you don't like them, that's fine, I'm open to debate. Just no promises of eternal damnation. I already know I'm going to hell, no need to point it out =P.

God is dead -- Nietzsche
Nietzsche is dead -- God
but Zombie Nietzsche lives! -- Zombie Nietzsche
[ Parent ]

Lacking Evidence (none / 1) (#178)
by videntur on Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 03:23:35 AM EST

Logically, there are some missing pieces that somehow fail to connect the relation between belief in higher being with a sample brain with a particular cell arrangement. There was no mention of it, as if it was implied to be true. No picture of a brainscan showing the evidence.

what is leftover (3.00 / 2) (#179)
by bithead on Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 01:16:45 PM EST

When goodness is lost, there is kindness. When kindness is lost, there is justice. When justice is lost, there is ritual. Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion. - Lao Tzu

viva la revolution!!! (none / 0) (#190)
by channel on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 10:51:32 PM EST

the masses will rise again!! kill the old up with the new!!111 blowing shit up is kewl

Marriage is a divine rite. It was part of God's design when He created man. - Royal Martyr Empress Alexandra Fedorovna.
Opiate of the Masses | 190 comments (150 topical, 40 editorial, 0 hidden)
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