Christians and Muslims that pick out unconscious patterns are more likely to believe in a god.
- Georgetown researchers found strong implicit pattern learning implies belief in a god.
- The study included American Christians and Afghani Muslims, representing two different religious and cultural backgrounds.
- Further research on polytheistic religious believers could provide insights into a cognitive basis of religion.
Why religion is literally false and metaphorically true | Bret Weinstein | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bb748b6454d9ea27e58c41be9c4b50f6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/c0_J998UD9s?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The answer, according to their research, is yes. As Green <a href="https://gumc.georgetown.edu/news-release/study-suggests-unconscious-learning-underlies-belief-in-god/" target="_blank">notes</a>,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This is not a study about whether God exists, this is a study about why and how brains come to believe in gods. Our hypothesis is that people whose brains are good at subconsciously discerning patterns in their environment may ascribe those patterns to the hand of a higher power." </p><p>Consciousness only provides a sliver of data that our brains pay attention to. Bottom-up processes operate below the conscious threshold, such as the biological operations that maintain our body's homeostasis. Threat detection and other forms of perception are also processed from the bottom-up, although, as the authors write, top-down processing is not an entirely separate domain. The two inform one another. </p><p><a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/how-does-intuition-work" target="_self">Intuition</a> is another example of bottom-up processing that appears in consciousness. We pick up signals from our environment and process it unconsciously all the time.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Because individuals are not aware of such bottom-up influences, intuitions drawn from unconscious processing may instead be consciously interpreted via explicit belief narratives that provide a rationalized context for beliefs and behaviors."</p>
A general view of the beach and a surfer as photographed on March 20, 2014 in Marina del Rey, California.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images<p>Face processing, implicit racial bias, and pathogen avoidance provide further context. In fact, cleansing rituals likely evolved from an unconscious fear of disease. Our ancestors applied a spiritual dimension to their bathing rituals to make sense out of unconscious drives.</p><p>For this study, 199 (mostly) Christian volunteers in Washington, D.C. and 149 Muslims in Kabul watched a sequence of dots on a computer screen. They were tasked to press a corresponding button every time a dot appeared. Participants with strong implicit learning abilities began to unconsciously recognize patterns in the appearance of the dots, preemptively hitting the corresponding button <em>before</em> they appeared. None of the volunteers claimed to have seen a pattern, suggesting their guesses were unconscious. </p><p>The team observed a link between the strongest implicit learners and religious belief. Recognizing patterns before they appear is correlated with belief in a god. The team was surprised to discover such a strong correlation between two disparate religious and cultural groups, suggesting the potential of a universal theme. As Green notes, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"A brain that is more predisposed to implicit pattern learning may be more inclined to believe in a god no matter where in the world that brain happens to find itself, or in which religious context."</p><p>An interesting next step could be studying polytheistic groups, where pattern recognition is likely stronger. It's one thing to give credit to one god for everything, but quite another to assign a variety of divine figures for the relationships between natural phenomena. </p><p>The authors conclude that they cannot write off top-down processing as part of religious belief. Indeed, faith likes has multivariate influences. Still, this research details another cognitive basis of belief, highlighting common ground we all share regardless of the form of our deities. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Placing science and religion at opposite ends of the belief spectrum is to ignore their unique purposes.
- Science and religion (fact versus faith) are often seen as two incongruous groups. When you consider the purpose of each and the questions that they seek to answer, the comparison becomes less black and white.
- This video features religious scholars, a primatologist, a neuroendocrinologist, a comedian, and other brilliant minds considering, among other things, the evolutionary function that religion serves, the power of symbols, and the human need to learn, explore, and know the world around us so that it becomes a less scary place.
- "I think most people are actually kind of comfortable with the idea that science is a reliable way to learn about nature, but it's not the whole story and there's a place also for religion, for faith, for theology, for philosophy," says Francis Collins, American geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "But that harmony perspective doesn't get as much attention. Nobody is as interested in harmony as they are in conflict."
We should care about constitutional rights for all, says lawyer and religious freedom scholar Asma T. Uddin. If they are denied for some, history demonstrates how they may be at risk for us all.
- Islam is being challenged as a religion in America today. Opponents claim it is not a religion, but a dangerous political ideology.
- Lawyer and religious freedom scholar Asma T. Uddin challenges that view and explains why it is a threat to the religious liberty of all Americans, not just Muslims.
- In U.S. history, Catholics, Jews, and Mormons have all been "denationalized" as Americans and persecuted for their beliefs. This destructive precedent is a threat to all Americans, across all belief systems.
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in Tennessee.
Photo: Saleh M. Sbenaty/Wikimedia Commons<p>The "circus," as a county attorney called it, went on for six days. It troubled me then, and continues to trouble me today, and not just because I am an American Muslim. It troubles me because I value and seek to protect all Americans' religious liberty. I see, perhaps more clearly than many others, that the claim used against Islam in Murfreesboro can be used against followers of any other religion, too.</p><p>In fact, historically, it <em>has</em> been used against other groups. In 19th-century America, nativists resented the new influx of Catholic immigrants. The anti-Catholic animosity was so strong that, on more than one occasion, it resulted in mass violence. As with anti-Muslim claims today, American nativists claimed that the Catholic Church acted as a foreign entity with monarchical tendencies, portraying the Catholic Church as incompatible with American democracy and calling into question the loyalty of Catholic citizens. Even as recently as John F. Kennedy's run for the presidency in 1960, prominent Americans claimed that the Vatican would exert nefarious political influence if a Kennedy, a Catholic, won the White House.</p>
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and his brother, Hyrum Smith, were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844.
Lithograph source: Library of Congress<p>None of this is new. A few decades before Kennedy's campaign, Henry Ford distributed the tract, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," an anti-Semitic fabrication that falsely claimed to detail meetings of Jewish elders seeking to control the press and the world economies. Mormons, or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, have also faced immense persecution in the United States. In 1838, Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued an expulsion and extermination order directing Missourians to treat Mormons as "enemies" who "must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary." In 1883, Mormons faced what many have called a precursor to President Trump's travel ban. That year, President Grover Cleveland asked Congress to find a way to "prevent the importation of Mormons into the country." And in 1903, after the election of US Senator and Mormon apostle Reed Smoot, the U.S. Senate subjected Smoot's faith to a four-year proceeding because it feared Smoot's role as an apostle in the Mormon Church made him loyal to the Church over U.S. laws.</p><p>In each of these cases, the marginalized religious community has experienced what Yale historian Timothy Snyder calls "denationalization." This, he says, means, "You take people who are your neighbors and you define them not primarily as your neighbors and fellow citizens but primarily with some larger world community, all of whose members hold the same views." Today, Muslims are the ones denationalized, in some of our laws and in our public perception of Muslims' rights. But while Muslims are the latest victims, the attacks on their rights impacts all Americans.</p><p>Again, history bears out this point. When hostility against a specific group results in particular laws targeting them, those laws may later impact a much broader group. For example, the denationalization of Catholics in the 19th century culminated in the formation of a political party, the Know-Nothing Party, which sought a type of political purity and advocated for laws that banned public aid to parochial schools and prohibited public school teachers from wearing religious garb. The anti-garb statutes targeted Catholic nuns, and both sets of laws sought to limit Catholic influence over American public life. While these laws are rooted in anti-Catholic animus, today they impact people of every religion. Pennsylvania uses the religious garb ban against Sikh teachers in turbans and Muslim teachers in headscarves. And the ban on aid to parochial schools is used by many states against religious schools of all types.</p>
Researchers found that the hearts of Sufi devotees harmonized as one during a mystical practice. And this isn't the first study to show heart synchronization between people.
- Anthropologists at the University of Connecticut discovered that the heartbeats of Sufi practitioners synchronized during an important ritual.
- Sufism is a mystical component of Islam that emphasizes coming to know God through direct experience, like trance.
- Other studies have also found that individuals who are closely connected emotionally and socially experience physiological alignment.
What is Sufism?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE3OTcwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNDgyNDE0NH0.9K8FicAu40xtomaWivAbZGbfFRUd0mwwg2ogOQUYBnc/img.jpg?width=980" id="a814d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc8f3187a8942e92c12c0c2e4dfb7b0a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="" />
A natural explanation<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3b0479fbc2e325580fc0b2fc3bd1bf48"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/St8wgLMR5Fo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>What these heartbeat studies tells us is that, although we may believe we live our lives in isolated bodies, we are not physically severed off from the rest of the world. Natural rhythms have influence over us and our relations to others. In fact, according to Michael Richardson, a psychologist at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, the harmonization of heartbeats is a part of a natural law. </p><p>"The natural law of coupled oscillators holds that when two or more rhythms meet, they will become coordinated—a phenomenon seen across the natural world, from fireflies matching their flashes to groups falling into step," Richardson <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/5/110504-fire-walking-hearts-beat-science-health-heartbeats/" target="_blank">told National Geographic</a> in 2011. </p><p>It has long been the subject of fascination by anthropologists and sociologists that rituals, particularly intense rituals, bind people together. Research like that conducted by Xygalatas and Manoharan on Sufis is starting to give us a glimpse at how bonding is achieved at the physiological level. </p><p>Strong social connections have <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/having-social-bonds-is-the-no-1-way-optimize-your-health" target="_blank">long been linked</a> to living a healthier, longer, happier, and more meaningful life. But to achieve the social binding benefits of the Sufi's heart-synching practice, you don't need to attend a <em>dhikr </em>or adhere to any religion at all. If group prayer, or walking barefoot over scalding coals, isn't really your thing, similar states can be achieved simply by snuggling with a <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/04/a-dogs-heart-beats-in-sync-with-its-owners-says-new-study/" target="_blank">pet</a> you love, <a href="https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pals/news/2017/nov/audience-members-hearts-beat-together-theatre" target="_blank">going to a theater performance</a>, or rapturously <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-23230411" target="_blank">belting out your favorite songs</a> with your friends this weekend. (Ideally in harmony.)</p>
Some say Islam is not a religion. Here's why all faiths should contest that.
- Asma T. Uddin explores religious freedom -- or the lack thereof -- in her new book, When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America's Fight for Religious Freedom.
- She identifies and dispels myths surrounding Islam that attempt to weaken the rights of Muslims, such as the idea that Islam is a monolith, or is not a religion at all.
- It's important to understand that religious freedom primarily involves a relationship between the government and religious individuals or organizations. This differentiates it from religious pluralism or tolerance.
Myth 1: Islam is not a religion<p>Uddin knows this topic well. In 2010, she represented the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, which was building a new mosque roughly 30 miles outside of Nashville. Having outgrown its previous facility near Middle Tennessee State University, members raised $600,000 for a new complex. Then <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_Center_of_Murfreesboro#Litigation_and_attacks_against_the_ICM" target="_blank">the vandalism began.</a></p><p>As Uddin explains, the center went through the bureaucratic process every house of worship has to endure. Religious centers are usually spared the more laborious aspects of this process, however. Only that's not what happened. Enter the argument that Islam is not a religion. </p><p>At this point, Uddin started to hear that, "Islam is not a religion, it is instead a dangerous political ideology and therefore Muslims don't have the same access to these religious protections, including the religious land-use laws that every other house of worship gets, because it's a threat to America. Unfortunately, the judge allowed this to go on for a number of days despite the fact that a lot of the questions are just really inflammatory, and ruled against the mosque."</p><p>At the time, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey used his failed Gubernatorial election platform to <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20150329175255/http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1A1-D9H7L7H00.html" target="_blank">question Islam's validity</a> as a religion. That helped to kick off this entire movement. Eventually, the center was given final approval thanks to Uddin's team's efforts. Sadly, this did not stop the vandalism. </p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTE0NTIwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMTExMjEyM30.p6yYfJB27VePT61Zx9EiMu7nTeMzAA0e3r6pNzcrcR8/img.jpg?width=980" id="19179" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d1a25de0c320399736e373470e2d41fa" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Vandalism at the construction site for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images.