If God is calling everyone into a relationship with him, why do some people not hear the call?


Maybe it’s because religion is wired into some people’s brains and not others. If this is true, it would suggest that religiosity is a organically based phenomenon rather than a spiritual calling. I will delete the many references from the following quotations from a recent study entitled “Religiosity in patients with Parkinson’s disease.*

“Relative to other major life goals parkinsonian patients were significantly more likely to report that ‘my religion or life philosophy’ was less important than were age-matched controls. Scores on a battery of religiosity scales were consistently lower for Parkinson’s patients than those of age-matched controls.”

And

“Several recent carefully controlled neuroimaging and neuropsychological investigations of potential brain correlates of religiosity consistently implicate neo-striatal, limbic, and prefrontal cortical networks as key nodes in the widely distributed neural networks that apparently support common religious practices such as prayer and meditation.”

This study positively thrilled me. Why? Because some of my readers have wondered; some of the atheists I’ve known have wondered; and I myself have wondered why I, a firm nonbeliever in the supernatural, read book after book and write post after post about religion. All I could figure was that I was driven to work through the childhood wounds that were inflicted on me in the name of God, yet most atheists who have been so wounded lack my interest in religion per se, so why me and not them? I even think it likely that I have a greater interest in religion than do most people who consider themselves religious. I can’t let it go, yet at the same time, whatever it is I’m searching for, it’s not God, at least by that name or in supernaturalist terms, so when I read that people with Parkinson’s appear to lose their interest in religion, I thought voila, that’s it; just as an organic process takes away their interest, it stimulates my own. 

“Aha,” some of you might say, “what is it that stimulates that part of your brain if not God?” Damned if I know, but surely you don’t mean to suggest that God favors me over most people, or that he’s more interested in me than in people with “neo-striatal, limbic, and prefrontal cortical” brain damage; and surely you realize that a mad scientist could take any of us and make us into entirely different people by rewiring our brains. There is no us apart from organic components and processes, all of which are subject to injury and disease. Our own identities, even to the deepest recesses of our thoughts and feelings, are no less organically based than the identity of a dog, an amoeba, or even a rock. Cause and effect reigns supreme, and we are its playthings. This can only mean that cause and effect is the nearest thing there is to a God, and that we have no choice about whether we worship it, or something else, or nothing at all. Or such is my long considered opinion, an opinion that gained a degree of validation from this study.

26 comments:

PhilipH said...

Relax Snowy.
Everybody on earth knows that there in no such thing as a god.
It's just that 80% of mankind has to believe that there must be more than this life.
They HAVE to believe that life goes on; that "we'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when" and that all will be happier in the next life, or heaven, or hell or wherever.

Strayer said...


Believing some huge unseen power is interested in me personally seems extremely egotistical, narcissistic. I sometimes think religious people are self worshippers. Also, what in the world is meant by a "relationship" with the lord Jesus Christ. Like having a love affair with an imaginery friend? A ghost? A spirit? These latter things would be considered grounds for a "nuts" label. I've never understood it. I must be brain damaged in all the right places.

Elephant's Child said...

Exceptions which prove the rule? One of my friends was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease a few years ago. He is, if anything, more committed to his religion.
I wonder whether he will lose this commitment and if so at what point in his Parkinson's journey.

rhymeswithplague said...

Of all the many, many things in this world in which I have absolutely no interest, I would have to say that "religiosity" tops the list.

I do disagree completely with one statement in your post, though, and that is "There is no us apart from organic components and processes." I firmly believe with St. Paul that we are spirit, soul, and body. Only one/third of that combination involves organic components and processes and the other two/thirds, trust me, are not just other names for theneo-striatal, limbic, and prefrontal cortical networks in the widely distributed neural networks.

Still, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. (Shakespeare)

Were you just trying to get a rise out of me, Snowy?

rhymeswithplague said...

P.S. - "Some of my readers have wondered; some of the atheists I’ve known have wondered; and I myself have wondered why I, a firm nonbeliever in the supernatural, read book after book and write post after post about religion."

I give you Blaise Pascal: "What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself." --Blaise Pascal, Pensees

Snowbrush said...

"Everybody on earth knows that there in no such thing as a god."

I've wondered how firm people's "faith" really is, but how would one go about proving that religious belief is a fiction, and what degree of certainty would you require of a believer before you would regard his or her belief as valid? It's also true that not all Christians are theists, and that those who aren't have little if any hope of an afterlife, as do the adherents of some other religions. I don't even recall reading anything about an afterlife in the Old Testament, and the writer of Ecclesiastes firmly and frequently denied that one existed. It's true that ghosts sometimes appeared, but they're presented as having awakened from death rather than returning from another existence. (BTW, I'm missing your blog now that it's closed.)

"Believing some huge unseen power is interested in me personally seems extremely egotistical, narcissistic."

There is a certain irony in a person calling himself a miserable sinner, and then claiming that God Almighty's "son" came down from heaven to die for him. Indeed, the appeal of Christianity is, far and above everything else, personal salvation, and the motive behind whatever good Christians do can be called into question because of it.

"He is, if anything, more committed to his religion."

The study was a small one, so I don't know how conclusive it's considered to be in regard to Parkinsons, but what interested me about it and the other studies that it referenced was the idea that religion is a function of a particular part of the brain, implying that an interest in religion can be decreased or increased by manipulating that part of the brain.

"Of all the many, many things in this world in which I have absolutely no interest, I would have to say that "religiosity" tops the list."

The term is sometimes used to denigrate, it is true, but then the term religion itself is sometimes used that way by the "I'm spiritual, but not religious" crowd. An atheist hardly knows what to call a believer anymore because believers are so intent on distinguishing themselves from other believers whom they consider somehow lacking.

"I firmly believe with St. Paul that we are spirit, soul, and body."

Fervent declarations of belief do not suggest an ability to substantiate that belief. Of course, you know that.

"Only one/third of that combination involves organic components and processes and the other two/thirds, trust me..."

You trust Paul, and I trust you? I don't think we're going to get far with that, but then I'm sure that you didn't expect to.

"I give you Blaise Pascal"

Thanks, but be sure you include the receipt so I can exchange him. As with quoting St. Paul, to quote Pascal is to rely upon an authority that I can find no reason to accept.

Snowbrush said...

"Also, what in the world is meant by a "relationship" with the lord Jesus Christ. Like having a love affair with an imaginery friend?"

Remember the hymn that goes: "I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known"?

My mother requested that song for her funeral.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

fascinating as always Snow!

kj said...

You lost me at God as a him. Now why would you be perpetuating that assumptive myth as reality?

Tisk tisk snow :-)

Love
kj

Snowbrush said...

"You lost me at God as a him."

You stopped reading because I spoke of a non-existent being as a he rather than a she? Speaking of gender issues, did you catch my recent posts about homosexual marriage and transsexuality?

Snowbrush said...

Rhymes, I thought you might know something about he definition of religiosity that I didn't, so I looked it up with the thought that I might have to change my wording: "1. The quality of being religious. 2. Excessive or affected piety." Because I meant the first definition and because the first definition IS the first definition, I think I'll stand pat. I'm assuming that you associate it with the second definition, but I should think that the context in which I used it would point to the first.

KJ, I also thought more about what you wrote: "You lost me at God as a him. Now why would you be perpetuating that assumptive myth as reality?"

As opposed to perpetuating some other assumptive myth as a reality? Ha. I don't believe in any version of a supernatural being as a reality, so I'm less attached to gender in this regard than you appear to be (I'm assuming that you prefer a female personification of God because you blame the current world's problems largely on patriarchy, and consequently believe that if God were perceived as female, the world would be better off). However, when I write of God, I'm usually writing of the dominant American perception of God which is also the Biblical perception of God, at least in regard to gender. Hence my use of the masculine pronoun. My personal view is that it's absurd to think of God--if there were a God--as having gender. I mean, really, God as a physical entity in human form that occupies a given amount of space, has a clitoris or a penis, and presumably nipples and maybe a liver spot or two due to advanced age! As for other uses of the masculine pronoun, if I'm writing about a nonspecific person who could be a male or a female, I would like to make that person a s/he or a he/she or some such arrangement, but it's too awkward to go from he/she to him/her and then to she/he and her/him so as not to show preference, especially when the pronoun is repeated a couple of times per sentence. I have at times simply alternated between using he and him in one situation and she and her in another, but that requires remembering which one I use last. So, I mostly just use he because I am a he, my thought being that writers should use whichever they prefer, although I would expect women to be more likely to use the feminine and men the masculine. I simply know of no way to avoid awkwardness on the one hand and risking offense on the other.

Marion said...

I'm so politically incorrect these days. I believe in God; I don't believe in abortion. I have a deep faith in God. I love Him and talk to Him daily. I feel His presence most days, even when I'm depressed. I found God in the Bible as a 12 year old and prayed to Him for a personal relationship. It's a spiritual thing for me, a faith thing. To me, faith is believing in that which you can't see. I believe. I can't explain it at all, but I do know that it's changed my life for the better.

I try not to push my beliefs onto others, but will share them when asked. More often than not, I'm harassed for what I believe, both religiously and politically. But that's life, right?

I hope you're feeling great, Snow. I call you my friend and I don't give a damn what you believe. xo

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow:

Genesis states, speaking of Adam and Eve, "In the image of God created He him; male and female created He them"...I'm just sayin'. So somehow God's image contains both male and female. I'm not saying God is a hermaphrodite. Not at all.

Also, the phrase "God Almighty" in Genesis is a translation of the Hebrew words "El Shaddai" which means the all-sufficient, all-nourishing God but is also notable for the fact that the base word "shad" in Hebrew means breast, so El Shaddai is basically "the breasted God"...again, I'm just sayin'.

So don't be too quick to say that God is not male or female or both or neither...because we do not really know, except that somehow we are made in His/Her/Its/Their (covering all bases) image.

As you are discovering, I am not your garden-variety fundamentalist or evangelical....

Snowbrush said...

"More often than not, I'm harassed for what I believe, both religiously and politically."

You might want to Google a young man named Damon Fowler of Bastrop, preferably on the FFRF website (for other readers, Bastrop is a town in Marion's state of Louisiana) who was abused to the point of having to leave the state following his high school graduation. I spent 35-plus years in Mississippi, and I must say that I was often aware of the scorn heaped upon atheists and other non-Christians, but I never encountered harassment of Christians even when I was one. You're welcome to say more about your experiences.

I call you my friend and I don't give a damn what you believe."

Likewise.

"So don't be too quick to say that God is not male or female or both or neither"

Gender is but a hormone-determined mechanism by which some creatures breed, so why would God need, have, or want gender, and how could an indivisible non-physical entity possess the divisible signs and constituents of gender, things like pubic hair, sex organs, testosterone, and estrogen? The idea of God ejaculating, or having a period, or experiencing menopause would seem strange indeed, yet if God did not experience these things, then how could God be said to possess gender? Is gender in the deity simply a matter of appearing as a male or a female (or a little of each), and to whom would God appear anyway? Certainly not to us, although the Bible does say that God showed Moses his posterior, it being the only part of God that Moses could look at without coming to a bad end (no pun intended). I should also think that, if God looked like a human being right down to possessing gender (or at least the appearance thereof), then God would surely possess the other qualities of humanity, things like divine saliva for moistening divine food and preventing divine cavities, divine kidneys for filtering divine urine, divine white blood cells for fighting divine infections, and all the rest, yet what need would God have of any of these? Even if I believed that God existed and was anything like the God of the Bible, I should not imagine that the Biblical description of God as being elderly (the "Ancient of Days"), stretching forth his hand, showing Moses his posterior, and so forth, would be things that I would put much store by.

"As you are discovering, I am not your garden-variety fundamentalist or evangelical...."

Is it not true then that you take a literalistic view of the Bible? For instance, in considering the possibility of gender in God, you quote Bible verses, yet even a great many believers would interpret these verses as indicative of ancient people effort to describe God, not as God is, but in accordance with their imperfect understanding. In other words, many believers would interpret such descriptions as an attempt to describe the indescribable in the only way possible, which was by comparing the unknown to the known. I appreciate your sharing of your vast store of learning here as I readily admit that your knowledge of the Bible exceeds my own.

Vagabonde said...

I think the reason you write posts about religion is like self-defense. The US is the most religious country in the industrialized world, it’s all around you, constantly. If one person is kind of religious, they find it normal, but if you are not, then it irks you and bothers you. I just read an article today on the web and I thought about you, it said that the least religious countries in the world are the most happy, like Sweden and Denmark. I am not surprised. They are those with more social benefits – they may pay more taxes but they get a lot for their money – don’t have to pay for school, for health care, etc., so the people there are not so insecure and scared like the people in the US. Here is the article if you’d like to read it: http://www.salon.com/2012/08/29/eight_of_the_best_countries_to_be_an_atheist/ .

rhymeswithplague said...

I was not using the word gender in the sense you did, that of the physical equipment necessary to procreate. I meant it in the sense of "femaleness" and "maleness" as personality traits (submissiveness and dominance, or passivity and aggression, if you will -- and please do not now give me a treatise on sadomasochistic activities you have known and loved.) Au contraire, mon ami, it is you and not I who seem to take everything literally.

Do you have any idea how odious your references to God ejaculating or having a period or experiencing menopause, or your speaking of divine cavities and divine urine are to a Christian believer? I think you do. (Although Jesus must have urinated; I can't speak to tooth decay.) You are not just trying to be clever. Do not claim innocence here; you know you are being provocative on purpose. Do not pretend otherwise.

It's all right, though. I forgive you.

Snowbrush said...

"I was not using the word gender in the sense you did, that of the physical equipment necessary to procreate. I meant it in the sense of "femaleness" and "maleness" as personality traits"

If God is a perfect being, and God is more like a man than a woman, then men are more like God than are women, and are therefore superior to women by virtue of their closer proximity to the traits that define perfection. Such is the Biblical view, what with man being created first and woman being created out of man and for man. As the Bible says, "Man was not made for woman, but woman for man," a theme that is constant throughout the Bible, and is continued today by many churches, most notably the Catholic Church which holds that only men are qualified for the priesthood.

"...you know you are being provocative on purpose. Do not pretend otherwise."

I wasn't meaning to be provocative, quite the contrary. KJ would no doubt argue that many of today's problems are due to the image of God as a male, and the female Wiccans I've known would agree, so their chief deity is female. However, when people talk of God in terms of gender, the talk invariably holds that the more God-like gender is superior to the lesser God-like gender. In my view, this talk is idolatrous and becomes absurd when it's carried to its logical conclusion, which is that gender cannot exist apart from physical characteristics. When the Bible talks of there being no marriage in heaven, I think the point is that gender is an earthly characteristic and is meaningless apart from an earthly existence. To talk of God as a being that is so far above us that we can no more conceive of God than an amoeba can conceive of us, and then to turn around and define that God as being more like a man than like woman, or else more like a woman than like a man, is to create a deity after one's own image, and therefore to commit blasphemy by worshipping oneself in what is conceived to be a perfect form. Surely, if the Biblical writers had been women, then God would have been a woman, and if the Biblical writers had been opossums, then God would have been an opossum. It strikes me as bizarre that the view I would hold of God if I believed in God is higher than the view of God held by most believers, which is that God is like themselves only perfect in every dimension. If I were to believe in God, it would not be the tribalistic God of the Old Testament, or the failed God of the New Testament who was obliged to sacrifice his "son" to atone for his own screw-up in knowingly creating an imperfect species, but rather a God about which nothing could be said. It is in such a being that many believe, but my problem with that is that to believe in that about which nothing can be said is no less absurd than to believe in a God that is envisioned as a perfect human. Let me put it this way. If God exists, and God wanted us to know of God's existence, then God could communicate this clearly to every last one of us as opposed to only communicating it in ambiguous and contradictory ways to various people in ancient times and then having them pass along the message to other people who wrote it down, only to condemn us to hell if we failed to figure out which one of them was God's real representative. Surely, God wouldn't stand by silently while people killed and persecuted one another in God's name. Instead, God would communicate God's wishes to all of us in a way that we could understand. There would be no doubt what God wanted in regard to abortion and gay marriage and God would be a help to us rather than a source of discord.

rhymeswithplague said...

If only you were in charge of the universe, all would be so much better -- NOT!

There is so much wrong with your lengthy comment I don't know where to begin. Who was speaking of "more Godlike" and "less Godlike" genders? Not me. You brought it up just now yourself. My earlier point was that if we as a species were created in God's image then God must incorporate aspects of both maleness and femaleness personality traits and ways of relating to others. I never said one was better than the other or more Godlike than the other. You twisted that one all around to try to make me say something completely different from what I said.

It seems we always talk past one another.




Snowbrush said...

"I never said one was better than the other or more Godlike than the other."

No, you didn't, and I never thought you believed it. I wrote quickly, almost stream of consciousness, because I'm rushed today. I don't mean to retract anything, but to apologize for my lack of clarity. I spoke not so much of what I think you believe in your inmost self but of the logical consequences of gender-fying the deity. The Bible is a sexist book about a deity who, even though (as you so well pointed out) is occasionally said to incorporate female features, is dominantly male by 10,000 fold. Every time, the word "he" is used to describe God, it implies that man is closer to God than woman because the nature of man is more like the nature of God. Also, the maleness of God is used to justify the lesser societal and legal status of women and man's dominance over women. I'm stricken that anyone can worship the deity of the Bible if for this reason alone. My overall point was that even if a deity existed, there would be no way to assign gender characteristics (if ANY characteristics) to that deity. The Christian worship of an anthropomorphic deity is no better than golden calf worship in the Hebrew Bible because both take that which has form and elevate it to divine status, and this constitutes idolatry. If there were a God, I believe that God would be so far beyond the conception of Bronze Age males (and so far beyond the conception of people today for that matter) as to make all Scripture worthless inasmuch as it portrays the nature of God. All that Scripture portrays are the fears, hopes, values, and so forth of human beings. Scripture never soars, although it often drags believers into the mud by taking their greed, hatred, fear, and aggressive instincts, and turning them into divine attributes. Every one of the Old Testament genocides speaks of it. The Hebrews wanted other mens' land (and sometimes their wealth and virgins), so they pretended that God wanted them to commit genocide so that they could take those mens' lands, and wealth, and virgins. Can you possibly say to me that this sounds to you like the work of a divine entity, one who values justice and loves all of creation? Can you possibly say that, well, you know it sounds bad for God to do such things, but you're sure he had a good reason for ordering the murder of men, children, married women, and old people? No, there is nothing that could justify the deeds of the Biblical deity, anymore than there is anything that could justify the murders that are committed in God's name today. If a God existed, surely he would be better than that, but if he were not, I couldn't worship him. You sometimes think I blaspheme God, but I never blaspheme God that I would consider worthy of the title. It's the idols that I hold in contempt.

Snowbrush said...

"I think the reason you write posts about religion is like self-defense. The US is the most religious country in the industrialized world"

After the deity allowed a bomb to be set off during the Boston Marathon this week, Obama called for the nation to pray for God's help, and he will be attending a prayer service tonight. God (being God) could have stopped that bombing in an infinite number of ways, any of which wouldn't have put him to the least trouble, so, having failed to do so, why should even those who believe in him think he will answers prayers now?

"it said that the least religious countries in the world are the most happy, like Sweden and Denmark."

Yes, and the most unhappy parts of this country are the most religious, yet the fiction of religion is like the fiction of the gun control lobby in that both claim that our problems are caused by too little of the very things that are causing out problems. In other words, instead of less religion and fewer guns, what we need is more religion and more guns. People like myself end up feeling so alienated from the values of his own country that he doesn't much relate to being an American. If anything, I'm ashamed to be an American. For instance, thanks to our inability to reign in our spending, I have serious doubts about our continued existence, even over the next couple of decades. Financial ruin is the legacy that we're going to leave coming generations. As for Sweden and Denmark, the source of their happiness isn't only due to the absence of religion and the strife and wars that result therefrom; it is also due to the fact that the people aren't put in a position of knowing that they could be financially ruined by medical expenses and end up both sick and homeless. And what part of this country most opposes universal health coverage? The religious parts, the parts that talk the most about loving their neighbor.

Thanks for the link. I will check it out.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. Vagabonde, I think that both you and Rhymes live in the northwestern quadrant of Georgia, but I know you both live in Georgia.

rhymeswithplague said...

Vagabonde and I live in two counties that share a common border. Our homes must be about 25 miles apart, give or take. I lived from 1975 until 2003 in Vagabonde's county, then I moved "farther out" to avoid things like a 15-lane Interstate highway (eight lanes in one direction and seven in the other). Now I am out among the cows and horses and chickens. Mrs. RWP and I were back over there just last night to attend the spring choral concert at the school two of our grandchildren attend.

kj said...

'(I'm assuming that you prefer a female personification of God because you blame the current world's problems largely on patriarchy'

snow, you are way off the mark here. i never even thought of this.

i am abit breathless that you would not know (or would try to justify) that using "he" because it's convenient for you or implying that 'he' is gender neutral is inappropriate and to many, offensive. those days are gone, snow. i expect more of you because you are so knowledgable and interesting

most sincerely, with love
kj

Snowbrush said...

"I am abit breathless that you would not know (or would try to justify) that using "he" because it's convenient for you or implying that 'he' is gender neutral is inappropriate and to many, offensive. those days are gone, snow. i expect more of you because you are so knowledgable and interesting."

I see your (and anyone else's) insistence that I adhere to a one-size-fits-all version of political correctness as being like racism, patriotism, homophobia, ethnocentrism, and other attempts to quickly and effortlessly divide people into superior and inferior categories. Having done this, you are free to take everything I say by way of explanation and twist it to keep me in my assigned category. I surely devoted several paragraphs in the response column to this very post to clarifying my reasons for using masculine pronouns when describing the god of the Bible (a god about whom I hold a very unflattering opinion, and who is described by the Bible itself as a male), yet you condescendingly dismissed them all with a single and appallingly inaccurate sentence. You have complained about this matter twice, yet I still don't know what you would like me to do differently, and I very much doubt that, having already decided I am in the wrong, you actually read most of what I had to say. If I am in the wrong, prove it to me and show me a better way, as opposed to mixing insult and flattery.

angela said...

So very sorry for your loss. The loss of a pet is as devastating as losing Amy member o the family.
Sending love from over the seas xxx

TICKLEBEAR said...

I'm not getting the call because my number is unlisted...

As for religiosity, I've had to deal often with patients with religious delirium. Nothing like a little injection to put all of this to rest. Is the pharmaceutical industry atheist?!?
:D~
HUGZ