Is Our Brain Chemistry the Difference Between Religious Saint and Violent Monster?

Patrick McNamara, the director of the Evolutionary Neurobehavior Laboratory at the Boston University School of Medicine, has an interesting theory about brain chemistry and religion. It’s dopamine, McNamara says – the neurotransmitter known for exciting the reward center in our brain – that “drives the switch” between an extraordinary religious person becoming either a benevolent saint or a fanatical killer.

In an essay published over at Aeon (hat tip Dan Fincke), McNamara notes that

[B]ountiful dopamine has given rise to gifted leaders and peacemakers (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Catherine of Siena), innovators (Zoroaster), seers (the Buddha), warriors (Napoleon, Joan of Arc), teachers of whole civilizations (Confucius) and visionaries (Laozi). Some of them founded not only enduring religious traditions but also profoundly influenced the cultures and civilisations associated with those traditions.

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This Priest Apparently Never Read the Commandment Against Stealing

When an Italian pharmacist left 14 million Euros to the Catholic Church upon his death last year, he probably didn’t expect the money to be used on a car, a scooter, cosmetic treatments, and other luxuries. The deceased wanted his fortune to go to humanitarian aid, via a Catholic charity called Caritas.

But the custodian of the bequest, an unnamed 57-year-old priest, decided that he needed the money more than the poor and destitute do.

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Conservative Columnist Peggy Noonan Decries “Prayer Shaming” After the San Bernardino Terror Attack

Did you know that “prayer shaming” is the latest scourge to hit America? And did you realize this unacceptable behavior is a gross attack on the First Amendment?

Peggy Noonan, in the Wall Street Journal, would like to educate everyone on how serious it’s getting, with a column entitled “The First Amendment Needs Your Prayers.”

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Planned Parenthood Killer Believes He Can Do What He Wants, Even Murder, As Jesus Already Saved Him

The New York Times has unearthed much more from the checkered past of Robert L. Dear, Jr., the man who killed and maimed seemingly indiscriminately at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last Friday.

Ms. Micheau [one of his ex-wives] described Mr. Dear as a serial philanderer and a problem gambler, a man who kicked her, beat her head against the floor and fathered two children with other women while they were together. He found excuses for his transgressions, she said, in his idiosyncratic views on Christian eschatology and the nature of salvation.

The suspect appears to believe that, on account of being Christian, he holds a ticket to heaven, and therefore, has carte blanche for his violent actions.

“He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic, but does not follow the Bible in his actions,” Ms. Micheau said in the court document.

Well, I never.

“He says that as long as he believes he will be saved, he can do whatever he pleases.”

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Guess What My 13-Year-Old Just Learned About Islam In Her Public School

Michael Epperson‘s sensible piece on Friendly Atheist, about whether we should refer to Islam as a “religion of peace,” ends with an editorial note: “The opinions expressed here are those of the author.”

Well, for the record, they mirror mine almost exactly. This part was especially good, I thought:

We can’t afford pet names and word games. I understand that [Hillary] Clinton would play the “religion of peace” game even if she viewed Islam as horrific, but this carelessness shut downs the conversation. We need sophisticated conversations about a complicated religion. If your contribution to that conversation is limited to five letters, you’re not doing Muslims, the vast majority of whom are peaceful and tolerant, any favors.

It seems that many people think that they are doing Muslims a favor. But those good intentions foster bad thinking. Some people praise Islam for being a religion of peace and, without coming up for air, condemn critics of Islam for generalizing the faith. The irony is lost on these people.

Unfortunately, Epperson’s opinion, and mine, won’t really matter. At the highest level of government, and throughout most of academe, we’ll all be bombarded for years to come with the mantra that Islam equals peace.

Consider this: My oldest daughter, who is a very mature 13 and interested in becoming a judge or a diplomat, this year learned the following about Islam and its prophet in her blue-ribbon school:

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