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.
[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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