What Happens to Your Brain When You Stop Believing in God?

What Happens to Your Brain When You Stop Believing in God? April 25, 2018

Psychologist Jeffrey Anderson suggests that “Religion works exactly like a drug–like cocaine, or methamphetamine–or like music, or like romantic love… All of those experiences on some level tap into rewards. The physiology is really the same.”

How Religion Taps Into Our Reward Circuits… 

Personally, I can’t help but be reminded of all of the Christian concerts, festivals or conferences I attended and/or took my youth groups too; the music, the lighting, the build-up… all of this was (for a lack of better words), exhilarating. Just think back to your first concert; it’s nothing different within Christian worship/culture; a 13-year-old’s mind is blown-up; confused; unable to process all of these euphoric feelings being triggered and overwhelmed simultaneously.What Happens to Our Brains When We Stop Believing in God? - Andy Gill 2

Just think back to your first concert (Christian or not); it’s nothing different within Christian “worship culture;” a 13-year-old’s mind is blown-up; confused; unable to process all of these euphoric feelings being triggered and overwhelmed simultaneously. Combined with naivety they believe that this cannot simply be manipulated by man and that this has to be GOD.

But, with the Businification of modern American Christianity, this also plays into any given pastors marketing plan; which is, simply put, all humans have basic needs (physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, etc.), we at something-something-Community-Church will tap into your on the surface emotional needs by making you feel good (reward) when you attend our service (payment).

This is nothing different than what Starbucks does with their rewards program; or, what Casinos do to keep you coming back; or, what social media platforms do with “likes,” “favorites,” and “follows.”

These are all creating a sense of instantaneous gratification with zero to very little cost, seemingly. The cost comes from the fact that you cannot have meaning without cost. You can feel good, experience pleasure, but over time, you’ll just feel lost and empty.

(I talk more about this in an article I wrote for RELEVANT Magazine a few years back, “Loneliness in the Age of Facebook“)

Which, this partially lends explanation as to why our Church attendance has been in rapid decline. Worship services begin to appear hedonistic; prayer requests turn into gossip; prophecies are no longer encouraging and your pastor’s words become empty. 

In other words, the gratifications you once felt are no longer being felt; over the course of years, your faith begins to erode…


[Check back Monday for “What Happens When We Lose Our Religion” — until then, you can ironically “Follow” me on Twitter or head over and “Like” my Facebook Page for updates]


[1] photos are screenshots provided by Vice.
[2] banner is a screenshot from the movie “The Discovery

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