Religion, Reality, and What Happens in Your Brain

Religion, Reality, and What Happens in Your Brain June 23, 2014

Fr. Longenecker writes here on the brain research relating to religious experiences.  When I first came across this line of scientific inquiry some years ago, it was a great help to me.  I’m prone to doubt about all kinds of things, and this sort of research affirms the reality of the existence of God.


Because all our other senses correspond to real things.

I’d never propose that because brain damage can alter what we see that therefore “vision” is just a coping-mechanism built into your brain to help you adjust to the reality that there is nothing to see.  Or that just because some people hear ringing in their ears, and others hear nothing in their ears, that “sound” is therefore just your brain’s way of keeping you sane in a silent world.

The brain is a strange and marvelous thing, and we’re all aware of situations in which its workings go awry.  We can feel happy or sad about things that are real — good things or bad things — but we can also have those feelings of happiness or sadness artificially induced, by a medication or fatigue, for example.  That doesn’t mean that the happiness we feel at the birth of a baby and the sadness we feel at the loss of one are “manufactured” in our brains, and that in fact neither event is happy or sad.  It means that the part of our brain that perceives ‘happy’ and ‘sad’  usually works, but it can malfunction, on its own or by instigation, just like any other body part.

If there’s a part of your brain that processes taste, it’s because there are things that have taste.  If there is a part of your brain that processes scent, it is because there are things that have scent.  If there is a part of your brain the processes the supernatural, it is because there are things that are supernatural.


Yes, yes, I know, on brain evidence taken alone, there’s some remote chance that 95% of the human population just has a very vivid imagination.  As with the proofs for the existence of any person, if you are convinced out of hand that a particular person does not exist, there will always be some way to dismiss the evidence of that person’s existence.

But if you’re pretty sure your friend / kinsman / Deity is around and loves you and wants to hear from you, it’s nice every now and again to get a little affirmation that this is the case.

File:Albarracín, Teruel, España, 2014-01-10, DD 002.JPG

Photo: Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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