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Sci Tech    H2'ed 12/28/21

Neuropsychology of Human Religious Behavior

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Message Abbas Sadeghian, Ph.D.
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Background and history: I guess if one is born and raised in Iran, one would naturally despise or love religions. However, when I was born, Iran was not a theocracy yet. I was never pushed to become religious. My parents were not religious. In school we were required to study the Quran. In all classes if a student was not listening or had not done his homework, he would be beaten with a cane. Using a cane or just beating up the students by teachers was a common practice, but I was not a troublemaker and a good student. So, I was never caned, except once in the class for Quran, because I had not prepared to read a piece of the Quran in Arabic. I was caned two times, one for each hand. It hurt like a SOB. During high school there always was a course covering religious studies. The damn thing was stupid but easy. I was the only one in the class who knew how to get ahold of every edition of the Playboy. At that age, looking at playboy was the best substitute for religious studies.

When I was leaving Iran to come here, I was under the impression that the cause of our excessive religiosity was just lack of proper education, superstitions and ignorance. When I arrived in

Los Angeles, I had a sleepless night. So I watched the T.V. During a commercial, they showed a well-dressed man next to a black board. There were the simple drawings of a lake, clouds and the sun. The gentleman said God causes sun to shine on the lake which evaporates the water to go to sky to make the clouds which causes the rain to come back to earth. That is god's way of creating life on earth. If you want to know, more send $5 to P.O. Box"... It suddenly downed on me that this irrational behavior was not caused by poor education "Human religious behavior was universal".

Studying social sciences, I had to study human religious behavior from many different angles. It took many years of schooling, until at post-doctoral studies of human brain it began to make sense. Finally, I could put all human sciences from history to psychology, anthropology, sociology, Persian mystic literature and the recent advancement in neuroimaging to find a rational cause for existence of religion. I will write the truth, you be the judge

The origins of Human Religious Behavior: Throughout the history, the topic of human religiosity has been referred to as a learned behavior. In other words, a person's religion is the final outcome of the person's interaction with his environment. Therefore, the assumption was that if you are born in a Christian country, you are going to be a Christian. Theoretically, since the person has been exposed to his religion from early childhood his beliefs would be consolidated during adolescence and early adult life. Therefore, it would be quite unlikely that he would choose a different religion nor have the desire or the need to practice something else. Although we do see occasional cases of conversion of single individuals from one religion to another religion, mass conversions throughout human history are usually rare and mostly are caused by wars and force.

These mass conversions, due to the force are for gold, land and new members to pay taxes. Also, the victims are forced to believe in the cause of their misery. Like African Americans, Native Americans and the natives of South America who are mostly Christian, while they were taken into slavery by devout Christians based on teachings of the Bible. Christianity, Judaism and Islam permit slavery, as a matter-of-fact Mohammad himself was a slave trader. While slavery is the greatest crime of human history. Although, the followers of the great religions of the world do not like to admit these historical facts, an honest historian would admit that my ancestors' conversion from Zoroastrianism to Islam was only achieved by Arabic swords. The same is true for natives of South America becoming Christians. Their fate was sealed by Spaniard swords.

Interestingly, the forceful attempts to make a population atheist have never worked. The most famous historical example of these attempts is Stalin's brutal confrontation of religiosity. Stalin did not look at religion as just "opium of the masses" he looked at it as a menace for the society and considered clergymen as parasites. Stalin's method of dealing with religion was the same method that he used in dealing with anything else. His answer was total elimination of religion. He ordered all mosques, churches and temples to be burned, he killed all of the clergy. It should be noted that upon the collapse of the Soviet Union after seventy years of total atheism the first changes included the reappearance of mosques, churches, temples and clergymen. In other words, you can force people to convert to a different religion, but you cannot force them to become an atheist, as if human religiosity is a phenomena like sex or aggression, they just cannot live without it.

During recent years there has been an evolution of thought regarding the origin of religions. This new theory has gained momentum recently. The latest set of research on this topic, using more advanced technology is gradually changing the entire concept of human religious behavior and its derivatives: spirituality, parapsychology and all other forms of believing in God as an innate drive which we are born with. This topic is going to be examined in this article in detail.

God's spokesmen: Unfortunately, the intensity of human emotions regarding their faith is so strong, that it is next to impossible to hold a reasonable discussion regarding people who are referred to as prophets of God. If a person is a little inquisitive, he probably would have a few legitimate questions regarding the issue of prophets of God. The simple question is that "why does god need to assign a human being to be his spokesman or "prophet". After all, he is the creator of the universe, with such tremendous power and unlimited creativity; why does he need human beings to transfer his message? If we assume the hypothesis of religion as an innate drive; then the issue of the prophets changes entirely. The prophets would not be god's spokesman; rather, they are people who think that they are messengers of God.

The prophets usually think that they are chosen by God. They believe that there is a problem associated with religion of their time, which has caused God to send them to articulate the truth. In one case, "Muhammad" the prophet of Islam, I was able to render a diagnosis and provide the support for the notion that he suffered from complex partial seizures. In the case of older prophets, the documentation is sketchy and unreliable. The more recent prophets are easier to diagnose, but they do not have such a strong following. Consequently, there is not an immediate need to spend years for research to figure out their diagnosis.

However, if we broaden our scope, and look at the common denominator among them; we can see some similarities, which might be able to answer some of our questions. The main prerequisite to be able to claim that one is a prophet, is the ability to perform miracles. Although, the biggest miracle is the fact that there still are people who believe that there is such a thing called a miracle?

What is a miracle? Prophets are supposed to perform miracles and have the ability to conduct behaviors that other humans cannot do. The prophets can wish things to happen that others cannot (turning a staff into a snake). In the case of Muhammad, he claimed that the Quran is his miracle, that no one else could write such an eloquent book. This practice lays the groundwork for Shakespeare (in English), Hafez (in Persian), and Garcia Lorca in Spanish, to make similar claims.

In case of older religions their sacred books are mostly written well after the prophet is dead and although they are accepted as a divine religious document, they are very poor history books. Let's take the example of Jesus. Jewish people of that time had been waiting for appearance of 'Mashia" or messiah for centuries. Then a rabbi shows up in Jerusalem, riding a donkey. This rabbi announces that he is god's son. He was able to give life to the dead, cure illnesses as bad as leprosy and seizure disorder. Now in all honesty if such a thing had happened would anybody had dared to raise a hand on him. Some people might have not liked him, but everyone would have been scared of him to their shoes.

The history of the Middle East is full of similar stories. The most famous one was Seyyed Ali Mohammad Shirazi 'Bab" about 150 years ago. The original founder of Baha'i religion, who are being badly oppressed in Iran. After a few years of his claims of being a prophet. He was called into a debate with Moslem clergy men in presence of the crown prince in city of Tabriz. He failed the debate quite poorly. So, he was ordered to be caned on his feet, He kept on screaming that he was sorry and begged them to stop the canning. Then he wrote a long letter of apology which is currently available in Iranian library of congress. Then he was killed. A very similar story to many other stories of recent prophets. If you do not believe me, just read the book of Mormon.

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I was born and raised in Tehran Iran .I came to the U.S in 1976 to study psychology. With time decided to hang my hat here and became a U.S. citizen.
My areas of interest in psychology were varied. However I mostly worked with (more...)

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