At least that is what people would like to think. The fact is, we don’t truly understand why people are religious in the first place. The uncomfortable question du jour is: what is faith?

We’ve been wondering what life is and where we came from for as long as we have been able to organise our thoughts. And in the absence of anything that makes sense we have constructed our own version of events. 

By its very definition, faith it is a belief in something that cannot be proven.

Neuroscientists around the world are examining our brains to establish why some people are more prone to believing in an omnipotent creator and why some see only clouds when they look skyward.

Where once the lack of answers and the awe of creation led to the worship of the sun, the moon and the stars, these pantheistic attempts to understand have given way to a more supernatural belief that there is in fact a (or several thousand) puppet master(s) who controls the show.

Death, the other great unknown, is also a prime player in this drama. Fear of the unknown and what happens to us after death has long been associated with religious belief. After all, who wants to accept a hole in the ground as our ultimate destination? 

But what do faith, prayer, meditation and all other types of worship actually do for us on a neurological level?

Recent scientific study has revealed that people who feel less in control of their lives are more likely to see patterns where none actually exist. It makes sense when you think about it. If they do not have control and ‘shit happens’ then someone else must be making it happen, right? This might explain some peoples’ faith in a supernatural power. It does not, however explain the cruel genocidal nature of God when one looks at the plight of mankind.

What else might be responsible for this? Well, tradition and social conditioning play an enormous part in faith. It is drummed into each of us from an early age. It is the carrot and whip designed to give us moral and ethical guidance.

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

The more cynical amongst us believe that religion was the first, and possibly most effective, method of mass control by the powers that be. Of course we have prescription drugs to fill that existential void, now that God has all but vanished.

Science has shown that prayer and meditation have a relaxing and stress combatting effect on our brains and bodies. Perhaps this spiritual quest is what we need and why we invented our gods in the first place. Everyone likes to sit in silence away from life’s troubles and to have someone who knows them intimately listen to their thoughts. Paying a psychiatrist doesn’t really do the trick for most people.

Religious belief in Western society is on the decline and atheism is on the rise. What is behind this? Is it knowledge? Is it that we are now, more than ever, aware of the many different approaches to religion that exist around our world? Is it the rise of psychology and science that have impacted our sense of belief? Is it the ubiquitous happy pills that our doctors continue to prescribe us?

If religion was once the opium of the people what it the opium of today? Looking at recent Pharma scandals the answer is opium. But it looks like our Gods, prescription opioids, eastern mysticism and rampant consumerism is being replaced by a new opium that is being welcomed with open arms by our leaders: cannabis.

Just remember that the next life is where you will get your just rewards and everything will be fine. In the meantime, government, religion and big Pharma have got you covered if you are lacking in faith.

To quote Bob Dylan “don’t follow leaders and watch your parking meters.”

Reality is a tough place to live. We get that. But you only get one shot at life. Don’t do as you are told. They could be misleading you…

In my own narrow view of the world I believe the correct spelling of God is Dog.

TS O’Rourke

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