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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » Imaginary Friends & The Universe

Imaginary Friends & The Universe

Born Believers: How your brain creates god:

WHILE many institutions collapsed during the Great Depression that began in 1929, one kind did rather well. During this leanest of times, the strictest, most authoritarian churches saw a surge in attendance.

This anomaly was documented in the early 1970s, but only now is science beginning to tell us why. It turns out that human beings have a natural inclination for religious belief, especially during hard times. Our brains effortlessly conjure up an imaginary world of spirits, gods and monsters, and the more insecure we feel, the harder it is to resist the pull of this supernatural world. It seems that our minds are finely tuned to believe in gods.

Religious ideas are common to all cultures: like language and music, they seem to be part of what it is to be human. Until recently, science has largely shied away from asking why. “It’s not that religion is not important,” says Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University, “it’s that the taboo nature of the topic has meant there has been little progress.”

The origin of religious belief is something of a mystery, but in recent years scientists have started to make suggestions. One leading idea is that religion is an evolutionary adaptation that makes people more likely to survive and pass their genes onto the next generation. In this view, shared religious belief helped our ancestors form tightly knit groups that cooperated in hunting, foraging and childcare, enabling these groups to outcompete others. In this way, the theory goes, religion was selected for by evolution, and eventually permeated every human society (New Scientist, 28 January 2006, p 30)

I’ve mentioned it before, but this is a much more in-depth piece. From my rudimentary knowledge of psychology, the brain interprets and pieces together sensory information, even using imagination to weave a cohesive reality together (which is also why memories are so often wrong and why we can’t ‘get’ something we have zero knowledge/context from which to understand it). This is a protective mechanism to shield us from how shitty the cold, uncaring universe really is. There are probably more mechanisms like this than we realize (morality would be a good example of this). Previously, I’ve mentioned the brain’s aversion to non-existence.

Part of it might simply be the brain’s way of exhibiting dissatisfaction with the mere physical existence it has. This is why you should feed it.

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