Beliefs

The brain function of abstraction acts as a doorway between direct perception and consciousness, for humans depend on concepts, labels, and words to shape their awareness. This is problematic when it comes to spiritual matters, which, by definition, refer to realms that have no physical reality. (Young children can form categories for concrete objects, but they have enormous difficulties with abstract concepts such as freedom, fairness, or God.) The brain transforms reality into abstract categories and labels, and these labels are intangible beliefs, assumptions about a world that cannot be directly perceived. In this sense, labels, beliefs, and reality are one and the same. If an ability to abstract is lost, the individual likely will end up living in a state of perpetual confusion, unable to navigate in the world, and unable to form beliefs. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 76-80. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Neither children nor adults have a well-developed capacity to distinguish the accuracy of their own beliefs. Adults are particularly vulnerable with regard to maintaining self-deceptive beliefs, especially when comparing their own intelligence and attractiveness with that of others. Most people overestimate their personal abilities, and unfortunately their inflated beliefs cause them to suspend their ability to test reality (e.g., smokers underestimate their risk of lung cancer, managers make overly optimistic forecasts that lead their organizations into initiates that typical fail or fall short of expectations). In surveys, approximately 90% of the respondents believed they were smarter, healthier, and more industrious than the average individual. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 72-74. NY: Free Press, 2006)

Attempting to stay in the moment helps one to achieve quality longevity. Mindfulness or mindful awareness, the subtle process of moment-to-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and physical states, is key to sharpening memory and staying mentally fit. This ability not only reduces stress and anxiety, but also boosts the immune system and promotes health and healing for a variety of  medical illnesses and conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and chronic pain. (Small, Gary, MD. The Longevity Bible. NY:Hyperion Books, p 8-9. 2006)

No matter what you see, feel, think, or do, it must all be processed through the brain. The human brain forms beliefs. A belief is like a map, a neural representation of an experience that seems meaningful real, or true. What constitutes a proof about anything is also a form of belief. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 7, 17-22. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Each person is free to choose the beliefs to accept and those to reject. Therefore, there are more than 6 billion belief systems in the world and no two are identical. The frontal lobe is critical in directing our ability to act freely and make decisions. One may have less conscious choice that ordinarily believed, however. Studies by Benjamin Libet showed that several milliseconds before a person makes a conscious decision, there is electrical activity in the brain that likely represents a subconscious generation of the thought the person is about to have. Which means that humans are likely not responsible for every thought that crosses their mind. They likely are responsible for the thoughts they continue to harbor and cogitate upon once the thought reaches conscious awareness. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 25, 150-160. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Six cognitive functions (abstractive, quantitative, cause-and-effect, dualistic-oppositional, reductionist, holistic) work in conjunction with many other neural processes to create one’s belief systems. Some beliefs have strong emotional value and are deeply embedded in memory. Other beliefs elicit only mild responses and may never reach consciousness. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 95-97. NY:Free Press, 2006)

When you believe your perceptions accurately represent something in reality, your brain sends this information through a hierarchical processing system that allow you to compare the representation with your memories and other believes. These cognitive functions are largely preconscious. Specific cognitive processes are not only essential to the formulation of everyday beliefs but also responsible for the emergence of spiritual perceptions, mystical experiences, and unitive states of consciousness, including functions of:

  • Abstractive
  • Quantitative
  • Cause-and-effect
  • Dualistic or oppositional
  • Reductionist
  • Holistic

(Newberg, Andrew, MD, et al. Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. NY:Ballantine, 2001)

Compassion tempers the emotional reaction of disgust. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 140-150. NY:Free Press, 2006)

The brain builds a conscious map of reality and a wide range of emotional responses will be assigned to everything we observe and think about. Even when we watch a horror film and know it is make-believe, part of the brain reacts as if it were real, and for a moment we react with fear. Any conscious awareness of the maps we are making occurs sometime after the event takes place—between one-tenth and one-half a second later, to be exact. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 32-34

Different areas in the brain appear to be associated with differing types of conscious decision-making; no one specific area of the brain has been identified as governing free will. Brain imaging studies do suggest that the frontal lobes are critical in directing one’s ability to act freely and make decisions. (Price, J.L., 2005)Rowe, J.B., et al, 2000. Hyder, F., et al, 1997. Frith, C.D., et al, 1991)

Belief is acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. A feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true. (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

Belief is the state of mind in which a person thinks something to be the case, with or without there being empirical evidence to prove that something is the case with factual certainty. Another way of defining belief sees it as a mental representation of an attitude positively oriented towards the likelihood of something being true. (Schwitzgebel, Eric (2006), "Belief", in Zalta, Edward, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford, CA:The Metaphysics Research Lab, retrieved 2008-09-19)

Belief is any sequence of steps, statements, or demonstrations leading to a valid conclusion; any perception, cognition, or emotion that the brain assumes, consciously or unconsciously, to be true. “Perception” refers to information we receive about ourselves and the world through the senses. Cognition represents a different level of processing within the brain and includes all the abstract conceptual processes that the brain uses to organize and make sense of our perceptions. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 20-21. NY:Free Press, 2006)

The brain paralyzes the body during dreaming so it cannot physically respond. Dreams seem unreal only when we awake and a different system of belief (and reality) takes over. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 36. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Emotions are essential for making moral and ethical decisions. Emotions bind our perceptions to our conscious beliefs, making whatever we are thinking about seem more real at the time. In addition, strong emotions (particularly anger, fear, and passion) can radically alter our perceptions of reality. Many beliefs, including moral beliefs, can be easily altered by authoritarian and peer-group pressure. The two most significant factors in undermining individual morality are group conformity and the power of authority to override personal objections and doubts. Controversial psychology experiments in 1963 by Stanley Milgram imply that with increased intimacy, physical or verbal, people will treat each other with greater compassion and respect. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 32, 140-155. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Brain scans: the amygdala that registers fear does react when one first observes a person from a different ethnic background—but there can be a significant variance in the response based on a variety of internal and external influences. The brain’s initial reaction can decrease in less than half a second. When faced with any belief that conflicts with one’s own, it takes additional effort and time to override biologically based cognitive biases, but by doing so you can become more open minded. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 87-90. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Any intense experience, if maintained for more than half an hour, can leave permanent changes in the neural circuits involving emotion and memory. If the experience is frightening, the memory can continue to traumatize the individual for year. Brain-scan studies find that it takes less than one second for a word or a phase to trigger an emotional reaction in your brain. Negative states stimulate intensive limbic activity, and this causes the hippocampus to embed it into long-term emotional memory. Pleasant experiences do not trigger as strong a reactions and therefore are harder to recall than unpleasant ones. The more you obsess on a specific feeling, the more real I will appear to be. Be careful what you pray for, meditate on, or obsess about, because it may eventually become your personal truth. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 182-190. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Human beings have a great capacity for sticking to false beliefs with great passion and tenacity. Hyper-rational scientists are not immune. (Lipton, Bruce, PhD. The Biology of Belief. P. 16. CA:Mountain of Love/Elite Books, 2005)

The memory of the sense of one’s body becomes so ingrained in the neural circuits governing self-experience that the brain has difficulty reorganizing itself after a crippling accident or stroke. If painful enough, the person may not be able to accept the truth. A false belief can be constructed, triggering an emotional memory that feels utterly present and real (e.g., man with phantom erections after penis removal; person ‘sees’ fat on their body where there is none in anorexia nervosa). fMRI scans showed that the sensory motor areas of the body do not distinguish between imaginary and actual images and activities. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 61-62, 98. NY:Free Press, 2006)

As long as a person doesn’t encounter visual evidence to the contrary, superstitious beliefs can continue without interruption until a satisfying alternative explanation is embraced. In the past, magical thinking was considered a respectable philosophy, since it provided adequate explanations for mysterious events. (White, M. Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. NY:Perseus, 1998)

A child’s perceptual and cognitive evaluations of people’s moods and feelings are often different from those of an adult. Childhood memories and beliefs turn out to be particularly inaccurate and can be easily influenced—even falsified—by other people. Because they’ve been repeated and reinforced over many years, however, those memories are often the least likely to be modified or rejected as a result of later experiences and beliefs. The power of emotion can turn fantasy into a supposed fact. False memories are more difficult to dismiss, perhaps because the dissonance between fact and fiction causes a stronger emotional reaction within the limbic areas, which in turn interfere with one’s ability to use logic and reason in evaluation beliefs about the world. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 106-112. NY:Free Press, 2006)

The more traumatic an event, the more likely the victim is to construct beliefs that border on the bizarre. (McNally, R. Remembered trauma. MA:Harvard University Press, 2003.)

It takes several decades for the brain’s cognitive abilities to mature. During this time, one’s belief systems, like neuronal connections, are very flexible. The older the brain becomes, the less flexible one’s belief become as the neural pathways stabilize. Nevertheless, one’s ability to refine personal beliefs continues to mature. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe, P 70-72. NY:Free Press, 2006)

The flow of external data, and the sensation and actions trigged by them, feed into the ordering framework of our brains and create an ever more elaborate and ever more idiosyncratic, internal conceptual universe. It forms the likes and dislikes, habits of thought, dispositions, beliefs, and memories that in time we come of think of as our "selves." (Carter, Rita. Exploring Consciousness. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002)

Extensive research (Bob Altemeyer and Bruce Hunsberger) showed that children who grow up in fundamentalist families do tend to obey the authorities and follow rules. However, they also tend to be self-righteous, prejudicial, and condemnatory toward people outside their group. They tend to develop an ‘us versus them’ mentality that many maintain throughout life. Fundamentalist congregations tend to experience a 50 percent dropout rate among members. (Altemeyer, B., and B. Hunsberger. “Fundamentalism and authoritarianism” Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. NY:Guilford, 2005)

The ultimate genesis of beliefs, as for everyone, is parental. (Shermer, Michael, PhD. How We Believe. P xvii. NY:W. H. Freeman and Company, 2000.)

Guilt plays an important role in establishing moral beliefs. Guilt rather than shame, promotes a greater willingness to change one’s behavior. Too much embarrassment and shame can lead to inner hostility and aggressive behavior. Embarrassment evokes a stronger neural reaction that guilt. The ability to empathize with others is essential for establishing moral beliefs. If you don’t understand how another person feels, you have less ability to respond in a kindly manner. Simply observing another person’s facial expression is enough to trigger an emotionally empathetic response in the brain. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 140-150. NY:Free Press, 2006)

The right hemisphere is primarily involved in holistic representations, perceiving how things are connected into a whole. Holistic functions are not language based and so are more difficult to define or communicate. Spiritual experiences seem to rely on the brain’s holistic functions. Individuals often define spiritual experiences in broad, sweeping, poorly defined terms (e.g., enlightenment, transcendence). When holistic processing predominates, one consciously does not feel a very strong need to analyze, compare, quantify, or justify one’s perceptions or beliefs. Unconscious facial recognition relies heavily on holistic processing. The human brain is capable of both holistic and reductionist thinking but not at the same time. (Tovee, M. “Is face processing special?” Neuron 21:1239-1242. 1998)

Beliefs shape personal behaviors and spiritual ethics throughout life, governing nearly every aspect of life. They are our most important human commodity and help people flourish and survive. They can also be used to suppress others and justify immoral or sadistic acts. They can also connect one with transcendent dimensions of experience, and give inspiration and hope, essential tools for confronting moments of confusion and doubt. They help people build civilizations, make revolutions, create music and art, determine our relationship to the cosmos, makes us fall in love and drive us into hate. Once beliefs are established, their validity is rarely challenged even when the person is faced with contradictory evidence. The brain is instinctually prone to reject information that does not conform to one’s prior experience and knowledge. It has a propensity to reject any belief that is not in accord with one’s own view. The human brain can alter its system of beliefs far more rapidly than that of any other organism on the planet. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 4-18 NY:Free Press, 2006)

Contributing influences to belief development include:

  • Internalization of beliefs during childhood
  • Charismatic leaders
  • Advertising
  • Head trauma

(Belief, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Most everything is interpreted by the brain in some way or other. For example, music is a neural interpretation of sound. Color is a neural interpretation of light—and to the brain color is primarily a subjective experience. There is no neural receptor that distinguishes any gradation of gray. It, like many other colors the human brain imagines, is a belief construction within the brain—a form of understanding. A thought. (Davidoff, J., 2001. Lamb, T, et al, 1995. Neitz, J., et al, 2001).

As with many beliefs, love may exist only in the mind. And it may not physically exist in the world outside your mind. Nevertheless, it has the power to alter the course of lives and change the course of history. If you define it as a form of nurturance and attachment, love can be found in many species besides human beings. Apparently only human beings exhibit romantic passion, however. The emotions triggered by a combination of romantic ideals and hormones are very powerful and often impart a strong impression of reality. Intimately, each person is free to choose which beliefs to accept and which to reject. (Lipton, Bruce, PhD. The Biology of Belief. P. 24-25. CA:Mountain of Love/Elite Books, 2005)

Love is a belief existing primarily inside one’s mind…and may not physically exist in the world outside the mind. Love seems real because the emotions triggered by a combination of hormones and romantic ideals are very powerful and often impart a strong impression of reality. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 24-25. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Many of our memories about ourselves—particularly those about our early years—are believed partly a form of wishful thinking, an internal cognitive process that attempts to restructure one’s autobiography in a positive light. (Fotopoulou, A., et al. “Wishful realty distortions in confabulation: A case report.” Neuropsyhologia 42(6):727-744)

Human beings make up stories about their lives, the world, and reality in general. The fit between the memories and the stories enhances the person’s belief in them. Often, however, it is the story that creates the memory, rather than vice versa. (Hastie, R., and R.M. Dawes. “Rational Choice in an Uncertain World.” Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage, 2001.)

Recovered-memory therapy has been shown to be unverifiable, and memories recovered in this way are no longer admissible in court. (Lief, H.I. “Patients versus therapist:Legal actions over recovered memory therapy. Psychiatric Times 16(11).

Study: victims claiming recovery of repressed memories were found to be more prone to fantasies and false recollections of other remembered events. Other research has found that interpretation of dreams can be used to alter a person’s memories and create false beliefs. (Mazzoni, G. A. L. “Dream interpretation and false beliefs.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 30(1):45-50. 1999.

Imaginary memories and reality-based memories are stored in different parts of the brain. If neural pathways that connect brain areas are interfered with, a person may lose the ability to distinguish between fantasies and facts. (Conway, M.A., et al. “Neurophysiological correlates of memory for experienced and imagined events.” Psychopharmacology (Berlin). 155(2):204-209) 

It was believed that common antianxiety drugs could impair the conscious recollections of true memories but not false memories. Other studies have found that antianxiety drugs both true and false memories by causing the person to exaggerate the personal significance and emotional intensity of past events. (Huron, C., et al. “Lorazepam and diazepam impair true, but not false memories.” Psychopharmacology (Berlin). 155(2):204-209)

Memories are affected by stress. Studies at Yale concluded that the neuropeptides and neurotransmitters released during stress can alter the functioning of areas of the brain directly involved with memory formation and recall. This may interfere with the laying down of memory traces for incidents of childhood abuse, and may possibly lead to long-term distortions for the facts, or even amnesia. (Bremner, J.D., et al. Neural mechanisms in dissociative amnesia for childhood abuse. American Journal of Psychiatry 13 (7 supplement):71-82, 1996. Schacter, D., (ed.) Cognitive Psychology of False Memories: A Special Issue of the Journal Cognitive Neuropsychology. London:Taylor and Francis, 1999)

Morality is a combination of learned beliefs, neurological development, peer-group consensus, and social order. Humans all live along a moral continuum between two abstract poles of good and evil. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 132-136. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Music is a neural interpretation of sound. Color is a neural interpretation of light—and to the brain color is primarily a subjective experience. There is no neural receptor that distinguishes any gradation of gray. It, like many other colors the human brain imagines, is a belief construction within the brain—a form of understanding. A thought. (Davidoff, J., 2001. Lamb, T, et al, 1995. Neitz, J., et al, 2001).

Studies at UCLA found that optimistic beliefs affect key immune cells and mood. Those who felt confident about their abilities and expectations of success had more helper T cells, which support immune responses; and more effective natural killer cells, which destroy substances that are poisonous to cells. (Segerstrom, S.C., et al. “Optimism is associated with mood, coping, and immune change in response to stress.” Journal of Personality and social Psychology. 74(6):1646-1655, 1998)

Optimistic people have been found to secrete less cortisol, a stress-related hormone that suppresses immune system function. Lower cortisol levels make the immune system function more effective. (Lai, J.C., et al. “Optimism, positive affectivity, and salivary cortisol.” Journal of Personality and social Psychology. 10 (Part 4):467-484, 2005)

When you believe in yourself, brain circuits are open wide, allowing the knowledge and wisdom already there to circulate freely. Emotional channels open wide, allowing you to love and be loved, to enjoy life to the fullest. All your talents are mustered by belief. (Fox, Arnold, MD, and Barry Fox, PhD. Wake Up! You’re Alive! P 54-55. FL: Health Communications, 1988.)

We form beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environment created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent argument, and rational explanations. Beliefs come firs, explanations for beliefs follow. I call this process belief-dependent realism, where our perceptions about reality are dependent on the beliefs that we hold about it. Reality exists independent of human minds, but our understanding of it depends up on the beliefs we hold at any given time. (Shermer, Michael, PhD. The Believing Brain. P 5. NY: Henry Hold and Company, 2011.)

Pessimistic beliefs are stressful. Too much stress releases destructive hormones that can seriously compromise one’s health, lead to depression, which suppresses essential neurotransmission functions, instability of moods, a number of physical symptoms, and diseases, etc. (Sapolsky, Robert, PhD. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, 3rd ed. NY:Owl, 2005)

Proofs about beliefs are also a form of belief and are not exempt from errors. What constitutes a proof about anything is also a form of belief. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 20-21. NY:Free Press, 2006)

It is easier for the brain to first quantify objects into pairs and then to differentiate them into opposing groups: right or wrong, light or dark, Republican or Democrat, good or evil, etc. This neural process of simplification and generalization is a form of biological stereotyping because it does not take into account individual differences and nuances. Once an oppositional dyad is created, the brain will then impose an emotional bias on each (e.g., it will root for a favorite sports team and disparage the other). This oppositional dyad includes people from different cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. Unfortunately, this inborn us-versus-them mentality converts easily into racism. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 87-92. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Reductionist thinking attempts to reduce the whole to its parts in an attempt to make the world seem more comprehensible and manageable. The left hemisphere appears to carry out primarily reductionist thinking. But the beliefs they generate can give one only a partial view of reality. It taken to the extremes, one can become so absorbed in details that you forget about the larger world and fail to see the forest because of the trees. Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, for example, reflect an overly reductionist brain. Lost in a labyrinth of details, and in order to control the resulting anxiety, patients resort to complex rituals designed to organize and control chaotic feelings and thoughts. They often develop rigid systems of beliefs, which essentially act as a defense mechanism to prevent them from being overwhelmed. The human brain is capable of both holistic and reductionist thinking but not at the same time. (Tovee, M. “Is face processing special?” Neuron 21:1239-1242. 1998)

Religiously preoccupied individuals follow a cognitive strategy similar to reductionist thinking and OCD rigidity. Their beliefs tend to become limited to the object of their obsession and they may spend years morbidly ruminating on a few concepts or scruples and lose the overall context of their beliefs. The reductionist function likely involves several parts of the brain: inferior parietal lobe, superior temporal lobe, and parts of the frontal lobe. The left hemisphere seems to be more active in providing a reductionist analysis of the world. (D’Aquili, E.G.,and A. B. Newberg. The Mystical Mind. MN:Fortress, 1999)

The frontal lobes of the brain play a vital role in the processing of spiritual activities and religious beliefs. (Muramoto, O. “The role of the medial prefrontal cortex in human religious activity.” Medical Hypotheses. 62 (4):479-485, 2004. Azari, N.P., et al. “Neural correlates of religious experience.” European Journal of Neuroscience 13(8):1649-1652)

Adopt a skeptical, open-minded attitude. A skeptic is simply a person who chooses to examine carefully whether his/her beliefs are actually true. Skepticism can be taken too far, however. It can lead to cynicism so that one consistently doubts the sincerity and validity of another’s point of view, which can lead to anger, bitterness, contempt, hostility, and depression. Over time, the hormonal and neurological changes caused by these emotional states can seriously compromise physical health. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 10-11. NY:Free Press, 2006)

The frontal lobes of the brain play a vital role in the processing of spiritual activities and religious beliefs. (Muramoto, O. “The role of the medial prefrontal cortex in human religious activity.” Medical Hypotheses. 62 (4):479-485, 2004. Azari, N.P., et al. “Neural correlates of religious experience.” European Journal of Neuroscience 13(8):1649-1652)

Spiritual experiences seem to rely on the brain’s holistic functions. Individuals often define spiritual experiences in broad, sweeping, poorly defined terms (e.g., enlightenment, transcendence). The right hemisphere is primarily involved in holistic representations, perceiving how things are connected into a whole. Holistic functions are not language based and so are more difficult to define or communicate. When holistic processing predominates, one consciously does not feel a very strong need to analyze, compare, quantify, or justify one’s perceptions or beliefs. Unconscious facial recognition relies heavily on holistic processing. The human brain is capable of both holistic and reductionist thinking but not at the same time. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 80-100. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Hypothesis: the human brain is inclined to accept the reality of spiritual beliefs separate from the influence of others. Different types of hemispheric reactions may bias an individual from embracing or rejecting creationist and evolutionary perspectives. (Niebauer, C.L., et all. “Interhemispheric interaction and beliefs on our origin. Laterality 9(4):443-447)

When you believe your perceptions accurately represent something in reality, your brain sends this information through a hierarchical processing system that allow you to compare the representation with your memories and other believes. These cognitive functions are largely preconscious. Specific cognitive processes are not only essential to the formulation of everyday beliefs but also responsible for the emergence of spiritual perceptions, mystical experiences, and unitive states of consciousness, including functions of:

  • Abstractive
  • Quantitative
  • Cause-and-effect
  • Dualistic or oppositional
  • Reductionist
  • Holistic

(Newberg, Andrew, MD, et al. Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. NY:Ballantine, 2001)

Children use storytelling to help them organize thoughts and feelings about the world. The most important stories are those that incorporate cultural and religious myths. By identifying with the characters in the stories, young children vicariously experience moral conflicts and solutions that will have great relevance later in life. Adult belief systems, especially those concerning religion and spirituality, contain significant remnants of the stories these adults heard and read while growing up. (Boyatzis, C. J. “Religious and spiritual development in childhood.” Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. NY:Guilford, 2005)

Eight strategies have been found essential to help individuals improve brain and body fitness:

  • Sharpen your mind
  • Keep a positive outlook
  • Cultivate healthy and intimate relationships
  • Promote stress-free living
  • Master your environment
  • Shape up to stay young
  • Embrace a longevity style of eating
  • Stay abreast of and follow modern medical recommendations

(Small, Gary, MD. The Longevity Bible. NIY:Hyperion Books,2006)

The strength of any belief is a matter of four interacting levels of neural processing:

  • Perceptual experiences
  • Cognitive experiences
  • Emotional experiences
  • Social consensus.

(Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 124-128. NY:Free Press, 2006)

Faith will always play an essential role in human life. If we didn’t trust our beliefs, we might end up living in perpetual doubt; the amount of stress hormones our brains would secrete under such conditions could physically atrophy the brain (see Sapolsky, Robert, PhD. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers). (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 38. NY:Free Press, 2006)

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