There are inherent contradictions in religious faith

Religious faith is a way to justify beliefs in matters that otherwise cannot be supported, in marked contrast to faith based on empirical knowledge. Adler 1 indicates that, according to Augustine, the essence of religious faith is to be beyond proof. The term beyond seems to imply that faith is an infallible way of knowing. The problem is that all different religions claim to be true, but end up contradicting each other. Religious faith seems to be a naive and dogmatic way of gaining assurance,...

Mystical and trancelike experiences are delusional

Mysticism is usually the attempt to achieve a personal union with God, or some other divine being or with a universal principle. Mysticism implies the belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being, and directly accessible by subjective experience. Mystics apparently fail to recognize that neither the inner conviction of an experience nor the feeling of absolute certainty are guarantees of the veracity of the experience. I became...

The missing arm that hurts

My initial encounters with neurological patients were as fascinating as they were depressing. The fascination was produced by the curious symptoms of brain lesions and by what they reveal about the complexities of human nature. The depressing aspects arose from seeing the loss of memory, motor, and other essential functions in patients with strokes, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), or Alzheimer's disease. Despite my inability to cure many of them, I was usually able...

Early spiritual beliefs

Homo sapiens seems to be anything but sapiens in relation to faith and religious beliefs. Our early ancestors may have started to have religious thoughts when the Neanderthals began to bury their dead in special positions. Burying a parent or a child is certainly a painful experience. It feels like a deep injustice, and makes us want to take good care of the dead, compelling us to ponder the meaning of life and death. The existence of these universal feelings suggests that religions would have...

The universality of religious beliefs 5 12 The evolution of religious beliefs

It would not be possible to cover all our knowledge of primitive cultures and their supernatural postulates in an adequate way in this brief overview of religious beliefs. Moreover, different cultures have evolved in different fashions, because the sequence of their religious development is not as rigid as the stages of biological development. However, by identifying the key developmental stages that have culminated in today's religions, it may be possible to summarize vast amounts of...

Neurobiological explanations are reductionist

Biological approaches have been instrumental in explaining our complex body functions, so we also expect science to unveil the mystery of brain functions, including cognition and knowledge. Our capacity to intervene therapeutically in correcting many abnormalities, ranging from major depression to neuropathic pain, certainly indicates that neuroscience yields valuable information about mental health. Neuroscience also offers a reasonable approach for identifying the anatomical and physiological...

How qualia acquire their meaning

Qualitative experiences acquire their meaning by association to other experiences that provide their aboutness or reference this allows organisms without language to navigate the environment and to satisfy their biological needs. Infants quickly learn what to do when they feel thirsty, hungry, or in pain. Actually, there is evidence that the aboutness of most experiences may be innate, especially in some animal species that are born more mature than humans are and seem to know what to do...

The tragic consequences of blind faith

There is obviously a wide spectrum of sects and cults. In the extreme cases, the cult leader is eccentric, with bizarre ideas, demanding absolute obedience. The leader becomes the self-appointed interpreter of God's will, and demands absolute faith, which may have tragic results. These leaders manage to convince the converted individuals to abandon their families, or bring them into the sect community, to which they must subsequently donate all their possessions. The followers often live in an...

Alzheimers disease destroys the self

Memory is one of the most fundamental properties of the nervous system, without which the individual self, culture, and history simply would not exist. Forgetfulness of recent events is common to normal aging, but it is also one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, which may inexorably progress to destroy the most essential characteristics of a person. Alzheimer's disease has achieved recent notoriety because its frequency has increased as a result of people living longer. The public...

Childhood indoctrination

Our beliefs are quite probably a direct reflection of early indoctrination. Individuals are most likely indoctrinated during the early stages of their moral and intellectual development. Although dogmatic, such indoctrination would appear acceptable, because revered by one's peers. An individual could thus be programmed to become anything imaginable, from a Tibetan monk to a kamikaze pilot. The power of indoctrination is illustrated by the willingness of individuals to die for contingent...