Wired Up For The Lord

by Steve Mason

Is it possible that some people are physically predisposed to accept faith as fact? Most humans can be nurtured into believing almost anything, but can nature wire your brain in a way that promotes spiritual themes? This would certainly explain why the faithful from all around the world and all through time exhibit many of the same mental characteristics.

If you stop to think about how delicate an organ the brain actually is, and how easily it can be made to malfunction, you may well come to wonder why there isn't more abnormal behavior in society? All things considered, it's surprising that so many are adjusted well enough so that only a comparatively few go off the deep end. It doesn't take much.

For example, I just flew back from a month in Australia where their AM is our PM. Jet lag, a condition that didn't even exist a generation ago, is causing me to average a mistake per sentence as I try to type this column. On another occasion, I had a filling replaced and two nights later woke up with a truly excruciating headache. Preparing to undergo tests for a brain tumor, I thankfully kept a follow-up visit to my dentist who noticed his previous work seemed a bit high. A quick buff with the drill and my malocclusion (along with all the pain) was no more.

Like a tiny grain of sand in your eye, little things can sometimes have big consequences. A doctor examining my ear once knocked loose a minuscule fragment of wax that, until it was flushed out, caused all sorts of weird and debilitating sensations. It is, for example, not uncommon for people with head injuries that result in osmatic symptoms (losing one's sense of smell) to lose interest in sex as well. The point of all this being that some very strange things can happen when normal function of the body, and especially the brain, is disrupted.

Examples of physical conditions that can bring on the most vivid hallucinations are not uncommon and, until you have such an experience, they can be hard to believe. On yet another occasion, I'd just gotten to bed after dropping my wife off at the airport for a flight to Singapore. Having finally fallen asleep, I was suddenly wide-awake and there she was standing in the moonlight and tapping at the glass doors to the patio. What could have happened to the plane and how could she have gotten back to the house? As I went to let her in, she slowly faded into thin air. I'd had a hypnopompic hallucination - sometimes called a waking dream - but it was so real that, had there been an accident, even I would have wondered about a spirit visit. And similarly powerful sensations can occur during episodes of hypoxia when a lack of oxygen causes all the sights and sounds that have now come to be associated with a Near Death Experience. The long tunnel with a bright light at the end, singing choruses, a pronounced euphoria, talking with departed friends and relatives ... all that from nothing more mysterious than a lack of air.

Look At It This Way

Some people do seem hardwired for God. Studies at the University of Toronto found significantly less activity in the anterior cingulated cortex of believers just when there was the greatest need for attention and control. The more belief the less apt the alarm bell was to ring.

Religious links have also been found to temporal lobe epilepsy. Stories of communing with angels and walking around in Heaven are not limited to saints and prophets from the Dark Ages. These are remarkably consistent with themes that are reported by patients suffering concussions, skull fractures and a wide range of temporal lobe pathologies.

So convincing are these hallucinations that more than a few persuasive and charismatic individuals who truly believed in their visions went on to gather flocks and start what have now become established religions. But do keep in mind that a history of fits and/or blows to the head coupled with godly fervor is far more of a clinical symptom than a divine revelation.

"That's a pretty comprehensive list, the result of 96 years of bureaucratic empire building by Fed bureaucrats. It gives the lie to the notion that there has been 'too little regulation' of financial markets. Anyone who makes such an argument is either ignorant of the truth or is lying."

Return to Port Of Call Home Page
Return to June/July 2009 Table of Contents