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Thursday, December 22, 2005 

The ultimate right brain activity: going to church

We've all read them, the testimonials of people who talk about the love of their god that they really feel while in church. To nonreligious folks, it can be hard sometimes to not roll your eyes.

When I was in college (>decade ago), I read some great research that gives me a context to understand this. I've been searching the web for articles, but it's surprisingly hard to finding articles on brain research that doesn't involve paying $19.99 for a CD, book, or "course."

I learned that here in the west, we live almost constantly in our left brain, the logical / language side: driving cars, grocery shopping, talking on the phone at work, etc. We, people here in general, rarely get a chance to use the right brain, the home of the artistic and emotional side of things. According to said misplaced article, hyper-left-focused Westerners should be on the lookout for activating those elusive right brain waves by doing things like burning incense & meditating, or maybe watching TV. (Because of this research, I did t'ai chi for many years and received many benefits from this "meditation in motion".)

It is the long waves in the right brain that make someone feel good & at peace.

In a completely different context, I leaned that when you hear the same exact words over and over, you don't "hear" it with your left brain any more, but your right. It becomes like a meditation, and scientists can measure the calming, long-wave brain activity.

Imagine one sitting in a religious service for the umpteenth time. Their brain long ago stopped interpreting the liturgy with the logical, "what is the meaning behind the words" side; instead the right side kicks in with what has become a meditation. Add to that the incense, music, beautiful windows, and surrounded by friends and you can see why someone would feel very calm and peaceful in this setting. And, as the link above about the TV mentions, at this state, they might be more receptive to ideas while in the throes of this right brain activity. Throw in a good speaker with an instinctive flair for emotional language, and suddenly you can grok how mega-churches have appeared.

I wish more people had this kind of information, because once it is understood, it loses its power of subconscious control.

After reading many articles, I suspect some people, stanch church-goers that won't examine their beliefs in the light of reason, can't imagine a life without what might be their only right-brain wave activity that they have.

This is one of the most famous philosophical questions in sci-fi; what makes a person a person? Whether it’s conception, cloning, human-like AI, or even duplicates from a transporter accident, if the subject passes a Turing Test does that mean he’s got a soul (or at least basic human rights)? I wonder if the Pope stays awake at night pondering old Star Trek episodes.
One thing that bothers me about the attitude that procreation itself is the start of human life is taking it to the next logical step. What’s the difference between sex with a condom and no sex at all? Am I guilty of murder by not procreating 24 hours a day?

Oops, commented on the wrong post. What a newb!

Thanks again for visiting my blog. I am happy to know there are others out there who think like I do! This was an interesting article you wrote about right brain activity (and thanks for the links also). It makes a lot of sense what you say about "they [churchgoers] might be more receptive to ideas while in the throes of this right brain activity." It's almost like a drug and they go each week to get their "fix". Ever notice how they just go through the motions and "drone" out the liturgies and hymns as if in a trance? It's similar to the trance my husband is in while watching television, then gets the new car-buying urge or needs to get a Whopper sandwich afterwards because of all the commercials! I am going to read up more on this subject!

yeah, that trance, and the sheer lunacy of some of the ideas. Whoa boy!


I never thought of it this way. I'll definitely be more charitable toward the poor suckers... er... churchgoers.


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  • I'm the freethoughtmom from New England. Welcome!
  • The word rational means having the ability to reason. Reasoning takes time. Giving yourself the space to think is practically a luxury in our society.

    My father is a logical engineer, my mother a caring nurturer. My handwriting with my dominate hand resembles that of my father, the other, my mother. I feel lucky to have both sides to draw from.
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