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fundamentalism perished = ?

scarlettina's recent post got me thinking again about a story I intend to write.

What would happen if the world were suddenly infected with a virus, say, that destroyed the part of our brains which provided the religous impulse? That is, suddenly all fundamentalists became simple freaks, because the drive to believe in God were no longer something our biology responded to?

Chris

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( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
radcliffe
Feb. 11th, 2004 07:15 am (UTC)
I wonder if the religious impulse is variable in people. I seem to not have it myself, and sometimes it is like something is missing. I am intrigued by the idea that humans would have that wiring. Oh yes that would be an interesting read.
saycestsay
Feb. 11th, 2004 08:50 am (UTC)
bio-god
Our biology responds to god? Now there's a story. The soul as a virus.

Didn't Orson Scott Card write a story about a colony of folks with a mental illness (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) that made them *think* they were talking to God?
mckitterick
Feb. 11th, 2004 02:32 pm (UTC)
Re: bio-god
Yes, it's pretty well-established that something happens in the brains of people "communing with God," praying, or meditating. It's generally dubbed the religious impulse.

What was that book? I recall reading it... Something last year, about a boy who was talking with an AI satellite he thought was a god...?

Chris
kai_
Feb. 12th, 2004 07:35 am (UTC)
Re: bio-god
People deep in prayer/meditation are altering their brain waves. It's the same kind of thing that happens in hypnosis.

It's also the same kind of thing that happens when we're falling asleep.

Along with those changes in brain waves, there are chemical and other changes, however, they're not significantly different to the changes that occur "normally" to every human during the lighter levels of sleep. Scientists who study this sorts of stuff have messed about (waking people up, etc) with people either meditating or trying to sleep, and what they've found is that it interrupts the brain wave activity for several hours afterward, and also prevents the brain from being able to reach deeper levels of sleep (which are absolutely required for humans for proper mental and physical functioning) -- the interesting part is that the people who meditate are able to rectify the imbalance more quickly than the people who are "just sleepers". There's something about training the mind to access certain kinds of brain activity that appears to be beneficial, if only in the sense of being able to go back to 'norm' more quickly after there's a disruption.

This is one reason why researchers believe that relaxation/meditation are so beneficial in stress reduction. As stress (biophysically) creates all sorts of changes in hormone levels and alters brain wave patters, they think that the act of meditation helps the body return to normal and therefore better mental and physical health.

Some really interesting research.
shunn
Apr. 8th, 2004 05:29 am (UTC)
Re: bio-god
Xenocide was the book with the OCD sufferers. They believed God was making them do obsessive tasks to purify them.

I think the book when the kid was talking to the orbiting AI was The Memory of Earth, first book of the Homecoming series. That series is a SFnal retelling of the Book of Mormon. (Which is itself fantasy, of course.)

Card is a strange religious case -- often wise as a fabulist, often odious as an essayist.
mckitterick
Apr. 8th, 2004 09:55 am (UTC)
Re: bio-god
Exactly -- he's a great example of how religion damages otherwise intelligent, wise, and clever people. The book I was thinking of from last year is John Barnes' "The Sky So Big and Black"

Best,
Chris
shunn
Apr. 8th, 2004 10:05 am (UTC)
Re: bio-god
Ah -- haven't kept up with John Barnes for a while. (Who can?) How was the book?
kijjohnson
Feb. 11th, 2004 08:17 pm (UTC)
Re: bio-god
Well, it turns up in Xenophile.
kai_
Feb. 11th, 2004 10:43 am (UTC)
Hrm. What do you mean by religious impluse?

I would differentiate Fundamentalists from "all people with a religious impulse", as my idea of "religion" has to do with personal connection with things outside of myself. (Whether it be with God, a neighbor, my cat, or a rock.) That idea of "connection" is basically the operational definition that I use for "religiosity". It may not be a correct definition in a scholarly sense.

I think that if no one had any sense to want to be connected to anyone else, the world would be madness. I think it's the thing that makes us human not animal. Which I think again relates to our discussion last night with Kij about monkeys vs. humans.

We wouldn't reproduce, or have any value for human life. It is precisely those connections that keep us functioning as a society.

So, I think it would definitely be an interesting concept no matter which way you took it, but I know that I would personally have a hard time suspending my disbelief. Much as I did with 28 days later....

mckitterick
Feb. 11th, 2004 02:39 pm (UTC)
Re: people with a religious impulse
Well, I don't think this virus affecting the general religious person would have a significant effect on the world; really, the fundamentalists of any religion (including, as scarlettina suggests, fervent and unreasoning believers in any greater cause) can be traced as the root of most of the world's problems. Imagine a Bush who isn't driven by his Christian fundi-ism; an Israel-Palestine without their rabid religion-based hatreds of one another; a Middle East without its hatred of the West; a Christianity without Robertson and his ilk.... These are not the kinds of people who see a universal union between themselves and the rest of the world.

Chris
kai_
Feb. 12th, 2004 06:53 am (UTC)
Re: people with a religious impulse
Aaah. With that I would agree.

The question I would then ask is this...

Is it *really* their "Fundamentalism" in a religious sense that drives their actions, or are they using that as a convenient excuse to do horrible things?

I've met a few Fundamentalists in my time (was raised by one), and my leading thought is that their motives aren't driven by a deep seated love of God or even their particular brand of religion. They seem more driven by being "right" and feeling "justified" by their religion to commit whatever atrocities they're doing.

Now, *that* thought I think would be an absolutely fascinating read:
What if no one ever had to be right or wrong?

Heh. Yeah, that's an interesting thought indeed. A world full of open-minded people!
taffy23110
Feb. 11th, 2004 10:45 am (UTC)
Hm...

To really pull that off, you need to convince the reader that there is nothing outside of the material. Justice has a weight. Love has a length. God can be measured.

On other notes, the reports that I have seen suggest there isn't so much a drive to believe in God as there is a drive and a means to break down the barriers of self. People have there most religous experience when those areas of the brain most connected to "self" are the least active.
mckitterick
Feb. 11th, 2004 02:46 pm (UTC)
Re: measuring God
That's an interesting suggestion: How does one measure God? But even if so, why would I need to convince the reader of that? If this were a tailored virus, someone could simply eliminate the need people feel in finding God. I believe that alone would effectively kill fundamentalism in all its guises.

Right, as I mentioned re: scarlettina's and kai_'s posts above, there are lots of ways people get this feeling of one-ness with something greater, and the desire to repeat the experience. I must admit that I have felt this often, too -- when writing a really good scene or story, at some point it begins to feel (for want of better description) as if I'm only a conduit, that God is writing through me; or some times when I'm roaming the sky and the telescope falls upon some magnificent object in the blackness and cold stars.

So the world would become a colder place, because even atheists must draw this kind of pleasure from something. Would it be a worthy trade-off to eliminate the root of most hatreds and wars?

Chris
taffy23110
Feb. 12th, 2004 05:41 am (UTC)
Re: measuring God
You have to be able to find something before you can get rid of it. You can't get rid of ideas. You can suppress them, certainly, but you can't get rid of it. Does elminating the physiological response associated with these feelings necessarily eliminate the thing itself? How do we know that the physiological response in the brain is a cause or an effect of an interaction with something bigger than us?

The world would be a colder place, but we wouldn't know it. The part of people you are suggesting getting rid of is most likely the part of them that makes them search for any kind of Truth, religious, scientific, or philisophical (or a combination of the three). Without Truth, there is no meaning. Without meaning, we are animals. As animals, we succomb to nature. There is part of nature that drives self-preservation of a species, but there would still be war for survival and war for resources and war for the sheer fun of it.
taffy23110
Feb. 12th, 2004 05:43 am (UTC)
Re: measuring God
Oh, and people for centuries have used reason as a way toward the divine. Do we get rid of reason as well?
c3fyn
Feb. 11th, 2004 11:13 am (UTC)
Interesting thought, though I wouldn't say the problem lies in spiritual beliefs so much as the tendency to fanaticism, which lies more in the realm of habitual thought patterns and programming. Fanaticism (fundamentalism of whatever kind, be it spiritually inclined or dogmatic materialism) is something one can find in just about any human endeavour...including Science. It seems more based on the tendency for some people to need over-high degrees of certainty and definition in order to feel safe in the world.

But, as the lead idea for a story, it works--sorta in that Vonnegut vein. :) Could be a lot of fun.
kai_
Feb. 12th, 2004 07:42 am (UTC)
I like that... the tendency for some peopel to need over-high degrees of certainty

I think that captures my idea of people finding their flavour of religion to some how justify the reason that they're "right" and everyone else is "wrong" (and therefore righteously subjecting the "sinners" to the tyranny of evil men, making justifications for their evilness by quoting scripture)

Bah!

Can't we all just get along?
weaselmom
Feb. 11th, 2004 12:16 pm (UTC)
Hup! I know a very similar story was written by Michael...Mike...whatthehell...Moscone! Is that it? Mike Moscone, I think. Anyway, a guy was given some sort of religion-ectomy in the story. It was the same question, about removing that feature (or bug, depending on how you look at it). I haven't read it, but he was telling me about it once. But you should still write the story, and don't be stingy with the sex and violence.
clevermanka
Feb. 11th, 2004 02:45 pm (UTC)
As a person with a distinct fondness for religion(s), I think a population with no concept of the divine would be a sad thing. Although religious fanaticism has never done anyone a bit of good (except those who use it for monetary gain), the concept of a higher power or ultimate purpose is very, well, good in my opinion. Such belief might not be desirable to everyone, but I think it's a good thing for anyone who wants it.

The best thing (although it would make for a very boring story) would be for a virus to remove the stupid need for some people to Right About Everything.
mckitterick
Feb. 11th, 2004 03:00 pm (UTC)
Re:
You know, reading people's response about this got me thinking. I wonder if it would be a satisfying way to end this if religion rose from the ashes, but it was a sort of intellectual form rather than radicalized form. People who tried to get rich off of it would be scorned, too.

Hmm...

Chris
kai_
Feb. 12th, 2004 07:47 am (UTC)
Okay, are we having the same thoughts now, communally, as a group???

Yes, I agree. I don't think that Fundamentalism comes from religiousness. I think religiousness as a whole is a good thing.

I think Fundamentalists use their religion to justify the sense that they are Right About Everything (and everyone else is, by extension, Wrong About Everything). The ones who have the Answer about being Right then go kill and maim the ones who are Wrong.

Except the Buddhists. They don't kill. They don't maim. They love. Mmmm. I like Buddhists.
kijjohnson
Feb. 11th, 2004 08:19 pm (UTC)
I think there must be a difference between the numinous (meaning the ineffable shining something that is more than what we see and sense) and deity (which is supernatural), but I'd have a hard time defuining the difference.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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