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Christians do not present their offspring with literature on all the religions of the world and make field trips to temples, churches and mosques to help them decide. Yet in their theology, they claim that accepting Jesus is a personal choice of free will, and only those who reject God’s free gift of salvation will go to hell’ (JourneyFree.org). This ideology can actually compromise the development of a child’s critical thinking skills, since the child is still within the helpless context of a family, and the brain attempts to survive by embedding this information in the back of the mind.
The child accepts this information as true, because the figures they look up to say it is. Once the child is around the age to go to school, other people they encounter have the same beliefs, which further dissolves any reason for the child to be inquisitive about what they have been taught. This way of indoctrination is so powerful that it will follow a person into adulthood, even well after they have developed the ability to rationalize.
The individual will not know for certain that the ideas that they were taught are true, but they will be afraid to challenge it because of their mind working against the idea that what they were taught could be false. Adults that manage to leave the religion are tasked with trying to repair what is essentially years of brainwashing, as well as having to catch up with important areas of mental development, such as critical thinking (Tarico).
Some manage to overcome this way of thinking by labeling it as conditioning instead of the truth, however some do not manage to completely overpower this, and suffer from Religion Trauma Syndrome, which encompasses a plethora of negative psychological effects from leaving a certain religion, which leads to the brain becoming ‘confused, ‘ leaving a person in a bad state of mental health, which for some can take years to reconcile. Sufferers can experience difficulty with making decisions, depression, loss of meaning, anxiety, and loneliness, to name only a few possible effects (Winell). In addition to this aforementioned list of psychological effects, there is another potentially worrying mental effect that is worth noting.
Following the successful indoctrination of one’s religious belief, it usually becomes routine for said individual to pray frequently to the creator that they believe in, either to attempt to communicate with them, or ask for assistance during a time of need. While this can be a rewarding experience for many, the concern is beginning to rise about how this behavior, in combination with the religious indoctrination which would have begun at a young age, actually ‘rewires’ the brain (Hagerty). While most are familiar with the fact that prayer increases the dopamine levels in the brain, some may not know of the extent that this can eventually reach.
Writer and journalist Barbara Hagerty elaborated on a study done by neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, in which he performed a brain scan on minister Scott McDermott, as he was praying. By the end of the scan, the results were shocking. While his brain scan had of course shown the increase of dopamine levels during prayer, it also revealed that the parietal lobe of the brain had shown little or no activity at any point of the scan. The parietal lobe is responsible for determining a person’s location in a three-dimensional space, awareness of surroundings, sense of self, and how one perceives sensory information.
After performing scans on other religious volunteers, the result was the same. This demonstrates how religious belief can actually decrease or hinder these abilities, that the brain would otherwise naturally allow.
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