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The Brains of Believers and Nonbelievers Differ

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The number of people who express an interest in religion has decreased significantly. Why is atheism and agnosticism becoming more and more accepted? Is there a shift away from religious belief in the human brain?
It’s possible, but it’s impossible to deny that religious faith has played a significant role in shaping cultures all over the world. It is estimated that humans have worshipped at least 18,000 gods, goddesses, and other animals or objects throughout history. The ability to accept a logically absurd world of supernatural causes and beings has clearly been selected for by evolution. There must have been a tangible benefit to spirituality at some point in time. Religious non-believers are on the rise because something fundamental has changed in the last few decades.

The Brains of Believers and Nonbelievers Differ
The Brains of Believers and Nonbelievers Differ
Non-believers’ resting-state brain circuits were compared to those of believers in a recent study. Resting-state analyses have been shown in previous studies to be objective, stable, and capable of revealing individual differences in how the brain functions. A “neural fingerprint” of the brain regions involved in processing emotions, memories, and thoughts is created through this analysis.
Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus (n=43) were the religious affiliations of the adherents. Atheists and agnostics (n=26) made up the majority of non-believers. There was no significant difference in gender, intelligence, social status, a tendency to be anxious, or emotional instability between believers and non-believers, according to the results of this study.
Higher-order brain networks are activated when people don’t believe in God. There was a significant difference in the types of reasoning that religious believers used and those that religious non-believers used, according to the findings. Some studies have shown that non-believers use higher cortical areas called “top-down processing” when processing sensory information, such as what they see. Religious people, on the other hand, are more likely to use more primitive brain systems to interpret visual information in a more emotional or intuitive way, a process known as “bottom-up processing.” People who believe in the supernatural or paranormal, such as telekinesis or clairvoyance, share this bottom-up processing bias.
It is possible to change a person’s belief or disbelief in God through the use of neurofeedback and meditation as well as repeated training, the authors wrote in their study.
More and more people are turning away from religion, perhaps as a result of scientific explanations for natural phenomena that were previously explained only through the intervention of supernatural beings, or perhaps as a direct result of cultural changes.

Summary

Non-believers’ resting-state brain circuits were compared to those of believers in a recent study. Resting-state analyses have been shown to be objective, stable, and capable of revealing individual differences in how the brain functions. There must have been a tangible benefit to spirituality at some point in time. Higher-order brain networks are activated when people don’t believe in God. Religious people are more likely to use primitive brain systems to interpret visual information.
People who believe in the supernatural or paranormal share this bottom-up processing bias. It is possible to change a person’s belief or disbelief in God through the use of neurofeedback and meditation.

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Reference

  • Nash K et al (2022) Resting-state networks of believers and non-believers: An EEG microstate study. Biological Psychology, 169, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2022.108283\

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