Happy God

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Hagoth
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Happy God

Post by Hagoth » Fri Mar 15, 2019 7:41 am

"Science" Mike McHargue, in Finding God in the Waves, discusses brain scan studies of people who pray. I haven't taken the time to track down those studies yet, but in the meantime I'm willing to run with his evaluation. He says brain scans show that people who pray to a judgmental, vengeful God have a demonstrably more active neural circuit between their prefrontal cortex (conscious thought) and their amygdala (the source of fear and fight or flight responses), while people who pray to an unconditionally loving God have a stronger connection between their prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex, where you experience compassion and empathy. That could explain a lot.

People who meditate regularly also develop the loving God type of brain structure. McHargue suggests that, even if you don't believe in God, you can meditate while holding an image of your ideal concept of God in mind to get the same benefits.

I try to meditate daily. I make sure I do it with a sense of gratitude, aimed non-specifically at the cosmos. I decided to try the McHargue experiment, and a couple of days ago while meditating I made a mental invitation for my ideal God to come into my head. Almost immediately I saw a friendly, chubby, kind of nerdy face with a huge smile. I liked this guy. He didn't seem like any kind of God I would have expected, but he seemed like someone who genuinely liked me. My brain was giving me a non-threatening God. I tried the same exercise the next day. This time the God that came to me was a giggling, naked baby floating in space, with golden beams of light streaming out from him in all directions. (King Follett, right?) He was just a bundle of happiness who would be incapable of angry or vengeful thoughts. I liked him too.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, just throwing it out there to see if anyone has looked into this research and what they think about it. I don't know if I'll keep looking for God but meditation has been an overall very positive experience for me and I become increasingly convinced that it's good for the brain.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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RubinHighlander
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Re: Happy God

Post by RubinHighlander » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:30 am

I'm not ready to invite a god type entity back into my life, still reeling from the life long deception of the LDS matrix I was plugged into and the aftermath of seeing the corrupt pattern of most religion. I have no desire to envision a god like entity that's anything related to life on this planet. I still entertain it's possible, but it's something way out beyond the Big Bang. It must a trust issue; fool me once...

But it's an interesting concept you bring up here, to create your own god image that's compatible with your own thoughts, feelings and values. It could be a great place for me to go someday. My DW has expressed some sadness over the loss her the relationship she used to have with a Heavenly Father; it does leave a bit of a hole in your life. I was able to quickly fill that hole with nature and science, but I admit there may be something deeper in my subconscious that could be more complete with some meditation on the matter. At least right now it's nothing that really nagging at me.

I wonder on the topic of brain scans and neural circuits, how would humans who were plugged into a religion based on fear and guilt (e.g. TSCC) and compare their mental health to those who escaped it and now feel a sense of freedom. I think there have been studies on people who have never had a religion or belief in God, compared to those who are in a religion, do rank lower in happiness; but how did those studies define happiness? It's obviously subjective to each person. Was it true happiness or just a stated self opinion? I think the happiness of those who escape religion might be the happiest of all, at least I think I fall into that category.
“Sir,' I said to the universe, 'I exist.' 'That,' said the universe, 'creates no sense of obligation in me whatsoever.”
--Douglas Adams

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzmYP3PbfXE

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Corsair
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Re: Happy God

Post by Corsair » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:31 am

I have not read this research, but it is interesting. It's amusing that "God thinks like me" is how religion operates most of the time. The pendulum between Vengeful God and Loving God swings back and forth within belief systems and this is influenced by your family and local leadership. Vengeful God still runs the BYU Honor Code offfice, but Loving God published the Gospel Topic Essays and the "Saints" book as a way to keep people around.

It would be amusing to get each of the apostles to go through this process and see which areas of the brain light up for them. I'm guessing that Uchtdorf and Oaks are using different brain areas with their conference addresses.

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wtfluff
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Re: Happy God

Post by wtfluff » Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:12 am

Hagoth wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 7:41 am
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, just throwing it out there to see if anyone has looked into this research and what they think about it. I don't know if I'll keep looking for God but meditation has been an overall very positive experience for me and I become increasingly convinced that it's good for the brain.
I haven't looked into any research, but my latest podcast/study/learning rabbit-hole has turned out to be the "science" of longevity.

One interesting and shocking thing (to me) that came up with some of the doctors and scientists who are looking at longevity is how many of these folks are quite adamant about the benefits of meditation. They don't mention any sort of deity (or spirituality) related to the meditation, but they're quite dedicated to the practice.

While I view myself in the same camp as Rubin: After spending half a lifetime being told I should worship an Abrahamic God who was going to punish me for eternity for a finite human experience; I don't feel like I need to invite another deity into my life. Some sort of meditation sounds interesting though. I'm going to have to start off with some sort of really easy, guided type of meditation though, I have a hard time getting this fluffy brain of mine to focus the way meditation requires. (SQUIRREL???) Plus: Meditation time is just wasted time I could be spending listening to podcasts filling my fluffy brain with useless information to build up my fluffy biases, right??? :?
Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. -Frater Ravus

Keep the company of those who seek the truth - run from those who have found it -Václav Havel

Brilliant.

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deacon blues
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Re: Happy God

Post by deacon blues » Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:05 am

I find this fascinating, Hagoth. Thanks for sharing. As I grew up I developed a "Grace/Mercy" relationship with my Mom, and a works/justice relationship with my Dad. I also read the New Testament and sensed a "Grace" aspect of the gospel that Mormonism didn't seem to address correctly. On my mission I had several discussions with Christians which strongly affected me, but I tried to dismiss them with LDS perspective I had been raised with. When my shelf broke I re-evaluated my concept of God and got a feeling of trust and love from my new concept, but I really had no exceptional "born-again" experience, just a reassurance of.... something. Some days I believe more than others. I still feel a connection to the "Heavenly Mother" idea, and wonder if it ties back in with my relationships with my mother and father. I have had no episodes of depression since my shelf broke ten years ago, which is a big change from the previous 30 years.
God is Love. God is Truth

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Rob4Hope
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Re: Happy God

Post by Rob4Hope » Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:52 am

RubinHighlander wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:30 am
I'm not ready to invite a god type entity back into my life, still reeling from the life long deception of the LDS matrix I was plugged into and the aftermath of seeing the corrupt pattern of most religion. I have no desire to envision a god like entity that's anything related to life on this planet. I still entertain it's possible, but it's something way out beyond the Big Bang. It just a trust issue; fool me once...
I'm with Rubin on this one. Same issues for me.

I've been looking at some of the new archeological stuff lately, and with Gobekli Tepe out there being dated to over 10,000 years old, flies in the face of the Biblical creation dating. Further, the megalithic structures required some advanced folks to work them...yah know? This kindof stuff just upturns all kinds of religious dogmas people hold sacred and base their entire life on.

Like Rubin said..."Fool me once...".

If there is a god out there who controls it all, I hope that thing is benevolent. But for the time being, I choose to hold benevolence inside my own heart, and THAT is my god. Its something I have control over, and something I can value.

According to Uncle Hub in "Second Hand Lions"....

"...No matter if they're true or not, a man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in."

Amen.

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Hagoth
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Re: Happy God

Post by Hagoth » Fri Mar 15, 2019 12:38 pm

wtfluff wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:12 am
Some sort of meditation sounds interesting though. I'm going to have to start off with some sort of really easy, guided type of meditation though, I have a hard time getting this fluffy brain of mine to focus the way meditation requires. (SQUIRREL???)
I know what you mean! I used the free trial of Headspace and started at just 3 minutes and worked my up to 15. Once I had finished the trial I felt like I had the hang of it and didn't pay for more. The general recommendation for beneficial meditation seems to be 30 minutes but 15 feels about right to me right now. It's way longer than I used to pray, but it seems to be more spiritually beneficial.

just to be clear, I'm not under the impression that I'm contacting any kind of out-there-in-the-universe God, nor am I necessarily seeking that. I'm just experimenting with McHargue's suggestion. It's been fun. Sometimes I connect to a peaceful happy place and this appears to be a tool that can help me do that.

If there really is a big-G God out there who has a message for me, he knows right where to find me.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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jfro18
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Re: Happy God

Post by jfro18 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 12:51 pm

This reminds me of Happy Gilmore when he goes to his 'happy place' and has the vision of all the things that make him happy.

I never liked the old testament angry God - I always believed only in the NT happy God and that's what I pictured when I prayed. And I think if I was praying to a God that was as vengeful as the Mormon God, I would never feel happy but just feel like I was treading water.

Maybe that's why it was easier for me to walk away from the church - because I never believed there could be a God that was such a dick as the Mormon God is... that would force women into loveless, polygamous marriages and worry more about stupid things like wearing garments than focusing on helping your neighbor or community.

I need to try this out though and see if I can get to a place where I can picture something -- might be a fun project next week when I'm home alone during the day. Will be interesting to see if I can find a way to that kind of a peaceful state to have that kind of experience.

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wtfluff
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Re: Happy God

Post by wtfluff » Fri Mar 15, 2019 3:48 pm

Hagoth wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 12:38 pm
I know what you mean! I used the free trial of Headspace and started at just 3 minutes and worked my up to 15. Once I had finished the trial I felt like I had the hang of it and didn't pay for more. The general recommendation for beneficial meditation seems to be 30 minutes but 15 feels about right to me right now. It's way longer than I used to pray, but it seems to be more spiritually beneficial.
Yeah, I've heard the 30 minute recommendation too.

So far, I've tried a couple of 5 minute guided meditations on YouTube, and I have found that the time goes by much quicker than I expect. Haven't participated anywhere near enough to notice any sort of "benefit," nor have I encountered any tiny, cubit-less deities, but I'm gonna keep my mind's eye open. :mrgreen:

(FLUFFY PUPPY-DOG???)
Nope, I think that really was a squirrel.
Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. -Frater Ravus

Keep the company of those who seek the truth - run from those who have found it -Václav Havel

Brilliant.

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moksha
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Re: Happy God

Post by moksha » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:32 pm

Image
We are happy with Hagoth!
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
-- Moksha

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