“Creating God in Our Image”

When people’s confidence in their beliefs is shaken, they become stronger advocates for those beliefs. The book When Prophecy Fails, an American cult leader, Dorothy Martin, convinced her followers that flying saucers would rescue them from an apocalyptic flood. Many believed her, giving up their livelihoods, possessions and loved ones in anticipation of their alien saviors. When the prophecy failed and nothing came to pass, the group decided that their dedication had spared the Earth from the apocalypse. Far from shattering their faith, the absent UFOs had turned them into zealous evangelists.

 Without altering their belief system, people will go to great lengths to reduce the internal conflict caused by their cognitive dissonance. They will hunker down and attempt to still this conflict by trying to convince others that their views are correct. This is re-writing the brains neural processes.

 Dopamine levels:

    Low levels of Dopamine make concentration and focus very difficult. Low levels also are associated with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

    Mild elevations in Dopamine are associated with addictions like nicotine or cocaine, producing feelings of excited euphoria.

    Moderately high Dopamine levels make the individual on-guard, suspicious, and prone to misinterpret experiences in our environment. Known as “idea of reference” in psychiatry, they begin thinking unrelated experiences are suddenly directly related to themselves. Paranoia ensues. The mind races in an attempt to incorporate all these experiences into their lives. With the increase of Dopamine, the individualmay become extremely religious, paranoid, or feel to be a very important person. Increased Dopamine also increases the perception of senses, as though turning up the volume in all the senses – hearing, vision, taste, smell, and touch.

    As Dopamine levels increase, the noises suddenly become auditory hallucinations. Inner thoughts are now being heard outside the body. These voices begin talking. Some take the form such as derogatory (put downs), religious topics, command (telling you to do something), or sexual content. Hallucinations (experiencing something that is not truly there in reality) will soon develop in all the senses.

    High levels of Dopamine in the brain often cause the loss of contact with reality. The individual begins to have bizarre ideas. Paranoia, experiences delusions (false beliefs)  or may think they have super powers (exaggerated self-importance) and can experience prophetic  visions of the future. High levels of Dopamine are found in Schizophrenia, drug intoxication, and other psychotic conditions where the ability to distinguish the inner world from the real world is impaired.

 “People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want. The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God’s beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing.”

—Nicholas Epley.

University of Chicago.

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