Scientists have identified areas of the brain that, when damaged, lead to greater spirituality. The findings hint at the roots of spiritual and religious attitudes, the researchers say.
The study, published in the Feb. 11 issue of the journal Neuron, involves a personality trait called self-transcendence, which is a somewhat vague measure of spiritual feeling, thinking, and behaviors. Self-transcendence “reflects a decreased sense of self and an ability to identify one’s self as an integral part of the universe as a whole,” the researchers explain.
Before and after surgery, the scientists surveyed patients who had brain tumors removed. The surveys generate self-transcendence scores.
Selective damage to the left and right posterior parietal regions of the brain induced a specific increase in self-transcendence, or ST, the surveys showed.
“Our symptom-lesion mapping study is the first demonstration of a causative link between brain functioning and ST,” said Dr. Cosimo Urgesi from the University of Udine in Italy. “Damage to posterior parietal areas induced unusually fast changes of a stable personality dimension related to transcendental self-referential awareness. Thus, dysfunctional parietal neural activity may underpin altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors.”
Previous neuroimaging studies had linked activity within a large network in the brain that connects the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortexes with spiritual experiences, “but information on the causative link between such a network and spirituality is lacking,” explains lead study author, Urgesi said.
One study, reported in 2008, suggested that the brain’s right parietal lobe defines “Me,” and people with less active Me-Definers are more likely to lead spiritual lives.
The finding could lead to new strategies for treating some forms of mental illness.
“If a stable personality trait like ST can undergo fast changes as a consequence of brain lesions, it would indicate that at least some personality dimensions may be modified by influencing neural activity in specific areas,” said Dr. Salvatore M. Aglioti from Sapienza University of Rome. “Perhaps novel approaches aimed at modulating neural activity might ultimately pave the way to new treatments of personality disorders.”
Fucking religious assholes trying to meddle in politics.
A Roman Catholic bank in Germany has apologised after admitting it bought stocks in defence, tobacco and birth control companies.
Der Spiegel newspaper discovered the bank had invested 580,000 euros (£495,310, $826,674) in British arms company BAE Systems.
It also invested 160,000 euros in American birth control pill maker Wyeth and 870,000 euros in tobacco companies.
The bank apologised for behaviour “not in keeping with ethical standards”.
Pax Bank has previously advertised ethical investment funds, specifically claiming to avoid arms and tobacco companies along with organisations that do not adhere to Catholic beliefs.
The Catholic Church has historically condemned the use of contraception, for breaking the link between sex and procreation – a view emphatically upheld by current Pope Benedict XVI.
In the past he has called birth control a “grave sin”.
A spokesman for Pax Bank said: “We will rectify the mistakes immediately without negative consequences for our clients.
“Unfortunately in a few internal reviews, the critical investments in question were overlooked – we deeply regret this.”
The spokesman thanked journalists for bringing the controversial investments to its attention.
Two leading voices of the Republican Party’s evangelical wing visited Rock Church on Friday for a forum aimed at recapturing some of the movement’s political momentum.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee urged Christians to get involved in politics to preserve the presence of religion in American life.
“I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history,” Gingrich said. “We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism.”
They and other speakers warned about the continuing availability of abortion, the spread of gay rights, and attempts to remove religion from American public life and school history books.
Gingrich and Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, argued the rights of Americans stem from God and to ignore that connection is perilous. The two were among several speakers, including former U.S. Senate candidate Oliver North, at the three-hour “Rediscovering God in America” event. The event was closed to reporters but was broadcast live on God.TV, an evangelical Web site.
Huckabee told the audience he was disturbed to hear President Barack Obama say during his speech in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday that one nation shouldn’t be exalted over another.
“The notion that we are just one of many among equals is nonsense,” Huckabee said. The United States is a “blessed” nation, he said, calling American revolutionaries’ defeat of the British empire “a miracle from God’s hand.”
The same kind of miracle, he said, led California voters to approve Proposition 8, which overturned a state law legalizing same-sex marriages.
Voters “did it because some things are right and some things are wrong and they had to make a stand,” said Huckabee, who enjoyed some early grassroots support in Hampton Roads during his unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination last year. He may run again in 2012.
Gingrich, now a consultant and author, said the ties to religion in American government date to the Declaration of Independence, when Thomas Jefferson wrote that men are endowed by God with certain inalienable rights.
“I am not a citizen of the world,” said Gingrich, who was first elected to the U.S. House from Georgia in 1978 and served as speaker from 1995 to 1999. “I am a citizen of the United States because only in the United States does citizenship start with our creator.”
Huckabee urged his listeners to get engaged in public life or their views won’t matter.
“Politicians aren’t interested in pleasing the public,” he said. “They’re interested in pleasing voters.”
Now this is what I call news-worthy. I wonder if CNN would do I story on me if I told them god(s) had told me to brush my teeth every day. Like, he sold his stocks last fall, after a long summer of speculation that the stock market was headed for a recession, and this guy claims god told him to sell as opposed to common sense. I love it when people don’t use their brain and go with their gut instead.
The debate over whether Satan exists is hardly going to be settled in a 30-minute television show.
But that’s not stopping a rather curious lineup from debating that question for ABC’s “Nightline.”
The debaters: megachurch Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle; alternative-medicine author Deepak Chopra; a former Las Vegas escort who founded Hookers for Jesus; and a former Pentecostal preacher who was branded a heretic for saying everyone â€” not just Christians â€” could go to heaven.
The four are gathering Friday at Mars Hill Church in Ballard, where Driscoll is preaching pastor, to tape the segment, which will air March 26.
The topic has gotten a few responses of “Say what?” Why, now, is “Nightline” discussing Satan’s existence, and why were these particular people chosen to do so?
For one, the topic can be particularly relevant in troubled times such as these, when people are looking for explanations for economic chaos.
For another: “There’s always an interest in these topics,” said James Goldston, the show’s executive producer.
Not to mention potentially great ratings.
“Every time we’ve done one, the response has been pretty dramatic,” he said.
It’s the latest in a series of “Face Off” debates “Nightline” launched two years ago, bringing together prominent people to debate hot topics. The first one â€” on the existence of God â€” is still abcnews.com’s single most commented-upon story, Goldston said.
The idea of doing a debate on Satan came about, in part, through conversations the show’s staff had with Driscoll when doing a profile on him.
ABC also had done stories on Chopra; Annie Lobert, the founder of Hookers for Jesus, which preaches a Christian message to women in the sex trade; and the Rev. Carlton Pearson, an Oklahoma pastor who went from preaching before 6,000 to leading a couple hundred after he rejected traditional Christian beliefs about heaven and hell.
“We went for the most interesting voices we could find,” Goldston said.
All of which makes T.J. Wray, co-author of “The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil’s Biblical Roots,” sigh in exasperation.
“Why don’t they call professionals â€” the people who write this stuff?” asked Wray, an associate professor of religious studies at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I.
It’s unlikely a debate of this type can get into the complex theology and history behind Satan, she said.
Still, the topic is timely.
“Historically, when times are difficult, Satan increases in popularity. People begin talking about him,” Wray said.
“When things are going well, Satan is kind of on the periphery. But when things go wrong, people ask: ‘Why are things the way they are? There must be some evil force in the world.’
“Satan provides a language for us to speak about evil,” she said. “That’s been his historic role.”
For his part, Driscoll believes a literal spirit being named Satan exists and is at work in the world for evil and injustice.
The Bible speaks clearly and repeatedly of Satan, he said.
And “in my own pastoral experience, I have witnessed such great evil and injustice so often that no answer but the existence of a real enemy to good and life makes any sense to me.”
The lineup of debaters, Driscoll said, helps ensure “this is not just an academic debate but also a practical discourse.”
Driscoll and Lobert will be taking on Chopra and Pearson.
Pearson does not believe in Satan as an actual being and discourages people from doing so because “it makes us helpless, paranoid and frightened.”
Human beings themselves create evil and “stupid stuff,” he said. To blame Satan takes away personal responsibility.
“I’ve heard: ‘The devil made me do it.’ Don’t put that on the devil,” Pearson said. “You made that stupid decision yourself. Let’s talk about why you made it.”
In any case, said Wray, the university professor, “to debate this issue is futile. No one’s going to emerge the victor. … It’s the topic that never goes away.”