Saturday, December 11, 2010

God brain

A year or so ago, a brain study found that people who believe in God or have religious experiences have a different brain structure than those who don't. You can read a summary of the research here.

I find this kind of fascinating... especially given that my dad and I are on completely different ends of the spectrum as it relates to God. My father is an atheist and I am a washed by the blood of the lamb born again Christian.

But does the fact that there seems to be a physical difference between believers and non-believers actually have any bearing in whether God is real... or whether he calls us all, equally, to be in relationship with him?

I imagine the non-believing folks with non-believing brains would like to say that some anomaly in my brain is the source of my fantasy that God exists. I, of course, think it is just the opposite. For me, a person with the non-believing mind is a little like someone who is color blind. Their physiology prevents them from seeing the color red. But their inability to see it doesn't mean that red doesn't exist.

A person born blind can't see the world at all... but it doesn't mean that the beauty of the world is the figment of the imagination of those of us who are sighted.

The article about the brain physiology went on to say that the God believer brains had more real estate in the compassion and social centers. I wonder if people are born with that extra brain power, or if the belief in God somehow rewires us to be more compassionate.

The study didn't address cause and effect. It didn't research the brains of converts, before and after. To me, that would be fascinating... to see if our physiology actually changes when we become believers.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Catholic in me....

When I was in high school in Providence, we always joked about Saki's pizza on Weybossett Street: It's the Italian restaurant with the Japanese name run by Greeks.

My religious landscape is a little like that: She's the charismatic catholic at heart who goes to a low Episcopal Church and works in an Evangelical ministry.

And maybe I am not actually a Catholic at heart. But Catholicism definitely informs how I engage with the church and the world. I love liturgy, believe that the sacraments confer God's grace, am driven by the Holy Spirit and love (LOVE) scripture. A spiritual mutt if ever there was one.

So, how does this all look on the ground? Well, for one thing, my catholic sensibilities (and I do mean catholic with a small 'c' in this case) are the very thing that have kept me from leaving the Episcopal church and finding some other place to worship. They have kept me at Grace through what proved to be a rough transition to it's new Rector. They have kept me tithing even when I didn't feel like it. And they keep me reading the psalms every night, day in and day out (with some exceptions) for 7 years now.

My evangelical friends often wonder why I don't just leave my church (or denomination, for that matter...) and my response is that if we all just left our churches or denominations every time something came up that we didn't agree with, there'd be 30,000 different churches. Oh wait, there are.

Which isn't to say that if God dropped a thunderbolt and ordered me to mosey on my way, I wouldn't.... When I was a Unitarian who had come to Christ, God did just that, on the second anniversary of my baptism. I was sitting on a beach in Duxbury MA, at a leadership retreat for the lay leaders of my church, and Jesus basically gave me a right hook across the head. That is when I left the Unitarian church.

But he hasn't done that with me at Grace. So some weeks I sit in the pew clinging to the fact that I am there to worship, because it is the one thing I can hang on to.

Then I go home and read psalms of exile.