Developing A Universal Religion/Revelations And Conversions/Summary
This is an appropriate place to review a few of the major points discussed so far in Parts One and Two.
The brain’s chief function is to receive information detected by the body’s sensors and to analyze and redirect this information so that the body acts in a manner that best enables it to survive and reproduce.
Chunks of knowledge, experiences, thoughts, past emotions, etc., are stored in the brain as memories within neural networks, much like information is stored in computers as patterns in memory chips and on hard drives. The human mind accesses these memories both consciously and subconsciously.
The mind evolved as the “problem-solving software” of a brain that had to manage an increasingly complex body. (The body’s abilities became more complex over time as survival-enhancing mutations added structures upon existing structures. See Development Of Life On Earth and Complexity, Intelligence And Evolution for an elaboration of this phenomenon.)
The mind survives because it helps the body to survive. It does this by searching for and recognizing relationships between memories and stimuli from body sensors, then creating an awareness of alternative courses of action.
The universe’s causality has led its inhabitants to think (to the extent that they possess this capability) and act rationally. This ability began, and will continue (evolving as it does so), because those behaving in this manner are more likely to survive and reproduce than those who ignore its importance.
Solutions to everyday problems can only be found by consulting the environment presenting the problem situation. The criteria needed to draft and select rational solutions are always obtained from that environment. This environment can be the real universe, or it can be a social, cultural, artificial or other environment, including the private mental mind-set created by the blend of constructs each individual develops during his or her lifetime.
A purpose, attainable in the environment presenting the problem, must be valued and sought before a solution can be rationally chosen (i.e., a decision made) and “meaningful” action taken.
Language tremendously expedited the transfer of knowledge and understanding between generations. It has made humans the most adaptable species on this planet and it has accelerated the growth of their intelligence. However, language also allows us to expound metaphysical problems devoid of real world context. Such problems cannot be solved without first defining some appropriate metaphysical environment; furthermore, meaningful decisions cannot be made even within this environment without first defining and valuing a purpose.
Religions declare purposes and describe accompanying environments. These conceptions exist entirely and only within the minds of believers, and differ widely throughout the world. In effect, religions provide an environment where otherwise-unanswerable metaphysical questions such as, “what is the point of living/what is the meaning of life?” may be answered. This environment contains solutions and criteria to be used by believers when making a decision or choice. The religion’s goal (or purpose) is said to be attainable by anyone who chooses to live mentally within that environment. This purpose, once valued, is then used to assess options, make moral decisions or judgements, and regulate behaviour. (A similar effect is created when individuals adopt and conform to the behavioural standards defined by their social environment.)
“Revelations” occur when the results of subconscious, second-level, stress-relieving thinking break through into conscious thought. This phenomenon is accompanied by emotions of excitement, wonder and joy, chemically generated as the stress-induced tensions are released.
“Conversions” of any kind, religious or secular, and whether externally or self-induced (by way of a revelation), occur when one all-encompassing Construct connects or re-connects, then supersedes, numerous formerly poorly integrated neural constructs. The new Construct profoundly affects the thinking, decision making, and behaviour of the affected individual.
The intensity of self-induced revelations, the instant relief from stress they provide and the seemingly perfect answers they offer create conditions that convince recipient individuals that this is “the truth.” Such individuals often become close-minded in their way of interpreting information and firmly believe that their mind-set is the only correct way to think.
(Three postscripts to this chapter titled Creativity, Free Will, And A Revelation are to be found at the end of this part.)
- If belief can arrive only through an instance of surrendered rationality (see Moral Decisions), then this explains why many intelligent men and women have trouble believing in a god or accepting the dogma of a religion. Intelligence and rationality are intimately linked, and the mind invariably resists onslaughts to its rationality.
This also suggests that many people professing “belief” must actually be relying upon “faith.” Faith is weaker than belief because it can be shaken. In other words, the construct built by faith retains ties to the rational world, whereas the construct that harbours belief has severed all such ties. It is faith’s ties to rationality that create the need for periodic boostings; true believers have no such requirement.