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Science

Religion Is Good For Your Brain 529

Posted by timothy
from the still-looking-for-a-nice-atheist-church dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Sheila M. Elred writes in Discovery Magazine that a recent study has found that people at risk of depression were much less vulnerable if they identified as religious. Brain MRIs revealed that religious participants had thicker brain cortices than those who weren't as religious. 'One of the worst killers of brain cells is stress,' says Dr. Majid Fotuhi. 'Stress causes high levels of cortisol, and cortisol is toxic to the hippocampus. One way to reduce stress is through prayer. When you're praying and in the zone you feel a peace of mind and tranquility.' The reports concluded that a thicker cortex associated with a high importance of religion or spirituality may confer resilience to the development of depressive illness in individuals at high familial risk for major depression. The social element of attending religious services has also been linked to healthy brains. 'There's something magical about socializing,' says Fotuhi. 'It releases endorphins in the brain. It's hard to know whether it's through religion or a gathering of friends, but it improves brain health in the long term.'" (Read more, below.)
"Listening to sermons and reading religious works like the Bible may also invoke a cognitive benefit. "You're exercising your higher cortical function, thinking about complex concepts that require some imagination," says Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University and a professor of psychiatry. According to Koenig the benefits of devout religious practice, particularly involvement in a faith community and religious commitment, are that people cope better. "In general, they cope with stress better, they experience greater well-being because they have more hope, they're more optimistic, they experience less depression, less anxiety, and they commit suicide less often. They don't drink alcohol as much, they don't use drugs as much, they don't smoke cigarettes as much, and they have healthier lifestyles. They have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, probably better cardiovascular functioning, and probably a healthier hormonal environment physiologically—particularly with respect to cortisol and adrenaline And they live longer." So where does that leave non-believers? "Out of luck, I guess," Koenig jokes. "Actually, I would suspect that people doing the types of things like religious people do — socializing, doing similarly complex cognitive tasks, would have similar benefits. But it is interesting that religion provides that whole package of things that people can adopt and pursue over time." Dr Dan Blazer says the study is very interesting but is still exploratory and that spirituality may be a marker of something else, such as socioeconomic status. "It's hard to study these things," concludes Fotuhi . "It's why research has stayed away from them. But there does seem to be a strong link between spirituality and better brain health.""
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Religion Is Good For Your Brain

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  • Whatever (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You can go pray to your invisible sky daddy. I'll just continue believing in sanity and meditation.
    • Re: Whatever (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you were a believer in meditation you would not believe in such divisive speech.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Agreed, Meditation can achieve the same results without believing in fantasy. Break out the incense people!
      • Re:Whatever (Score:4, Informative)

        by arfonrg (81735) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:03AM (#46492163)

        No, that's not what the article said. The calming effect of prayer (which you guys are claiming is equivalent to meditation) was just one aspect that they noted. Read the article before you get on your high horse.

      • Re:Whatever (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Wycliffe (116160) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:43AM (#46492443) Homepage

        The point isn't just prayer/meditation. It's that religion combines a half dozen or so different
        activities together that are good for your health. There are currently no non-religious avenues
        that I know of that provide the complete package like religions do. Yes, you can meditate,
        take philosophy classes, join a book club, try to find like minded people, start a supper club,
        make a pact with people to take care of each other when sick, etc... but it's alot more work than
        to just "accept" a religion and they do all the work for you. I know plenty of "non-religious"
        people that are members of church just for the social and other benefits. There are even books
        and articles written about the many benefits an atheist gets "for free" by joining a church.
        I also know people who joined a church for the social and latter got sucked into the doctrine
        or joined the church because "it was the first place I felt like I really belonged" People also
        join gangs for the same reason but the point is, that sense of belonging is an important part
        of the human psyche and is why many people are drawn to and stay with religion even if they
        don't believe it.

        • Re:Whatever (Score:5, Informative)

          by DavidD_CA (750156) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @12:09PM (#46493091) Homepage

          There are numerous atheist / skeptic / non-religious groups that have all of the positive aspects of church and religion, minus the supernatural.

          In Sacramento, our local groups have book clubs, pot lucks, volunteer highway cleanup and soup kitchen service, lectures and discussions, game nights, family-themed events and field trips, hikes, and even a knitting group. (www.SacFAN.org)

          If you live in other areas, check out meetup.com for similar groups near you.

    • Re:Whatever (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Phernost (899816) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:31AM (#46492355)

      Believing in an unprovable comforting fantasy causes less stress than facing cruel harsh realty ... SHOCK!

    • by superwiz (655733)
      Ok, as long as you do though. Anyone who thinks that they are being watched (even if they are wrong about it) usually acts differently than when they don't think they are being watched. And when thinking that they are on display, people do behave better towards other human beings. I am not suggesting you believe in the spaghetti monster all of a sudden. I also don't recommend you take heart medication that you don't need. But it helps some people.
  • Religion... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 15, 2014 @07:32AM (#46491235)
    A thinking person should investigate religion, but not necessarily buy into it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:31AM (#46492357)

      I have been a devout religious person for over thirty years, and I have been depressed for most of those years. I write into this moshpit of hate for anyone here who might struggle with depression. The religious beliefs of the people around you can uplift you, but they can just as easily degrade your situation until you are depressed. My father beat me from the age of 4 until the age of 13. He didn't do it because of religion, he beat me because I annoyed him and he wanted to shut me up. The religion he chose to line up with merely gave him a convenient excuse. I have had PTSD for most of my life, with verified uncontrollable physical symptoms and many health issues, and have lived most of my life in fear of others. Most of the time it feels like I have never been happy, that there is no point in my life that I could travel back in time to (were it possible) where I would feel a healthy sense of well-being.

      I tried many religious disciplines to get rid of my health issues. They all failed.

      Eventually I did find a therapy that worked, it's not religious at all. I'm approaching normal function in life, I'd say I'm depressed 2/3rds of the time. If you find that your medication isn't working like it used to and you have to increase the dose, understand that your mental health problem isn't caused by a Prozac deficiency in your diet. The drugs work by shutting off the message your body is trying to send. Your body makes you depressed to solve a stress problem. It's using depression so that you won't lose your reason. Any means of regularly obtaining a "mental reset" will honor the body's request, all the skilled relaxation therapies are just ways to do that. The "prayer" mentioned in the article is one of those relaxation methods, it is not your typical oh-shiat prayer (which believe me I've tried). It's a mantra that you recite over and over again, until it doesn't mean anything anymore, and you relax and get a mental reset.

      And of course, my religion didn't forbid any of these kinds of therapies that helped me get well, but the prelates of my religion did, calling them infidelic, probably because I'd do them on the day I'm supposed to attend religious services, and no money would wind up in the plate. There are people who don't care about their fellow man but go to (or hold) religious services for instant credibility and to hook up with like-minded members of the opposite sex, if I just shocked you, I'm sorry. Religious services are not automatically a gathering of saints.

      None of this has anything to do with whether you believe an invisible man in the sky is your friend, because any depressed person will tell you that you can have friends and still be depressed. And as to the question, "if he's so good and powerful, why didn't he fix your little problem", the notion of every religion is that such help is not automatically and freely given without condition. As it happened, I tried to follow the tenets of my religious faith, and as it happened I met someone in that faith who showed me this therapy, and as it happened I got better. So I could dare to say, "see, it works", but what's the point of that? I'm not going to say it's going to work for you, because I can't know that, especially because most of you have already insisted that it can't work, and so it's sure to not work for you, because you will see to it that it won't, so that you can be right, and miserable. Let's skip all that, you have the right to remain miserable, I'm not calling that into question.

      But if you're bitter because you've tried the failed religious remedies that I've tried, just skip ahead to the skilled relaxation therapy. Then you can ponder your spirituality when you've got a better handle on your situation. If you are religious and are afraid your soul is in danger if you try yoga, meditation, self-hypnosis, etc., then the skilled relaxation method you want is called progressive muscle relaxation. It is religion-free, and you can still take your medicine.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      I find it interesting that I've read more about religion after I became an atheist than when I was a believer.

      I think it's partly because I've always liked mythology, and hey, now there's all these things that are called religions but are really no different than Greek or Norse mythology except that some people still believe they're real, and partly because before, reading uncritically about other religions ran the risk of me losing my faith, while now I have no faith to lose.

  • by noblebeast (3440077) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @07:32AM (#46491239)
    The Discovery article makes it pretty clear towards the end that it is not religious belief, but religious activities, that are likely responsible for the cognitive benefits.
    • by inasity_rules (1110095) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @07:45AM (#46491287) Journal

      I am not sure we read the same article. Not to invoke an argument, but the TFA talks about listening to sermons and reading the bible. It even ends with '“My personal belief is that having a strong belief is key to getting the benefits,” Fotuhi said.'

      Right or wrong, the article says what it says.. The fact that you missed this would suggest you may need to check your confirmation bias filters a bit.

      • by Barsteward (969998) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @07:49AM (#46491311)
        '“My personal belief is that having a strong belief is key to getting the benefits,” - a conclusion starting "my personal belief.." renders the study biased
        • by inasity_rules (1110095) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @07:52AM (#46491327) Journal

          I am not commenting on the correctness of the article, merely OP's interpretation.

          • by Thruen (753567) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @08:24AM (#46491553)
            Actually, you're commenting on the OP's interpretation of the article author's interpretation. The study says exactly what OP says it does, that religious activity reduces stress filters, the author's personal opinion is given to create bias and it appears to have worked on you.

            It's my personal belief that it has nothing to do with how strongly you believe in any particular religion, and you'd likely see the same benefits from taking time to reflect on your own or discussing matters with supportive friends and family. You can feel free to try to correct my interpretation, as long as you understand it's only your own opinion and possible that of the author against mine, this study does nothing to prove either of us wrong.

            Any time I read something saying religion is good or bad in any way, I take it with a grain of salt. There doesn't seem to be anyone studying religion who doesn't have a desired outcome going into it.

            That said, this article seems a bit silly, all they're really saying is that people need a release, something anyone alive today can tell you. For some, that release is religion, for others it could be anything. This is not news.
            • Since the OP was considering specifically the discovery article, I see no problem in questioning his interpretation. The article is almost certainly biased, but I was commenting on the statement that "The Discovery article makes it pretty clear towards the end that ..."

              Nothing has "worked on me", I am just saying the article does not make it pretty clear. Perhaps OP read the actual study, and commented from that point of view. Perhaps not.

              • by Thruen (753567)
                Having read it, I can safely say the Discovery article makes it clear the author quotes an opinion at the end, but that does nothing to the results they discuss. Statements given in the article such as, "It’s hard to know whether it's through religion or a gathering of friends, but it improves brain health in the long term," as well as "Listening to sermons and reading religious works like the Bible may also invoke a cognitive benefit," present the possibility that believing has nothing to do with it.
                • So, "the author's personal opinion is given to create bias." and " overall article make it pretty clear that nothing outside of an opinion suggests that[belief has something to do with it]". Your words, not mine.

                  Ok. I am not one of those people who needs to be right all the time, nor am I someone who needs to prove it. It is my considered opinion that both the OP's interpretation and yours ignore the bias completely for most likely the reason given, but that is neither here nor there. I am going to leave it

                • If you think the Discovery article is A-OK, take it up with this guy down the thread: http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        Having a strong believe implies involvement with religious activities.
        I can understand why GP interpreted it as such.

        • A fair point, looking more closely. I'll go check my own filters... :P

          Though it may be worth considering whether such activities might produce strong belief of strong belief produces such activities.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by noblebeast (3440077)
        There is no evidence cited in the article suggest that religious belief is responsible for the effects. What you've quoted by Fotuhi is a belief that religious belief has those effects. Research has shown, however, that religious activities and "spirituality" have an effect. Koenig, one of the co-authors suggests that "people doing the types of things like religious people do -- socializing, doing similarly complex cognitive tasks, would have similar benefits." And that does seem to be the case, both with s
      • by denzacar (181829) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @09:16AM (#46491859) Journal

        Not to invoke an argument, but the TFA talks about listening to sermons and reading the bible.

        No. Here is what it says.

        "Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University and a professor of psychiatry"... author of "The Healing Power of Faith", "Faith and Mental Health"... "Listening to sermons and reading religious works like the Bible may also invoke a cognitive benefit, Koenig said."

        I.e. Faith guy says maybe faith good for brain.

        Also, that Discovery article is crap.
        That "One recent study, published in December of 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry" - no it wasn't. [jamanetwork.com]
        And which study does this sentence refer to? The supposed December 2013 JAMA one (actually published in February 2014) or the 2011 one?

        And while a 2011 study found a shrinking of the hippocampus among people of certain religions, Koenig, a co-author of the study, points out that no one has replicated that work yet.

        Cause, it either says that Koenig is a co-author of the JAMA study (which he isn't, but which is no made clear anywhere in the article which doesn't even name the study it discusses) and he disagrees with the data from the 2011 study...
        OR, he is a co-author of 2011 study (which he was [nih.gov]) which says that certain religious people have a shrinking hippocampus.
        With which he disagrees as well, pointing out "no one has replicated that work yet".

        Koenig is essentially saying "Fuck my study which shows how religion may actually be bad for your brain. Don't look at it. Nothing to see there. Not replicated. Bad study. Bad!"

        Also, everything Koenig and that other guy who had nothing to do with the study (he apparently has not even read it) but they asked him to comment on it anyway, Dr. Majid Fotuhi, said about the social effect... pure bullshit.
        From the actual study:

        Importance of religion or spirituality, but not frequency of attendance, was associated with thicker cortices in the left and right parietal and occipital regions, the mesial frontal lobe of the right hemisphere, and the cuneus and precuneus in the left hemisphere, independent of familial risk.

        Going to church does not matter. How much you THINK that religion or spirituality matter to you matters.

      • In either case, having a strong belief does not mean believing in a religious text.

        Someone can have equally strong views on politics or anything else they are passionate about. In all these areas, there are people who give speeches, have gatherings... and other such activities.

        I don't see anything controversial with the idea that meditation, group belonging, and believing in a greater ideal, or leadership, is going to reduce stress levels.

        And of course all of these activities that bring such benefits can al

    • by gweihir (88907)

      You can separate these two? News to me.

      • Of course. I know atheists who enjoy some Christian rituals for the singing. You can be an atheist and attend a Buddhist gathering and chant a mantra. And a long etcetera.
    • by lagomorpha2 (1376475) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @08:02AM (#46491405)

      The Discovery article makes it pretty clear towards the end that it is not religious belief, but religious activities, that are likely responsible for the cognitive benefits.

      So what you're saying is that social activity can give resistance to depression? Does Slashdot count or does one actually need to go outside? More research is needed.

      • Does Slashdot count or does one actually need to go outside?

        /. absolutely counts...

        so long as your needs do not require coddling and unquestioning acceptance.

      • I don't think /. counts for the simple reason that everyone here is negative. Nothing works, government is stupid, all corporations are evil*, religion is stupid, life is useless, abandon all hope and go get drunk. As Buffalo Springfield once said, "nobody's right if everybody's wrong".

        *except google
    • by hoggoth (414195) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:31AM (#46492353) Journal

      Organized religion is a package of beliefs and behaviors that have been honed over tens of thousands of years to provide people with things they need both psychologically and socially. Until recently religious behavior couldn't really have been separated from the rest of tradition and society. It was one "package". Having all of these things wrapped up in one package makes it easier to teach and train people to follow good ideas, like "don't eat food that spoils quickly" and "don't spread STDs with promiscuous sex". Now that we have better understand of which behaviors are helpful we may not need all of the extra baggage that traditionally came with religion. But where is the new "package" of useful behaviors to replace the old ones? Often if you discard religious tradition you also discard good guidelines for living, and instead rely on random trends or worse profit-motive marketing for your guidelines.

      I suspect religious people will get angry at this line of reasoning, thinking I am missing the entire "point" of religion. From one point of view I am discounting the whole purpose of their religion. But regardless of the supernatural truths of the universe, it is certainly true that religions carry a great deal of traditions and guidelines for living beyond the purely spiritual.

  • One way to reduce stress is through prayer.

    And in 2014, we also call it meditation. We have also learned, you dont have to be religious to meditate.

    • by kbonin (58917)

      Prayer != Meditation except for very narrow and atypical interpretations of both words.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        So some people would have you believe. Actually: Prayer = meditation combined with self-indoctrination. A tried-and true thing.

      • Extract the directionality towards a supernatural being and yes, they are much the same.
    • by gweihir (88907)

      Waaaah, sacrilege! Good.

    • yes, and offloading the blame of problems to a non-existent being therefore removing the blame from yourself also relieves stress. its a good ruse to blame something else for all your stress inducing problems.

      i've found myself less stressed since getting off the fence of thinking there might be a "higher being so i'll keep my options open". Its got to be stressful thinking you are being watched all the time.
    • Indeed meditation is a good way to reduce stress, and have the brain generate serotonin [nih.gov]. Opposing religion and stress to argue about brain capacity is ludicrous. To put it simply, strong believers in a religion accept things as they're told and, thus, have less to think and wonder about life, death, present, future and the universe... and that reduces stress. But a regular practice of some sports, a well balanced diet, friends... are some of many ways to reduce stress - while keeping one feet in true and so
  • No surprise (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gweihir (88907)

    Religion makes you stupid. In particular the ability to recognize your true situation is something the mental pathogen needs to degrade in order to retain its ability to infect and spread. Hence all perceived gains come at a heavy price: You become less human and both free will and rationality is partially suspended by the malicious meme. The claim that this "improves brain health" just shows the effect at work. It is a misdirection that stems from the defensive strategy of the pathogen.

    • by Bongo (13261)

      I distinguish between blind belief "my community told me the moon is made of cheese", and thinking about thought "they say it is made of cheese but what is their basis for that claim, what method did they use?". Most religion is blind belief. Still it can serve a purpose. If the community says that killing is wrong, then whether it is understood or not, there is a benefit. Likewise if happiness and peace are aided by a sense of meaning and purpose, you don't have to understand it to gain some benefit, just

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by amiga3D (567632)

      It's clear you have no understanding of religion. Everyone likes to focus on the nutcases running around foaming at the mouth. Any group has a percentage of these people who are unhinged. Many people who attend church do not, in my opinion, truly believe in a God. Many are there for the social aspects of it. A lot of people are there because it feels good to be around people of a like moral perspective. They like performing charitable works and helping others. It's a community. I've been to lots of

      • by ClaraBow (212734)

        -- This is very insightful; Mother Teresa doubted the existence of God on a regular basis, but she kept doing her charitable work faithfully until the day she died. It gave her piece of mind; isn't that what we all want?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          her "charity" work consisted of gaining a fortune for her order, depriving people of pain medicine (she believed suffering made you closer to the sky fairy)

          But for her when she had health problems, amazingly she went and got the best health care.

          But for all the people she supposedly help all she did was give them a painful death.

          If there was any "Sky fairy" she would have been damned to hell forever.

        • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Informative)

          by gweihir (88907) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:03AM (#46492155)

          You do know that "Mother" Theresa was quite screwed up and in some respects outright evil, right?

    • by quenda (644621)

      Religion makes you stupid.

      Citation? Correlation is not causation.

    • Religion is a balm for damaged souls unable to cope with a harsh world, and it is ever so useful as a mechanism to keep the have-nots in their place.

      But caveat emptor, it occasionally unites the masses to exchange one ruling class for another.

  • I just can't get past the fact that it's a lie. Anyone who can look beyond that amazes me.

    • Well I envy my cat in the same way: he's happily living his life hunting mice in the garden, eating his food, sleeping and getting petted by yours truly, blissfully unaware of how the food gets in his bowl, how the mice come to exist in the garden, how he gets to sleep warm and cozy even in the dead of winter, what his purpose is and how his life will end.

      Comfy, care-free and appealing though a domestic cat's life may be, it doesn't mean I want to be a cat though. I much prefer having a brain big enough to

      • by fred911 (83970)

        Your cat is looking down at you wondering if you know your reason for existence, to provide housing, food and message in between his naps.

    • So pretty much being blissfully unaware in large packs is good for the brain. It's good to be sheeple?

      • So pretty much being blissfully unaware in large packs is good for the brain. It's good to be sheeple?

        For many it is.

        But take the cat example from just North of here:

        For all intents and purposes, I am a g0d to my cat. My level of understanding of the universe around me is so much greater than hers that I worry all the time, yet her ignorant bliss regarding the safety and nourishment she is provided leaves her rarely ever shook up.

        She must have a thick ass cortex.

  • Sensetional article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by devent (1627873) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @08:06AM (#46491435) Homepage

    Lisa Miller have a spiritual agenda.
    Here is her TEDx talk about love and stuff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]
    Also this study is in contradiction with this study:
    Being Religious or Spiritual Is Linked With Getting More Depressed
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.u... [huffingtonpost.co.uk]

    From Lisa Miller:
    http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.co... [jamanetwork.com]
    "We previously reported a 90% decreased risk in major depression, assessed prospectively, in adult offspring of depressed probands who reported that religion or spirituality was highly important to them."

    From Being Religious or Spiritual Is Linked With Getting More Depressed
    "A key finding of the study, conducted in several different counties, is that a spiritual life view predisposed to major depression, especially significantly in the UK, where spiritual participants were nearly three times more likely to experience an episode of depression than the secular group."

    Lisa Miller have first to explain this contradiction. Maybe some people get cortical thickness from religion, and some don't. I don't have access to Lisa's article.

  • And somehow that makes religious claims true? Reading Game of Thrones is very enjoyable for me but I've never demanded anyone start a real war for Cersei's fictional c***.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      I've never demanded anyone start a real war for Cersei's fictional c***.

      That makes one of us.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @08:16AM (#46491507) Homepage Journal
    Believing that movies are "real" make them enjoyable, but not true. All the crying, pain, emotion shown is just an actor in front of a lot of cameras and people, and probably a green screen behind, but still you feel like it is true, Do the same with religion, suppose that there exist a meaning, luck, justice, etc in life, even someone that you can ask for help and that you can see his hand through confirmation bias. But don't take it too seriously because you know its false. You don't do things that could put your life or of others at risk because you saw someone in an (obviously fiction) movie doing it, take the same attitude regarding religion. Neither you should follow people that claiming that that fiction movie/book was real do things that affect other people lives.
    • by Livius (318358)

      Religion also builds communities. Anyone can believe something that is true, but only the people inside the community will (learn to) believe something they know is false.

      Just look at the way modern sports fan or political partisans will self-organize into communities and take pride in keeping 'faith' in their team/party regardless of success or failure.

  • So what do you do... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by acroyear (5882) <jws-slashdot@javaclientcookbook.net> on Saturday March 15, 2014 @08:25AM (#46491563) Homepage Journal

    ...when it is religion itself that is causing you stress?

  • Correlation does not mean causation. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu... [nih.gov]
  • In other news, lobotomies are good for people. The less you think, the better you feel. See the full story on Fox News. :P

    But seriously, If the results are really more about behaviors, then the REAL problem is that current society does not adequately provide similar social outlets or activities for people who don't happen to believe in imaginary sky beings.

  • by JavaBear (9872) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @08:26AM (#46491573)

    It may be that it helps in the short term, but what about in the long run?
    When the stressed individual need to be waned off the childhood delusions all over again?

  • Ignorance is bliss.
    • by geekmux (1040042)

      Ignorance is bliss.

      Yes, and given the results of the brain cortex measurements, it is obvious that thickness is a factor here.

      Apparently thickheaded was actually an accurate psychological term after all.

  • Colour me shocked - an article that's troll-bait for people opposed to religion.

    From the article (and the summary): "A thicker cortex associated with a high importance of religion OR SPIRITUALITY [my emphasis] may confer resilience to the development of depressive illness"

    So, a different way to read this is that spiritiuality, not just (or not even) religion) can make a difference. I've seen it myself, and it's been shown (no source here) that when people have something "bigger than themselves" in which t

  • by Stele (9443) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @08:38AM (#46491635) Homepage

    One way to reduce stress is through prayer.

    Sex and alcohol work pretty well too. And they are arguably a lot more fun.

  • I'm immediately reminded of the "news" articles about about the "religious archeologist" who found a sliver of iron from a site in Israel, and pronounced they had found a nail from the crucifixion. What a complete pile of bullshit you get anymore when some social science dumbass tries to figure out anything.
  • by geekmux (1040042) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @08:43AM (#46491671)

    Religion has found itself at the very root of many, many conflicts throughout our history, with religious wars raging on for hundreds of years. Countless lives have been lost due to this.

    THAT is an activity we now want to call a anti-depressant?

    And people have the gall to call atheists evil for lacking faith.

    • by dicobalt (1536225)
      Religion is powerful enough to compel mass murder, oppression, and dismissal of damning facts against your actions. Religion fights against an individual's conscience and potential for depression. In that respect, religion is good for the brain like Hitler was good for Germany. The good news is that the majority of the world fails to follow religion as their religious books tells them to. The bad news is the same as the good news.
  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @08:51AM (#46491713) Homepage Journal
    Religion has also been very good for quantum physics, cosmology, geology and biology. The saying, "God does not play dice" has been very important in elucidating just how strange quantum theory is. In cosmology, because the big bang theory is so compatible with Christian theology, scientist have given it extra scrutiny and tried to defend alternatives much more vigorously. In geology, rigor has been given a boost by odd ball dating schemes based on scripture that oppose an old earth. And, in biology, evolution has needed a more rigorous development owing to religious opposition. Perhaps more fundamentally, with its sorting of existential questions into high priority, "In the beginning" being a starting point, focus and curiosity on foundational questions have been maintained over ages.
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @08:55AM (#46491735) Homepage Journal

    Clearly, religion is the key to happiness:

    http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-i... [guim.co.uk]

    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/i... [nytimes.com]

    http://media.dumpert.nl/foto/4... [dumpert.nl]

  • "Listening to sermons and reading religious works like the Bible may also invoke a cognitive benefit. "You're exercising your higher cortical function, thinking about complex concepts that require some imagination,"

    I've got a book by Isaac Newton called, "Optiks" that will give you all of that, without making you want to go out and kill non-believers.

  • Wow. That's a load of bullshit.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      Wow. That's a load of bullshit.

      Actually, that's quote from Moses, mumbling under his breath, as he was coming down from Mt Sinai.

  • "Religion is the opiate of the masses" -- Karl Marx

    When life sucks (which, face it, is most of the time for most people), religion provides a break from reality. Whether it's better for your brain to be disconnected from reality or to have to accept depressing reality without any cushion is a matter of debate.

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @09:25AM (#46491909) Journal
    I tried this whole 'religion' thing, several times. The last time I tried it? It was literally killing me from the stress that it was creating in my life. I had infections that wouldn't heal until I finally had enough of all the bullshit and got away from religion, religious people, and all the arbitrary nonsense and hipocracy it's completely full of, then my health started turning around. Come on, people, look around you: Religion is just another tool being used to control people's lives and to further political agendas.
  • by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @11:05AM (#46492591)
    Religion is good for your brain as long as some evil fuck doesn't decide to cut your head off because his religion tells him to cut your head off because of your religion.
  • by crispytwo (1144275) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @03:04PM (#46494333)

    It is very depressing especially when you invoke religion.

    I think it is better for people to be depressed that deluded.

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer

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