Gain without pain

Someone wrote to me the other day and said that I seem to have a hatred of believers. I suppose some of these blogs could be seen that way but the intention has never been to demean people, only try to understand why they believe. I certainly have a dislike for organised religion which seems to have been able to perpetrate crimes from torture, imprisonment and murder through to genocide without, apparently suffering that much from people’s disaffection. I do not think that the original tenets of the world’s great religions ever intended to aid and abet their disciples in committing sin in any circumstances, but the fact has been – and is – that they do.

I would be very happy in myself if my quest to find a deeper meaning in this existence was even partially answered. The more I investigate religion, the less it seems a viable route to understanding. Any system of thought that requires an individual to forego so much evidence to the contrary has little chance of seeding itself in my skull.

A friend in Ghana, the other day, said that he went to church because this seemed the only possible way he might meet with and talk with his beloved mother, now long dead, either in this life or when he, too, had passed over to the other side. He is a scientist. It seems that there are very few individuals in Ghana, with a scientific bent of mind, who would follow Richard Dawkins’ brand of atheism., or even the softer line of agnosticism. It is culturally unacceptable here. The churches spring up as fast as banks and the preachers are wealthier. Bible classes are for indoctrination and not for critical discourse.

I had something of an enlightenment on these matters the other day. I was watching a programme on pain. When you scan a person in pain (let’s say from the application of some torture of the Inquisition) the resulting patterns of neuron-firing are generalised across the brain and unique to each individual. The same degree and intensity of torture produces wildly differing results. One person’s headache is another person’s decapitation! BUT, and this is very bizarre, it is possible to hypnotise these dissimilar individuals with the following effect.

By telling a person under hypnosis that pain is pleasure, then they can take a dental extraction without anaesthetic and love it. Not only this but, in the residual pain that follows, they gain equal pleasure. They have become hard wired to perceive pleasure where there should be pain. That is how the brain works. Examples were given of people with terrible injuries, crawling for days over rough terrain to get help and only experiencing pain once friendly arms picked them up. So the brain can sublimate for itself, too.

My illumination is this. Life, in general, is a painful business. We look around and see the horrors of war, famine, Man’s obscenities in every day life and, really, we should top ourselves. We are the most insidiously disgusting, immoral creatures imaginable. How do we cope? Well, if we are a Muslim suicide bomber, we turn the pain of a bomb belt into a Paradise with virgins. If we are Christian, then God’s judgment will take us into heaven. If we have a more eastern religion, we may be reincarnated as someone better. All beliefs. All based on perception. All based on a form of hypnosis via conditioning. That is what belief without authentic evidence amounts to. It is also why preachers from Africa to Asia, from the Bible belt to Russia, regurgitate quasi-evidence along with hypnosis techniques to get brains to perceive the opposite of what real evidence might tell them.

A great example of this was on a Ghana TV channel the other night. A preacher was asking people to get their credit cards out and make donations of at least a thousand dollars to his church. We saw four or five operators in a call centre, apparently taking the ‘gifts’. The preacher told people to keep trying to get through because the lines were so busy. “Give your seed of a thousand dollars and you will reap God’s harvest!” He raged at immorality, he thundered about being saved, his choirs were great and sang lustily for the Lord and he told his viewers that they could only be saved if…..

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