Religious parents: How far would you go to "help" your kid believe?

I just read this interesting article yesterday: What God does to your brain.

Let’s say that scientists find that 99.9% of Believers have disinhibited prefrontal cortices, and they invent brain scanning technology that can predict with 99% confidence whether a particular brain belongs to a Believer or a Non-Believer.

Let’s also say that research shows that an individual can’t “will” his brain to be dishibited or non-dishibited. Going to church more frequently will do nothing. But scientists have created a therapeutic device that will train a brain to be more disinhibited. Most brains will become sufficiently disinhibited after just a few therapy sessions. But it only works on children. Not adults. This is the only known way to treat Non-Believing Brain Disorder (NNBD).

Let’s say your family doctor finds that one of your children has the brain profile of a Non-Believer. The kid is still very young, so unsurprisingly he/she claims to believe and says all the “right” things. But multiple doctors tell you there’s a very high likelihood the kid will be a Non-Believer upon reaching adulthood. Unless he/she gets this therapy.

If the therapy has minimal side effects and is inexpensive, would you get your child treated? Or would you just leave them be?

Nope, our kids would make up their own minds. Keep in mind that I’m religious but Unitarian Universalist. Teach 'em by example to be good people. I don’t care if they identify as Christian like me, Jewish like my wife, or neither.

Frankly I’d have a great deal of trouble believing any scientist (or non-scientist) who made such a claim. After decades of research, the primary result seems to me that “brain scans” (MRIs) simply do not have that sort of predictive power, and that most claims to have mapped a certain behavior or opinion to a certain region of the brain turn out to be poppycock.

In any case I’d only use any form of psychotherapy on my children in a case of severe and obvious necessity.

You expect me to zap my kid’s brain for any reason, and you think my only concerns are whether it’s cheap and has “minimal side effects?”

My wife and I raised three kids. We brought them up in a religious home, we made sure they went to church and Sunday school. I don’t think any of them has been in a church for anything other weddings and funerals since they were in high school.

They’re old enough to make their own decisions. They’re moral, have a sense of decency and are generally nice human beings. That was our goal.

The whole hypothetical hinges on your trust of the doctor. If you don’t believe the doctor when he says that your kid’s brain will prevent him from ever having a religious experience unless he received therapy, then of course I don’t expect those to be your only concerns. But assuming you trust science and your doctor, then yes, they would be. What other considerations besides cost and harm are there?

Looking at the hypothetical from the other direction as an Non-Believer, if my kid had the brain profile of a Believer and there was therapy available to inhibit his brain, I wouldn’t consider it for a second, even though religion skeeves me out. The reason for my lack of concern is simple, though. I’m not at all worried for his “soul” or whether he will be cast into hell for the sin of believing in God. I think he can be a perfectly happy, good, healthy, moral person regardless of whether he has a relationship with God or not. Most Believers don’t believe this.

So it seems to me that Believers wouldn’t necessarily be so cavelier as I would be. I would think that a religious parent would want to do everything they could to get their kid right with God, even if it meant sticking some electrodes on their brains for a few hours. If there isn’t any harm and the efficacy of the techology has been well-established, then I don’t see where it becomes a moral dilemma. I would subject my kid to a similar approach if it could help them do better academically. So why not give them help with the spiritual realm? Seems like with heaven and hell on the line, some risks would be worth taking.

Another question I have is say that one day your minister confesses to the congregation that he experienced his first religious experiences shortly after being treated for Non-Believing Brain Disorder. Is the religious conviction of such an individual less authentic than the conviction of someone who comes by theirs more naturally? Should it matter?

Religious believers “across the board” come up with a vast range of ideas and tenets; if it were reckoned truly to be the case, that “medical intervention” as described by the OP, could make a Non-Believer type into a Believer ditto, I’m quite sure that there are some believer parents who would be eager to have this procedure – if seen as appropriate – carried out on their children.

From what I (not a Christian, but with some interest and concern about such matters) understand; there is a direct reverse side to this coin, which is big in most varieties of Christianity. What follows, will probably strike many non-Christians as insane; but then, Christians themselves concur that Christianity as a whole will indeed appear insane, to very many who are not adherents of the faith.

The majority of Christians of most “shapes and makes”, strongly believe that God has great respect for human beings; including his totally not wishing to violate their integrity and individuality, by forcing on them the right kind of belief. Non-believers are apt to ask: with an eternity of bliss or torment at stake, why does an omnipotent God not just make people so that they believe the right thing? Why does it all have to be so difficult? The stock Christian answer is that God’s doing this would make people into puppets, not autonomous individuals; and that he respects people too much, to make puppets of them – he wants people to choose and believe in him and follow him of their own free will, or not at all – even if this means that for eternity, the majority of mankind will be damned, not saved. Thus: coercion into belief, or into the simulation of belief, is disallowed. Believers may preach, and talk, to non-believers, and entreat them to turn to God – parents / teachers may indoctrinate their juvenile charges – but beyond that, is a line not to be crossed: gets into the sphere of coercion, which is considered not valid, and not effective. I have the feeling that even if the process of which the OP tells, were known for sure to be effective for its purpose; the majority of Christians would reckon it coercion, removing the element of choice on the part of the individual, and would shun it.

As said earlier, many will think all the above to be pure lunacy – to which Christians sometimes riposte, “Yes, the stuff we believe is lunacy – it just happens that this kind of lunacy is right, and true.”

Besides believing / not believing - are there any other “benefits”, risks, lifestyle attributes, success profiles or whatever else you want to say associated with the disinhibited state?

Does it only apply to the monothiest beliefs, or can it also be applied to things like Shinto, Buddhist*, Hindu?

  • Yes I know Buddhism is monotheistic, but not in the same way as Judeo / Christian

In this hypothetical, let’s say the side effects may include a marked increase in emotionality and sentimentality for 50% of patients. Some researchers have also found that children may become more suggestible and more likely to accept ideas uncritically after they receive the treatment. But patients and their families do not typically find these side effects unfavorable.

Children who are given this therapy not only continue professing their belief in God long after nonbelieving-brained children who are not given this therapy do, but they also tend to be much more devout than their parents or their Believing-brained siblings. For instance, almost ninety percent of all ministers ordained this year were treated for Non-Believing Brain Disorder as children. These findings are so compelling that the Catholic church recommends all teenagers get the therapy whether indicated by a brain scan or not.

As far as the ideas advanced in the article goes, I’m curious if creativity can also be predicted by the activity of the prefrontal cortex. Seems to me that jiggering with how inhibited a brain is would not only affect religiosity, but it could also make someone more creative…and possibly more susceptible to disinhibition disorders (schizophrenia, impulse control disorders, addiction, etc.) But then that would suggest that the more creative a person is, the more religious they tend to be. I don’t know if that link has been established.

Just think. This amazing tool would replace all prior weaponry in human warfare. It would no longer be necessary to kill the infidels, only to treat them. When AlQaeda defeats the USMC, who up until now have been protecting our freedoms and way of life at great sacrifice and service to our country, and the Mullahs impose their constantly threatening and impending Islamic Republic of America, every American will learn of the miraculous powers of this dishibiting machine. without the spillage of a single drop of blood. Finally, a World at Peace.