Religion does not cause brain damage
November 29, 2011
The atheist propaganda
This Youtube video says he’s being not sensational, but that there’s a scientific study which says that:
Religion can and does cause literal brain damage, and that that damage can be difficult if not impossible to repair if not addressed early in life.
The scientific study
In contrast to the atheist blogosphere, the actual scientific article is quite interesting. The study was conducted by the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development at Duke University Medical Center. They took older patients (58 years old and older) and performed fMRI brain scans. From these they were able to image part of the brain, and determine the size of the hippocampus. For those of us who aren’t biologists, the hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for memory. As people get older one thing that can happen (but doesn’t necessarily always happen) is that the hippocampus shrinks, and memory is impaired.
The study looked at the rate of decline (atrophy) of the hippocampus as a person aged. They did this by taking more than one scan of each person’s brain (on average the scans were taken around 4 years apart). Then they considered if religion had any effect on the brain’s rate of decline.
So what were the results of the study? I’m going to give the “b” values from their regression analysis, for left and right sides of the brain. Basically the higher a “b” value, the less brain rot. The more negative, the more rot. All the numbers are all in comparison with mainstream protestants, who would get a value of b=0.0.
The best group, on a par with the mainstream protestants, were those with “other” religious beliefs, such as Eastern Orthodox, Jewish or Muslim people (b=0.06,-0.05). Catholics fared okay (b=-0.12, -0.22). “Born again” protestants were split into two groups: those who were recently born again (b=-0.05, -0.21), and those who had been born again for some time (b=-0.15,-0.15). Finally, there were those who claimed to have a Life Changing Religious Experience (LCRE). These too were split into two. Those who claimed to have recently had the experience did well (b=-0.01,-0.15) and those who claimed it was a long time ago did badly (b=-0.45,-0.38). This was the only religious group to perform worse than those of no religion (b=-0.28,-0.20).
The authors of the study suggest that perhaps being part of religious minority (such as atheists or those who have had a significant life changing experience) could causes long term stress – and this type of stress might lead to degradation of the brain.
So does religion give you brain damage? No. The study considers natural decline of the brain during aging. It shows that the brains of mainstream protestants, born again Christians, Catholics and those of “other” religious belief all experienced slower decline in comparison with those of no religion.