Hint at how fear is used to promote religion
(Top Posts - Science - 122305, updated 032609)

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Humans, like all evolved beings, natural
entities responding to and interacting with
the environment in ways dictated by the
rules embedded deep within billions of
years of experience on earth?

To most evolutionists, the answer is an
obvious and resounding "YES", with only
the details remaining mysterious, said
mysteries decreasing as scientific under-
standing increases.

Regarding the following article, focused
on the human emotion of fear, I can't help
but recall some of my most fearful mo-
ments raised in the heart of a fundamen-
talist church environment, exposed to the
hellfire threats year after year (first 18
years of my life), the ultimate threat used
by many of the christian faith to try to
scare children and adults into belief in
a particular version of religious mythos.

Fear as a religious weapon?

You be the judge ...

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December 2005 issue

Can We Cure Fear?
  
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=can-we-cure-fear
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Excerpts:

Excerpted with permission of John Wiley &
Sons, Inc. (www.wiley.com), from False
Alarm: The Truth about the Epidemic of Fear.
Copyright 2005 by Marc Siegel.

...

Fear is more than a state of mind; it is chem-
ical.

The feeling of alarm arises from the circuitry
of our brains, in the neurochemical exchanges
between nerve cells.

...

When one feels threatened, the metabolism
revs up in anticipation of an imminent need to
defend oneself or flee.

"Fight or flight," or the acute stress response,
was first described in the 1920s by Walter B.
Cannon, a physiologist at Harvard University.
Cannon observed that animals, including
humans, react to dangers with a hormonal
discharge of the nervous system.

The body unleashes an outpouring of vessel-
constricting, heart-thumping hormones, includ-
ing epinephrine, norepinephrine and the ster-
oid cortisol.

The heart speeds up and pumps harder, the
nerves fire more quickly, the skin cools and
gets goose bumps, the eyes dilate to see
better, and the areas of the brain involved
in decision making receive a message that
it is time to act.

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Once a person has learned to feel appre-
hensive about something, he or she may
always dread it.
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At the center of these processes is the
amygdala, an almond-shaped region of the
brain.

Neuroscientist Joseph E. LeDoux of New
York University, a pioneer in the study of
the fear cycle, describes the amygdala as
"the hub in the brain's wheel of fear."

The amygdala processes the primitive
emotions of fear, hate, love and anger --
all neighbors in the deep limbic brain we
inherited from animals that evolved earlier.

The amygdala works together with other
brain centers that feed it or respond to it.

This fear hub senses through the thalamus
(the brain's receiver), analyzes with the cor-
tex (the seat of reasoning) and remembers
via the hippocampus (the memory-input
device).

It takes only 12 milliseconds, according to
LeDoux, for the thalamus to process sen-
sory input and to signal the amygdala.

He calls this emotional brain the "low road."

The "high road," or thinking brain, takes
30 to 40 milliseconds to process what is
happening.

"People have fear they don't understand
or can't control because it is processed
by the low road," LeDoux says.

...

We tend to overpersonalize risk and to ex-
perience an unrealistic sense of peril when
we hear or read of a bad event occurring to
someone else.

...

Recurrent or unremitting fear has the same
deleterious effects on the human body that
running persistently at 80 to 100 miles per
hour has on a car.

Many illnesses are more likely to occur as
a result, including heart disease, stroke and
depression.

...

Fear is a deep-rooted emotion, difficult for
the brain to control.

...

To conquer fear we must return it to its primi-
tive place as an instinct reserved for protect-
ing us from true physical dangers.

We must stop overpersonalizing it.

We must resist those in the media and else-
where

[like the bully pulpit with their threats of hell]

who highlight the wrong dangers and hype
the need to respond -- making the threat
seem even more real.

...

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