Monday, March 1, 2010

Church...Good or Bad?

A week or so ago I wrote about Stephen Knapp...his website and some of his views on religious unity and religious divisions.

Here is some more from Stephen Knapp on religious unity. The whole article can be found on his web site….HERE.

If we are mature enough to see the purpose of each religion or spiritual path, we will recognize that there is very little difference between them. Once we get past the superficialities and variations, like dress, language, rituals, diet, or architectural styles of churches or temples, we can see that the essence of each religion is the same. That is to pray to God, sing His praises, discuss His pastimes and instructions, study the guidance of the prophets or messengers of God, and to think of God or meditate on Him in any number of ways. The process is the same, summarized as hearing about God, chanting or singing about Him, and remembering and serving God. That's it. Anything else is an expansion of these items. The goal is the same: To learn how to surrender to God and love Him with all our hearts and minds, and then to treat and love others as parts and parcels of God. Simple.

Why do we gather at temples, churches or mosques? Simply to learn and practice how to do this, and associate with others who wish to do the same. Thereby we all help each other in this direction.

So Knapp seems to take a pretty optimistic view of religion…all religions. He see it as the finger that points to the moon. Recently, I read parts of a book called “How God Changes Your Brain.” Some of the activities that take place in organized religion (praying, chanting, meditating, contemplation) actually make changes in the brain chemistry…..stimulating certain parts of the brain that govern good stuff like empathy, goodwill, compassion etc. A few quotes from the book:

But religious and spiritual contemplation changes your brain in a profoundly different way because it strengthens a unique neural circuit that specifically enhances social awareness and empathy while subduing destructive feelings and emotions. This is precisely the kind of neural change we need to make if we want to solve the conflicts currently afflicting our world. And the underlying mechanism that allows these changes to occur relates to a unique quality known as neuroplasticity: the ability of the human brain to structurally rearrange itself in response to a wide variety of positive and negative events.


When you intensely and consistently focus on your spiritual values and goals, you increase the blood flow to your frontal lobes and anterior cingulate, which causes the activity in emotional centers of the brain to decrease. Conscious intention is the key, and the more you focus on your inner values, the more you can take charge of your life.

The emotional centers the book talks about are the areas of the brain that control anger and like emotions.

So we find different religions the world over…and contained within these varied religious traditions… we find practices and activities that stimulate the parts of the brain that make us kinder, gentler people. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing…does it?

Well, according to Preston Eby organized religion is a very bad thing. He refers to it often as Babylon, the Harlot…the Mother of Harlots....the Whore…..the Great Whore. According to Eby, It is fueled by the spirit of antichrist. (which means “instead of” not necessarily “against” Christ) And the goal of spiritual maturity and a right relationship with Christ is to “come out of her, my people.”

In his series, The Heavens Declare, Part 18 he says:

All religion is the invention of man in his effort to meet man's spiritual need — apart from the anointing! Alas! they understand not that the reality of God's life is not contained in, nor ministered through, doctrines, programs, rituals, ceremonies or ordinances. Those who live in that realm know nothing of the mighty power of the indwelling Christ of God. Man's religion is of the world, for it is outside of God, being not of the Spirit, nor by the anointing.

Generation after generation, people have been raised up from childhood in this atmosphere and have absolutely no knowledge of anything else or another way. It never even enters the minds of these people that THE CHRIST WITHIN is the Head of the church, the life of the church, and the whole sufficiency for the church, its people, its work, and its needs. Each church must be constantly creating new plans, programs and activities to keep the people busy "doing something". The idea is to keep the people busy and to keep up the interest, so that they may be kept in that church. In the church world such a church is known as a "lively" church, and the pastor is known as one of the "successful" pastors. Spirituality has little, if anything, to do with it, for the whole group, including the so-called pastor and church leader, is simply a natural body of people, carrying on what they imagine is a church.

So while Knapp sees the religions of the world as more or less of a good thing that bring people closer to God, Eby sees them as an obstacle. Eby also writes from a very Christian paradigm. He does not think that people from other religions can really know the Christ and their relationship with God is, at best, second rate. At worst, it is bogus and the spirits they are in relationship with are not the true Christ/God. He talks about this in (among other places) The Seed in Every Man.

In How God Changes Your Brain, they discuss fundamentalists and how their activities and beliefs actually stimulate the wrong parts of the brain. Well, wrong if you are going for kinder, gentler. More on that tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

***Dena*** posted the following comment to this post on facebook. I have my blog posts automatically sent to FB. I think the comments are often the best part of blogs so I am pilfering what she said there and posting it here :)

Dena Brehm this is fascinating, Cindi! I align more with Eby's conclusions, but I prefer Knapp's kindness. I'm determined to learn to meditate, so that I can "find my happy place" ... in my 35 year experience, with a myriad of churches, I never found the atmosphere to be support of real growth ... just their version of conformity.

I guess I don't find church good/bad ... but moot -- to me, it "doesn't work" for what I want to accomplish. And, I find that I get rich relationships without it hindering them.

Can't wait to hear what you write next ... how I participated in my own brain-damage for so long, LOL!

Cindi said...

And now my reply with a few more interesting quotes from the book...

Hi Dena:

As far as the meditation, I took some notes when I read the said the following:

In the summer of 1999, I had the opportunity to study a group of nuns who had been practicing the Centering Prayer for a mininmum of fifteen years. This was the first brain scan of Christian conteplative practioners, and we discovered that the neuroological change were significant and very different from how the human brain normally functions. Even more surprising, the neurological changes were nearly the same as those we recorded from a group of Buddhist practioners, who obviously nurtured very different beliefs.

And from another place in the book....

When you intensely and consistently focus on your spiritual values and goals, you increase the blood flow to your frontal lobes and anterior cingulate, which causes the activity in emotional centers of the brain to decrease. Conscious intention is the key, and the more you focus on your inner values, the more you can take charge of your life.

following paragraph not a direct quote from the book....

The book goes on to talk about brain changes that occur...not over a period of time as previously believed but a matter of hours in response to to "robust stimulation. Scientists now see the brain as a constantly changing mass of activity. The book reports that every change in the environment--internal and external---will cause a rearrangement of cellular activity and growth. Even more interesting, every neuron has its own mind" so to speak, for it can decide wheter to send a signal, and if it does, how strong a signal to send.

quoting again,....
Brain scan technology allows us to watch a living brain in action, and what we see is amazing. Each feeling and thought changes the blood flow and electrochemical activity in multiple areas of the brain, and it appears that we never repeat the exact same feeling or thought. In fact, the mere act of recalling a single memory changes it connection to other neuronal circuits---another interesting example of he enormous plasticity of the brain.