Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Having Your Cake and NOT Eating It Too

There's an interesting blog post at BeliefNet, Reason, Religion and Moral Behavior where writer Rod Dreher concludes:
Religion that engages the emotions, and trains them to react in particular ways, will be more likely to get better behavior out of its adherents than a religion lightly held, and that makes fewer demands on those who profess it. It's an obvious point, I suppose, but there appears to be scientific data showing that people whose religious faith trains their emotions to respond and conform to a particular behavioral code will be more successful at convincing people to live out its moral teachings than a religion that remains mostly analytical/cerebral, or that doesn't bury itself deeply in the "heart" (= a metaphor for the emotional part of the brain).

Given that we live in a world in which the conscious brain is overwhelmed by information and stimuli as like never before, forming the emotional brain to give the morally correct response to problems presented it is perhaps more important than ever for parents and religious educators. This information also suggests strongly that reason, while important to moral behavior, is not nearly as important as emotional instinct.
He makes a case for why traditions that include some training in denial (more the Orthodox emphasis on fasting, than our keeping of Lent) can benefit your brain. You can read the full text of his post here: Reason, Religion and Moral Behavior.

Equally important is to read the article that started his own thinking. It's the National Public Radio story Willpower and the Slacker Brain which reveals the neurological reasons why you have trouble making some choices. For example, they show why having to hold a longer phone number in memory can make you more likely to choose chocolate cake over fruit. There's also the link to the dizzying array of Crayola choices that lead to Crayola's law, which is that their number of color options doubles every 28 years...and this is not a good thing.

I found the BeliefNet blog post and the two attached NPR articles to be thought-provoking reads. Enjoy!

Crayola options from 1903 to 2010.

And if you still remain unconvinced that we live with too many choices, take a look at this video clip from Borat in an American grocery store. It gives you brain freeze to think of the choices we face. I think I'll go have chocolate cake.



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