I am a young student interested in things like consciousness, neuroscience, and alot of other things. Because of this, I like to read articles (mostly popular, because I'm not educated enough to actually read neuroscience journals) that claim to find connections between parts of the brain and things like language, religion, and other very common phenomena. I'm extremely interested in the evolution of parts of the brain which appear (according to some neuroscientists) to hold the key to answering questions like:

Why do people believe that there would ever be supernatural beings?
Why affect does prayer have on health and happiness in people?
Where does morality come from (in the context of religious architectures)?
What value does having religion in a community bring in ancient/pre-historic times vs. current?

When I was younger, I was a Christian. Not just a regular Christian, but a Bible-thumping, praying ten times a day, memorizing scripture, evangelical. That was from about birth to 9th grade. I went to private Christian schools or I was homeschooled (which had a heavy Bible flavour curriculum). I most certainly felt as though I was part of something. Something magnificant that seemed to explain any question I could ever think of - Why was I alive, where do I go when I die, why should I be a good person, etc ...

The question I have for you folks, is based off of an experience I had when I was a young zealot for Jesus Christ --

It was the middle of the night, and my mom and I were praying before we went to sleep. I suddenly had a very intense urge to begin talking -- but what came out wasn't English, it was later described to me that I was speaking in "tongues" and that it was supposed to be the language of God. I had seen it in my church once or twice before during some very heated ceremonies (one older lady was particularly known for speaking in tongues and delivering messages from God).

From this, your average skeptic will have several immediate questions/explainations, and I want to know what you guys have to say about any of it:

You were probably just a kid that felt like he was fitting in by saying jibberish for five minutes.
Was it similar to something you saw on the Spanish TV station or something?
You had a brain seizure that went unreported.
etc, etc ...

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I was thinking about it some more and decided that trying to explain a phenomena like speaking in tongues is unfair, because we don't know enough about the brain yet to decide even if it causes things that are in our face daily (like consciousness, intuition, love). I don't know if we'll ever have a clear definition of religion and supernatural experiences from a neuroscientific standpoint, maybe someday, maybe not even in my lifetime.

I will have a look at the books you mentioned, Nelson. (I have a book by Dennet that's been sitting on my shelf for a while). And thanks for the image doone, I'll have to spend more time reading about these connections some more to come up with some better ideas about my own experiences.

Thanks for the replies guys.
Although we don't have absolutes about the origin of religion or supernatural belief in general; its obvious to speculate that early man somehow stumbled upon the idea of supernatural beings to explain the unexplainable. Things like lightning, rain, the seasons changing, the sun rising, animals migrating, etc. Then once you have the tribe believing in the god(s), they designate someone to communicate with the god(s). Or the priest/shaman appoints themselves; either because they are a devout believer or they see the opportunity for manipulation (and personal advancement). Additionally, here is an interesting video that shows human's lack of understanding of probability causes them to associate things to the supernatural.

AtypicalAtheist posted a blog where we discussed how faith (and prayer) effects people's happiness and well being.

Morality comes from an individual seeking social balance and social norms. This is best illustrated by the observance of what is acceptable in different cultures, especially in cultures that have experienced isolation. The fact that an isolated culture/community shares some common moral values with other cultures and community illustrates it is part of human nature. The slight variances in what is morally acceptable also show that morality is based on what is socially acceptable. In my opinion also, the fact that morality has evolved greatly while religion (in theory) has not, this illustrates that morality is independent of religion.

I can't find the article right now (I'll look some more); it was about some skeptics trying to study the speaking in tongues. They found that many of their subjects had entered a state similar to hypnosis; and also that it is almost unheard of in groups that had never observed others doing it. So they speculated that it was a subconscious learned behavior that was essentially self-hypnosis. One of the damning moments in their study was when a preacher translated while they were filming; then a few days later while interviewing the same preacher they played back the audio of just the speaking in tongues, and he translated it with completely different meaning.


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