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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Atheist Ignorance and Violent Crime

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We are all potential victims of violent crime. How does religion help in the prevention of violent crime and the treatment of violent criminals?

If Atheists* had their way, how would this treatment of violent criminals be stopped?

A spokesman from the Freedom from Religion Foundation was on the Michael Medved show on Friday, March 21, 2014. He introduced an Atheist song entitled – really it was entitled this – "Poor Little Me." Lyrics:

"The multitudes mumble mythologies without end.
Lutherans have liturgies. Calvinists have creeds.
Muslims have their minarets. Catholics have their beads.
Methodists have methods, Holy Truth to ascertain,
But poor little me, I only have a brain.
Bishops transubstantiate. Shintos ring their bells.
Transcendentalists meditate. Wiccans weave their spells.
Hindus chant a mantra when they can't relieve the pain,
But poor little me, I only have a brain.
Unhappy with the weatherman, the Zunis wave a feather—
They dance in circles to demand: Great Spirit, send some rain!
But what do you do if you only have a brain?
Quakers quake and Shakers shake. Jews eat kosher food.
Rastafarians wear their hair in pious gratitude.
But poor little me, poor little me,
I only have a brain."

You will immediately notice four things about this song:

1.) Atheists believe themselves to be, and announce themselves as being, much smarter than everyone else, "I only have a brain," repeated over and over.

2.) Atheists believe themselves to be, and announce themselves as being, VICTIMS!!!! (Poor little me – repeated over and over.)

3.) Atheists oppose EVERYBODY. Atheists get most press for opposing Christians, but Atheists reject any concept of God, psychic ability, synchronicity, worship, prayer, song, dance, sacred architecture, tradition, recipes. Anything and everything that isn't a material reality you can touch, see, taste, hear, or smell that plays an instrumental role in your Darwinian struggle for life is CRAP and should be eliminated!!! Achtung!

4.) Atheists totally misunderstand human nature. Demonizing meditation, tradition, myth and sacred architecture is a scorched earth Utopian worldview that can lead only, and has lead, to events like the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Terror in France, the Gulag in the Soviet Union, the destruction of Buddhist Tibet under Red China and the Holocaust in Germany.

***

Later that same day, Friday, March 21, 2014, Adrian Raine, professor of criminology, psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, the first person to conduct a brain imaging study on murderers, and author of "The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime" appeared on "Fresh Air."

Raine argued that there is a biological basis to all antisocial behavior: "there's a biological basis really to all forms of antisocial behavior - you know, not just homicide, not just rape, not just pedophilia, but just plain everyday thieving and stealing and even cheating.
It's not just the social environment. Of course the social environment is very important; nobody's denying that. But what I'm saying here is that there's another side of the coin, and that side of the coin is biology.

Murderers had much poorer functioning in the very frontal region of the brain. Now, why might that predispose someone to homicide? Well, the prefrontal cortex is very much involved in regulating and controlling behavior.

You know, it checks on our impulses. You know, we all get a bit impulsive at times. What stops us lashing out? It's a good-functioning prefrontal cortex that says wait a bit, you know, now is not the time to lash out. And it's also the part of the brain that regulates and controls emotion.

What stops us, you know, going crazily berserk and picking up the kitchen knife and stabbing someone out of rage, it's that prefrontal cortex. It's like the guardian angel on behavior, you know? And if the guardian angel is gone, well, the devil may come out, and an individual may commit homicide."

Raine argued that it's not just the prefrontal cortex, but also the amygdala:
"When we brain-scanned psychopathic individuals in the community and compared them to matched controls, we found that that amygdala part of the brain, the emotion part of the brain, it was reduced in volume by 18 percent. It was shrunken physically 18 percent. So if the emotion part of the brain is shrunken, that might well explain why psychopaths lack remorse, lack guilt, lack conscience and why they don't really care about sticking a knife in you to get what they want."

Raine mentioned toxic chemicals that might predispose individuals to commit crimes:
"Lead is neurotoxic to the brain, may be one of the environmental causes of the brain basis to crime and violence."

Raine said that a low resting heart rate is also correlated to criminal activity, "low resting heart rate predisposes to crime is because it reflects a lack of fear and a lack of fear we think is a predisposition."


Raine asked a profoundly provocative question, a question that could change society as we know it:

"The key question is this: Simply put, if bad brains do cause bad behavior, if brain dysfunction raises the odds that somebody will become a criminal offender, and if the causes of the brain dysfunction come relatively early in life then should we fully hold that adult individual responsible when the root causes of its behavior came early in life, well beyond its control?"

How in the name of justice can we really hold that individual as responsible as we do do, and punish them as much as we do, including death? That's the question that neurocriminology, this emerging body of evidence, is posing for the judicial system who are increasingly becoming interested in the interface between neuroscience and the law?"

Raine insisted that "biology is not destiny." He pointed out that persons with low resting heart rates might become criminals, or they might become heroes – bomb disposal experts.

What makes one man with a low resting heart rate become a criminal and another man become a heroic bomb disposal expert?
"The social environment is absolutely critical" Raine said. If a person is born in "sort of higher socioeconomic home background" that "could lead to a very different outcome"

What can we do? One might reasonably ask. If a given percentage of any population will have the biological precursors to crime: low resting heart rate, dysfunctional prefrontal cortex and amygdala, and lead exposure, do we all just have to be victimized by this biological monster?

Raine mentioned one way that criminals might be helped to overcome their biological handicaps: "meditation."


"There's very good randomized controlled trials which do show that, you know, eight weeks of meditation or mindfulness training, training yourself to be more in tuned with what's going on inside you and your senses and your feelings and your thinking, then that enhances the prefrontal region of the brain - the very part of the brain that we find to be dysfunctional in offenders.

Also we know that people who meditate on a long-term basis, they have increased thickness in the prefrontal cortex, and we find structural impairments in that frontal part of the brain in psychopaths and antisocial offenders. So if it's really the case that mindfulness training can enhance brain functioning - and by the way, you know, one study has shown it activates the amygdala, that brain structure that is burnt out a bit in psychopaths - then the intriguing question is: If we could put some of these offenders through mindfulness training, would it bring back online those emotion regions that are involved in empathy and compassion like the amygdala and possibly change their behavior?

Now, some studies have been done. There's even been a study giving meditation to 1,300 prisoners, claiming it reduces aggression, but we haven't had the randomized controlled trials yet to document that this can really change reconvictions in the future. But it's intriguing."

Here Gross and Raine mention only a Buddhist form of meditation. I suspect that they stick to Buddhism because Buddhism is acceptable in Politically Correct circles that would reject any activity associated with Christianity.

But Christian prayer – specifically repetitive prayer like the rosary mocked by the Atheist song, above – is also efficacious in studies of the impact of human behavior on the amygdala.

I would bet that the other material manifestations of spiritual life like chants, minarets, stained glass, and kosher food – all also mocked in the atheist song, above – soothe and protect our nervous systems.

Here's an article citing Dr. Andrew Newberg, author of "How God Changes Your Brain," saying just that,

"Brain scans of meditating monks and praying nuns show that the frontal lobe — the area that directs the mind’s focus — is especially active while the amygdala — the area linked to fear reactions — is calmed when they go through their spiritual experiences. His studies show these brain regions can be exercised and strengthened, like building up a muscle through training. And his treatment of a mechanic with a faltering memory showed that a traditional Indian meditation method, even when stripped of its spiritual trappings, could bring about these changes in two months."

Newberg ascribes "a list of positive results from meditation and offer advice on caring for the brain. Newberg’s 'number one best way to exercise your brain' is faith. As he puts it, 'faith is equivalent with hope, optimism and the belief that a positive future awaits us. Faith can also be defined as the ability to trust our beliefs, even when we have no proof that such beliefs are accurate or true.'" Source

***

To sum up: Atheists* demand a Utopian, scorched earth policy that relegates ALL spiritual behavior to the trash bin. Any engagement in such behavior is "anti-brain," stupid and counter-productive.

The best research we have on brains and criminal behavior shows that spiritual behavior aids the brain, and may help criminals change, and may help keep society safer.

***

About the asterisk on "Atheist." I have a couple of Facebook friends who occasionally read my posts and insist that

I am really stupid and I need them to educate me

I am oppressing them.

This is part of the Atheist script – we are smart you are stupid; you require us to educate you; you are oppressing us and we are your victims.

They allege that any criticism of a certain subset of atheists maligns all atheists.

I always make clear in my posts that I'm not talking about all atheists or even most atheists. I'm talking about a subset, a minority, of capital A Atheists. Which Atheists are these? They are the type I talk about here – Atheists who demonize all religious belief, announce themselves as more intelligent and more victimized than others. Most small a atheists aren't like this, and I'm not talking about them at all.

You can read the lyrics of the above cited Atheist song here.

You can read the transcript of Fresh Air's Terri Gross' interview with Dr. Raine here.

You can read the interview with Dr. Andrew Bergman about his book "How God Changes Your Brain" here.

1 comment:

  1. The Bible would certainly agree that spiritual behaviour aids the brain. For example, when Jehovah gave the Israelites the 10 Words or Commandments, He told them not to covet, i.e. he was warning them to take care with their thoughts.

    And since the retaining of wrong thoughts develops bad desires, it stands to reason that we must learn to control our thinking at all times by keeping our thoughts on what would have God’s approval. “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” (Phil. 4:8,)

    And wonderfully, if we ask for self-control - and act in harmony with our prayers - Jehovah will give it. Self-control is part of the fruitage of God's spirit.

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