The Scientific Basis of Religion, Good, Fri, Mar 08 2013 #(1934)

Mar 8, 2013

Dear All
I have become involved over the past few years in experimentation with and use of a drug called baclofen which is becoming widely used for the treatment of alcoholism and other addictions to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. It has also been found to be a very good treatment for autism and is being developed by a pharmaceutical company in the US under the name arbaclofen. It has been said to relieve sufferers of addictions and autism of the feeling of being uncomfortable in their own skin.

The mechanism of baclofen is that it is a Gaba b agonist and is an anxiolitic; it calms anxiety. That is an incredible thing if you think about it. Anxiety is central to many religions directly or indirectly. Buddhism for instance revolves around using mindful meditation techniques to overcome anxiety. Many religious provide a “panacea” to help cope with the fear of death. We are told by Christians that believing in Jesus will allow us to defeat death, and our worry about it.

I was engaged on a forum of users of baclofen a couple of years ago and two Dutch university students turned up and began posting comments about baclofen being the “peace” drug. I also began taking baclofen…and I started to understand what they were talking about.

Baclofen stops you from worrying, about everything…including death. It chemically takes away anxiety leaving you as a person who thinks differently about things. The odd thing about baclofen is that it isn’t addictive and it isn’t halucenogenic. When you take it you just feel, well…just fine. It does have some odd side effects, makes you fall asleep at work and almost stop breathing you become so relaxed. It doesn’t, however, distort your view of things generally.

This is why baclofen is so useful in addiction, because it medically treats the anxiety which some will say is one and the same thing as addictive craving. Get rid of the craving and you have no addiction.

What is odd about it, though, is that it also takes away all anxiety, for a time. Imagine you return to a time in your life when you were healthy and care free, a pleasant childhood when you never thought about work, a childhood where everyone was a friend or a parent, there to care for you and look out for you. You have no worries. That is how you feel when you take baclofen. It is odd because, taking it, you get rid of your fear of death. You become a creature which is driven by other reasons and motives besides worry about one’s own mortality.

In this sense, the defeating of anxiety is a defeat of death. Death becomes immaterial. And so does religion, because you don’t need it. You become an animal which feels part of the world and happy in it, or out of it. So, there must be some aspect of our personalities which drives us, give us a reason to exist on the basis that we are part of a whole, rather than worrying obsessively about self, life and death.

Religion is a product of a biological anxiety. This anxiety is practically nonexistent in the very young who are healthy and well cared for. It becomes a necessary part of living as we get older because anxiety pushes us to look after ourselves. It is part and parcel of being a precognition, of being aware. As Burns points out, it is what distinguishes us from the mouse:

Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Religion is an axiolitic, as are many drugs which have, over the years been used by members of various religions to achieve a release from anxiety.

I am not advocating baclofen as a drug to replace religion or to treat anxiety. See a doctor for that. What I am suggesting is that religion is driven by a need to find comfort in the face of our own mortality. The anxiety we have over that is entirely chemically caused and can be turned off as it likely is in some creatures, such as ants and mice who probably don’t worry about mortality.

That takes us a step forward and it sort of makes all this argument over whether there is a God or not rather pointless. Of course there isn’t some big guy who designed everything. But there is something in all life which drives us as species, creatures on a common host, as opposed to individuals, worrying about self. It is entirely biological, very real, and in all of us. We all come from one source, ultimately and this force, whatever it is, is in all of us. I am not a scientist so I cannot explain it, nor am I religious, so I don’t try to mystify it. I simply see it and am amazed:

As Fitzerald said:

With Earth’s first Clay They did the Last Man’s knead,
And then of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed:
Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

Isn’t it enough just to be witness to it?

David Harris

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