This Summer, the New Yorker ran an article about the neuroscience of pain, detailing the experience, mechanics, methods of relief and so on associated with pain. An unsual sidelight was examining the fact that religious people can have a different experience of pain – a concept that anyone with any knowledge of “extreme” religious practices like Hindus who put skewers through one’s cheeks, self-flagellating Muslims, Catholics recreating the Passion of Jesus won’t find novel or Thelemites sitting through especially long, pseudo-academic discussions of planetary hours or the exegesis of the gematria of entire Libers will be familiar with. Im part the article states:
“One of her most striking experiments tested the common observation that religious faith helps people cope with pain. Comparing the neurological responses of devout Catholics with those of atheists, she found that the two groups had similar baseline experiences of pain, but that, if the subjects were shown a picture of the Virgin Mary (by Sassoferrato, an Italian Baroque painter) while the pain was administered, the believers rated their discomfort nearly a point lower than the atheists did. When the volunteers were shown a secular painting (Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine’), the two groups’ responses were the same. The implications are potentially far-reaching, and not only because they suggest that cultural attitudes may have a neurological imprint. If faith engages a neural mechanism with analgesic benefits—the Catholics showed heightened activity in an area usually associated with the ability to override a physical response—it may be possible to find other, secular ways to engage that circuit.”
Read the entire article here:
Thanks for Soror Amy for the tip.