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Mind your faith

FAITH IS not a popular topic in this country. Perhaps that’s because we don’t know how it works.

Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was reported to say religious believers were either mad or severely neurotic.

Neuroscientist Dr Peter Snow, formerly at the University of Queensland researching brain plasticity, recently told a network radio audience that while faith is related to hope, what humans believe is a purely subjective construct in their minds.
Remove the frontal lobes of the brain, he argued, or imprison people in a concentration camp, and they will live only in the present with no hope of a future.

The mind is different to the brain in the same way the heart can be compared to one’s blood pump.

There appears to be a distinction between the electro-chemical processes in the brain and what we think of as our mind.

Psychiatrist, Dr John Warlow was the director of training for child psychiatry with Queensland Health. He expects that in the next 20 years scientists will find a chemical or hormone in the brain that explains faith.

“A much more helpful way to look at the brain is in a functional way, from the ‘mind’ perspective, especially when we come to abstracts such as faith or indeed any form of relationship,” he said.

“Once you come to understand the mind, you may then come to understand the link between the spirit and the body.

“For the spirit to be a reality it must have its outward expression via the mind,” he said,

British author of Is Faith Delusion? Dr Andrew Sims noted studies that statistically proved that religious belief is good for mental and physical health.

Many child psychiatrists are exploring a link between identity and relationship.

As we begin to know and trust ourselves, we can allow others to be themselves, and come to trust them.

This builds on cognitive theory dating back to Jean Piaget’s developmental psychology.

James Fowler, author of Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian, is another person researching identity development and why the vast majority of conversion experiences take place in the teen and early adult years.

According to Dr Warlow parents can foster faith through love.

“Faith is the awareness of truth, deeper than the ability to see, touch or taste something. A parent provides consistency in ‘being there’ and a child internalises a reality that mum or dad, a real person, looks at me as a real person.”

This line of research suggests the teenage years are a crisis of faith and identity as one revisits the truth about who they are.

While faith appears to have been largely scorned by modern psychiatrists, the postmodern era seems to have opened the door to spirituality within our pluralist society.

The Apostle Paul suggested that three things are intertwined in our psyche and are equally difficult to define: faith, hope and love.