Religious Conviction: Simply a State of Mind

I work in the psychological field, dealing with people with many various kinds of personality disorders. I work a lot with retraining the brain to help people live lives free from disorders (mainly eating), compulsions, guilt, and fear. I love my job. So many things in our individual realities stem from the way our brains were wired from birth to three years old. These patterns form our lives, our beliefs, and our convictions. Try to change? Well, changing your way of believing (and rewiring that brain of yours) is the hardest and most painstaking job in the world. And it only gets harder the older we get.

Most children grow up in family and religious communities whose members share very particular—often one-sided—ideas, outlooks, and attitudes. Let’s take mine for an example. I was born and raised in an LDS family in Kaysville, Utah. Many members of my community had pretty much the same, limited knowledge available to them and had developed certain skills at the expense of other skills. As a child in such a community, I learned the same skills. It’s a fact that children in such communities can only acquire a sense of security and deal with their fears by adopting the thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns that the community members pass along to them. This goes directly to the wiring of our brains. The neuronal connections and circuits activated repeatedly in our brains in this way become more and more rigidly established. The earlier this kind of programming takes place, the more completely it determines children’s lives and the harder it becomes for them to undo later in life.

When beliefs are strong enough, when you truly believe in something, good or bad, the emotions you feel create your reality. When you believe in something, you constantly look for the manifestations of it in your life to help you reaffirm your faith and “testimony” in said belief.  For example, if a predominate belief of your family or community was that God punished people who were evil or somehow deserving of punishment, (i.e. the Pride Cycle comes to mind, as well as the most recent declaration of Haiti’s contract with the Devil) then each time you saw misfortune in your life, you’d see it as proof that there is such a God. And with every disaster,  each individual horror, and the myriad of troubles in the world–well, it only serve as proof in the existence of such a God. I don’t know about you, but I got a little tired in believing in a God who didn’t seem as compassionate as my own mother. These beliefs grow in your mind, validating each other, until an entire community embraces the idea that the world is becoming more and more evil and that it needs a good cleaning up in the “last days” (i.e. Millennium).

Rightly so, you would internalize this belief as true about yourself as well. If you have misfortune in your life, then obviously it is necessary for you to be “tried” in such a way that you will be “purified” in the “refiner’s fire” and become more Godlike in the process. You would, sadly, become judgmental of yourself and feel a bit inundated with various levels of guilt and shame throughout your life. Religious dogmas have always liked to feed off of guilt and shame. The mind, then, survives and validates by finding confirmations.  Each of us sees the world through the lenses of our beliefs. Soon, EVERYTHING you see that confirms certain beliefs, and they work to serve as a “testimony” of that belief system. You begin looking for and finding many, many ways that this belief is true. When you accidentally stumble upon a belief that you can’t make sense of in your current dogma, then you tend to “put it on the shelf” (i.e. patriarchy, polygamy, proposition 8).  Your mind simply has to brush it off as unexplainable and you console yourself with the idea that “God moves in mysterious ways.” I reached a point where I could no longer do this.

The danger of building up these very one-sided neuronal connective patterns becomes severe if the strategies for coping with fear are employed by SUBJECTIVE people, dogma, and methods. When this happens, many coping strategies are built up and overused to a point of psychological dependency.

I used to be very psychologically dependent on the dogma of the LDS church to tell me who to be, what to believe, and how to make sense of the world. I broke out of this way of thinking later than I would have liked. It’s been a hard journey out of it. And after two years of rewiring my brain, I still have a way to go.

It’s an interesting thought, given the premise of the church, that most members believe (i.e. with missionaries) that everyone else will have to, at least eventually, subscribe to the same set of “beliefs” that they themselves have so that all can be harmonious in heaven. I find this so troubling. Do we really need that kind of validation? I don’t anymore. I am happy to have my own set of beliefs and to let you have yours. However, there is always a bit of a sting when I say that, because I’ll never fully get that in return, especially with my family. I guess I’ll just have to accept that they will forever see me as being “in the wrong” since I dared to wire my brain differently from them. But I’m as convinced (as they are about theirs) that my beliefs are what work for me. And to that, there really is no solution to seek after, all that is left is to embrace, accept, and love.

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44 Responses

  1. G says:

    very well said D’Arcy

  2. Jenn says:

    I disagree.

    You’ve assumed that just because you were born into the LDS religion and have found yourself (and many others) trapped in the above-mentioned mindset, and also because you have experiences working with psychology that you know all there is to know about what kind of religious experiences other people are having.

    A free-thinging, open-minded individual would allow that it may be possible to develop a true relationship with God–whether or not that individual has ever accomplished or will ever accomplish it. Just because you have not experienced that relationship does not mean it is impossible for others to experience it.
    Just because you have experienced many things does not mean you have experienced all things. It is arrogant to make such an assumption.

    I do agree with you that the solution is to embrace, accept and love…which is what God teaches better than anyone else.

  3. D'Arcy says:

    Jenn, wow. You’ve made a lot of assumptions about me and my relationship with God (even going so far as to say I’ve never experienced one). I don’t think I ever used the word “trapped” or that I said I know “all there is to know”. You’re definitely coming at this from a more emotional place than I am.

    I’m simply looking at the ways that our beliefs are formed. I haven’t said one way was good and the other bad. I just believe that it doesn’t all work the same for everyone and some of the constructs that we are forced into by parents/community end up not being right for the individual. They were not right for me. They are for you. Cool.

    I have a very strong relationship to God, but I don’t need to defend that to you.

  4. Brandy says:

    As always, I LOVE your well written thoughts and courage to be yourself. Lately, I too have been struggling with this rewiring (although my wires where set in Judaism and then turned to Mormonism, so my mind struggles constantly to get back to Judaism only to come against the hard wiring of LDS). That being said, I have recently been focusing on the story of how Satan wanted everyone to be forced into doing what is right, in essence, making cookie cutter beings that follow along like stepford wives. The idea that I chose agency, the freedom to be who I am with all my mistakes and experiences and hard earned knowledge has always been a truth that soars in my soul. And yet, when I attend the LDS church lately I have been made to feel bad that I am not the cookie cutter- get married have a ton of babies-person; and if I don’t conform then I’m missing out on the whole plan and must be made to feel an outcast. It had made me forget for awhile how much I truly love this God given agency, how much I cherish my one-on-one relationship with God and how He can direct me without the middleman of well, man.
    It is truly difficult to rewire, and I appreciate your fearlessness in sharing your amazing courage with us!!!

  5. ECS says:

    “I guess I’ll just have to accept that they will forever see me as being “in the wrong” since I dared to wire my brain differently from them. But I’m as convinced (as they are about theirs) that my beliefs are what work for me. And to that, there really is no solution to seek after, all that is left is to embrace, accept, and love.”

    I think this is the ideal, but it’s extremely complicated to do this in reality. I trip myself up time and time again, because I don’t want to be around people who think I’m wrong and misguided (and vice versa). I’ve thought about this a lot and have concluded that (1) I need to be more confident in my beliefs and (2) I bear no responsibility to justify my beliefs to others. For me, Number 2 has been exponentially harder than Number 1, because I naturally want to defend myself to people who believe I’m wrong and misguided.

    I’d love to hear more about your journey to find peace in the face of dissonance and discord, D’Arcy. I’m making progress, but finding it extremely difficult along the way.

  6. D'Arcy says:

    Brandy, as someone who has been lucky enough to know you on a lot of your recent journey, I agree with you. I love that I do have the freedom to make my own decisions. The sad part, for me, about this is the constant wiring of old ideas like “choose liberty or death” and “to be learned is good ONLY IF….” etc. etc. I know that many of my community members believe that my education, job, and this constantly questioning brain of mine have been to my eternal downfall.

    However, the longer I am TRULY me, not some cookie cutter, then the easier it gets to see that the God I have a relationship with is not a God who would hold my questioning and inquiring mind against me. I’m so happy to share some of life’s journey with you!

  7. D'Arcy says:

    ECS, I agree. In fact, I wanted to respond to Jenn’s assumption about me never being close to God with a detailed history of my very active 30 years of church service and conviction. It’s really hard, to get to that place, especially with family. It’s taken me a lot of patience and A LOT of objectivity. A book that actually helped me a little bit was “The Four Agreements” by Ruiz. I think its helpful to seek support from others who don’t find you “in the wrong”.

    Good luck on your journey and I hope I can be a support to you in any way possible. Thanks for sharing.

  8. D'Arcy says:

    G- I simply love you.

  9. Jenn says:

    I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make an assumption. I just thought it was implied in the title that you believed a true relationship(experience) with God was all just a state of mind, a brainwashing of sort derived from childhood.

    Isn’t is contradictory to say religious conviction is just a state of mind and then, in your next breath, to say that you have a relationship with God?

    I’m confused.

    If you have had religious experiences with God then why would you say it is all just a result of bad wiring of the brain?

    Or are you just saying that Mormons are the ones who are having “state of mind” experience, confusing them with true religious experiences, and that once you turn your back on the Mormon faith, you then are free to have a true relationship with God?

  10. D'Arcy says:

    Jenn, I’m not making any blanket statements about Mormons or Non-Mormons. At all. Nadda.

    I’m saying the RELIGION is a result of brain wiring.

    For me, God and RELIGION are not the same thing. That may sound confusing and I am sure my idea of God is no where near your belief in God. But for me, the two don’t go hand in hand anymore. At all. Religion, dogma, culture, doctrine…all that—hardwired. Not saying that the wiring is good or bad either, so don’t misunderstand. There is just no room for absolute truth in religion. That’s the gist anyway.

  11. G says:

    so I just stumbled across this quote from Joseph Smith (shared by AskMormonGirl over at Mormon Matters):

    “Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their Church. I want the liberty of believing as I please.”

    Thought I’d share it here, as it seems to apply to the discussion (also, ironically, it seems rather counter intuitive to much of modern lds culture)

  12. Craig says:

    Great post D’Arcy.

    I can certainly attest to how difficult and terrifying it is to break away from an entire way of thinking and viewing the world. As difficult as it is dealing with people in my life who will likely never understand why I did it, or accept that it was a good thing for me, that pales in comparison to the internal struggle you go through when realising everything you believed and were taught doesn’t make sense anymore, and it’s true (for you) anymore.

    For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m choosing my own beliefs, and really choosing how to live, because I don’t have preconceptions to base those beliefs on any more (or at least not nearly as many). I have to choose how to view the world, myself, my existence, in light of the fact that my morality comes from me as a result of human evolution, and isn’t being imposed by some other entity – i.e. the only rules I have to follow now are my own, and I choose what they are.

    I think it’s fascinating that while I’m an atheist and believe there is no such things as gods/the supernatural, and you feel you do have a strong relationship/connection with god, our experience is still so similar.

  13. bell says:

    D – you are amazing! Thanks for sharing all of this, it’s provided much food for thought. I think there are a myriad of ways that people get bad hardwiring, parents, culture, society, media, peer pressure, etc. I believe individually, we are very much responsible in how we decide to interpret things and what we use to support those beliefs, whatever they are.

    Taking the doctrines of the church and misinterpreting them is another way. You have shared some ways in which a person could interpret the doctrine of the church or the culture of the church and solidify it unhealthily into a concrete way of thinking and believing. I’d like to share an example here. Growing up in the LDS religion, I hardwired my brain to think that God would give me direction in life in tangible ways, even in the form of signs. I know, I also heard things about God communicating in different ways, not always signs, etc. But for me, I really wanted signs. When I didn’t feel like I was getting them, I felt bad, like I was not good enough either to be given the signs or to receive and interpret the signs. It also left me so afraid to make any decision at all, for fear I would make the wrong one. This went on through my teens and early twenties until it came to an extreme point when I was choosing between two guys who both wanted me to marry them. I prayed myself silly and looked at everything as a sign, seeing one of their names in the dealership license plate in front of me on the road, someone saying something that connected me to one of the guys. It was ridiculous. But my hardwiring would not let this concept go. It had to get to the point where I destroyed both relationships before I could take a clean look at how I was thinking and start undoing that hardwiring. It was a tough time of figuring out how I personally, really do communicate with God and make decisions, apart from anything I’d previously thought or been taught. I’m still not on as solid ground as when I thought I knew what was what, just doing things the wrong way.

    I have been thinking about this a lot in terms of what parents can do about their role in the hardwiring. It seems like a lot of people go through an “awakening,” when they start understanding the world better and figure out what they really believe. Some find that their hardwiring is right, some have to tweak it, some overthrow it all together. But I don’t believe a parent can ever completely prevent that is at fault for it. When raising children, how do you NOT hardwire them? I believe it is a parent’s responsibility to try to give their children a moral code and a sense of values. Automatically, you give them your own. Children do need some hard and fast rules when they are growing up and can’t explore the world the way you can when you are older. I believe there are ways to help your children be more open minded about things. But I still think when it comes down to it, everyone has to go through their own “awakening,” separate themselves from their parents and teachings (whether it be atheist, LDS, agnostic, whatever), and decide what they really believe. I think you’ve actually hit upon the best thing that can be done for kids, letting them know that no matter what the child believes or chooses, the parent will unconditionally love them.

  14. D'Arcy says:

    Bell–Thanks for your comment. It reminds me of a Doris Lessing quote I like:

    “Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination.

    We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system.

    Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.’ ”

    I find no fault with my parents. It’s impossible NOT to wire the brain in some manner or other. I think the world would be better served if we realized that some people are going to need to tweak it a bit. I hope, from the post, that it doesn’t come across as if I’ve given up all that my parents taught me. I am forever grateful for the emphasis on faith, charity, kindness, unconditional love, divine nature, and integrity. Those are some wires I’m leaving in place.

  15. D'Arcy says:

    Craig! I agree! Thank you so much for your comment. This post, when I wrote it, was dedicated to you as I thought a lot about your ideas and comments when I wrote it. I know, we have differences, but somehow there is an acceptance and a harmony in our interchange. I like that. I think you might be more along your path in figuring things out than I am, as I still haven’t given God too many characteristics yet, I kind of stripped everything away and am slowly building something that feels true to me. Thanks for being you! I think you’re amazing!

  16. Craig says:

    Wow, that’s high praise indeed. Thank you.


    “I think you’ve actually hit upon the best thing that can be done for kids, letting them know that no matter what the child believes or chooses, the parent will unconditionally love them.”

    The problem is, Mormonism doesn’t teach parents to that – in fact the LdS church explicitly tells its members to NOT unconditionally love their children – to treat them differently if they “sin”, leave the church, are gay, etc. (See Oaks, and others on the topic of gays especially). Gay children aren’t supposed to visit with their partners, or if they do, aren’t to stay in the same house – because apparently “condoning” the “sin” of homosexuality by treating your gay children the same as your other children is somehow a problem to be avoided, even at the cost of a good relationship with your children/family.

    Having experienced this first-hand, I’m a strong advocate of actual unconditional love by parents to children. Unfortunately the LdS church is not.

    Stray from the orthodoxy/praxy and you must be shunned, lest your sinfulness (open-mindedness, rationality, and rejection of the patriarchy) be communicated like a disease to others.

    The church is so obsessed with purity and “worthiness” that it actively promotes the rejection and ostricisation of those who don’t obey the orthodoxy.

  17. Alisa says:

    Really great points, D’Arcy. I understand very well the example you use about God as a punishing God and how that works on a macro scale as well as the way I have been interpreting events in my own life from that narrow view of God. This was the indoctrination I received without realizing it. It’s not that I blame my parents – funny thing is that my siblings may have a totally different understanding/indoctrination than I had, leading me to believe that this childhood indoctrination comes from an infinite number of unique sources and experiences, possibly even based on my own psychological make-up combined with environmental factors.

    What is nice is that now I feel free to choose my indoctrination. I am purposely choosing to think more about love, nurturing, and acceptance. It feels great. I don’t fool myself into thinking that it’s the whole picture as I choose my new world view, and sometimes I’m very aware of how it rewires my thinking. It’s just another view, probably as equally valid as my previous one, but much more beneficial to me than my old one was. Or maybe my old one really served me for awhile, but eventually it was time to let it go. As a child, I really liked black-and-white thinking, but my needs changed as I changed.

    It’s been great to re-think the way I view the world and to now see it as something much more rich, beautiful, and hopeful. I’m a happier person because of it.

  18. that1girl says:

    This is beautiful; thank you. I’m feeling through some of this myself – finding out what I believe and what I feel; letting my questioning mind ask the questions it wants the answers to. Was there anything you did through this process that helped? Hurt?

  19. Janna says:

    Yay! Love this post.

    We cannot underestimate the power of neuronal rewiring – I categorize it as one of the blessings of the atonement.

  20. G says:

    “Was there anything you did through this process that helped? Hurt?”

    that1girl, John Dehlin has done some good work for LDS people working through a crisis of faith. Here’s his latest essay with some good suggestions, links and support:

  21. G says:

    hmmm… let’s try that again: Here’s John Dehlin’s latest essay for LDS who struggle with their faith.

  22. G says:

    (there, that’s better 🙂

  23. Alisa, I appreciated your comment about individuals interpreting experience differently. I’m a big fan of neurobiology, although sometimes I start chasing my tail. Do I think this way because I’m programmed, or or did I program this way because of the neural equipment I landed with? Personally, I was reared with plenty of God-is-just-waiting-for-you-to screw-up messages. But then I was reared by people with a strong streak of anxiety (be it inherent or taught or both). so, I’ve spent a good amount of time being scared spitless by God and freaking out when I don’t jump through all the hoops correctly. However, I’ve met other people who were also reared LDS who have an amazing lack of guilt and never seem to think any of the “rules” I once killed myself trying to keep apply to them. I don’t know if they were taught differently, or they’re just not suffering from anxiety disorders. But those of you who can let things wash over you amaze me!

  24. DefyGravity says:

    I’m terrified to comment here. But I wanted to say thank you. You’ve put into works what I’ve been struggling with for years. And I feel like I don’t need to feel guilty for asking questions or for having different answers or beliefs then where I grew up (Utah Valley). Having a different belief system turns me into an outcast and a heretic, even among my friends and family. So it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one asking questions, or finding God in a different place.

  25. Sharon LDS in Tennessee says:

    I go by my blend of orthopraxic experiences, with the answers I’ve received as a result of HARD questions to God. Over the years my opinion of conviction is that it lies solely and principly in the exchance of energy between the Holy Ghost ‘touching’ or manifesting a very unique feeling and/or thought confirmation to our mind. When a divine energy is exchanged or exhibited upon our being / spirit within us, there is a irreplaceable and almost unexplainable ‘mark’ of knowing. Sometimes, if not always there is attendant understanding and cognition about the subject that the Holy Ghost is testifying to you about at that time.
    Frequently it is love, an unconditional bond of pure love that BOTH parties feel.
    That usually results in a special bonding that lasts forever or until one of the parties chooses to leave or deny positive light and truth, or forsaking the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
    Conviction is more commonly marked into our being about eternal truths and knowledge….and is usually the key to unlocking mysteries, with God’s blessing of course.
    Conviction to me is the strongest attachment to knowing that can happen.
    All because God has provided a SURE way for us to know and understand all things with our brain, heart and spirit.

  26. D'Arcy says:

    @that1girl–I have to honestly say that my biggest support was my best friend who was going through something similar to myself at the time. At the very beginning, when I first decided to leave, if ANYTHING bad happened in my life my thoughts would immediately go to the thought “God is punishing me” Constantly and repeatedly I had to tell myself that I didn’t believe in a vindictive God and that he wasn’t punishing me. So, lots of self talk.

    The bloggernacle helped a great deal, people sharing their stories with me was so helpful. Reading the Dance of the Dissendent Daughter helped me deal in more ways than I can admit. And on and on. It is necessary to find a support system. I’m here if you need it! You can send me an email any time!

  27. D'Arcy says:

    @Moniker Challenged…you hit upon so much here of our individual experiences and beliefs and comfort levels…meaning, one doctrine/culture doesn’t fit all. However, it fits a lot of people. I just hope for a day in the future where those that it does fit can stop being baffled by those that it doesn’t fit.

  28. D'Arcy says:


    You are certainly NOT the only one out there asking questions. Not by a long shot. There are 6 billion people on this planet and all of us has a spiritual journey that needs not mirror anyone elses. The guilt, I can honestly tell you from experiences, starts to subside as you come into your own and reach a level of solidarity and confidence. I feel honored that you would take the time to post a comment here, Know you are loved and welcome and most definitely NOT alone .

  29. Sterling Fluharty says:


    This is so thoughtful. I love your points about neuroscience. My life has involved quite a bit of rewiring, as you put it. I wonder, though, why you say nothing about the influence of our spirits. Perhaps the malleability of our minds is evidence enough for you that our brains are chiefly, if not solely, the product of biological and environmental influences. And yet it seems as if you believe that your spirit speaks with God.

    Your advocacy for critical thinking and open mindedness are admirable. I too look back in astonishment at some of the things I used to feel, think, and believe. It is so true that my worldview filtered much of what I saw, heard, and experienced. Education was the truth that set me free. With hindsight, 1 Cor. 13:11 never seemed more true.

    Still I wonder if the psychological processes of religious conviction that you describe might be labeled by some as a closed, self-validating system. It is one thing to argue that religious beliefs are powerful enough to seriously warp our sense of how the world works. It may not be much different to say that our minds so desperately want to believe in God that they come up with answers to prayers through the mechanism of self-fulfilling prophecies.

    I applaud your questioning of allegedly absolute truths. It sometimes baffles me how many Mormons act as if they can constrain God within the cages of their own construction. There is something exhilarating in the idea of setting both yourself and God free. But maybe this liberty comes with a cost. Skepticism, it seems to me, is healthy. Relativism I have my doubts about.

    Some of us may choose to believe that all paths or positions are more or less equal. But what if this is just what our minds want us to believe? Who are we to say whether the relativistic mindset is any less selective and intent on seeking out confirmation then the fundamentalist mindset? Then again, maybe my questions are merely symptoms of the cravings my convictions feel for certainty.

  30. D'Arcy says:

    @ Sterling. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. It’s much the same frame of mind that I have. I have been thinking about everything you said, but I usually put a word limit on my posts so that they are readable in a fairly short amount of time. Stay tuned though! That’s the EXACT post I’m working on for next time! Thanks so much.

  31. KimB says:

    Thank you for this post.

    I love this…
    “It’s a fact that children in such communities can only acquire a sense of security and deal with their fears by adopting the thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns that the community members pass along to them.”

  32. mb says:

    All of us as children inherit thinking patterns from our families and communities. And you are right that it is important for each of us to go through a process of distinguishing what is inherited from what is true, real and beloved and healthy in our lives.

    Really, I think, the purpose of our lives is not to come to a certain set of beliefs (as you outlined in the first sentence of your last paragraph and which some (not all) LDS think). It is, instead for us to understand more clearly what it is that we truly love best; what principles, what causes, what dreams, what actions, what choices, what work. The purpose of the gospel of Christ is to outline principles that, if we live them, will help us to truly feel, express, and act out of love. And with that comes our ability to see clearly what it is that we love best.

    (And it sounds like some of the people you love, unfortunately, may have found that they love most the feeling of being right. but then huge portions of the population of the world love that. We shouldn’t be surprised.)

    I expect that just as some of your experiences with gospel teachings in the LDS community were unhelpful in your search for what is good and true for you, others of those principles actually facilitated that search. Am I right?

    Heaven isn’t a goal of everyone being the same. Post earth existence is about living with the principles you love. The gospel is designed, in it’s purest form, to help you see things more clearly as you decide what it is you love.

    And for every one who quotes Dallin Oaks on unconditional love, I recommend a careful reading of his last conference talk in which he rearticulates his ideas. (It’s clear to me that he is making some clarifications and corrections.) And then read Dieter Uchtdorf’s talk on the love of God. IMHO he’s got the better handle on that topic.

  33. Isaac Wilson says:

    Hi Miss Bee, just wanted to pop in say that I will have to agree with you to some extent; however, I also disagree with your basic theme of this article.

    John 9:1-4 says, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.'”

    I do agree with you that God doesn’t “punish us” with catastrophes based on our sin. I feel the pastor that stated “Haiti had a pact with the Devil” was far outside the line, as I’m sure you can see. There is nothing inside the Bible that states the liking of this theology. The only passages used are ones taken out of the context of the situation, showing God’s wrath upon sinners on this earth. I also think events such as Hurricane Katrina are not the wrath of a deity, but a situation in which God can work. In both Haiti and Katrina, men and women were given an opportunity to glorify God in the midst of disaster. I don’t think that these are situations for us to be “refined in the fire,” though being transformed is a major part of our existence.

    I will have to disagree, however, that emotions are the source of our reality. I agree that emotions may create a veil over our eyes, disguising the truth from us. We can remove our veils, or as you put it, rewire our brains, but in the process replace our original view with another, possibly incorrect one. I also believe that I don’t believe in any “shelved” ideas. If there is an idea that I feel is being shelved, I wish to immediately search it out and try to correctly find an answer, not pass it on as unexplainable. I think religion is also an idea that is shelved from view by a great deal of humanity, and needs to still be searched out and considered.(Both the article and my response are a bit generalized about this paragraph, so I’m open for discussion if you would wish to continue discussion).

    My view is not that of my parents. My view is not even that of the community (living in Utah, this can be a daunting task at times, as you know). Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” I know that this is a “religious text,” and you may or may not accept its credibility. Nevertheless, I attempt to take this verse to heart. Outside of each view that has been presented to me, I try to agree with what seems most logical to me, which happens to be that of the Bible (not the LDS faith, mind you). I believe that it is the absolute truth, and I am willing to test its theories and philosophies. If I find them to be wrong, my views will be changed.

    In conclusion, I feel that in the “rewiring” of our minds we need to still find a common focus to follow. As sinful creatures, many times we will begin to diverge from the truth, and create in ourselves a second, incorrect reality. I believe that we have been created, and that each of us (none withstanding) have a definite purpose. We may have something that works for us, but I don’t think it’s necessarily truth. If you wish to discuss more on the topic, I’m open to it.

    -Signing off, Isaac Wilson

  34. D'Arcy says:

    Isaac, thanks for your comment. You and I have to agree to disagree. I don’t believe that people are sinful. I don’t really believe in sin. I think, since our foundations are so different, then further conversation really isn’t necessary. I have nothing to prove and neither do you. I want you to know, however, that I know exactly where you are coming from. I see a lot of myself (at that young age that you are at) in you. I see your convictions (though I don’t know if you can fully say they aren’t from the religious upbringing you’ve had) and I admire your drive. Spirituality is a constant journey. Religion is a subjective topic and thus, absolute truth can’t really exist in the discussion of it. However, I understand that you truly believe that it is truth for you and I’m happy for you.

    And the “punish us” was simply an example that I took to the extreme. However, any Christian believing in the bible does believe that bad things are happening and are going to happen to herald in the second coming of Jesus…to me, that means a God who punishes or hurts. The Old Testament is full of God’s wrath.

  35. mb says:

    I liked what you had to say. You made some good distinctions. Thanks.

  36. D'Arcy says:

    @mb–thank you for your love centered comment. I think you’ve expressed yourself beautifully and I would only add that people can also learn those valuable traits in other places than through Jesus (though I love Jesus and his example very much). There are so many things that this gospel has given me as core foundations and I am so grateful for them and I fully realize that growing up in a Christian household has made me who I am today, and I wouldn’t change that.

    I do love the journey of life and love!

  37. D'Arcy says:


    Never in my life have I had the privilege of being in close connection with someone as thoughtful and insightful as you are. I always love what you add to the conversation. Thank you friend.

  38. mb says:

    Certainly, D’Arcy. Though I suspect that when I speak of the gospel of Christ I am thinking of a broader set of sources than you think I am. It sounds like you may have felt that I was excluding other sources than Christian ones. I did not intend to. I agree with a definition Brigham Young gave to the gospel:

    “The gospel embraces all morality, all virtue, all light, all intelligence, all greatness, all goodness.”

    “Such a plan incorporates every system of true doctrine on the earth, whether it be ecclesiastical, moral, philisophical, or civil; it incorporates all good laws that have been made from the days of Adam until now.”

    That definition of the gospel of Christ spreads itself much farther than one person’s personal understanding of his or her own natal faith.

    Or, as Alma said, when he taught what he had learned about God and Christ,
    “whatsoever is good cometh from God”.

    So I think on this point we would be agreeing.

  39. D'Arcy says:


  40. Neurophysiologist says:

    D’Arcy: I admit to being a bit confused by your essay and the biological assumptions you make. My background is in psychobiology and neurophilosophy so I’m interested in the assumptions you are making.

    Are you arguing that all religious experiences (and beliefs) are nothing more than memes — the deterministic interplay of nature and nature over which we have no control? Or perhaps you’re arguing it is all just a matter of the physics of biology? My final question: what makes you think that your current
    liberation” is anything more than the deterministic physics of biology and not really an advance at all? I mean, it seems to me that you assume that your “religious” views are all a matter of nature and nurture beyond your control, but now you have transcended that mind-controlling matrix and you have seen the light. How did you get out the matrix if that is all that there is to human experience?

  41. D'Arcy says:


    Thanks for your comment. I don’t really see what is confusing about my essay. You, more than most, should absolutely know how the brain is wired and formed…the logical brain verses the emotional brain, the neural connections, the habits and rituals that are patterned again and again and formed from birth to three years. That’s very basic neuroscience.

    I think this essay is in the really basic forms without exploring some of the deeper things you have mentioned (which I admit confused me, I’m not sure what you are saying and I feel like you’ve made a lot of assumptions about what I’m saying). I’ve merely stated what many many neurologists have stated in my recent studies (I took lots of ideas for this essay from two brain books: “The Compassionate Brain” and “Why Love Matters”) and put my spin on it from a religious point of view.

    I don’t try to assume that I’ve escaped some kind of crazy “Matrix”, my only statement is for me, I feel like I was a product of my environment on a larger scale because I had fewer affirmations that the church was “true” for me than many members. Growing up I wasn’t taught to question and I was taught the laws and doctrines of the church with absolute certainty. I was in survival mode. Go to church if you want this and to be accepted like that.

    Also, I do not claim “liberation” but only, really, a different viewing of my life that feels more true to who I am (so, I guess, in a sense, it IS liberating for me to be able to be more myself outside the confines of a religious organization) but that is not to imply that those still follow the religion are “imprisoned”. We all have to choose our indoctrination as it’s impossible to escape it.

    But also, I would completely argue that MANY people born into religions STAY in those religions because they have been programmed to do and believe and live according to those ways of life. This is true for each culture and each country. A person from Mongolia has a completely different set of skills and knowledge about living than a LDS girl from Utah. The question is asked to the Mongolian…do you like living the nomadic lifestyle? The question to the girl from Utah…do you like being Mormon? It’s up to the individual to decide what is right FOR THEM…without negating what might be right for other people.

  42. Neurophysiologist says:

    D’Arcy, you’re right, I of all persons know that dividing the brain into the emotional brain and logical brain is an unjustified generalization that no one who take neuroscience seriously would promote. We speak in terms of fast-response neuronal systems and slow-response neuronal systems with the “reason” and “emotion” involved in both but in different ways.

    I also have no idea what you mean by “more myself.” That kind of language suggests that you somehow were not really who you actually are. It seems to me that you just made a choice not to embrace your heritage. I admit that I have no idea what it is like to be a “Mormon girl,” but I really doubt that it is somehow all in your mind or merely a state of mind. When you speak of building up “one side neuronal connective patterns” you sound to me like you’re saying that what we believe is just a result of the configurations of our neuronal connective patterns. If that is true, then where you are is as much a result of mere biology and your environment as where you were before. You’re not more you, you’re just in a different environment that creates different neuronal patterns that you have no control over in any way. Sounds like a fatalistic way to avoid accountability to me.

    Anyway, you’re right. I know absolutely nothing about you except that you think you know something about brain-science that isn’t really supportable.

  43. D'Arcy says:

    Ok, final comment as I don’t want this to get into a war of who knows more about neuroscience. You would certainly win, as it is your profession. I was simply trying to cover one basic idea and not a whole discourse. It would have actually been nice to be able to have a sharing of ideas, instead of the slight attack I feel coming from you. You know, if you want to share knowledge and insight, I always encourage that, but truthfully it’s just coming off a little arrogant, which usually turns a person away from wanting to learn or discuss with someone.

    I’ll reiterate my simple point. I’m was exploring the idea that the brain, like all learning-capable brains, is most deeply and enduringly programmable during the phase when the brain is developing. Thus, the most important “installations” in my brain were in place long before I was able to really understand the way the brain functions. Important experiences in my youth led to stabilization of certain neuronal pathways. THUS…deciding to break those set pathways became a scary battle as I had to learn to look at life in a different way. It’s as simple as that. Breaking set pathways. But, in order to break these pathways, I had to acknowledge them. And I had to realize that certain aspects of my childhood, I feel, caused less than ideal (and occasionally outright inadequate) developmental conditions.

    But, I do believe that a brain that is capable of learning throughout life is also changeable throughout life. That means, FOR ME (no one else has to agree here), the installations or programming that were put in place during the phase of my brain development that were one-sided and unbalanced…are, to a certain extent, correctable during my adulthood. The goal with that, for me in MY LIFE (no one elses) is to restore or create an inner balance with more peace in my life. (and as an added note, I think that my unbalanced brain patterns, because they were so rote and stable, tended to shrink my brain-use potential…but again, just me).