Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Stumbled across a Hindu temple atop the famous Penang Hill. Exuberant colours and magnificent detail on the temple and the statues of the Hindu Gods. This here is Sri Krishna with a peacock specially caught my attention, notice the highly contrasting colours used by the artists. Peacock denotes romantic love and how one can learn to direct it to God. Story has it that Sri Krishna was lost and in dire need of water and a peacock leading Sri Krishna to water using it's feathers, by the time Sri Krishna found the water, the peacock was devoid of feathers, so Sri Krishna in memory of the peacock carries feathers on his head.

Religion has always been a vital part of every society in human history, from Kings to Vikings, every step of human history is laced through and through with religious beliefs some more so than others. It's of particular interest when one tries to decipher the secrets of religion, humans has always been preoccupied with their own religion but until contemporary era, we had failed to study the significance that religion has on our social interactions.
William James, famously known as a religion psychologist segregated the psychology of religion into two main parts, one of interest is the personal religion. Within personal religion there comes two flavours, the healthy-minded and the sick-souled (take note not "sick-minded" which brings on a totally different topic altogether). Healthy-minded religious individuals focuses on the positives and optimistic parts of their religion and how it can improve themselves with it, on the other hand sick-souled individuals only focus on the negative side of things representing the pessimists. This provided a nice classification for study of religion, but since the explosion of science how has this changed people's views of religion?
It lead to secularisation of religion, in support of separation of religion from politics, ethics and psychology, thereby effectively stripping power grip of religion has over modern society. But this helps scholars in further studying religion in a scientific way. Since secularisation religion has been studied as a social phenomenon, in Sweden 2003, there was a study that confirms correlation between low density of serotonin receptors and religious experiences. Now serotonin plays a significant role in regulation of mood, appetite, and sleep. Then in London 2006, a study showing positive correlation between antipsychotic medication that block dopamin receptors typically reduces religious behaviour and religious delusions. These studies themselves doesn't really proof anything after all there are only correlations, there's no cause and effect, but in a way these studies could help weed out the "pretenders" amongst religious organisations.
How could we talk about science without mentioning the name Einstein? In his paper in 1936 Ideas and Opinions, he suggested that belief should be replaced by knowledge, belief that did not itself rested on knowledge was superstition. This heavily correlates with Rene Descartes' idea of clearing out all the apples in the barrel because we never know which apples are rotten, we should be highly suspicious of knowledge and how it's established. But after reading Einstein's paper I had a very strong hunch that Einstein means for us to find an equilibrium of science and religion and not to find contradictions amongst them, but one has to be curious and highly vigilant to achieve the best of both worlds. Not that any of this helps with anything or answer the tough questions, but afterall this is the beauty of philosophy, we always come out a little bit less than we started with.....

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