Earlier today I reblogged hessianwithteeth’s article The problem with calling religious beliefs a mental illness.
I myself prefer calling such beliefs a mental disorder, a disturbance, a dysfunction, or a disabilty.
To me religious belief/faith is caused by an all the time ongoing “battle” between the brain’s two Information Processing Systems (IPS): the one we were born with, and the other a sensory processing system we hopefully will acquire when we successively learn to undersland what language, words, grammar, causality, logic etc. are all about.
For more information about the two IPSs in your brain, please have a look at this review of Daniel Kahneman’s book on that topic: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/dec/13/thinking-fast-slow-daniel-kahneman .
A short summary: IPS #1 is a “default” emotional, intuitive illogical and Just-believing-is-enough (or: Why-bother-about-knowing?) way of thinking.
Its goal is to quickly find patterns and then attribute them to Hidden Causal Agents (HCAs) like invisible predators, gods, ghosts, demons, guardian angels and so forth.
In short, that’s the way infants and children tend to think and reason.
Later on, when the children begin to master language and start expressing themselves in words instead of emotions, most humans – but unfortunately and regrettably not woos! – add another IPS (= IPS #2) to process sensory information in order to find patterns and explanations. Their ability of understanding the meaning of words and language makes it possible for them to begin reasoning in a logical, analytical, rational, nonemotional way AND to understand what causality means.
In some adult people this process is disturbed. The “upgrading” or, maybe rather, amplification of the brain’s capacity to process incoming sensory information is more or less disabled, due to both genetic and environmental circumstances.
Cf. the strong correlation that has been found between woos and dyslexia (= a general term meaning a disorder or dysfunction that involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, see letters and other symbols; all of this usually without general intelligence being conspicuously affected; but their capacity for acquring knowledge and understand logical reasonings is usually impaired, a fact that increases their disposition towards associative and illogical magical & religious bullshit thinking).
Read more about magical & religious thinking here, http://skepdic.com/magicalthinking.html .Or here, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15033500 .
In the beginning of this blog article I mentioned the never ending battle between IPS #1 and IPS #2. This ongoing battle is very obvious in split-brain patients. See for example this video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFJPtVRlI64 (listen to the world famous neurologist VS Ramachandran explaining to an audience the case of a split-brain patient with one hemisphere without a belief in a god, and the other with a belief in a god; so where will that patient end up, in Heaven or Hell?) .
Also have a look at this blog, http://neuravinci.com/2014/07/02/alien-hand-syndrome/ (about Karen Byrne, who contracted the Alien Hand Syndrome after having her corpus callosum severed in an effort to control her epilepsy, i.e. her left leg and arm sometimes refused to obey her will and acted very mischievous and even obscenely on its own).