Sunday, 11 August 2013

No such thing as deferred satisfaction - implications for effective religion

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At the level of brain functioning, there is no such thing as deferred satisfaction - and maybe this applies in general?

The brain, the mind, is a satisfaction-seeking system - its online, active working memory is only a few seconds - and and the only way the brain can avoid seeking any particular satisfaction which presents itself is when another satisfaction is greater, and defeats it.

So we cannot defeat present temptation by reference to anticipated future benefits - we can only defeat present temptation when some other present satisfaction is greater.

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Also satisfaction is compounded of positive and negative - addition of positive satisfactions and/or subtraction of negative satisfactions.

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And this applies to religion.

A religion which is effective in changing life must be, can only be, effective by overpowering present satisfactions that are evil temptations as presented by the world and by a sinful nature; with stronger present satisfactions (of God).

Present satisfactions can only be stronger than temptation by some mixture of positive and negative - this fact has many implications.

A religion of weak satisfactions will not be effective.

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For instance, the idea of Heaven is only effective if it provides here and now satisfaction; Hell the opposite - the intellectually accepted fact of Heaven or Hell has no effect on behaviors as such; but only by means of its here-and-now satisfactions. 

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A religion which lacks strong positive present satisfactions and yet is effective, will necessarily be so because of the avoidance of present negative satisfactions - avoidance of guilt, for example.

Thus an effective religion which lacks positive present satisfactions, yet remains religious, can only be operating by negative satisfactions - by its adherents here and now dominated by the need to avoid negative satisfactions: fear, pain, misery, suffering of various types.

A religion which is effective, lacks strong present satisfactions of a religious type, and also avoids strong present negative satisfactions (such as guilt); must be calling upon covert, unacknowledged present satisfactions - such as presently active emotions related to hatred, lust, greed etc. Its true, in the sense of effective, motivations are therefore non-religious.

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So, a religion which hopes to be effective in changing life must look to its satisfactions; must look to its present satisfactions - positive and negative.

Because is these are too weak it will be ineffective, and if these are not presently active it will not be effective; and if the religion is effective yet satisfactions are not religious, then it will be effective at the cost of being anti-religious.

Ideally, it seems to me, effective religion should so fill the mind of its adherents with positive present satisfactions that there is but little space and less need for negative satisfactions; and non-religious satisfactions find this full and happy mind hard to penetrate.

This is, of course, the Christian ideal: that the mind should be filled with love.

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When a Christian religion supplies no present and positive satisfactions, and the Christian mind is instead filled with and motivated by fear, pain, misery, suffering, guilt - then things have gone badly wrong.

And the desire to escape negative motivations yet retain motivation may 'naturally' lead to the embrace of non-Christian satisfactions: hatred, lust, greed etc.

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Note: The ideal is a mind filled with positive present satisfactions - but positive present satisfactions often come from past memories and future hopes. Indeed, it is both inevitable and necessary that this may be the case - and for many people it must be the case; since their actual present circumstances are so filled by negative factors that, if it were not for memories and hopes, there would be no possibility of happiness.