Christmas Spirit In The Brain: Neural Imaging Finds Brain Network. The End of God’s Existence?

Difficulty Level: A-Level

In 2015, a team of scientists in Copenhagen decided to see if they could find the parts of the brain responsible for the Christmas Spirit. They gathered ten individuals who had Christmas traditions and ten individuals who did not. Pictures related and unrelated to Christmas were shown while they underwent BOLD imaging (Blood Oxygen Level Dependent). By comparing the two groups, the scientists were able to discover that certain areas of the brain were activated more in individuals who had Christmas traditions than those which who did not. It was concluded that these areas of the brain were responsible for the Christmas spirit.

Such findings are not restricted to Christmas Spirit. Other brain networks have been discovered to be responsible for faith based activities. Such evidence has been used to suggest that a God does not exist. Any feeling of spirituality is the result of the brain, not a God. It is a psychological need. Not divine intervention. Thus, we do not need a God to exist.

Such arguments are not conclusive. There are still some options for the religious believer to use as a defense against such conclusions. For instance, they could assert that brain networks and the intervention of a divine God are two explanations that aren’t contradictory. God may have created our brains to have the capacity to be able to partake in the Christmas Spirit. Religious believers may also argue that of course God interacts with us through our brain. If our brain is a key part in how we perceive the physical world, then it would make sense for God to convey the Christmas spirit through it. Thus, they would argue atheists cannot use such scientific evidence to conclude that God does not exist.

However, this may not be a satisfying defense. The atheist may argue that this compromises the God that religious believers want to believe in. By God working through the brain, it seems to minimize God’s causal power that the religious believer initially assumes. If God designed the brain to have Christmas Spirit and leaves the brain, then God not be the interventionist that most religious believers want him to be. God may not be actively acting within the world but using it like a computer. This may be a compromise that the religious believer may not want to concede.


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AQA A-Level Religious Studies Year 2 Text Book

Published by Philosopher Ad Absurdum

MA Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science at the University of Birmingham; First Class BA Philosophy and History from the University of Southampton.

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