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Benefits of religion: their origins

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Beginning of the article: benefits of religion

8 - "Oh Mary ! If you knew,
      All the pain that one makes to me."

## The beneficial effect of prayer

Tone down: Prayer can lead to passivity and to resignation. "Pray God, but carry on swimming towards the bank", says a Russian proverb.
The posture and the compulsive body ritual going with prayer relativize the range of an activity that is supposed to be purely spiritual. They refer to the body attitude of the dominated one in front of his dominating one that could be met in primates and even in other animal species. What a curious behavior for an exercise that has to raise man!

Nature of the phenomenon
Profane versions and / or substitutes
As suggested the philosopher Alain, it is not because we, non-believers, are convinced that there is no God to listen to the prayer, that this one is without effect.
But one has not to be mistaken with these words, if there is a beneficial effect of prayer, it is for the one who requests, not for the one who is the subject of the prayer. God does not accept any request for intercession. That would be known.

Among the proposed assumptions, in addition to the placebo effect, a synthesis of current research showed that prayer causes a state of relaxation that is comparable with the one induced by meditation. It is not without ground that a peaceful place is chosen for prayer, that eyes are closed...
The repetition of movements, sentences or words would stimulate neurological, endocrine, immunizing and cardiovascular metabolisms. It would reduce the heart rate and the blood pressure. The rhythm of some prayers would cause a drop in the respiration rate to 6 per minute, which would be optimum for the oxygenation of blood and for the resistance to effort.
Therefore, prayer would be only a response of relaxation faced with a state of stress.
Profane versions:
  • Autosuggestion.
  • Methods of relaxation.
  • Sophrology.
  • Contemplation or meditation in a calm place, without having recourse to metaphysical concepts like the "vital force".
  • To read slowly or aloud a beautiful poetry.
  • Artistic creation.
  • "Light" physical exercise.
  • Laughter.
  • Blasphemy.

"The prayer is the softest consolation of the unhappy one; he becomes more stronger when he has done this duty."
(The Marquis of Sade / 1740-1814 / Justine / 1788)

9 - "Let me have a dream"

## Religion meets the "spiritual" needs of man

Tone down: When religion claims that spiritual entities (soul, paradise, divinity...) have real existences, it brings a ready-made and single answer because, apart from its truth, there is no saving. Like this, religion restrains the personal imaginary and, consequently, limits the "non-transcendent" spiritual development of man (thought, mind, imagination).

Nature of the phenomenon
Profane versions and / or substitutes
With the affirmation that the deep desires of man (i.e. immortality, victory over a so constraining matter, benevolent protection of a power which exceeds us...) really exist, religion meets the primary needs of supernatural caused by the existential anguishes.

But the response of the monotheistic religions, too abstract, is not always sufficient. Christianity has followed this requirement for enriching its worship with a Son of God, a Holy Spirit, angels and demons, a Devil, a Virgin Mary and a multitude of saints that are nothing better than pagan household gods.

Inculcated in general since the earliest youth according to what is connected with an autosuggestion method, the religious supernatural satisfies, and even saturates, the need for enchantment of the faithful.
Profane versions:
All what mobilizes imagination (i.e. when the subject is passive):
  • To read novel, poetry.
  • To look at a fiction TV, a film.
One can find here enough to satisfy one’s needs for enchantment if one knows to be got caught up in the game of the author.
Do not forget it is only fiction!
  • All what develops creativity:
    • Practice of an artistic activity or creation in every field.
    • Creative games.


None of the qualities attributed to religions find their origin in a divinity or in a transcendence of which religions say to be the intermediaries.
These causes are rather to be sought in illusion, in the human psychology, in biology or in organization. All these beneficial effects can be reproduced outside religions.

Some of these "benefits" are incompatible with freethinking, like the hope caused by the promise of a better life in the next world, like the comfort of dogmas... This illusory happiness may be replaced by a work on oneself (introspection), by action, by art... It is the same with the phenomena of group that can lead to communitarism or pseudo religions.

How many are those who frequent churches, temples or mosques, and who say to be still Catholic, Protestant or Moslem by conformism, by comfort, by idleness, by "culture", out of habit, because they were born inside... but who, deep down, do not really believe in it (1)? It is impossible to know it since no survey, no study, propose a box "practising unbeliever".

"Church, said someone, is the theatre of people. Mass is a musical drama whose musical fable does not interest any more, but that still pleases with the architectural forms, music and processions. I only see, among our real arts, the military parade that has as much power than mass."
(Emile Chartier, called Alain / 1868-1951 / Words on Religion, The Theatre of Humanity, December 16, 1922)

(1) I.e.: they do not believe in all these beautiful tales of a god who became a man to atone for our sins that we would have made before birth, of a god who whispered his revelation to the ear of an ambitious Arab, ... in these tales of paradise and hell, of angels and devils, of souls surviving the decomposition of the human bodies...

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