God and serotonin levels
It turns out Karl Marx was wrong: religion is not the opiate of the people; it’s the Prozac of the people. So says the man who originated the concept of male bonding in this fascinating article in Canada’s foremost English-language newsweekly: Macleans interview: Lionel Tiger. Here’s a brief sample:
Q: That’s why you call churches “serotonin factories.” You hint about possibly developing the brain equivalent of bodily exercise. Serotonin pills as a religion replacement?
A: I’m not sure we’ll ever learn to manage brain secretions in any manner, and it may be that we don’t want to, but at least we now know that the feeling of oceanic identification with others in an assembly—a church assembly or whenever—is not magical, it’s neurophysiological. We can identify the juices. I think that’s fantastic, actually. And Mike [McGuire]’s work on serotonin did generate Prozac and a whole array of medications.
Q: Despite increasing secularization, especially in the West, most people have not become flat-out rationalists. Do you think that for many environmentalism is a religion?
A: That’s absolutely right, and that’s interesting because it is finally the fruit of pantheism, a very, very old religious idea. For many people, not using more than four sheets of toilet paper is an act of moral purification.
In addition to illuminating the roots of environmentalism, Tiger’s analysis further clears up an ancient and vexing mystery: why did so many saints willingly suffer a martyr’s death for the cause of Christ? It seems they just wanted to feel good.