Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Philosophy of Religion

Final Essay for the Philosophy of Religion Course
Rev. Pete Mason

I have found this course to be interesting and exciting. It has encouraged me to read in many areas touched upon by the course. I feel disappointed it has finally come to an end.

As a final essay for the course I will discuss one of the areas that interested me.

In considering the reasons for religious behaviour the course material proposed that it maybe in response to the reduction of serotonin (5-HT) within the brain. It is recognised that changing the amount of 5-HT stimulus of the brain can change mood.

Low stimulus can lead to lethargy, depression and anxiety, whilst greater activity can produce elation, and hyperactivity (Gross 2001).

It is also recognized that more people with lower serotonin levels have differing locus’ of control to those with higher serotonin levels. Locus of control is a perception of where ones power lies. If one believes that they have control or influence over their lives and they get out of life what they put in, then they are said to have an internal locus of control (a belief in power within themselves). If a person believes they have no control over their lives, others are more powerful and that if they achieve anything it is by luck or chance, then it is said they have an external locus of control (lives controlled by outer forces) (Rotter – quoted by Hogg and Vaughan 1998).

People with an external locus of control are more susceptible to depression and lower serotonin levels.
It could then be argued that a person with lower levels of serotonin is more likely to seek the help of an outside influence or God. However, this theory falls flat in that people with depression and low serotonin levels do not often seek help. This maybe because they have lower self esteem or negative beliefs, that others may not help them or they may think them a failure for asking for help or foolish or similar reasons. They may also believe God has rejected them because they feel so bad.

It is therefore not clear that serotonin levels in themselves are likely to influence a person to become religious. People of lower self esteem may well call on their God for assistance but that is because they already have such a belief in their God. I propose that the belief in a religion is not created by serotonin but religious people may present more religious behaviour at times when they feel they need help. This maybe or maybe not at times when they have low serotonin levels.

Another suggestion towards the end of the course suggested that religion may disappear due to the influence and knowledge of science. Again I suggest that this may well not be so. Science may propose that there is no God or perceived action of God and therefore that there is no God, as in Frederick Neitzsche’s argument (Davies 2004). Yet, I do not believe people will then turn away from faith. Science is about this life but it does not supply the meaning to each person’s existence within this life. Religion and faith does offer an explanation if the individual is a believer. It may not always give a good explanation of this life but then does science about ones spirituality.

Jung describes the need in a person to mediate in their lives between opposing forces or values in order to reach maturity (Fordham 1986). A person has a life and they also have a death. If one is to give meaning to both sides of these aspects of life then they may need to resort to differing patterns of reasoning than that offered by science. Many do not think of ourselves as just chemicals reacting with one another and believe there is a part that goes on and this gives meaning to our lives.

Life after death is something that cannot be proved or disproved by science. It is beyond that which science can grapple with as it is not of this world. It also cannot be proved or disproved by religion, but that does not stop people speculating of its existence. Science may explain life and how it was created but to each individual it does not supply an answer to why my or your life? Is it such a jump to presuppose that if life can be now and therefore it can also be later? Here the atheist is in the same position as the believer, in that neither knows the answer and each goes according to their own belief.

Until science can supply reason for life and death in terms of a person’s spirituality I propose that religion will remain in existence.
Even though I have taken to try challenging some things suggested by the course, I would recommend people follow it. I really have enjoyed the topics chosen. Most excellent and I thank you for the hard work you have given to producing it. It is clearly presented and even some areas that could be very deep have been shown in the non-complex language that I believe we can all gain from.

I really endorse this course and look forward to following another soon.

Gross Richard (2001), Psychology, Fourth edition, Hodder & Stoughton, London.
Hogg Michael & Vaughan Graham (1998), Social Psychology, Prentice Hall, UK.
Davies Brian (2004), An introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, Oxford, UK.
Fordham Frieda (1986), An introduction to Jung’s Psychology, Pelican books, USA.

Thanks everyone.

Best wishes,


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