Believing in God can help block anxiety and minimize stress, according to new University of Toronto research that shows distinct brain differences between believers and non-believers.
Compared to non-believers, the religious participants showed significantly less activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a portion of the brain that helps modify behavior by signaling when attention and control are needed, usually as a result of some anxiety-producing event like making a mistake. The stronger their religious zeal and the more they believed in God, the less their ACC fired in response to their own errors, and the fewer errors they made.
“We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors. They’re much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error.”
If you believe in something larger than yourself, whether God, a forest, or National Socialism, you’ll find yourself at greater peace. You are one part of many. You are not responsible for your errors, or for your successes; you guide yourself toward them but they are ultimately all the works of whatever you believe in.
If you succeed, or if you fail, the bigger order carries on. You derive your sense of identity from being part of it, not being some self-styled individualist.
As a result, errors don’t bother you. Just keep moving forward. Do what is sensible according to the order, and you’ll find life makes sense.
In contrast, the individualist is neurotic and defensive, because they have nothing to believe in but themselves, as if they were individual worlds that ended completely when debunked by a single error.