In a blog connected to an Australian osteopath I know of, appeared this post from almost a year ago. There was always something about pain and religion. It discusses a study in which a specific example of religious imagery was found to help the brains of those who had been imbued with those particular images to downregulate pain. The post is clear on the point that an entrenched belief system is at work, that the picture itself has no "power" over pain.
It seems an appropriate time of the year to consider the information contained therein. Personally I've always found religion to be more rather than less of a pain, but maybe that's just how I happen to be wired. That having been said, it makes more sense to me now why people are so "devoted" to acquiring, harbouring, growing, and propagating the memeplexes involved - it looks like they operate on the human population as a convenient drug-free pharmaceutical.
It's perhaps less of a mystery to me now why people can be so angsty when someone comes along to challenge said belief system, or maybe any belief system - how is this reaction not like that of a junkie threatened by separation from the next fix? I am reminded of Robert Burton's book, On Being Certain. Dopamine pathways are involved in the generation of the feeling of being certain.
I get an image in my head that's hard to shake - billions of human minds born free of nonsense, reaching up and waving like vine tendrils, hoping to find something to cling to, finding nothing, so inventing something (anything) to latch onto to help haul self through life as painlessly as possible. It fits with why religion seems to be so ubiquitous, still.
My own mind somehow ended up not needing to acquire this particular adaptation. I am definitely not free of belief, but I examine things I believe in to make sure they have foundation in fact, not fiction. Oh well. And about pain? I deal with pain in myself and others the old-fashioned way, one by one, by handling nervous systems and trying hard to not create more pain for the people embedded inside them in the process. I haven't bumped adversely into very many belief systems in other people along the way, in 40 years. However, I think I'm at a stage where all this personal life trajectory, how I balance my own against others', where my personal values stand now vis a vis my cultural context/current-entirely-changed social context, is up for retrieval and update. I expect the values are sturdy - I tried to build my "self" that way, but I have often observed there are surprises too - life is full of those. So we shall see.