Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Derren Brown Part 2- Religious Experience

As promised, here is my response to Derren Brown’s ‘Faith’ show. The shows are still on 4oD if you wish to watch them.

In this programme Derren Brown demonstrates how a ‘religious experience’ can be induced on someone, in this case a stem-cell scientist and a strong atheist. It was a fascinating show because Derren was not presenting full conclusive evidence for the non-existence of God(s) but exploring that the belief in God could stem from our humanistic needs and is hard-wired into us.

The concept of a God was always going to be applied by humans to explain the world no matter whether it was true or not, centuries ago humans knew very little about the world around them and the need to be able to explain the world was essential to the basics of living. As Derren showed in this programme we are all susceptible to suggestions of a supernatural presence, in essence it is hard wired into every one of us. He used several experiments on members of his audience to demonstrate this. He performed a satanic ritual where the person read out a satanic rite declaring their allegiance to Satan, out of an audience consisting of mainly atheists, agnostics and skeptics only a few were willing to perform it- 11 out of 160. As Derren after this said “we are all born with an inbuilt hardwired tendency to believe,” and it was that niggling doubt in the back of their minds that made them not decide to partake.

He also put non-believers in a complete darkened underground tunnel and most of them reported supernatural feelings, believing they were seeing figures, and outlines of people. One of members, the stem-cell scientist was not bothered by this at all and whilst the others were very distressed she quite humorously not bothered by the darkness made a passing comment about the trains above them. He gave her a ‘religious experience’ without the mention of God in his discussion, soon after the discussion she was hit by a sudden flood of love. Derren showed that a religious experience can be induced through using psychological techniques and that this could explain all supernatural experiences.

This programme incorporated a wealth of experiments and explorations into the belief in God that I have had to miss out many aspects of it. For example, he demonstrated that humans see meaning even when there is none; he told a volunteer that his team working on the project would intervene in her life through a series of incidents. After the project she reported numerous incidents in that week, however Derren did not intervene at all and she was simply applying meaning to events which were utterly random.

I thoroughly enjoyed this insightful look at the belief in God and I thought Derren Brown approached it in a beautifully crafted way, without the clear cut statements that God is non-existent but subtly suggesting it through his work.  

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