What Science Taught Me About Religion
Tl;dr: for centuries, religions have advocated practices for health today confirmed and encouraged by science.
For the first 19 years of my life, I probably entered McDonald’s or a similar restaurant 4 or 5 times in total.
My mum could not stand the idea of eating junk food, and with all of my allergies, there wasn’t much that I could eat anyway.
Even as a teenager, I wasn’t especially looking to go to fast-food restaurants.
Then I got rid of all of these allergies (science can be weird) and moved to Australia where I started frequenting fast-food restaurants once a week or so.
It was nice, cheap, but I still wasn’t experiencing what most people seemed to experience when they ate there (bliss? happiness? I don’t know).
I didn’t especially enjoy the food as it was fat and salty, and my food addictions were oriented towards sweet stuff.
After I came back to Europe, I moved to the Netherlands and thought it was about time for me to find a girlfriend (I never did).
The next logical step was to get my body in shape, so I bought a gym membership and started reading about building muscles online.
It seemed that food played a significant role in mass development so I started reading about nutrition.
Needless to say, I quickly quit McDonald’s.
I also read that muscle development was not only impacted by food, but also by sleep, sex, and overall happiness, so I started reading about sleep, sex, and…overall happiness.
I was swimming in an ocean of self-development knowledge yet never really applied any of the principles I was reading…until very recently.
As I type this in June 2020, I’m proud to write that I am in the middle of an experiment that saw me getting rid of 99% of all addictive substances and activities on the planet, namely sugar, through eating a carnivore diet, drugs, alcohol, porn, coffee, tea, any types of sexual activities and all social media platforms (minus Instagram, nobody is perfect).
My screen time is restricted to work and my “leisure time” is assured by books, social walks, and exercise.
I also began fasting and meditating.
My life has never been so “unfunny”, and I have never been so productive.
I can sit at 11 AM and not rise from my seat until 8 PM.
That’s when you realize how much time one wastes cooking (meat is quickly cooked), grocery shopping (I buy my meat 2x per month), and eating (I eat once or twice per day).
We could say the same for fapping.
“But Aurélien, fapping is not dangerous for your health, it is actually recommended”.
It is very true: one significantly decreases chances to get testicle cancer if one lets the juice out at least 23 times a month (dunno remember where I read this, it might even have been 21).
So why going through all of these extreme experiences?
This book detailed how addictive porn is from a scientific perspective, and its destructive effects on mental and physical health.
Like all males on earth (99.9999%), I was addicted to porn and could not get rid of it, so I decided to quit fapping and porn altogether, and did it for 101 days.
Why 101 days?
Because I wanted to reach the symbol of 100 days, the time at which my testicles were about to explode.
As painful as this experience was, it opened a whole new world of experiences, a bit like that scene in Limitless (2011) when Bradley Cooper tastes the pill for the first time: my energy, around day 90, was significantly up, my desire for social contact as well.
I used the sexual energy I wasn’t spending and redirected it towards various areas of my life:
I was sharper and it felt like my mental capacities had increased 100x fold.
This experiment led me to start researching addictions. I discovered that a substance becomes addictive when it triggers a usual amount of dopamine in your brain, creating brain fog, killing motivation, destroying discipline, lowering overall energy and self-esteem.
Dopamine became my enemy, so I restricted all dopamine generating activities.
That got me thinking.
If I enjoyed the benefits of that much energy by the mere act of cutting porn and fap, what level of energy could I reach if I cut ALL addictive substances?
I had no clue. But I wanted to find out.
One by one, I eliminated them.
As I was proceeding with the experiment, I had not realized I was following instructions that mankind had been given for thousands of years…in religions.
The Wisdom of Religions
One day, as I was writing this article on the Buddha, I came to find out upon doing my research that good ol’ Gautama starved himself to death at the beginning of his path towards enlightenment.
Fasting does indeed have the advantage to clear your mind and sharpen your senses.
Suddenly, I got it.
Fast, meditation, exercise, saying no to addictive substances and behaviors, all of these are actual scientific body and life hacks that humans have been experiencing for thousands of years and subsequently put into religions.
The three great monotheist religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), Hinduism, and Buddhism all advocate for the same practices: fasting, not (too much) sex, praying (which is basically spiritual meditation), and restrictions on different types of addictive practices (alcohol, drugs, gambling).
Mormons, for example, don’t drink coffee nor alcohol.
In fact, there isn’t a single religion on earth advocating decadent addictive behavior.
Not a single one.
As to say that a decrease of religious practices has led the West on the path of decadence…
As I was contemplating this, I was shocked.
I had turned myself for a brief time towards Buddhism thanks to their very pragmatic approach to solving suffering and while I had well understood that religions had been tailored to teach people how to take care of their minds (rebranded into “soul” after an impressive PR stunt), I had never thought that the entirety of their mental and physical recommended practices was designed to clear heads and increase energy.
As I was realizing this, I stood confused.
The lifestyle I was living was the summary of years of research and experiences whether backed by science or my own empirical results.
Somehow, this road had led me to the exact same destination that religions traditionally do.
Despite being an atheist, I was more Catholic than my Catholic friends, more Muslim than my Muslim friends, and more Orthodox than my Jewish friends.
I was a monk without a God, physically and mentally fit for religion yet lacking that one critical element that would have made me the most devowed follower: belief.
I did have a belief. But in science. Not in religion.
Since the Siècle des Lumières (16th-17th century, Europe), European intellectuals have been opposing science and religion.
Religion said the earth was flat, it wasn’t.
Religion said the sun turned around the earth, it didn’t.
My theory is that we looked at the wrong types of information when comparing science to religions.
For all purely scientific facts, religion was dead wrong.
However, for all “human facts”, science was most often wrong than religion. As such, fasting has seen an impressive comeback to treat diabetes, obesity, and eating disorders (no sh*t).
Meditating, which is the atheist version of praying, has also seen a significant range of new adepts.
We are today (re)discovering the terrible effects of addictive foods and behaviors, which religions have been advising us against since their very beginning.
As for Moses, it’s not a vegan burger he saw his people eating when descending from Mount Sinaï.
Having said that, I still despise the principles behind religions.
I still believe they are man-made legends twisted by demagogues to assert control on people and that “God” has been mistranslated.
Yet, the original prophets were probably onto something, they just didn’t communicate it clearly.
Or it was misunderstood/mistranslated.
It certainly is misinterpreted today.
The Bottom Line
To conclude, I’ll just say that we shouldn’t disregard knowledge according to their source, but genuinely observe the facts in their objective dimension.
After all, even if it came from religion, the “love thy neighbor” principle was, is, and will remain true.
It’s not because some pieces of information from one source are not even worth the time to observe that other pieces of information are wrong too.
Religions did not get all the facts right, but they are probably worth considering when it comes to solving and studying human nature.
After all, old religions represent thousands of years of wisdom, observance, and philosophy.