Abel Pharmboy over at Terra Sigillata reviews an article from the NEJM concerning the search for a site of higher brain function responsible for the production of religious experience or thought. This adds to previous discussion about God genes along the same lines. Some recent experiences of my own may further the research along these lines.
Last summer I saw a patient with a severe vasculitis, primarily involving the hands, with ugly looking pre-ischemic lesions of most fingers. The patient was given a gram of IV solumedrol and I returned the next day. On arrival he exclaimed that all was well and thank the Lord for his recovery. Unfortunately the Lord and he must have been sharing secrets because the hands looked, if anything, worse. The next day there was some improvement in the hands but the patient wasn't really interested, because whatever God had in store for him was good enough and that Jesus had called for me to make him better, thank God. Now Jesus must be fairly open to religious diversity or he simply clicked on "best available" to get me to show up, but my nest step was to order an MRI to see if this behaviour was vasculitis of the CNS or steroid induced psychosis. All tests were negative for CNS disease and over the next few days the vasculitis and new-found religious fervor both resolved. Subsequent questioning revealed that while he was a believer, it was the Xmas/Easter kind of devotion and certainly no other family members had ever heard him talk in a similar manner. We attributed it all to a steroid induced psychosis, not that unusual with high dose steroids.
The second event was an article in The National Post about Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan requesting Bibles, comouflaged Bibles no less.
Camouflage Bibles is weird enough but it reminded me of the old Ernie Pyle expression that "there are no atheists in foxholes". I can't think of many places that would induce a rush of adrenal corticosteroids more than a foxhole. And maybe those corticosteroids are inducing these foxhole conversions, just as my patient's steroid dose did. It might be a good thing for a soldier under fire to believe that his god is there to protect him.
Of course there is an outside chance that my patient was simply psychotic rather than in commune, and perhaps the soldiers find the camo bibles to be cool souvenirs and no more, but if I was looking to induce a god gene, I would try a little steroid, as any good rheumatologist would tend to suggest.