I know your first reaction would be ‘Yes of course there’s a difference’, but what really makes them different from each other? Is it because one is widely accepted or because one is preached about in churches, temples, or synagogues? Because if you really investigate it, are there ways to prove that it exists?
Some may say ‘I saw God’ when they come out of anesthesia, but there is a perfectly good explanation for why someone may see this while under. This is like the situation with a medium, they could never have known the things they did, but they are just amazing body language readers. In order to understand we have to investigate further into the biochemistry of belief.
Belief isn’t something you are born with; you weren’t born with the belief in let’s say ghosts. Belief is something that is socially constructed from what you have learned and heard about all our lives by teachers or parents or friends, etc.
Belief is something linked with thought process and emotions combined. The thought brought with belief goes through a stepped process through the brain, it starts in one synapse and travels to other synapses crossing the brain and ended up in a type of “higher processing” like the frontal lobe. The thought carried with belief is also emotionally involved since it is carried along the hippocampus (Memory), amygdala (emotions like anger), and the hypothalamus (displeasure and regulatory functions). All true beliefs are processed in the right temporoparietal junctions which controls processing and attention.
If you believe strongly in anything, you get an emotional connection to it. For example, let’s search body dysmorphia. Body Dysmorphia is when a person sees themselves physically in a morphed view. The person could be super skinny, and their brain will construct a different belief like they are fat, and the person will genuinely see themselves as fat, not just believe they are but physically see themselves as fat.
The brain has a very strong influence on the body physically like in schizophrenia, how that person can see and hear things that are not there. So really if someone says they have seen God or seen Santa Clause can we really believe them? We know how strong the influence the brain has on the body so could believing in something so hard create fake sights or sounds that the person will take as real?
My personal belief is that the belief in Santa Clause and religion are very similar thus giving less significance to the belief in God, Jesus, Prophets, Poseidon, and many more religious figures. I do not personally believe in God, angels or demons, and heaven and hell; what I believe in is that there is some type of higher power, but I do not know what it is or if it exists. So, is there really a difference between Santa Clause and any religious figure or other belief like the Easter bunny?
Sathyanarayana Rao, T.S., et al. “The Biochemistry of Belief.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Medknow Publications, 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802367/