Studying Japan's living ex-Gods

What does it mean to say someone is divine, a living God? That they share God’s infallibility, or compassion, or wisdom, or omniscience, or power?

From the neurotheological standpoint, the question we want to ask is what mental state do people enter when they view a human they consider godly? This should be easy to “divine” with current neuroimaging techniques. And the results might well cast light on the experience of the non-embodied divinity as well.

We have such a living God in the form of the late

Showa Tenno (picture), commonly known as “Hirohito” in the West. Although he renounced his divinity in the famous ningen sengen, or “declaration of humanity” (人間宣言), there are still many Japanese, most already in their 80s or 90s, that continue to believe him an arahitogami, or “human god” (ç?¾äººç¥ž), the latest in the long line of descendants of the mythical Amaterasu. And no small number may believe the same of his son and current Tenno Heika (official site), no matter what the Constitution may say.

As part of our program of neurotheological research, let’s grab those old Japanese folks before they die, toss them in an MRI machine, and make sure we take a neurological record of their reaction to viewing pictures of the man they believed was God.

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