Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion
Spiritual practices, or awakenings, have an impact on brain, mind and personality. These changes are being scientifically predicted and proven. For example, studies show Buddhist priests and Franciscan nuns at the peak of religious feelings show a functional change in the lobes of their brain. Similar processes have been found in people with epilepsy, which Hippocrates called "the sacred disease." New research is showing that not only does a person's brain activity change in particular areas while that person is experiencing religious epiphany, but such events can be created for some people, even self-professed atheists, by stimulating various parts of the brain. In this far-reaching and novel set, experts from across the nation and around the world present evolutionary, neuroscientific and psychological approaches to explaining and exploring religion, including the newest findings and evidence that have spurred the fledgling field of neurotheology. It is not the goal of neurotheology to prove or disprove the existence of God, but to understand the biology of spiritual experiences. Such experiences seem to exist outside time and space - caused by the brain for some reason losing its perception of a boundary between physical body and outside world - and could help explain other intangible events, such as altered states of consciousness, possessions, alien visitations, near-death experiences and out-of-body events. Understanding them - as well as how and why these abilities evolved in the brain - could also help us understand how religion contributes to survival of the human race. Eminent contributors to this set help us answer questions including: How does religion better our brain function? What is the difference between a religious person and a terrorist who kills in the name of religion? Is there one site or function in the brain necessary for religious experience?
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