Neurotheology: How Science Can Enlighten Us about Spirituality

Andrew Newberg. Columbia Univ., $35 (336p) ISBN 978-0-231-17904-1
In this comprehensive look at the field of neurotheology, or the neurology of religion, neuroscientist and researcher Newberg (How God Changes Your Brain) uses brain scans to build on the work that philosopher-psychologist William James first recorded in his 1902 book, The Varieties of Religious Experience. He begins by defining neurotheology—largely rehashing ground he has covered more thoroughly in previous books—by explaining his studies on the brain states accompanying mystical experience, the perception of religious symbols, and the performance of such religious practices as meditation and prayer. Newberg points out that the field remains still largely unplowed by mainstream neuroscience, which usually maps physiology and pathology rather than looking at the relationship between brain activity and consciousness of theological transcendence. Newberg spends much of the book exploring how his long-held beliefs have slowly become accepted. However, beyond brief references to newer research, he breaks no new conceptual ground; at points, the book reads like a journal article that responsibly reviews the field. Nonetheless, given that the larger relationship between science and religion has been contested for centuries, Newberg’s latest evidential support for a scientific understanding of why humans practice religion will be a welcome overview for interested readers. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2018
Release date: 03/01/2018
Ebook - 978-0-231-54677-5
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