(Cross posted in Religion Compass Exchanges)
Reuters have reported the recent publication of How God Changes Your Brain. This book takes a neurotheological – ‘the study of the brain’s role in religious belief’- approach to prayer and meditation in an effort to understand the biological processes involved. The writers, Andrew Newburg and Mark Robert Waldman have used brain scans on individuals who were either praying or meditating, to identify what they describe as “God circuits”.
As part of their research Newburg and Waldman have concluded that there is no so-called “God spot”, instead their findings show that many parts of the brain are involved in processing spirituality. Interestingly, their study has also found that the results are the same, regardless of religious faith, or indeed lack of faith. It is apparent that the most important aspect is the actual practice of prayer or meditation, regardless of the subject matter, be that religion or its perceived opposite, science. Arguably, what matters is the concentration involved in thinking about such weighty issues.
The authors’ optimistic conclusion is that ‘[e]ven 10 to 15 minutes of meditation appear to have significantly positive effects on cognition, relaxation and psychological health.’ Regardless of religious belief, this would seem to be an achievable goal that everyone can agree with.
Myth and Science: Their Varying Relationships
By Robert A. Segal,
(Vol. 4, February 2009)
Cognitive Science of Religion: What Is It and Why Is It?
By Justin L. Barrett , University of Oxford
(Vol. 2, September 2007)