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In her first book, National Public Radio correspondent Hagerty acts as a tour guide through the rocky terrain of scientists who study religious experience. Is there a so-called "God gene"? Why do some people have mystical experiences while others never see the so-called light? Right up front, Hagerty reveals that this is not an entirely objective exercise. As a Christian, she wants to understand her own mystical encounter with the divine and why she believes when others do not. Yet to each interview, whether with a world-renowned neuroscientist or a back-road mystic, she brings a suitably skeptical eye. Along the way, she manages to explain some pretty cutting-edge science-psychoneuroimmunology, anyone?-and unravel some people's pretty hard-to-comprehend religious experiences without sacrificing depth or complexity. Then, with equal aplomb, she dances off to peyote ceremonies, church services and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The real beauty of this book lies in watching Hagerty gracefully balance her own trust in faith and science and, in the end, come down with one foot planted firmly in both. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Articles about research on spirituality and the brain are usually written from the point of view that religious experience can be understood from a purely scientific perspective. Hagerty's (religion correspondent, NPR) book does not have this naturalistic or materialistic tendency. Rather, as both a reporter and a religious person, she seeks insight on spirituality and science while being open to the possibility that spirituality may still have a transcendent component. The book is interesting to read because the author has interviewed many scientists as well as many people who attest to having mystical or near-death experiences. In a way, the reader feels like a participant in Hagerty's own encounter with the various pieces of information and evidence, struggling with her to make sense of it all. Highly recommended.
Ch. 1 Crossing the Stream 1
Ch. 2 The God Who Breaks and Enters 16
Ch. 3 The Biology of Belief 45
Ch. 4 The Triggers for God 63
Ch. 5 Hunting for the God Gene 81
Ch. 6 Isn't God a Trip? 104
Ch. 7 Searching for the God Spot 134
Ch. 8 Spiritual Virtuosos 164
Ch. 9 Out of My Body or out of My Mind? 192
Ch. 10 Are We Dead Yet? 216
Ch. 11 A New Name for God 243
Ch. 12 Paradigm Shifts 268