Where God and Science Meet [Three Volumes] [3 volumes]: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion

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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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Scientists and religionists who read these volumes and attempt dialogue may begin to overcome the segregation evident in the field and reflected here. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty/researchers." - Choice

"[P]resents the scholar and informed layperson with a fascinating glimpse into the recent evolutionary, neuroscientific, and psychological findings on religion, paying particular attention to the fledgling field of neurotheology….These volumes are written with the undergraduate clearly in mind; however, this exhaustively documented collection has enough breadth and scope to satisfy even the speacialist. In either case, it will prove a handsome addition to the shelves of any university library." - Religious Studies Review

"Authors are of varying religious persuasions or none and this provides some interesting ways for the perceptive reader to discern how belief systems influence interpretation of scientific or clinical findings….Most PSCF readers would benefit from these essays, especially those pertaining to their own expertise." - Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

"The meeting is definitely taking place in the house of science, and the emphasis is on biological processes associated with religiousness, though religious processes associated with biologicalness are occasionally addressed for example the health benefits and risks of religiosity. Mostly psychologists, but also other scientists and a few scholars of religion, look at evolution, genes, and the religious brain in volume one. The second volume discusses the neurology of religious experience; and the third the psychology of religious experience. The volumes are paged and indexed separately." - Reference & Research Book News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275987886
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/30/2006
  • Series: Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 930
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 3.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick McNamara is Director of the Evolutionary Neurobehavior Laboratory in the Department of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, and the VA New England Healthcare System. He is also Assistant Professor of Neurology at the same sites. He is currently developing an evolutionary approach to problems of brain and behavior, and studying the evolution of the frontal lobes, the two mammalian sleep states (REM and NREM) and the evolution of religion in cultures. He is trained in behavioral neuorscience, neurolinguistics and brain-cognitive correlation techniques. He pioneered investigation of the role of the frontal lobes in mediation of religious experience.

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Table of Contents

VOLUME I: Evolution, Genes, and the Religious Brain

Series Forward by J. Harold Ellens

Preface by Patrick McNamara

The Evolutionary Psychology of Religion by Steven Pinker

Sacred Emotions and Affective Neuroscience: Gratitude, Costly Signaling, and the Brain by Robert A. Emmons and Patrick McNamara

Genetic and Environmental Influences on the Traditional Moral Values Triad--Authoritarianism, Conservatism, and Religiousness--as Assessed by Quantitative Behavior Genetic Methods by Laura B. Koenig and Thomas J. Bouchard Jr.

Religious Behaviors, Badges, and Bans: Signaling Theory and the Evolution by Richard Sosis

Nature's Medicine: Religiosity as an Adaptation for Health and Cooperation by Joseph Bulbulia

The Cognitive Psychology of Belief in the Supernatural by Jesse M. Bering

The Ritual Healing Theory: Therapeutic Suggestion and the Origin of Religion by James McClenon

Religion Is Not an Adaptation by Lee A. Kirkpatrick

The Cognitive and Evolutionary Roots of Religion by Scott Atran

Amazing Grace: Religion and the Evolution of the Human Mind by Ilkka Pyysiäinen

The Significance of the Evolution of Religious Belief and Behavior for Religious Studies and Theology by Wesley J. Wildman


VOLUME2: The Neurology of Religious Experience

Series Foreword by J. Harold Ellens

Preface by Patrick McNamara

The Chemistry of Religiosity: Evidence from Patients with Parkinson's Disease by Patrick McNamara, Raymon Durso, Ariel Brown, and Erica Harris

Religious and Spiritual Practices: A Neurochemical Perspective by Andrew B. Newberg

Neuroimaging Studies of Religious Experience: A Critical Review by Nina P. Azari

Religion and the Life Course: Is Adolescence an "Experience Expectant" Period for Religious Transmission? by Candace S. Alcorta

Neurotheology: A Science of What? by Matthew Ratcliffe

Religion as a By-Product of Evolved Psychology: The Case of Attachment and Implications for Brain and Religion Research by Pehr Granqvist

Religious Conversion, Spiritual Transformation, and the Neurocognition of Meaning Making by Raymond F. Paloutzian, Erica L. Swenson, and Patrick McNamara

Religion and the Brain: Evidence from Temporal Lobe Epilepsy by Steven C. Schachter

The Frontal Lobes and the Evolution of Cooperation and Religion by Patrick McNamara

Mind Design and the Capacity for Ritual Performance by Carl Seaquist

The Brain, Religion, and Baseball: Comments on the Potential for a Neurology of Religion and Religious Experience by Warren S. Brown


VOLUME 3: The Psychology of Religious Experience

Series Foreword by J. Harold Ellens

Preface by Patrick McNamara

The Neuropharmacology of Religious Experience: Hallucinogens and the Experience of the Divine by David E. Nichols and Benjamin R. Chemel

The Relationship between Religion and Health by Andrew B. Newberg and Bruce Y. Lee

Religion, Meaning, and the Brain by Crystal L. Park and Patrick McNamara

The Darker Side of Religion: Risk Factors for Poorer Health and Well-Being by Gina Magyar-Russell and Kenneth Pargament

The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism by Ralph W. Hood, Jr.

Cross-Cultural Assessments of Shamanism as a Biogenetic Foundation for Religion by Michael Winkelman

Schizophrenia, Neurology, and Religion: What can Psychosis Teach Us about the Evolutionary Role of Religion? by Steven A. Rogers and Raymond F. Paloutzian

Between Yang and Yin and Heaven and Hell: Untangling the Complex Relationship between Religion and Intolerance by Ian Hansen and Ara Norenzayan

The Origins of Dreaming by Kelly Bulkeley

Chemical Input, Religious Output--Entheogens: A Pharmatheology Sampler by Thomas B. Roberts

An Illusion of the Future: Temptations and Possibilities by Keith G. Meador


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