Wired for God?: The Biology of Spiritual Experience

Overview

A fascinating tour of religious and mystical experiences and their relation to human physiology
 Hymn singing in the suburbs and ecstatic drumming in the African night, speaking in tongues and UFOs, chariots of fire, and pierced Messiahs—what do these things tell us about faith and what it means to be human? Human religious experiences are remarkably uniform; many can be pharmacologically induced. Recent research into the neurology of religious experience has shown ...

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Overview

A fascinating tour of religious and mystical experiences and their relation to human physiology
 Hymn singing in the suburbs and ecstatic drumming in the African night, speaking in tongues and UFOs, chariots of fire, and pierced Messiahs—what do these things tell us about faith and what it means to be human? Human religious experiences are remarkably uniform; many can be pharmacologically induced. Recent research into the neurology of religious experience has shown that, when worshipping or praying, a certain part of the brain, apparently dormant during other activities, becomes active. This fascinating book takes a survey of the evidence—from shamans to medieval mystics, to out-of-body experiences and epilepsy, via Jerusalem and middle-class Christianity—and assesses its significance.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A most enjoyable journey through the drugs, dreams and profound experiences that lead people to believe in the existence of souls . . . both serious and entertaining."  —Susan Blackmore, author, Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction

"A look at the ultimately important questions of life that is itself wonderfully alive: you may not agree, but you will never be bored."  —Iain McGilchrist, author, The Master and His Emissary

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780340964439
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 334
  • Sales rank: 1,401,210
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Foster is teaches medical law and ethics. He is the author of The Jesus Inquest and The Sacred Journey.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Image Permissions xiii

Acknowledgements xv

Preface xvii

Prologue I

1 Matter Matters: Religious People are Made of Molecules too 5

2 God Head: The Anatomy of Religion 11

3 The Holy Helix: Genetically Predestined to Believe? 41

4 Wholly Mad or Holy Madness? 49

5 Getting Out of Yourself: An Introduction to Other States of Consciousness 81

6 Finding God in a Garden: How Psychoactive Substances can Throw Open the Doors of Perception 97

7 Finding God in the Bedroom: The Sexuality of Spirituality and the Spirituality of Sexuality 133

8 Finding God in the Intensive Care Unit: Near-death and Other Out-of-body Experiences 145

9 Other Portals 167

Wired for God?

10 Turning On and Tuning In: Brains as Antennae 181

11 Religious Experience and the Origin of Religion 195

12 Angels or Demons? The Suppression of Religious Experience 231

13 Breathing God 239

Epilogue 249

Appendix: Who am I? The Terrible Problem of Consciousness 253

Select Bibliography 269

Notes 275

Index 321

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