College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
There are two groups of people who are going to be apt to preemptively judge this "book by its cover:" religious people and atheists. This is NOT a book about religion. Newberg does personally have a religious bent (neurological tendency?), but those seeking a scientific proof of God are going to have to go elsewhere. This is NOT a promotion of religion. So do not come at this book and have a knee-jerk negative reaction because of two words in the title. It IS a book about the neurological basis of religious EXPERIENCE. Get that? EXPERIENCE. That people have an experience of religion means neither that it is true or false or anything other than that they tend to experience something in a very subjective way. This is a scientific, neurological examination of the pre-wiring of the human brain to potentially think in religious terms. Now, if you need more reassurance, devout atheists such as V. Ramachandran have explored this topic and used Newberg's "nun study" in their work. (Ramachandran studied a split brain patient whose left brain was atheist and whose right brain was religious: he quipped that he wondered if half the man would go to heaven and the other half to hell.) Steven Pinker, also an atheist, has quoted Newberg's work in his examination of whether or not the tendency toward religiosity or atheism is heritable (it seems to be). There are also other interesting case studies to consider. The religious experience has been identified more or less with the right temporal lobe, and those with temporal lobe epilepsy (like Vincent Van Gogh) are prone to very vivid religious hallucinations (visions?)--Van Gogh had them. Again and again: this is a neurological study of the religious EXPERIENCE in humans, not a book advocating religion. So go in prepared. (O, and it's a really good lecture series too, if you were wondering...)
is that, like Bonhoeffer, he took what he did very seriously and wrote passionately about the Christian life, not as a "presto-chango-once-saved-always-saved-say-the-magic-words-and-win-heaven" affair, but rather as an ongoing struggle toward goodness and rightness and justice--in short, a living of life in such a fashion that goodness was wrought in the physical world, in which the self and ego were sacrificed for simplicity and charity toward all people, in which others were thought of before oneself, and God, eternal rightness and goodness, above all. It is a message that forever needs to be heard and heeded if the true Christian life is to live on at all.
than the other reviewer concerning what this book is--and isn't about. Just to start, it is NOT a book about religion, so interest in religion is not a prerequisite. It is a book about genetic inheritance. (I read this book on the heels of Wade's very compelling A Troublesome Inheritance, in which he discusses race/society and genetics.) Taking up the work up Pinker, Newberg and other neo-Darwinians with a neurological bent, Wade explores the biological tendencies toward religious and philosophical thought. Brain science has shown that those with greater right temporal lobe development tend to have greater religious tendencies than others and that those with right temporal lobe epilepsy tend to experience great flights of fancy, philosophical and artistic insights--and religious visions (think Van Gogh). Now, does this mean religion is the representation of an empirical reality? Of course not! It simply means humans are evolutionarily geared for ideas about philosophical and religious principles, and, for that, reason (sorry Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins!) religion, for good or for bad, is probably not going away any time soon. But there is no value judgment here, simply a description of the tendency in humans for religion. As I said of Newberg's The Spiritual Brain: there are two groups of people who will misunderstand this book--the religious...and the non-religious.