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The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience | [The Great Courses, Andrew Newberg]

The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience

Does God exist? Do we have a soul? Is it possible to make contact with a spiritual realm? How should we respond to the divine? Will life continue beyond death?Most people, whether deeply religious or outright doubters of any spiritual power, have probably pondered these questions for themselves. In fact, the religious impulse is so powerfully pervasive that neuroscience has posed a provocative question: Are our brains wired to worship?
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Publisher's Summary

Does God exist? Do we have a soul? Is it possible to make contact with a spiritual realm? How should we respond to the divine? Will life continue beyond death?Most people, whether deeply religious or outright doubters of any spiritual power, have probably pondered these questions for themselves. In fact, the religious impulse is so powerfully pervasive that neuroscience has posed a provocative question: Are our brains wired to worship?

Now, in a series of 24 riveting lectures from an award-winning scholar and practicing neuroscientist, you can explore the exciting field of neurotheology - the new discipline aimed at understanding the connections between our brains and different kinds of religious phenomena. Using an academic, experimental approach into what he calls "objective measures of spirituality," Professor Newberg attempts to explain what others have previously only guessed at: the neuroscientific basis for why religion and spirituality have played such a prominent role in human life.

In these captivating lectures, you'll learn how religious experiences originate, their meaning, and the reasons why religion plays such a huge role in human experience - peering directly into the seat of all human thought and action as you delve into the relationship between brain function and spirituality.

A leading researcher in neurotheology, Professor Newberg offers you innovative approaches to ancient beliefs and practices. Using brain imaging and other cutting-edge physiological studies, he helps you to better understand how the brain controls or responds to religious and spiritual beliefs and behavior.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses

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  •  
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 09-22-13
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 09-22-13 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

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    "A WARNING..."

    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...)

    61 of 66 people found this review helpful
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    Jeff Strathroy, ON, Canada 02-20-14
    Jeff Strathroy, ON, Canada 02-20-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Engaging"

    When a topic like Science and Religious Experience is the focus I have a little caution. Depending on the authors bias and preconceptions the results can be more of a soap box for personal opinion than an objective study.

    I did not find this to be the case with this. Through the whole listen I didn't feel any bias was present but rather a thorough study of religious experience and true scientific analysis of possible explanations.

    When a solid scientific explanation for something could not be called upon to describe something there is no attempt to try and use that as some sort of proof that it must have a divine source. Nor is a divine source ruled out. It is left as a question.

    There is a great deal of information packed into these lectures and I believe it is a great listen to anyone religious to shed light on some of the experiences that can be brought into question and by non-religious to help understand better what religious experience is to a person who has one.

    This is by far the best source I have found for the latest research and information on this subject.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonathan M Tweet Seattle, WA, US 04-07-14
    Jonathan M Tweet Seattle, WA, US 04-07-14 Member Since 2007
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    "Nice overview but too thin"
    Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Andrew Newberg?

    Newberg is knowledgeable and I would try another book by him. This was the first Great Courses audiobook I've tried, and it was so thin on content that I'm hesitant to buy any other Great Courses audiobook, even though I've put several on my wish list.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    A nonfiction book on a similar topic but with more content. Typically I will relisten to an audiobook, but not this one.


    Which character – as performed by Professor Andrew Newberg – was your favorite?

    My favorite scientific study was when they gave dopamine to atheists, making them perceive ambiguous shapes more like believers perceive them.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment. I kept waiting to get past the general and to the meaty specifics. Even though I was listening as double speed, the content was so thin that my mind wandered.


    Any additional comments?

    It's in the form of lectures, so it works great for an Audiobook. The Modern Scholar series is better. It's also in lecture format, but the content is powerful and packed, not weak and thin.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
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