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The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience Lecture

The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience

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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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

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

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  •  
    Amazon Customer 02-20-14 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    32 of 33 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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...)

    130 of 139 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harris 10-05-15
    Harris 10-05-15
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    "Expected more experiements, but it wasn't bs"
    Any additional comments?

    I am a scientist. I can be picky about what is passed off as science. However, all lines are blurry when it comes to experiments with human subjects. I think the author here was reasonable enough.
    What i didn't like was that this book was repetitive and basic, and did not have much meat.
    Experiments are meat. There were a few experiments. For example, monitoring the brain activity of some Franciscan nuns while they were meditating. I was satisfied with the explanations of the meditation and the results. However, I was hoping that there would be a dozen or more experiments.
    What writer really wants to get across is that, in places like nursing homes and hospitals, it is healthy and beneficial for patients to have access to things like church services, shrines, ect. What he doesn't say is that the reason he needs to argue this is because... say an insurance company is deciding whether or not they are going to put a care facility in their network, or say that you are gathering funding to build a new hospital... you get the picture$

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Texas USA 03-15-16
    Amazon Customer Texas USA 03-15-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Not what I expected"

    I was hoping for a discussion of why some people are drawn to a religion when others are not. What I got was a discussion of why everyone is religious, which is not true. Aldo, the author is clearly biased towards Christianity, specifically Catholism. I'd hope a scientist could at least pretend to be objective. Also, he is boring repetitive towards the middle, which is as far as I could make it. Not recommended unless you already agree with his biases.

    2 of 2 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 2015
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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.

    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    drewdpeabody 05-07-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Speculative"

    The title is applied very broadly to religion which is how you get 24 lectures out of it. I would buy it again for that wide variety of nuance. Lecturer is engaging and skilled. Recommended

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Trebla 04-05-16
    Trebla 04-05-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Light weight peri-science"
    What would have made The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience better?

    Data!


    What was most disappointing about The Great Courses and Andrew Newberg ’s story?

    Newberg uses an astounding number of words to describe how he thinks things work. His cadence and structures are more like an evangelist or new-age motivator than a scientist. e.g. the absolutely foundational idea of what is spiritualism (dealt with in chapter two) was talked about but never resolved.


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

    Yes, anger and disappointment. Such an important topic- and given the imprimatur of the Great Courses-, yet so shallow


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Colleen 01-20-16
    Colleen 01-20-16 Member Since 2015
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    "slow start"

    lectures star slow and seem to drag, but it picks up. the topics were interesting and informative

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    michael 09-28-15
    michael 09-28-15
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    "Extremely Fascinating But a Bit Ambiguous"

    The good professor took several leaps where he seems to juxtapose weak scientific processes next to a strong religious belief system. He also seem to fall short when time came to justify fully several explanations for definitions...

    Overall it felt as if professor Newberg had first drawn a conclusion and then matched that conclusion, to his interpretation of scientific findings, as well as to his own very strong religious beliefs ....

    I Do however feel that Dr Newberg is on to something.....
    I do somehow believe that within future research we will be able to see a foundational value in some parts of his findings.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael 08-03-15
    Michael 08-03-15 Member Since 2006
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    "Very Disappointing for a Great Courses program."
    What would have made The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience better?

    Anyone who call themselves a "scientist" and them cites a quote saying that humans are so amazing that they had to be created by god is ignorant at best and deluded at worst. He should obtain an understanding of evolution and deep time to avoid making such ridiculous claims. Too many other lapses to list but just one that highlights his shallow approach is discussing meditation and prayer as if they are the same activity.


    What could The Great Courses and Andrew Newberg have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    His assertion that atheist's brains are structurally inferior to believers, among other claims, highlights his selective interpretation of research to prop up obvious religious apologist views. He cites a figure of 80% believers in the US (it's actually around 60%) as evidence that religion is here to stay but ignores figures for Europe and other advanced countries (40% or less and falling). He does not give a figure for new earth creationists in the US; perhaps this figure would be too embarrasing even for him.


    Any additional comments?

    This is the first Great Courses program I've purchased that is such biased garbage. Don't waste your money.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful

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