Admittedly, I'm somewhat biased about this book. Why? Because I'm Dr. Newberg's co-author! Now,you can read other reviews of this book if you go to the hardback version, called Why We Believe What We Believe: Uncovering Our Biological Need for Meaning, Spirituality, and Truth, but I thought you'd might enjoy a brief authorial commentary. First, it is the only book that definitively describes what a belief is, and how those beliefs take on a sense of reality. The more you reflect on a personal belief-be it religious, political, or romantic-the neural circuits that generate our perception of reality become stronger. If you meditate long enough-on God, or peace, or monetary success-the structure of your thalamus will permanently change. This is what makes the human brain so fascinating-it doesn't clearly distinguish between inner subjective experiences and the objective reality that exists outside. We are given a set of beliefs by parents, teachers, and friends, and for the most part, that becomes our world-view for life. In fact, it's very difficult to neurologically eliminate old beliefs, which goes a long way to explain why personal change is slow. But it is possible, and the book will show you how to identify and change the natural biases we have.
Our research demonstrates that optimistic beliefs (even those that have no realistic basis) are extraordinarily healthy for your body and your brain. They neurologically interrupt anxiety, depression, anger, and fear; they stimulate your immune system; and they motivate you to succeed in obtaining your goals, no matter how wild they may appear to others. You can use this book to understand why people have problems tolerating others who hold different beliefs, and you can use it to become a better "believer" by recognizing the dozens of cognitive errors that a normal human brain generates in day-to-day life.
The core of the book revolves around Newberg's brain-scan studies of Buddhists, Nuns, Pentecostals, and atheists, and it demonstrates why nearly all spiritual practices are physically, emotionally, and neurologically healthy. And it doesn't matter if you believe or disbelieve in God. Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, and National Geographic have done specials on Newberg's research, so enjoy! -- Mark Waldman, Associate Fellow, Center for Spirituality and the Mind, University of Pennsylvania. (PS: check out our new book, How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist, which summarizes the current state of meditation research in the world, plus our new research on how meditation may slow down the aging processes in the brain.