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Why God Won't Go away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief Hardcover – 1 Dec 2001


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books Inc.; 1 edition (1 Dec. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345440331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345440334
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.4 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 615,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Over the centuries, theories have abounded as to why human beings have a seemingly irrational attraction to God and religious experiences. In Why God Won't Go Away authors Andrew Newberg, MD, Eugene D'Aquili, MD, and Vince Rause offer a startlingly simple, yet scientifically plausible opinion: humans seek God because our brains are biologically programmed to do so.

Researchers Newberg and D'Aquili used high-tech imaging devices to peer into the brains of meditating Buddhists and Franciscan nuns. As the data and brain photographs flowed in, the researchers began to find solid evidence that the mystical experiences of the subjects "were not the result of some fabrication, or simple wishful thinking, but were associated instead with a series of observable neurological events," explains Newberg. "In other words, mystical experience is biologically, observably and scientifically real.... Gradually, we shaped a hypothesis that suggests that spiritual experience, at its very root, is intimately interwoven with human biology." Lay readers should be warned that although the topic is fascinating, the writing is geared toward scientific documentation that defends the authors' hypothesis. For a more palatable discussion, seek out Deepak Chopra's How to Know God, in which he also explores this fascinating evidence of spiritual hard-wiring. --Gail Hudson


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"In a small, dark room at the lab of a large university hospital, a young man named Robert lights candles and a stick of jasmine incense; he then settles to the floor and folds his legs easily into the lotus position." Read the first page
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 July 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you are interested in the subject of religious thought and experience, this book will take you on the most unexpected journey. From the experience of nirvana to the consciousness of the presence of God, from Tantric Sex Yoga to the Catholic Mass, this book shows the common neurobiological roots of religious experience and their links to myth, ritual, mind, self and modern scientific thought.
This book explains in layman's terms the process by which the brain gives birth to all religious experience and explains in a simple and easy to understand way how religions and the myths and rituals which accompany them come to be established. The examples used (both actual and hypothetical) are excellently chosen and the authors demonstrate how religious thinking has been part and parcel of human experience from the dawn of humanity and why, despite the so called 'triumph of reason', it is likely to continue to be so.
They also show that religious belief and experience is not necessarily the sign of an unhealthy psyche (as was thought in the early part of the 20th century) but may in fact be a sign of above average mental health and can be and is accompanied by a corresponding improvement in overall physical health as well.
In pinpointing the commonality of religious experience, the book also points the way to a deeply spiritual approach to life accompanied by an equally deep tolerance of other means of obtaining this experience. In short 'all roads lead to .......'!
Finally, the authors lead the readers to the very lip of the abyss and invite them to look over. Religious experience is a neurobiological event but for human beings all experiences are neurobiological events. Therefore, is religious experience any less real than any other experience?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By anozama on 23 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Newberg and d'Aquili present the neurophysiological evidence of the brain's `Mysticism Module'. Meditation, prayer, and spiritual experience activate and excite certain identifiable parts of the brain. This would seem the most likely primary basis of religious experience for humans. (Or for Neanderthals - they had their shrines too.)

Leaving aside the thorny question of whether or not God exists, the book suggests that our brains' capacity to experience mystical excitation is a more powerful route to religious belief than is cognitive deduction - which will neither, it seems, produce evidence for God, nor make God `go away'.

A noteworthy 21st century take on religion!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the second time I have bought this excellent book - the original was loaned to someone and hasn't yet reappearedand I couldn't bear not having a copy to hand.

The subject Neurotheology and the Science of Belief may sound a little daunting but the subtitle 'Why God won't go away' is much more exciting and helps the reader understand the nature of belief and how we are 'hard wired' for God - unbeatable in its field!
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16 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 2 July 2004
Format: Paperback
The Pope of Paleontology once bemoaned the woeful inadequacies of education in evolution in America. The authors of this book represent a prime example of the validity of Stephen Gould's lament. It may seem an oversimplification of the authors' theme to call it "neurotheology" or "hardwired for gods", but their case is so overstated that perhaps a balance is thereby achieved. Relying on Buddhist meditators and praying nuns, the authors recorded brain activity states to compare with "normal" conditions. They then go on to link various areas and functions of the brain to demonstrate that religion is an evolutionary product. For the prurient reader, they contend that the transcendental feelings we obtain from sex links through the limbic system to other parts of the brain becoming the foundation for "religious experience". Freud would have loved this book.
The authors map the brain/mind to build a framework to explain the universality of religion. Their outlook is almost entirely from Western Civilization - even the Buddhist meditators are American. From this flimsy foundation and the contributions of some Western philosophers, the authors go on to construct their edifice. The brain, they argue, is designed as a "window to [g]od" which they rename the Absolute Unitary Being. They contend that gods are not the product of a cognitive, deductive process, but were instead "discovered" in a mystical or spiritual encounter. Shoring up their structure with numerous spurious assertions of the brains' processes, they see this capability having been designed through evolution. Not since the concept of "the Great Chain of Being" have humans been granted such a glorious role.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Broga on 25 May 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an atheist I almost did not read this book. I was pleased that I did. The authors did lean so heavily towards religion or mysticism that I was often put off. On the other hand their quotes about the destruction and vindictiveness of orthodox religions, and particularly the quotes from Karen Armstrong, somewhat redressed the balance. Equating Einstein, Neils Bohr and Schroder with mysticism was a touch too tendentious for me. However, I thought this was an interesting and intriguing dissertation on the origions of religion which will do more to erode religious belief than it will damage atheism. On one point it is unequivocal: the belief in a personal god is destructive and leads to vast cruelties.

No mention of Dawkins. That would be a step too far, I suppose.
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