Neurotheology explores religion as activity of the brain

By Matthew Puddister
Posted Dec 1, 2023

[Anglican Journal (Anglican Church of Canada)] As Anglicans pursue theological dialogue between science and faith through initiatives like the Anglican Communion Science Commission, a growing field of neuroscience is integrating both systems of knowledge by studying how religion affects the brain.

Neurotheology seeks to explain religious beliefs and experiences through the scientific study of neural activity.

Dr. Andrew Newberg, professor and director of research at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has written numerous books on the subject. He says his interest in the field began in medical school while he was using neuroimaging to study the effects on the brain of conditions such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

“I said, ‘Wait a minute. If we’re doing brain scans of people who are depressed or have Alzheimer’s … why can’t we do brain scans of people who are meditating and praying?’ ” he says.

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