Principles of Neurotheology

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  • Andrew B. Newberg, Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital Philadelphia, USA
  • Series: Ashgate Science and Religion Series
  • "Neurotheology" has garnered substantial attention in the academic and lay communities in recent years. Several books have been written addressing the relationship between the brain and religious experience and numerous scholarly articles have been published on the topic, some in the popular press. The scientific and religious communities have been very interested in obtaining more information regarding neurotheology, how to approach this topic, and how science and religion can be integrated in some manner that preserves both.

    If neurotheology is to be considered a viable field going forward, it requires a set of clear principles that can be generally agreed upon and supported by both the theological or religious perspective and the scientific one as well. Principles of Neurotheology sets out the necessary principles of neurotheology which can be used as a foundation for future neurotheological discourse. Laying the groundwork for a new synthesis of scientific and theological dialogue, this book proposes that neurotheology, a term fraught with potential problems, is a highly useful and important voice in the greater study of religious and theological ideas and their intersection with science.
  • Contents: Preface; The case for a principia neurotheologica; Definitions in neurotheology; The principle of interaction between neuroscience and theology; General principles of neurotheological investigations; Toward a neurotheological hermeneutic; Principles relating to the methods of neurotheological research; Physiological and phenomenological correlates of spiritual practices; Reflections on major topics of neuroscience; Reflections on major topics of theology; Epistemological issues in neurotheology; Epilogue: final conclusions; Index.
  • About the Author: Andrew B. Newberg, M.D. is Associate Professor in the Department of Radiology and Psychiatry and holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is co-author of the bestselling books, How God Changes Your Brain (2009) and Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief (2001) which both explore the relationship between neuroscience and spiritual experience. He has also co-authored Why We Believe What We Believe (2008) and The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Belief (1999). The latter book received the 2000 award for Outstanding Books in Theology and the Natural Sciences presented by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.
  • Reviews: In this new book, Andrew B. Newberg is advocating a whole new relationship between religion and science, he proposes not that the two stay neutral with regard to each other, but that they help each other in their quest. Augustine once defined theology as fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking to understand. Newberg wants to establish a partnership between that quest and mens quaerens intellectum, the brain seeking to understand. Neurotheology would, of all things, introduce and require a sense of humility and awareness of need of help in both science and religion. The tone of this whole book is an excellent start in that direction.
    Ronald Murphy, S.J., Georgetown University, USA

    Drawing on decades of empirical research and engaging centuries-old questions from philosophy and theology, Newberg charts for us both the "state of the art" and a vision for the future of the emerging interdisciplinary field of neurotheology. Carefully acknowledging the complexity of the tasks at hand, Principles of Neurotheology courageously sketches the opportunity and promise of new answers to age-old questions as complex as the soul, God, and free will-a critical resource for researchers and readers engaged in work at the intersection of religion, theology, and science.
    David A. Hogue, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, USA

    This fascinating book contains everything a person might want to know about the link between theology and the neurosciences, a rapidly growing area of scientific investigation. Written by one of the first researchers to examine brain activity during spiritual experiences, this volume lays the basic foundations for this new field of neurotheology. Clearly written and easily accessible, Principles of Neurotheology is filled with information that both scientist and layperson need to know about the neurological basis for religious and spiritual experiences, and should be required reading for anyone interested in the faith-health connection.
    Harold G. Koenig, Duke University, USA

    As neuroscientists present more and more evidence for the claim that religious experiences and beliefs are dramatically influenced by changes in brain activity, people interested in religion (and that should be all of us) clamor for an explanation of the implications of these neuroscientific findings for religion and brain. In Principles of Neurotheology Andrew B. Newberg gives us a set of tools and principles that can and should guide us when we consider implications of the latest neuroscience for religion and brain. This book is consistently thought-provoking, fertile, innovative, courageous, and brilliant. It is a work of maturity, of someone who has thought deeply about these issues and their life and death consequences for real people. Newberg's 'Principles' will stand as the founding document for the new discipline of neurotheology - a science that has come of age and is poised to revolutionize both neuroscience and theology.
    Patrick McNamara, Boston University School of Medicine, USA

    '… I do recommend [this book] to anyone with an interest in the relationship between science and religion.' Church Times

    '… a refreshing voice…'

    'This book's thoroughly multidisciplinary nature makes it ideal for the liberal study of recent and potential findings in cognitive neuroscience… readers are left with a rich vocabulary and viable methodology through which to conduct an interdisciplinary discussion regarding some of life's most intriguing questions… Recommended.' Choice

    'This is a fascinating and philosophically rigorous book, which raises many exciting ideas about what goes on in the human brain during religious and theological practices.' Theology

    'Principles has much to recommend it. It provides the reader with a broad overview of cutting-edge brain research related to religious experience, and its principles - if the text is widely disseminated - are likely to provoke a good deal of discussion and debate.' Themelios

    'Principles of Neurotheology is an important book, one that initiates a discussion of the theoretical and practical principles that should guide the development of this new field while also providing an overview of the current state of the research and sage insights from one who has been for a number of years deeply involved in neurotheological research.' Journal of the American Academy of Religion

    'Searching for the ultimate is what makes us fundamentally human. Newberg, of course, has offered important principles to think about… '
    American Theological Inquiry