Is Religious Experience Just Brain Activity?

by Sharon Dirckx

Many people admit to having prayed at some point in life, be that at bedtime as a child, or amid a crisis as an adult. Many people, regardless of their beliefs about God, perceive prayer to be a useful religious activity. But what happens in the brain when people pray? In recent years, this discipline of the devout has been studied closely by neuroscientists.

Professor Andrew Newberg and others have pioneered research into Buddhist meditation, rituals, trance states and Christian prayer, as well as those who pray in tongues A medical review in 2009 listed 40 different brain regions that are involved in prayer and meditation,showing that the brain is very active during spiritual activity. And not in a one-size-fits-all manner. Amazingly, different kinds of prayer activate different networks.

For years, many have believed that religious experience is merely brain enterprise. So does the presence of brain activity mean the experience isn’t authentic?

Not necessarily…
 

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Is Religious Experience Just Brain Activity?