Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science & The Biology of Belief
"Why God Won’t Go Away is a thrilling exploration of the intersection of modern brain science and religious experience by one of the leading researchers in this field. Theologians and religionists, don’t worry; this is no exercise in God bashing. For, unlike most books exploring the connection between science and religion, Dr. Andrew Newberg is exceedingly mindful of the limits of science- what it can and cannot say, where it can and cannot go. He realizes that for every question science answers about religious experience, a dozen more arise to take its place. The respect this book displays toward the great mysteries, such as the nature of God and the origin and destiny of consciousness, is one of its most appealing qualities. Newberg’s reverential attitude toward the great unknowns is reminiscent of Einstein."
Larry Dossey, MD
Author: Reinventing Medicine, Healing Words
To the great minds of the 19th century, religion was blatant superstition, which an increasingly enlightened society would soon discard. But today, in the most technologically and scientifically enlightened age the world has ever known, God’s numbers have never been better—church affiliation has never been higher, and more than seventy percent of the American population claims to believe in God.
What can account for the amazing staying power of religion? Why, exactly, won’t God go away?
Most secular thinkers believe that religion is an entirely psychological invention—born out of confusion and fear—to help us cope with the struggles of living and comforts us in the face of the terrible certainty that we will die. But researchers Andrew Newberg and Eugene d’Aquili offer a new explanation, at once profoundly simple and scientifically precise: the religious impulse is rooted in the biology of the human brain.
Newberg and d’Aquili base this revolutionary conclusion on a long-term investigation of brain function and behavior as well as studies they conducted using high-tech imaging techniques to peer into the brains of meditating Buddhists and Franciscan nuns at prayer. What they discovered was that intensely focused spiritual contemplation triggers an alteration in the activity of the brain that leads one to perceive transcendent religious experiences as solid, tangible reality. In other words, the sensation that Buddhists call “oneness with the universe” and the Franciscans attribute to the palpable presence of God is not a delusion, or subjective psychology, or simple wishful thinking. The inescapable conclusion is that God seems to be hard-wired into the human brain.
In Why God Won’t Go Away, Newberg and d’Aquili document their pioneering explorations in the field of neurotheology, an emerging discipline dedicated to understanding the complex relationship between spirituality and the brain. Sadly, Dr. d’Aquili died in August of 1998, leaving Newberg to continue their ground-breaking research and to contemplate such essential questions as whether humans are biologically compelled to make myths; what is the evolutionary connection between religious ecstasy and sexual orgasm; can research on Near-Death Experiences tell us anything about the realness of spiritual phenomena; how does ritual create its own neurological environment; and have we found a common biological origin of all religions?
And finally, there is the compelling and overarching question: Is religion merely a product of biology—a neurological illusion—or does the very fact that our brains function in such a curious way argue that God is not only real, but reachable?
In simpler terms: Is God created by, or the Creator of, the brain?
These questions and more resonate at the heart of Why God Won’t Go Away. Challenging in its presentation of cutting-edge brain science, yet accessible and engaging, Why God Won’t Go Away brims with illuminating insights into the nature of consciousness, the mystifying mechanics of perception, the neurological basis of human emotions, and the miraculous manner in which the brain tells us what is real.
Resting on a firm foundation of solid empirical data, this nevertheless is a book about mystery. As Newberg followed the trail of empirical data, laboring to understand the deepest implications of his research, he found himself led to a place where intellectual analysis wasn’t sufficient, where objective reality didn’t seem so solid, and where the borderline between the world of science and the realm of the spirit is not such a clear one after all.
Why God Won’t Go Away bridges faith and reason, mysticism and empirical data. As Dr. Newberg takes us on an exploration of the awe-inspiring organ inside our skulls, we find echoes of the infinite buried within its convoluted folds, and we ponder a compelling and surprising explanation for the transcendent tenacity of God.back to top ^