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Neurology: The Science of Beliefs Perspectives on Religion from Neuroscience

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Huxley  mentioned neurotheology in his Utopian novel island which was published in 1962, alongside with such disciplines as pharmacology, sociology, physiology, autology, meta-chemistry, and mycomysticisms. Scientist and religionist James Ashbrook was recognized as the first one who used the term Neurotheology in a scientific context. The first book which carried the term in its title was written by Maverick Laurence O. McKinney (McKinney, 1994) and the second was edited by Rhawn Joseph (Joseph, 2002). The book of Joseph is a compilation of essays, both contemporary and historical exploring mystical/spiritual practices and consciousness using the tools of neuroscience and psychology, while McKinney’ s book reads more like a novel speculating the roles of belief and science to transform humanity (Alston, 2006b). The book McKinney which is entitled “ Neurotheology – Virtual Religion in the 21st Century” was published in 1994.

It was published by the American Institute of Mindfulness. In this book, McKinney discusses paradigms for consciousness, concepts of time, reality, religion as well as spiritual experience in his efforts to explore the efficacy of Neurotheology as a religion centered in the perceptual awareness of the mind (excerpt of an article from the Connecticut Presentation).

This book was promoted in Zygon, a theological journal. Recently the Newsweek has cited a 1998 book which was published by MIT Press, called Zen and the Brain. And since then, by including studies using data from mediating Buddhist monks as well as praying Franciscan nuns, scholarly journals have devoted issues with regards to religions and the mind (Elliot, 2007). In understanding the broader project of neurotheology, the key issue is the nature of beliefs – the central mental constructs of a human being which shape the core of human personality and identity.

Their variance is the most distinct characteristic of beliefs which includes cultural and social, religious and scientific, political and economic, ethical and historical and other types of beliefs. The application of neuroscience in studying religious as well as spiritual beliefs is the focus of this paper.  

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