How Recent Is The Idea Of The Relationship Between The Mind And Human Spirituality? (TOP 5 Tips)

What is the relationship between psychology and spirituality?

  • Psychology and spirituality could be described as “feet on the ground, head in the sky”. Psychology represents the “grounding” effect, in which the mind is used for thinking, rationalizing, and understanding life.

What is the relationship between the brain and spirituality?

These findings tell us that spiritual experiences shift perception, and can moderate the effects of stress on mental health. This study saw decreased activation in the parts of the brain responsible for stress and increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for connection with others.

What do you think is the relationship between spirituality and religion?

What’s the difference between religion and spirituality? Religion: This is a specific set of organised beliefs and practices, usually shared by a community or group. Spirituality: This is more of an individual practice, and has to do with having a sense of peace and purpose.

What is the idea of spirituality?

Spirituality is characterized by faith, a search for meaning and purpose in life, a sense of connection with others, and a transcendence of self, resulting in a sense of inner peace and well-being. A strong spiritual connection may improve one’s sense of satisfaction with life or enable accommodation to disability.

How spirituality is related to psychology?

Finding the definition of spirituality of Psychology is about discovering your own inner awareness. It is also about learning and applying the fundamentals of life: forgiveness, being kind, having a giving heart, being honest, and overall just being a good person.

What happens to the brain during worship?

And Your Reality Scans show that people who spend untold hours in prayer or meditation go dark in the parietal lobe, the brain area that helps create a sense of self. A researcher says these people may be rewriting the neural connections in their brains — altering how they see the world.

What happens to the brain during enlightenment?

When people experience Enlightenment, they frequently report losing their sense of self, and scientific analysis confirms that brain activity is a driving cause of this sensation.

What is the relationship between religion and spirituality Quora?

Religion: This is a specific set of organized beliefs and practices, usually shared by a community or group. Spirituality: This is more of individual practice, and has to do with having a sense of peace and purpose.

Can you be spiritual and religious at the same time?

Yes, a person can be both religious and spiritual at the same time. You can live your spiritual life and be religious by agreeing or disagreeing with religion’s beliefs and following the spiritual truths. Spiritualty and religions both offer a path to God-realization.

Why is spirituality so important?

It encourages people to have better relationships with themselves, others, and the unknown. Spirituality can help you deal with stress by giving you a sense of peace, purpose, and forgiveness. It often becomes more important in times of emotional stress or illness. Positive impacts of spirituality.

What is the importance of spirituality in my life?

Healthy spirituality gives a sense of peace, wholeness and balance among the physical, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of our lives. However, for most people the path to such spirituality passes through struggles and suffering, and often includes experiences that are frightening and painful.

What are examples of spirituality?

Spirituality is the state of having a connection to God or the spirit world. An example of spirituality is praying every day.

What does today mean spiritually?

UNDERSTANDING SPIRITUALITY TODAY. means that we human beings have the ability to move out beyond. ourselves or to transcend ourselves in and through pursuing. knowledge, acting in freedom and loving others.

How does spirituality influence individuals well-being and life satisfaction?

The positive influence of religious certainty on well-being, however, is direct and substantial: individuals with strong religious faith report higher levels of life satisfaction, greater personal happiness, and fewer negative psychosocial consequences of traumatic life events.

How do you develop spirituality?

Seven Ways to Improve Your Spiritual Health

  1. Explore your spiritual core. By exploring your spiritual core, you are simply asking yourself questions about the person you are and your meaning.
  2. Look for deeper meanings.
  3. Get it out.
  4. Try yoga.
  5. Travel.
  6. Think positively.
  7. Take time to meditate.

Neurotheology: The relationship between brain and religion

A interdisciplinary discipline of studies known as “neurotheology” is dedicated to understanding the link between the human brain and religion. As it was being developed in its early stages, neurotheology was thought of in extremely broad terms, referring to the confluence of religion and brain sciences in general. The primary goal of the author is to give a broad introduction to neurotheology while also laying the groundwork for further in-depth studies from professionals in theology, neurology, and medicine.


Known as “spiritual neuroscience,” neurotheology is a new field of research that aims to explain the link between brain science and religion. It is gaining popularity among academics. 2Scholars in this discipline make an effort to explain the neurological basis for spiritual experiences such as “the feeling that time, fear, or self-consciousness have melted; spiritual awe; oneness with the cosmos” from the beginning of their research. 3 In recent years, there has been a significant increase in interest in neurotheology around the world.

Each of these areas may make contributions to neurotheology, and neurotheology, in turn, may make contributions to each of these fields in return.

  1. The ability to establish a point of interaction with certain religious traditions is critical for the development of neurotheology as an academic area that makes a significant contribution to human understanding.
  2. Ultimately, neurotheology will be rendered ineffective in its overarching purpose of studying the link between the brain and religion if it is unable to establish a productive intersection with Islamic theology.
  3. It goes without saying that one of the initial concerns with neurotheology as a field is the exploitation of the word “neurotheology.” The word “neurotheology” has been misused much too often, either incorrectly or unfairly.
  4. Neurotheology is a discipline of inquiry that connects the broad categories of both neurosciences and theological studies, according to its formal definition.
  5. It may also serve as a solid foundation for a “natural theology of the brain.” 6 Without a doubt, the words “neuroscience” and “theology” have changed throughout the course of history.
  6. Neuroscience currently encompasses a wide range of disciplines, including cognitive neuroscience, neurology, neurobiology of spirituality, psychiatry and psychology, as well as sociology and psychology.
  7. In addition, theology has evolved over time.
  8. So the term “theology” should be restricted to theistic faiths exclusively, and even more particularly, to religions derived from the Abrahamic traditions, rather than any other religion.
  9. To be a successful field, neurotheology should most likely not be restricted to merely neuroscience and theology, as these are two complementary disciplines.
  10. It would appear suitable for neurotheology to refer to the entirety of religion and religious experience, as well as theology, in the same breath as theology is used.

As an alternative, if the scope of the research is broad enough to include a variety of aspects of religion and spirituality, the field may grow so vast that it loses its potential to offer something distinctive about religious and spiritual occurrences.

Brain functions and theological topics

Known as “spiritual neuroscience,” neurotheology is a new field of research that aims to investigate the link between brain science and religion. It is currently in its early stages. 2Scholars in this discipline make an effort to explain the neurological basis for spiritual experiences such as “the feeling that time, fear, or self-consciousness have melted; spiritual awe; oneness with the cosmos” from the beginning of their investigations. 3 The field of neurotheology has recently piqued widespread attention around the world.

It is possible that each of these areas may make contributions to neurotheology, and that neurotheology will make contributions to each of these fields in turn.

The ability to establish a point of interaction with certain religious traditions is critical for the development of neurotheology as a viable science that adds to human understanding.

Ultimately, neurotheology will be rendered ineffective in its overarching purpose of studying the link between the brain and religion if it is unable to establish a relationship with Islam.

Without a doubt, one of the most significant concerns with neurotheology as a field is the overuse of the word “neurotheology.” An excessive amount of time has been spent misusing or misapplying the word “neurotheology.” 5 It appears to be referring to a research or a notion that does not contain either neuroscience nor theology on a number of occasions, Neurotheology is a branch of inquiry that connects the broad categories of both neurosciences and theological studies, according to its strict definition.

  • This would be a scientific term that would relate to the empirical study of the central nervous system, sometimes known as ‘brain and theology’; it would also refer to the critical and logical investigation of a particular religious belief system, namely one that is concerned with God.
  • 6 Without a doubt, the names “neuroscience” and “theology” have developed over time, as have their meanings.
  • Contemporary neuroscience includes many various topics such as cognitive neuroscience, neurology, neurobiology of spirituality, psychiatry and psychology, and sociology, just to name a few.
  • Additionally, theology has evolved through history.
  • Because of this, it is recommended that the term “theology” be reserved for theistic faiths alone, and even more particularly, for religions derived from the Abrahamic traditions.
  • A sustainable subject of study in neurotheology is unlikely to be restricted to merely neuroscience and theology, if it is to be considered such.
  • When it comes to religion and religious experience, it would appear that neurotheology should be able to speak to the entirety of religion and religious experience as well as theology.

Alternatively, if the area of study contains so many facets of religion and spirituality, the field may grow so wide that it loses its potential to offer something distinctive about religious and spiritual occurrences as a result.

The holistic function

The right hemisphere of the brain, in particular, has the ability to perceive and grasp holistic notions, which means that we sense and understand totality in objects rather than specific features. For example, we can consider all of the cells and organs to be a single entity that represents the entire human body. Considering the notion of perfect oneness from a theological or spiritual standpoint, we can interpret it as something that pertains to God. Moreover, because of the holistic process that occurs in the brain, any religious concept or teaching may be expanded to encompass the entirety of reality and apply to individuals from different cultures, animals, other planets, and even other galaxies.

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The holistic function encourages us to consider that whatever new reaches of the cosmos are discovered by astronomers, God must be present in them.


The quantitative function

Generally speaking, quantitative processes in the brain contribute to the production of mathematics as well as a number of quantitative-like comparisons between items in the environment. The quantitative function plainly underpins and supports much of science and the scientific method, and it is a fundamental part of the scientific process. 10 A mathematical account of the cosmos serves as the foundation for most of modern science. The quantitative function, in terms of its philosophical and theological implications, appears to have had a significant impact on the thoughts of philosophers such as Pythagoras, who frequently employed mathematical concepts such as geometry to help explain the nature of God and the cosmos.

  • To provide an example, the Bible is replete with particular numbers, such as the number 40 (the deluge lasted 40 days and nights; the Jews wandered the desert for 40 years, among other things), which lend their significance in terms of time, people, and locations.
  • According to Shi’ism, there are the Ten Ancillaries of the Faith (Sunnis believe in the Five Pillars of Islam and the Six Articles of Belief); and the 99 characteristics of Allah, which are a list of the traits that Allah has.
  • One can wonder if these numbers have any additional meaning in our brains other than their numerical value.
  • We are all aware that our brain has a strong interest in numbers and enjoys putting them to good use in general.

This quantitative procedure has the potential to increase our confidence in everything that has to do with numbers. And, once again, there are certain numbers such as 5, 10, 40, or 99 that may have a specific influence on the brain, which is a function of the left hemisphere, such as the number 5.

The binary function

The binary processes of the brain allow us to distinguish between two diametrically opposed notions. This capacity is essential for theology since the opposites that may be distinguished include those of good and evil, justice and injustice, and man and God, to name a few examples of many others. 11 In the writings of all religions, many of these polarities and dichotomies may be found throughout the books. Religions are primarily concerned with resolving the psychological and existential challenges generated by these diametrically opposed viewpoints.

The teaching techniques of the Quran are frequently used as instances of contrasting the good and the evil in society.

The causal function

The ability of the brain to comprehend causation is also important in the study of theology. Whenever the causal processes of the brain are applied to the entirety of reality, the issue of what is the ultimate cause of all things becomes a compelling one. 12 Following this, St. Thomas Aquinas’s “Uncaused First Cause” as an argument for God’s existence becomes a fundamental concept in Christian philosophy. The core teachings of monotheistic faiths hold that God is the uncaused cause of all things, and that God is the source of all things.

In reality, theologians, philosophers, and physicists have all grappled with the concept of causality, believing it to be essential to understanding the cosmos and God’s existence.

As a result, the concept of causality was applied to God in order to understand how, in reality, God could cause the cosmos to exist.

Willfulness and orienting functions

Two additional critical brain processes are associated with the ability to support intentional or purposeful conduct as well as the ability to locate oneself in relation to the rest of the environment. According to neuroscientific theory, the intentional function is thought to be derived mostly from the frontal lobes of the brain. 14 The frontal lobe appears to be engaged in executive activities such as planning, coordination of movement and behavior, and the production of language, according to the information available at this time.


Reflections on neurotheology and neuroscience

In the field of neuroscience, there are a variety of themes that might both directly influence and be influenced by neurotheological study. One of the most difficult problems that neurotheology has to deal with is the challenge of being able to determine the subjective state of a subject’s mind. In the area of cognitive neuroscience, this is also a more universal topic to consider. 16 It’s impossible to know exactly what a study subject is thinking at the particular moment of imaging, after all.

  1. Even if you can tell whether or not they performed the exam correctly, you won’t be able to tell why they performed it successfully or wrongly on their own.
  2. 17 Consider spiritual states: it is nearly hard to assess them objectively without disrupting them, which makes them ideal candidates for scientific study.
  3. Neurotheology study can aid in the refinement of subjective assessments to a greater extent.
  4. In addition, studying the relationship between spirituality and health is an area in which neurotheology might contribute valuable scientific knowledge to researchers.
  5. 19These impacts include a reduction in despair and anxiety, an improvement in the immune system, and a reduction in total mortality among persons who are more religious.
  6. One of the most significant objectives of cognitive neuroscience is to get a better understanding of how human beings perceive and interact with their surroundings.
  7. 21 When it comes to epistemological problems that arise from the intersection of neuroscience and theology, neurotheology is in a unique position to investigate them.

Integrating religious and scientific viewpoints, then, may offer the platform upon which researchers from a range of disciplines might answer some of the most pressing challenges confronting mankind today, according to some.


Neurotheology is a new field of research that has the potential to contribute significantly to our knowledge of the human mind, consciousness, scientific discovery, spiritual experience, and theological dialogue. It is currently in its early stages. The setting of Islam, in particular, offers several potentially fruitful avenues to explore and learn from. It should be emphasized that neurotheological study must proceed with caution when dealing with these issues and must make every effort to construct clear, but innovative methodologies of investigation.

The integrated approach used by neurotheology, if it is eventually successful in achieving its objectives, has the potential to fundamentally alter our view of the cosmos and our role within it.

It has the potential to even serve as a link between the factual science of neurology and the intangibility and sensitivities of theological doctrine.


This article should be referenced as follows: A. Sayadmansour’s Neurotheology: The Relationship Between the Brain and Religion was published in 2001. Iran Journal of Neurology, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 52-5.


AB Newberg’s Principles of Neurotheology is a good place to start. 1–3. Surrey, United Kingdom: Ashgate Publishing, 2010. 3.R. Burton’s Neurotheology (Neurotheology). The following is an excerpt from Burton R’s edited volume: On being certain: Believing that you are correct even when you are not is a form of certainty. St. Martin’s Press, New York, New York, 2009. 4.Walter Apfalter, Neurotheology: What Can We Expect from a (Future) Catholic Version? (What Can We Expect from a (Future) Catholic Version?) 163–74 in Theology and Science, volume 7, number 2, 2009.

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  5. Page 7 of Cleveland, Ohio’s Pilgrim Press’ 1997 book.
  6. New York: Springer-Verlag, 2001.
  7. Part of the brain devoted to God, according to Alphar M.


In the Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience, D’Aquili EG and Newberg AB have investigated the biological basis of religious experience.

11.Damasio AR.The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness.

Harcourt Incorporated, San Diego, California, 2000.


Clémentb, R.

The New Frontier of Religion and Science: Religious Experience, Neuroscience, and the Transcendent.

Hick, J.

Pages 58–62 of Palgrave Macmillan’s The New Yorker, published in 2010.

McKinney, “Neurotheology: Virtual Religion in the Twenty-First Century,” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol.

Fontana, D.

Sim MK, Tsoi WF.


Sim MK, Tsoi WF.


The effects of centrally acting medications on the EEG correlates of meditation have been studied in this study.

Handbook of Religion and Health.


Handbook of Religion and Health.

Exploring Consciousness.

Exploring Consciousness.

The influence of spiritual beliefs on the outcome of sickness. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004. pp. 44–7.20.King M, Speck P, Thomas A. The effect of spiritual beliefs on the outcome of illness. In 1999, the Journal of Social Science and Medicine published 48 (9):1291–9.

The neuroscience of religious and spiritual experience

We feature goods that we believe will be of interest to our readers. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of the links on this page, we may receive a small commission. Here’s how we went about it. Although the existence or nonexistence of a supernatural force is a question of personal opinion, the neurophysiological impacts of religious belief are scientific realities that can be studied with precision. In this section, we’ll look at some of the consequences that have been discovered via recent study.

  • Religious belief can help us live longer lives and manage more effectively with illness and sickness.
  • Scientists have proposed that religious experience engages the same brain pathways as are activated by sex and drugs, for example.
  • As a result of these findings, it is exciting to speculate about how religion influences health and vice versa.
  • Will being in possession of the correct scientific facts allow us to create the illusion of a heavenly experience if a divine experience is proven to be biologically predetermined?
  • While researchers may not yet have all of the answers, parts of the puzzle are beginning to fit together to build a scientific picture of divinity that is shaping out to be quite different from the images of divinity that we find in religious texts.
  • Andrew Newberg, who is a professor of neuroscience at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital in Villanova, Pennsylvania and the director of the Research Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at the same institution.
  • During meditation, the frontal lobe of the brain (seen above in red) is more active than usual.

Andrew Newberg is the photographer who captured this image.

The researcher, who literally “authored the book” on neurotheology, draws on his countless studies to demonstrate that both meditating Buddhists and praying Catholic nuns, for example, have greater activity in the frontal lobes of the brain, according to the researcher.

Prayer and meditation are also associated with reduced activity in the parietal lobes, which are important for processing temporal and spatial orientation, according to research.

Other religious activities, on the other hand, may have the opposite impact on the same brain locations.

Newberg’s research, reduces activity in the prefrontal cortex and the frontal lobes that are connected to it, as well as activity in the parietal lobes, according to Dr.

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It has long been assumed that the prefrontal cortex is involved in executive control, sometimes known as willful conduct, as well as decision-making.

As Medical News Today reported in a recent research, religion engages the same reward-processing brain circuits that are active during addictive behaviors like sex, drugs, and other addictive activities.

Participants who were devoutly religious exhibited greater activity in the nucleus accumbens of the brain.

Jeff Anderson is the photographer who captured this image.

Jeff Anderson, Ph.D., of the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, studied the brains of 19 young Mormons using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.

We participate in sexual activities, listen to music, gamble, and use drugs because these pleasure and reward-processing brain regions are activated as a result of these actions.

‘When our study participants were instructed to think about a savior, about spending eternity with their loved ones, and about their heavenly rewards, their brains and bodies literally responded,’ says Michael Ferguson, the study’s first author.

These findings are consistent with previous research, which revealed that engaging in spiritual activities increases levels of serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, as well as endorphins.

Recent advancements in neuroimaging methods have allowed us to have a better understanding of how our brains “produce” a spiritual or mystical experience for us.

Doctor Anderson explains that “brain imaging technology have improved in ways that allow us to tackle problems that have been debated for millennia” in the last few years.

James Giordano of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is of the opinion that According to him, “we are even able to comprehend when someone enters ‘ecstasy mode,'” and to pinpoint particular brain regions that are involved in this process.

Giordano, in an interview with Medium, “when activity in the networks of the superior parietal cortexor our prefrontal cortex grows or drops, our body borders shift.” His claims are supported by research.

“These regions of the brain manage our sense of self in connection to other things in the environment, as well as our physical integrity; this is why many individuals who have had mystical experiences report experiencing ‘out of body’ and ‘extended self’ sensations and perceptions.” Distinguished Professor James Giordano “If ‘beings’ become involved in the mystical experience,” Prof.

  1. Newberg’s research has also discovered that the parietal lobes are the portions of the brain that have lower levels of activity during prayer.
  2. Pin it to your Pinterest board.
  3. Dr.
  4. In the 1990s, Dr.
  5. This is a technology that is capable of simulating religious experiences by activating the tempoparietal lobes of a person’s brain using magnetic field stimulation.
  6. Persinger’s investigations revealed that around 20 religious persons — or less than one percent of the participants — reported experiencing the presence of God or seeing him in the room while wearing the device during the trial.

Persinger said of the trials, “I assume most individuals would refer to the ‘vague, all-around-me’ experiences as ‘God,’ but they are hesitant to use that name in a laboratory setting.” In other words, if the apparatus and experiment generated the presence that was Deity, then the extrapersonal, unreachable, and autonomous aspects of the god definition may be called into question.” Dr.

  • Dr.
  • “We have to be careful about how comparable such experiences are,” he cautioned regarding the similarities between them.
  • If we get a greater knowledge of these approaches and their impacts, we may be able to figure out how to improve their effects, whether it’s psychedelics or the God helmet, Dr.
  • Meanwhile, neuroscientists are continuing to put up significant effort in order to better understand what occurs in the religious brain.

Newberg, “despite how much the field has evolved, we are simply scraping the surface of what is possible.” The professor shared with us some of the paths he believes this study may take in the future, stating that “eurotheology can 1) investigate how religion and spirituality influence physical and mental health in terms of beliefs and behaviors.” Furthermore, neurotheology is able to “assist in the creation of therapeutic techniques to assist persons suffering from a variety of illnesses, including neurological and psychiatric problems,” according to its website.

At the end of the day, we can only hope that neuroscience will offer us with some much-needed answers to “age-old epistemological concerns about the nature of reality,” consciousness, and spirituality.

It is not possible because of the architecture of our brains, according to Dr.

Newberg, and religion meets demands that our brains are intended to have. “I would suggest that religion and spirituality will remain with us for a long time unless and until our brain experiences a fundamental shift.” Dr. Andrew Newberg is a neurologist who specializes in pain management.

Spiritual science: how a new perspective on consciousness could help us understand ourselves

Since the beginning of time, scientists have attempted to comprehend human consciousness — the subjective “stuff” of ideas and experiences that exists within our minds. Prior to the discovery of quantum mechanics, it was assumed that consciousness is formed by our brains and that in order to comprehend it, we just needed to figure out how the brain works. However, this assumption poses certain concerns. There are some unusual mismatches between consciousness and brain activity, which is in addition to the fact that decades of study and theorizing have failed to throw any major light on the subject.

  • It is possible to identify neurons connected with conscious experience in specific sections of the brain, but other neurons do not appear to have any effect on it in any way.
  • Imagine holding a human brain in your hand and finding it to be a sloppy knot of grey matter that feels like putty and weighs roughly 1.3kg.
  • The richness and depth of your conscious experience can only come about because of the richness and depth of this grey, squishy substance.
  • The assumption that consciousness is directly formed by brain processes has been rejected by many prominent philosophers (such as David Chalmers and Thomas Nagel) and scientists (such as Christoph Koch and Tononi) as a result of this development.
  • Even if this appears to be far-fetched, consider the other “fundamentals” of the cosmos that we take for granted, such as gravitation and mass.

Fundamental explanations

One of the reasons I support this approach is because the concept of consciousness as a basic characteristic provides elegant answers to a wide range of problems that are difficult to explain using the conventional scientific paradigm. This theory can explain several things, starting with the link between the brain and consciousness. Instead of producing consciousness, the brain serves as a type of receiver, “picking up” the underlying awareness that exists all around us and “transmitting” it into our individual existence.

  • If we assume that consciousness is produced by the brain, one of the grounds for this assumption is that if the brain is harmed, consciousness is affected or altered.
  • Although a radio does not create the music that is broadcast via it, if it is destroyed, the radio’s capacity to transmit the music will be affected.
  • Altruism is difficult to explain if we consider ourselves to be nothing more than genetic robots, only concerned with the survival and spread of our genes, as many scientists believe we are.
  • There must be some advantage to us in the latter circumstances, even if we are not conscious of it, from a traditional standpoint, even if we are not aware of it.
  • However, it appears that these ideas fall short of explaining the whole breadth and depth of human generosity.
  • Altruism is frequently quick and spontaneous, particularly in times of crisis, as if it were a deeply natural response to the circumstance.
  • It has something to do with empathy.

In light of the fact that we share fundamental awareness with other species, it is also conceivable for us to feel empathy for – and to act altruistically towards – them.

When we have interactions with fundamental awareness, I believe that we are sensing its existence in everything around us, including our own selves, at that time.

A similar problem exists in conventional science in explaining the profound influence of mental purpose and belief on the body (as illustrated by the placebo effect and the pain numbing effects of hypnosis).

That would be equivalent to claiming that visuals shown on a computer screen have the ability to alter the software or hardware contained within the machine.

As a result, it has the potential to change the way the body functions.

For example, as I discuss in my book Spiritual Science, it is possible that the greatest method to comprehend the universe is not through science or spirituality alone – but rather through a combined approach that incorporates both.


In religion and philosophy, the soul is the immaterial aspect or essence of a human person, the aspect or essence that grants uniqueness and humanity, and is sometimes thought to be identical with the mind or one’s own consciousness. In theology, the soul is further described as that portion of the individual who participates in divinity and is typically regarded to survive the death of the physical body after it has died. There are numerous civilizations that have acknowledged some incorporeal principle of human life or existence that corresponds to the soul, and many of these traditions have assigned souls to all living creatures.

  • Contrary to popular belief in the existence of a soul, several religious and philosophical schools of thought have evolved a range of beliefs on how it works, how it interacts with one’s physical body, and where it comes from and where it goes after death.
  • The immortality of the soul according to Christianity Human humans appear to have had some idea of a shadowy counterpart who lives on after the death of the physical body from the beginning of time.
  • Ancient peoples such as the Egyptians and the Chinese believed in the existence of a dual spirit.
  • The Chinese made a distinction between a lower, sensitive soul that perishes with death and a higher, rational principle, thehun, that survives the grave and is the focus of ancestor worship.
  • All biblical allusions to the soul are connected to the notion of breath, and there is no separation between theetherealsoul and the corporeal body in these passages.
  • Gregory of Nyssa and St.
  • Ancient Greek conceptions of the soul differed significantly depending on the period and philosophical school in which they were developed.

The soul, according to the Platonists, was an immaterial and incorporeal substance that was comparable to the gods while still being a part of the universe of change and becoming.

With his description of the soul as a “rider” on the body, St.

During the Middle Ages, St.

From the Middle Ages onward, the presence and nature of the soul, as well as the nature of the soul’s connection to the body, remained a source of contention in Western philosophy.

According to the philosopher Benedict de Spinoza, the body and the spirit were two facets of a same reality.

According to William James, until the beginning of the twentieth century, the soul as such did not exist at all, but was instead only a collection of psychological events.

Ancient Greek religious beliefs were diverse and changed throughout time, according to historians.

In addition, Plato and Socrates believed in the immortality of the soul, although Aristotle believed that just a portion of the soul, known as theoûs, or intelligence, has this property.

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The Greek notion of the soul’s immortality was embraced by the early Christian philosophers, who believed that the soul was formed by God and infused into the body at conception.

However, thejiva-atman is likewise everlasting, but at birth he is imprisoned in an earthly body.

According to some Hindus, the cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) is endless, while others believe it lasts only until the soul has achieved karmic perfection and therefore merges with the Absolute (brahman).

The Muslim notion, like the Christian model, argues that the soul is created at the same time as the body and that it then has a life of its own, with the body’s union with the soul only being a transient state. Matt Stefon has made the most current revisions and updates to this page.

A reason to believe

According to some psychologists, religious ideas are pathological, a term that dates back to Sigmund Freud. They regard religion as a cancerous social force that supports illogical thinking and repetitive habits. Of fact, psychologists’ reservations — as well as those expressed by many others throughout history — have done little to diminish religion’s tremendous hold on mankind today. Religion has been around for more than 100,000 years and continues to thrive today. Every culture has some form of religious belief, with more than 85 percent of the world’s population professing some form of religious belief.

It is becoming increasingly clear that religion may, in fact, be a byproduct of the way our brains function, arising from cognitive tendencies to seek order from chaos, to anthropomorphize our environment, and to believe that the world around us was created specifically for our benefit and enjoyment.

It’s difficult, says psychologist Justin Barrett, PhD, director of the cognition, religion, and theology project in the Centre for Anthropology and Mind at Oxford University, “to then build the case that religion is a pathology if we’re on the right track with this byproduct idea — and the findings are really starting to pile up.”

Predisposed to believe

According to Barrett, there is no single cognitive tendency that underpins all of our religious views. The impulse for religious beliefs, according to him, is “basically just your fundamental, garden-variety cognitive processes.” Those cognitions are linked by the fact that they cause us to perceive the world as a place with an intentional design, one that has been made by someone or something. According to a series of research conducted by Boston University psychologist Deborah Keleman, PhD, young children, for example, are more likely than adults to believe that even little components of the natural world were created with a purpose.

According to study, adults also seek significance in their lives, particularly during times of uncertainty.

322, No.

According to the researchers, this study shows that people are predisposed to notice indications and patterns in the environment they live in.

As a result of his research, he has discovered that children as young as three years old naturally attribute supernatural abilities and immortality to “God,” even if they have never been taught about God, and that they tell elaborate stories about their lives prior to birth, which Barrett refers to as “pre-life.” We’re demonstrating that our fundamental cognitive equipment predisposes us to certain types of thinking, which results in beliefs in a pre-life, an afterlive and gods as well as the existence of invisible beings that are doing things — themes that are common to most of the world’s religions, according to Barrett.

This foundational equipment includes a memory system that appears to be unusually adept at recalling the types of narrative found in many religious texts, according to preliminary findings.

The memory of notions that ranged from obvious — a grazing cow — to mildly counterintuitive — a cursing frog — to exceedingly counterintuitive (a shrieking blossoming brick) was examined in one research published in 2006 in Cognitive Science(Vol.


As Norenzayan, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, explains, this finding was replicated in both American college students and Maya villagers from the Mexican Yucatan, indicating that stories with a few minimally counterintuitive elements, such as those found in many religious stories, are more easily remembered and, presumably more readily transmitted from person to person.

Instead, they were most likely used for other adaptive functions.

As Atran points out, it was probably preferable for us to make the incorrect assumption that the wind was actually a lion rather than ignore the rustling and endanger our lives in the process.

According to Atran, head of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, when taken together, it’s simple to understand how these cognitive tendencies may lead our minds to build religions based on the concept of supernatural entities that keep an eye on our every move.

People, according to psychologist Dr.

APA Division 36 President, Dr.

This work, if nothing else, serves to remind us that we are full persons, with biological and psychological as well as social, cultural, and spiritual aspects that are all interconnected.

Neural underpinnings

According to Jordan Grafman, PhD, director of the cognitive neuroscience department at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, neuroscience research supports the premise that the brain is predisposed to believe. According to him, this inclination is widespread across the brain and is most likely the result of neuronal circuits that were originally designed for various purposes. According to Grafman, who will be joining the Kessler Foundation in West Orange, New Jersey, in January to direct a traumatic brain injury research laboratory, “the concept that there is a ‘God spot’ in the brain where religious ideas and sentiments develop has generally been dismissed.” Grafman performed an fMRI research in 2009 demonstrating that religious beliefs stimulate the part of the brain responsible for understanding the emotions and intentions of others — a skill known as theory of mind — when they are experienced.

  1. Grafman and his colleagues discovered that when participants heard phrases such as “God’s will guides my actions” and “God protects one’s life,” areas of the brain involved in theory of mind lit up.
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  3. Danish researchers discovered that the same brain regions were activated when religious individuals prayed in a 2009 study published in Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience(Vol.
  4. 2), according to the findings of the study.
  5. Furthermore, he asserts that contemplation is not restricted to religious thought, despite the fact that some traditions such as prayer or meditation may necessitate specific types of mental processes.
  6. What distinguishes religion from banal thoughts about one’s parents, according to University of Wisconsin psychologist Richard Davidson, PhD, are contemplative traditions such as meditation and prayer, which have the capacity to alter the way the brain is wired among frequent practitioners.
  7. In essence, meditation — and possibly any contemplative spiritual practice — increases attention while simultaneously turning off the parts of the brain that are preoccupied with one’s own thoughts and feelings.

ERN (error-related negativity) is a brain wave created by the anterior cingulate cortex that spikes when people make mistakes, and his research focuses on this brain wave in particular.

“When we make a mistake, it is stimulating and causes a little sense of worry.” Psychological Science(Vol.

3), published this year, examined the occurrence of this “uh-oh” response among persons who completed a typical color-naming Stroop task as part of his research.

“They’re more composed and elegant under pressure,” says Inzlicht of the women.

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It was discovered that individuals who wrote about religion had a lower ERN response than those who wrote about something that made them joyful.

As a result of its ability to “explain” occurrences we don’t comprehend, religion, according to Inzlicht, may have a calming impact on individuals in general, making them more tranquil.

“This difference occurs in only a few hundredths of a second, but we believe it can lead to an entire lifetime of being calmer.” According to Plante, editor of the book “Contemplative Practices in Action: Spirituality, Meditation, and Health,” these findings are consistent with a substantial body of research and clinical reports showing religious persons are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than the general population (APA, 2010).

In Plante’s words, “adaptive spiritual practices can operate as a counterbalance to anxiety and despair.” The possession of spiritual beliefs may also result in living a longer and better life.

According to psychologist Michael McCullough, PhD, of the University of Miami, Inzlicht’s study may give a partial explanation for these findings. Inzlicht is a professor of psychology at the university.


Religion, according to Norenzayan, may also serve an important function in that it permits people to exist in vast, cooperative communities. In fact, the employment of religion as a social tool may account for a significant portion of its longevity and cross-cultural prevalence. “Religion is one of the most significant solutions that human civilizations have discovered for causing unrelated persons to be pleasant to one another,” adds Norenzayan. Specifically, according to his findings, religion motivates individuals to be more philanthropic by encouraging believe in a divine entity that works to benefit all of humanity.

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Another set of participants was tasked with the task of unscrambling religiously neutral terms.

Interestingly, the researchers discovered that people who were primed with religious sentiments contributed an average of $2.38 more than the other participants, on average.

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He demonstrated that, when playing economic games with strangers, persons who engaged in a global religion were more fair toward strangers than people who did not participate in a world religion across 15 various nations.

This is because God is looking at you.” It is also consistent with the theoretical work of University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt, PhD, and his former graduate student Jesse Graham PhD, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Southern California.

They argue in a paper published in February in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review (Vol.

1) that religion and morality co-evolved as a method to link people together into big moral societies as they progressed through time.

Early religions employed rituals to publicly display their moral concerns, such as banning specific foods such as pig and dressing in attire to symbolize modesty, to demonstrate their moral concerns.

Those religious practices are still practiced today.

“While religion may bring people together in certain ways, it can also produce significant splits,” he adds.

Much of the world’s turmoil and bloodshed is caused by distrust, which is one of the reasons why the “new atheists,” notably evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, PhD, and neurologist Sam Harris, PhD, want religion to be eliminated entirely.

Norenzayan believes that secular communities established on a common moral foundation might be a viable alternative to religious communities.

Nonetheless, such communities will still require many of the components of religion, including the conviction that we are all members of the same moral community and, as a result, should make sacrifices that are beneficial to society in general.

“As the research matures and we incorporate other areas of psychology, I believe we’ll have a greater understanding of the nature of religion and where it could be headed,” says the researcher. Beth Azar is a writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family.

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