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Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief
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Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  885 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Why have we humans always longed to connect with something larger than ourselves? Even today in our technologically advanced age, more than seventy percent of Americans claim to believe in God. Why, in short, won’t God go away? In this groundbreaking new book, researchers Andrew Newberg and Eugene d’Aquili offer an explanation that is at once profoundly simple and ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by Ballantine Books (first published 2001)
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Kayson Fakhar
Nov 06, 2014 Kayson Fakhar rated it liked it
if its a nonfiction book where are the references?
if its not why there is academic names in it?
This book was well researched and, for the most part, well argued. In many of my other readings on the subject, I'd come across references to the fMRI work that Newberg and D'Aquili had done with Tibetan monks and Franciscan nuns, so I expected this books to take a largely scientific approach to the topic of religious and spiritual behavior and was not disappointed. On the plus side Newberg and D'Aquili postulate plausible pathways by which the brain generates various spiritual experiences, and ...more
Scott Hayden
Sep 03, 2012 Scott Hayden rated it liked it
Fascinating biology.

Predictable evolutionary thought; neo-Freudian in an odd sort of way - religion boils down to ancient sexual impulses that developed into something beyond ourselves. (Of course, everything in biological evolution must harken to survival or reproduction.)

At least the author was honest. I was "mocking" him in the margins through many parts of the book refering to him and his as "the priesthood". Later he admitted that his own scientific explanations were indeed a kind of "myth
Liz Miller
Jan 17, 2016 Liz Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommended
I just finished this book for my Sociology of Religion course (and now I just have to write the 10 page review of it...). Overall, I liked it. I found that Newberg was quite redundant though, saying the same think a couple times in a matter of pages. Using repetition in one's writing is a rhetorical device, but it can be overused, and I say that Newberg overused that device. Beyond that, I would say that it was overall quite interesting and better than many other scientific books that I have ...more
Apr 19, 2013 Pat rated it liked it
Goes over the history of myth and ritual. The author investigated how meditation and prayer performed by Buddist monks and Catholic nuns led to low stress hormones in the brain.
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Sep 07, 2008 ♥ Ibrahim ♥ rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NONE
He pushes the arguments; he has the hypothesis in his mind as he likes it and then uses experiences of all kinds of people as if they substantiate a scientific fact.
Aug 17, 2016 Ryan rated it really liked it
This book although highly interesting, is a book that must be read with critical faculties fully on the alert. It begins with a neural imaging study done on a Buddhist monk at the peak of meditation. The authors find significant an interesting patterns of brain activity which they also find subsequently in other Tibetan Buddhist meditators and in scans of Franciscan nuns at prayer.from this and an apparently somewhat cursory reading of mystic literature from a variety of traditions they attempt ...more
Sep 26, 2016 Jacqueline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
Well this is an exceptional book and I learned a great deal from it about the way the brain processes spiritual experiences.
Steven Peterson
Oct 06, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it liked it
This book explores the relationship between the brain's functioning and religion and myth. The authors note that (page 8): "Gradually, we shaped a hypothesis that suggests that spiritual experience, at its very root, is intimately interwoven with human biology. That biology, in some way, compels the spiritual urge." In short (page 9), "We will examine the biological drive that compels us to make myths, and the neurological machinery that gives these myths shape and power."

In the study of evolut
Lee Harmon
Apr 10, 2011 Lee Harmon rated it really liked it
A single quote from this book probably explains all we need to know about why God won’t go away:

So impressive are the health benefits of religion … that after reviewing more than a thousand studies on the impact of religion upon health, Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University Medical Center recently told The New Republic, that “Lack of religious involvement has an effect on mortality that is equivalent to forty years of smoking one pack of cigarettes per day.

What more evidence do we need that evolu
May 27, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it
I really liked the brain science of this book, as well as the anthropology angle. There is a lot of speculation involved in their hypothesis, as there must be when anyone is trying to read what was going on in the mind of early man. But I believe it is a carefully balanced middle ground between the scientific question and the spiritual one. Anyone who is entirely in one camp or the other might not appreciate how this book marries the two.

I am both of the scientific and spiritual mind myself, and
Jul 17, 2013 Daniel rated it liked it
Through a study of neurological activities in the human brain for those who are having religious experiences, the author tries to present a scientific base for a reality that unites all religion as well as the traditional scientific view of the world.

However, the experiences in which the person feels unified with the rest of the world is presented as "real" in the sense the observed brain activities, given our understanding of its components' functions, matches the descriptions of those experien
Kevin Bessey
Jan 02, 2013 Kevin Bessey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book on the subject of neurotheology and I thought a great attempt at strengthening the playing field between science and religion. There was a great balance of neurology that made the reading very easy rather than cumbersome - you didn't need an MD to understand what the author was describing.

My only fault with the book is that it seems to push the idea of 'mysticism' which probably doesn't sit will with monotheistic groups such as Christians and Muslims; however I think it did
Mar 02, 2010 Eric rated it it was amazing
This book was very thought provoking. I expected it to be more of a Dawkinian approach to squash religion with science, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it has a much more even-handed approach to the traditional dichotomy, making a real concerted effort to bridge the divide. The book basically centers around the attention and orientation centers of the brain, and the principle that certain events/behaviors can deafferent them (or shut them down), providing an extra-sensory experience. ...more
Trey Nowell
Apr 13, 2014 Trey Nowell rated it it was amazing
A good read that should not take someone terribly long. Goes over the understanding of how the brain works very well, the nature of consciousness mixed with spirituality, discusses mysticism in depth, utilizes empirical data and studies from accredited universities, etc. all in relation to how we perceive God in the brain. I kind of wanted more out of the conclusion than just the mystical interpretation, but nonetheless the book kept my interest. I think this book is more in defense for those ...more
Oct 27, 2015 Drick rated it really liked it
Shelves: theological, science
This pas summer I participated in a research project conducted by Andrew Newberg, exploring the impact of spiritual practices on the brain. This interested me in his work and so I picked up this book. In his story of the processes of the brain, Dr. Newberg has isolated certain brain functions that accompany mystical or contemplative practices. While Newberg points out that he is only measuring the brain's functioning in a spiritual experience, and can not prove the existence of God, he makes a ...more
Jul 07, 2012 Adam rated it really liked it
Pros: Newberg uses his subjects' (of experimentation) personal stories with just the right amount of description and intrigue without distracting from the science being reported in the book. As he reports on the results of experiments with humans engaged in meditation and prayer, he is always respectful of their beliefs while writing about them. His discoveries are interesting and will hopefully be a good start to a long and happy marriage between neuroscience and religion. (I can't wait to read ...more
Jun 08, 2016 Trevor added it
A very compelling argument for the neurological basis of humanity's historical assumption -- across all cultures and borders -- of an omnipresent deity. The only factor preventing me from giving the book four stars is that, by necessity, the reading is somewhat technical in nature, though the authors do their best to make the book accessible to laypersons with little scientific background. As such, you occasionally find yourself rereading passages that you just completed, since brain terminology ...more
Oct 06, 2011 Leigh rated it liked it
Shelves: 2006
The authors posit that our brain is neurologically capable of attaining a state where boundaries between self and other are no longer recognizable. They call this Absolute Unitary Being and say that this state has been attained by mystics and called "God." They also say that this experience of unity is real because it is experienced by the brain as real, and therefore God is real. They don't really delve into quantum mechanics, but what they seem to be saying is that the brain is capable of ...more
Apr 13, 2007 Gene rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: tk, dwayne, william
This book was written by a group of scientists in Canada trying to understand what conditions lead to spiritual experiences. They studied Bhuddist monks and Franciscan nuns with MRI machines, and learned that there are 4 states of over/understimulation that lead to profound spiritual experiences and feelings of unity.

I loved this book, and thought it was so profound that I actually caused me to have a bit of a spiritual experience while reading it. To some degree.

I list the other three books tha
Feb 10, 2008 Carmen rated it it was amazing
I read this as a part of a class I took in college regarding the psychology of religion and, as a current agnostic and then-atheist this book changed the way I view religion as a whole and the way I regard/interact with devoutly or fanatically religious individuals. Anyone who has ever wondered "wtf are they thinking" when seeing someone speaking in tongues in a church service (which, I'm sure, is many of us...) MUST read this book.

As a sidenote- it's not a light-read and takes some concentratio
Oct 14, 2008 Elizabeth rated it liked it
This book is by a couple of brain scientists who describe what is happening in someone's brain when they have a mystical experience. The question at the heart of the book: "Either spiritual experience is nothing more than a neurological construct created by and contained within the brain, or the state of absolute union that the mystics describe does in fact exist and the mind has developed the capability to perceive it." Fascinating, but a little dense -- I kept putting it down for months at a ...more
Feb 07, 2008 Alb rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in religion and science
At times it is slightly repetitive in an academic way (clearly states the thesis repeatedly) but there is enough variety in topics (meditation, myth,personal gods) to keep it interesting. The background in brain physiology was so clearly explained it made me feel smart while I was reading it (but don't quiz me on it now, please). Overall the authors make a sound, thoughtful argument for the biological capacity for spiritual experiences that is thought provoking and inspiring.
Jun 23, 2013 Jesus rated it it was amazing
Este libro contiene uno de los primeros acercamientos bien fundamentados a la neuroteología. Presenta de manera muy clara los mecanismos neurológicos que se activan durante los estados de misticismo. Con base en esto plantea una reconciliación de la ciencia con la religión, así como la gran relación que existe en el fondo entre las diversas religiones.

Es la segunda vez que lo leo y me sigue pareciendo excelente.
Nov 09, 2007 Clare rated it really liked it
I did some research in college into the cognitive neuroscience of Buddhist meditation, and so was drawn to this book instantly - and the research behind this book on that topic alone is utterly fascinating (and I hope accurate). But it also goes into many other areas like mysticism, ritual and myth. Would be great for people into anthropology (many references to cross-cultural symbols and religions) and Carl Jung's psychological theories about the collective unconscious.
Jul 02, 2009 Judith rated it liked it
I liked this book because it attempts to bring biology into the question of faith. The author proposes that our brains provide friendly soil in which to plant the God concept. Thus he reasons that we believe in God because there is brain chemistry which supports this belief. And God must have put that notion into that part of our brains so we would believe in Him. It probably makes more sense than any other book i have read on the subject.
Kylene Jones
Apr 27, 2015 Kylene Jones rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, science
Interesting book on the physiology of our brains when we meditate or pray. I read this for a book club for my Skeptic group. Not a real fast read but very interesting, especially if you are science minded. The book doesn't end up saying one way or the other whether god is a figment of our imagination or real.
Nov 02, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
Written before Why We Believe What We Believe, this is a book about the research done on brain anatomy and mysticism. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, having already read the later book (just recently published, and more thorough).

Both of these books are very well thought-out and written. I highly recommend them.
Ron Krumpos
Jul 12, 2014 Ron Krumpos rated it really liked it
"Why God Won't Go Away" is one of the books in the primary bibliography of my free ebook on comparative mysticism. "The greatest achievement in life" at has been reviewed on Goodreads.

Dr. Eugene D'Aquili has seven books on Goodreads. I have also read ""The Mystical Mind."
Nov 11, 2007 Nasim rated it liked it
I didn't finish this book. I don't think it was as intriguing as I expected. I am personally an atheist with interests in the sciences, but I am interested in how religion affects people including why they believe even after we have learned so much of the science behind evolution and the universe, etc. I expected to be drawn in much more strongly than I was.
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Dr. Andrew Newberg is Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College. He is also Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Board-certified in Internal Medicine and Nuclear Medicine. He is considered a pioneer in the neuroscientific study of ...more
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