Human beings are the only known group of living things who have developed the concept of ‘Religion’. Any religious path we wish to explore, guides us nearby to an undefined endless power where our soul can feel liberation. Many religious practices are known to heal human dilemma, anxiety, fear, hatred and other imbalances. But it has its dark side to leave long term or permanent negative impacts on mind. Scientific understanding of these human inclinations or changes are being vastly analysed in Neurotheology – A part of Neuroscience that studies various brain activity on religious behaviour.
Neurotheological explanations on religion are introduced during late 20th and early 21st century. This is a great advancement achieved in this area to note how human brain creates impression in our mind while performing religious activities, such as, prayers, meditations, rituals and others. These are extensive researches that are being done using latest Neuroscience brain scanning tools. Neurotheology aims towards finding explanations for the human state of mind that creates an answer of an inexplicable event or feeling while performing a religious practice.
Major Achievement: Work of Dr Andrew Newberg based on the brain scanning results he found for the religious practices of praying nuns, meditating Buddhist monks, Sikhs singing their prayers led him to define Neurotheology as a subject to connect Neuroscience with Religion and Theology.
Methodologies of Neurotheological Explanations on Religion
After researching on various religious practices and rituals where human mind reaches a state that is normally uncommon, Neurotheological Scientists have given their conclusions. This branch of study gives us a scope to know and explain the reasons of occurring behavioural changes, lifestyle shift, change of psychology and society out of religious influence on brain. Neurotheological concepts are established with the ideas of these four theories:
a) Neuroscientific Conceptions:
- Reductionist Theory: According to this theory, religion and its practices are the formations of human mind created to explain anything that is beyond the reach of human reasoning or unclear to understand. That is, this theory does not consider religion to build a stable interpretable mental set up. Rather, it is a kind of mental disorder while interacting with mysterious events. Also, such brain activities on religious behaviour are usually a consequence of a particular recurring human behaviour. For example, long term fatigue, sleeplessness, depression, fear can be reasons for the brain to form a religious belief.
- Religionist Theory: This theory is built with counter thoughts of Reductionist Theory, where Neurotheological explanations on religion are obtained from valid neural responses. With this theory, scientists are able to interpret conscious brain activity on religious behaviour. Here, researchers use neurotheological brain scanning procedure on human samples while in their religious practices. Scientific works of Dr Andrew Newberg and Eugene d’Aquilli come under this area of observation. According to them, it is possible to obtain rational brain mapping for religious activities. Thus, it is possible to deduct valid religious influence on brain through neurotheological brain scanning. Unlike the conclusion of Reductionist Theory, Religionist Theory confirms a stable and well defined brain’s imaging on religion to impact human behaviour. Religionist Theory can explain the state of mind’s liberation with well defined neural reactions.
b) Theological Conceptions:
- Apologetic Theory: This theory states that normal human brain is able to receive and perceive information collected from various life events. Consequently, our mind distinctly responds to religious events that a person encounters in life to build its brain set up. Further extending this idea, we can establish human mind’s ability to define a ‘Supreme Power’ as a resource for extraordinary occurrences. This perception, according to Apologetic theory, can also generate human spiritual motivation for enlightenment.
- Integrative Theory: This theory talks about integrating neurotheological concepts with the fundamentals of theological concepts to help in explaining brain’s creative activity on religious behaviour. This theory intends theology to work collaterally with neurotheological explanations on religion to understand the spiritual facts and readings collected by them. In their works, Andrew Newbery and Eugene d’Aquilli have identified brain’s cognitive operators, most importantly, Causal and Holistic operators as the important functional elements in creating perceptions for religious influence on brain. Causal operator generates a sequence of assumptive reasoning to analyse spiritual experiences and Holistic operator acts in reaching to a specific spiritual states.