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Are you hardwired for God?

William Tamulonis

Created date

December 20th, 2011

What is the Dalai Lama, Nobel Prize winner and spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, doing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Over the past two decades, neuroscientists have investigated how the workings of the mind are related to the meditation of the soul. Their methods include slipping Tibeten monks and Carmelite nuns into MRI machines to trace brain function, and taking pictures of the brain with SPECT cameras while they pray and meditate. Many in this new field of neurotheology conclude that spirituality is an innate aspect of being human.

Neurological basis for religion?

Intense meditation and prayer activates the dreaming part of the brain, so that practitioners lose their sense of space, time, and body. Also, the part of the brain that focuses on the self is less active, creating a sense of egolessness and connection with something larger and outside of the self. Neurotheologians speak of God neurons, God neurotransmitters, and God genes that hardwire us to believe in a supreme being. They claim that there is a neurological basis for religion, because if thinking about God changes the way the brain works, there must be an inherent neural predisposition to believe in God in the first place. Neuroscientist Rhawn Joseph explains: Spiritual experience is not based on superstition but is instead real, biological, and part of our primitive biological drives. You don t develop a brain structure to help you experience something that doesn t exist. Other neurotheologians are not concerned about proving the existence of God, but simply understanding more about the practices and roles of spirituality in the human experience. Their findings are used to teach more effective prayer and meditation techniques, improve memory, promote overall health and well-being, and even treat emotional disorders. Neurotheologians are hardly the first to assert that people are hardwired for God. Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and are restless til they rest in Thine, wrote St. Augustine. Blaise Pascal spoke of the infinite abyss in human hearts that can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself. King Solomon put it this way: God has set eternity in their heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). What are your favorite ways of practicing prayer and meditation? Please share them with me by regular mail at 703 Maiden Choice Lane, Catonsville, MD 21228, or email at