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This Is Your Brain, Praying

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When Andrew Newberg’s book on the brain science behind religious and mystical experience turned up on the cover of Newsweek, it sparked a lively debate about God, evolution, and the meaning of life. This “neurotheologist’s” work is moving fast, so we caught up on his personal quest to understand the mysterious workings of mind and spirit, his latest research, and its profound implications for our daily lives.

This article appeared in our February 2004 issue. When Andrew Newberg, M.D., was a little kid, he had questions so pressing that they would wake him in the middle of the night, get him out of bed, and lead him into his father’s den. How do we know God exists? he would ask. Why is there good and evil? How do I know what’s real? “It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was five years old when I started asking these questions,” says Newberg, co-author of the acclaimed book Why God Won’t Go Away. Not the musings of an average youngster. Then again, there is nothing average about Newberg, who at 36 is a professor of nuclear medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, a radiologist at the university hospital, and the leading light in the field of neurotheology, the brain science behind spiritual and religious experience. Newberg’s exploration of neurotheology is based on a decade of intellectual partnership with Eugene D’Aquili, M.D., a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania with a doctorate in anthropology, whom Newberg describes as “the most brilliant man I’ve ever met.” D’Aquili, wh …

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