Technical advances in the life and medical sciences have revolutionised our understanding of the brain, while the emerging disciplines of social, cognitive, and affective neuroscience continue to reveal the connections of the higher cognitive functions and emotional states associated with religious experience to underlying brain states. At the same time, a host of developing theories in psychology and anthropology posit evolutionary explanations for the ubiquity and persistence of religious beliefs and the reports of religious experiences across human cultures, while gesturing toward physical bases for these behaviours. What is missing from this literature is a strong voice speaking to these behavioural and social scientists - as well as to the intellectually curious in the religious studies community - from the perspective of a brain scientist.
Dr Patrick McNamara is an Associate Professor of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. He has previously edited the three-volume series on religion and the brain entitled Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter our Understanding of Religion. He is the recipient of a VA Merit Review Award for the study of Parkinson Disease and several National Institutes of Health awards for the study of sleep mechanisms. Dr McNamara is a member of the American Psychological Association, Division 36, Psychology of Religion; the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion; the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion; and the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.
1. Religion as seen through the eyes of the self; 2. On the self and the divided self; 3. Mechanisms and dynamics of decentering; 4. Neurology of the self; 5. Neurology of religious experiences; 6. Neurochemistry of religiosity; 7. Self-transformation as a key function of performance of religious practices; 8. Self-transformation through spirit possession; 9. God concepts and religious language; 10. Ritual; 11. Lifespan development of religiosity and the self; 12. The evolution of self and religion.