Why We Believe What We Believe: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience
"I love this book. As cultures collide in our newly connected global existence, I can think of nothing more important than helping people understand the origin, nature, and sheer danger of their beliefs. Why We Believe What We Believe should be required reading for every person, young and old, who has the courage to open his or her mind and explore the biological basis of belief.""
—Sandra Blakeslee, award-winning science writer and co-author of On Intelligence and Phantoms in the Brain
"Here is a book that seeks not to dismiss or ignore our will to believe, but instead explores why believing—even secular beliefs—is such a necessary and ‘hardwired’ aspect of being human. Newberg and Waldman bring an immense scientific learning to this compelling work of immense clarity. Why We Believe What We Believe is certainly the best scientific statement yet on the will to believe.""
—Stephen G. Post, PhD, Professor of Bioethics, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, author of Unlimited Love and President, Institute for Research on Unlimited Love—Altruism, Compassion, Service
"Why believe what you read—or hear, or think? This intriguing book offers insights into how we can constructively question our beliefs in a way that expands our minds with deeper insights into others, and ourselves. Offering a wide-ranging discussion of beliefs—from the insights gleaned from brain studies of transcendent experiences to explorations of perceptual distortions—the authors walk us through an adventure in thinking that is sure to raise as many questions as it answers in its illuminating discussions.""
—Daniel J. Siegel, MD, author of Mindsight, Our Seventh Sense, and The Developing Mind and faculty, The Center for Culture, Brain, and Development, UCLA
Why do we believe what we believe? Everything we understand about the world is ultimately a belief. But beliefs can be constructive or destructive. We will show how to evaluate beliefs and how we can work toward being a better believer by developing and holding those beliefs that are the most constructive. Supported by groundbreaking research, including brain scans of people as they pray, meditate, and speak in tongues, Why
We Believe What We Believe will change the way we look at the world… and ourselves.
Proposing a new model for how beliefs emerge and evolve, Newberg and Waldman structure the book in three parts: the origin of beliefs, the biological evidence of their influence on our brains, and their use in our lives. Once we understand the differences between knowledge and belief, faith and truth, destructive and constructive beliefs, we can then guard against mental traps, falsities, and wrong thinking. User-friendly examples, like optical illusions and the beliefs of those with psychological disorders, demonstrate how the brain constructs beliefs about reality, and the authors offer prescriptive recommendations for developing a more affirming belief system.
Where do our beliefs come from, and why do we hold on to some of them even if there is evidence to the contrary? Why, for example, do we continue to be fascinated by God, religion, haunted houses, UFOs, conspiracy theories, and miracle cures, even when science can dispute many of these claims? Is it because we are uneducated, or are our brains designed to interpret and seek out such possibilities in the world? Simply put: Why do we believe what we believe?
In Dr. Newberg’s new book, Why We Believe What We Believe, he focuses on the underlying mechanisms which govern our spiritual, social, and individual beliefs, arguing that we are biologically driven to find meaning and wholeness throughout our lives. In fact, our brains have the capacity to create and maintain a system of beliefs which can take us far beyond our survival-oriented needs. These belief systems not only shape our morals and ethics, but they can be harnessed to heal our bodies and minds, enhance our intimate relationships, and deepen our spiritual connections with others. However, they can also be used to manipulate and control, for we are also born with a biological propensity to impose our belief systems on others. This innate power of our beliefs to heal or injure, to foster happiness or disease, or generate societal friction or peace is the underlying theme of this book.
Based upon his neurological research (including new studies with Franciscan nuns, atheists, and evangelicals speaking in tongues), Dr. Newberg correlates a wide range of human beliefs with specific perceptual, social, and biological factors. He argues that some beliefs can enhance our physical and emotional well-being while others can function destructively, not only upon one’s self, but upon society as well. Although our beliefs are rooted in the biology of the brain, Dr. Newberg emphasizes that they are equally shaped by parents, peers, and society. In the end, a better understanding of beliefs can foster a more compassionate perspective on people who hold other beliefs and point the direction towards a more positive life and society.back to top ^