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A Neuro-psychological Explanation of Religious Experience?

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  • Anne Leona Cesarine Runehov
The search for the basis of religious experience among neurological processes in the brain has resulted in a widespread debate within, as well as outside the academic world. The aim of this paper is to analyse to what extent a neuro-psychological theory could explain the phenomenon of religious experience. To clarify what the neuro-psychological studies of the present paper mean by the concept of religious experience, the concept has been divided into three different types: the Erlebnis or RErl type, the Erfahrung or RErf type and the ideological or RIT type of religious experience. In his studies, Persinger indicates that mystical experience (RErl) has its seat in the right hemisphere of the human brain, whereas the (religious) ideology' (RIT) type is related to the left hemisphere. Consequently, the hemisphere in which the (religious) experience is taking place seems to label the type of experience. Persinger studied and compared  people practicing religious meditation with people who did not, and also studied the results of PET scanning on the experiences of schizophrenic and epileptic patients. This paper accounts for the relevance of comparing these two apparently different studies and for the problem arising when drawing inadequately reasoned conclusions.

Key Words

Religious experiences, religious Erlebnis, religious Erfahrung, (religious) ideology, neuroscience, neuropsychology, pain, PET, reductionism, partial reductionism, Transcendental Meditation, epilepsy, schizophrenia.

TidsskriftStudies in Science & Theology
Vol/bindvol. 9
Sider (fra-til)59-68
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - 2004

ID: 3417288