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Born to Believe: God, Science, and the Origin of Ordinary and Extraordinary Beliefs Paperback – October 2, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0743274982 ISBN-10: 0743274989 Edition: Reprint

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Born to Believe: God, Science, and the Origin of Ordinary and Extraordinary Beliefs + How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist + Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743274989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743274982
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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, author of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own

"Our beliefs are the most precious things we possess. But how do we get them? Newberg and Waldman propose a thoughtful, well-documented, biological hypothesis...[that is] fascinating for believers and nonbelievers alike."

-- Dean Hamer, PhD, geneticist and author of Living with Our Genes and The God Gene

About the Author

Andrew Newberg, MD, is an associate professor of Radiology and Psychiatry and an adjunct assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and also director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind. He is co-author of Why God Won't Go Away and The Mystical Mind. He lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

More About the Author

Andrew B. Newberg, M.D. is currently the Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital in Philadelphia. He is also a Professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Radiology at Thomas Jefferson University. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1993. He did his training in Internal Medicine at the Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia, serving as Chief Resident in his final year. Following his internal medicine training, he completed a Fellowship in Nuclear Medicine in the Division of Nuclear Medicine, Department of Radiology, at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Nuclear Medicine.
He has actively pursued a number of neuroimaging research projects which have included the study of aging and dementia, epilepsy, and other neurological and psychiatric disorders. Dr. Newberg has been particularly involved in the study of mystical and religious experiences as well as the more general mind/body relationship in both the clinical and research aspects of his career. His research also includes understanding the physiological correlates of acupuncture therapy, meditation, and other types of alternative therapies. He has taught medical students, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as medical residents about stress management, spirituality and health, and the neurophysiology of religious experience. He has published numerous articles and chapters on brain function, brain imaging, and the study of religious and mystical experiences. He is the co-author of the new book entitled, "Words Can Change Your Brain" (Hudson Street Press). He is the co-author of the best selling books entitled, "How God Changes Your Brain" (Ballantine) and, "Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief" (Ballantine). He is also a co-author of "Born to Believe: God, Science, and the Origin of Ordinary and Extraordinary Beliefs" (Free Press). He is also the author of "Principles of Neurotheology" (Ashgate) and "The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Belief" (Fortress Press) that both explore the relationship between neuroscience and spiritual experience. The latter book received the 2000 award for Outstanding Books in Theology and the Natural Sciences presented by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. He has been involved in the teaching of the physiological basis of various alternative medicine techniques including the importance of spirituality in medical practice. He also teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania. He has presented his work at scientific and religious meetings throughout the world and has appeared on Good Morning America, Nightline, CNN, ABC World News Tonight as well as in a number of media articles including Newsweek, Time, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Readers Digest.

Customer Reviews

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Good reading for everybody.
Michael Murauer
Because I'm Dr. Newberg's co-author!
Mark Waldman
The information is well documented.
Quentin L. Hand

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Yael Grauer on January 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
I don't know if a review of this book can really do it justice. It was SO GOOD: well-written, comprehensive and loaded to the brim with fascinating facts, thoughts and ideas. What are our beliefs, and how do we form them? Newberg and Waldman believe that there are "four interacting spheres of influence"--perception, cognition, emotional value and social consensus. The book really digs deep into each of these spheres, explaining how they work and describing which are most prevalent during the different stages of development. The fine line between perception and illusion is discussed in depth. How does our brain form our reality? The book culminates in an exploration of spiritual beliefs and the brain, discussing some of Newberg's brain scans of Catholic nuns, Buddhist monks, Pentecostals speaking in tongues, and an atheist who meditated on the image of God. He is continuing to research the neurobiological effects of meditation on the brain, which is why I originally picked up the book. The most fascinating sections for me, though, were the ones on different forms of bias, and and on the gap between belief and moral behavior. The moral dilemmas discussed got my brain all twisted up in knots--in a good way! Heavily researched with tons of footnotes, this book was thoughtful and engaging but not a quick read. I loved it.

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael Murauer on February 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
My first impression of this book was a negative one. Hear the preface: "Many theories try to explain the psychological and sociological reasons why people nurture spiritual beliefs, but the answer is found in neuroscience - indeed, in the very synapses of our brain." Sounds like the personal bias of a scientist all too excited by his subject - and taken literally it is nothing more. Stick to the book nevertheless, it's worthwhile. You'll get a fine overview on what today's brain research is able to establish about the cerebral representation of different kinds of religious and spiritual experiences - including the rare case of an atheist seriously meditating on God. All these findings are presented in a well readable often even fascinating manner. The problems lie in the authors philosophical framework. On one side there is a solid piece of criticism in the book. In the chapter "Becoming a Better Believer" Bacon's teaching of the idols blurring our view of the world is extended to a list of twenty-seven biases by which we may be seduced to distort reality. Good reading for everybody. But where to does it lead the authors? They adopt a nearly constructivist theory of knowledge where everything might be biased and so everything might be wrong (or true). "Therefore, our subjective experience becomes the sole arbiter of what we consider real." (P. 278) So why list all the possible biases? It does only make half sense if we just do it to become aware of our limitations. If everything is incurably biased why do science? Getting aware of biases makes real sense only if we want to use this knowledge to avoid them as good as possible.Read more ›
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29 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Mark Waldman on December 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
Admittedly, I'm somewhat biased about this book. Why? Because I'm Dr. Newberg's co-author! Now,you can read other reviews of this book if you go to the hardback version, called Why We Believe What We Believe: Uncovering Our Biological Need for Meaning, Spirituality, and Truth, but I thought you'd might enjoy a brief authorial commentary. First, it is the only book that definitively describes what a belief is, and how those beliefs take on a sense of reality. The more you reflect on a personal belief-be it religious, political, or romantic-the neural circuits that generate our perception of reality become stronger. If you meditate long enough-on God, or peace, or monetary success-the structure of your thalamus will permanently change. This is what makes the human brain so fascinating-it doesn't clearly distinguish between inner subjective experiences and the objective reality that exists outside. We are given a set of beliefs by parents, teachers, and friends, and for the most part, that becomes our world-view for life. In fact, it's very difficult to neurologically eliminate old beliefs, which goes a long way to explain why personal change is slow. But it is possible, and the book will show you how to identify and change the natural biases we have.

Our research demonstrates that optimistic beliefs (even those that have no realistic basis) are extraordinarily healthy for your body and your brain. They neurologically interrupt anxiety, depression, anger, and fear; they stimulate your immune system; and they motivate you to succeed in obtaining your goals, no matter how wild they may appear to others.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Quentin L. Hand on March 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a well-written neuropsychological study. Dr. Newberg is both a neurosurgeon and a scientifiic researcher. The information is well documented. His philosphical contributions are approbiate and stimulating.
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