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Born to Believe: God, Science, and the Origin of Ordinary and Extraordinary Beliefs Reprint Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0743274982
ISBN-10: 0743274989
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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.
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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: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #817,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.

This review, and many others, was first published on [...]
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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wonderful information. Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Waldman have done many years of in depth research discovering the neural processes and growth the brain goes through with beliefs and meditation. I highly recommend all of their books for healing information and brain health, and memory health. They make the information about the brain easy, acceptable and very user friendly.
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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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