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Believing with your heart, soul, strength ... and brain?

Neurotheology, the study of the impact spiritual practices have on the brain, is a growing field of study. But will the fields of religion and science be able to put aside past differences long enough to learn from each other?
Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News Modified: June 6, 2014 at 1:18 pm •  Published: June 9, 2014
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Dr. Andrew Newberg has made a name for himself on the border of religion and science. Once worried that his dual interest in spirituality and neuroscience could never meet in one career, Newberg is now a fixture in feature stories about the brain's relationship to religion.

"Neurotheology" is a bit of a mouthful, but it's about being mindful of the many changes that occur in the brain during prayer or meditation. The Atlantic defines it as "the neurological study of religious and spiritual experiences."

"The goal of neurotheology is to determine what's happening in the brain during a religious experience. Obviously, the field can be a bit controversial; those with deeply spiritual beliefs about the connection between a person and his or her maker aren't thrilled about reducing religion to something happening in the brain," wrote Molly Edmonds, for the popular podcast site HowStuffWorks.

"But the work of the scientists does seem to show that there's some connection with our gray matters and our pray matters," Edmonds continued.

Newberg's focus during interviews has been on the symbiotic relationship between religion and science nurtured by neurotheology. Analyzing brain scans taken during spiritual experiences enhances understanding of both the brain and religion.