Religion v/s Science? Maybe not!

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Andrew Newberg, head of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania, explains in his new book “How God Changes Your Brain,” how not only the religious, but even atheists can enjoy the benefits of faith.

The key, he says, ‘lies in the concentrating and calming effects that meditation or intense prayer have inside our heads’.

‘Brain scanners show that intense meditation alters our gray matter, strengthening regions that focus the mind and foster compassion while calming those linked to fear and anger.’

Apparently it does not matter whether a person is a believer in the metaphysical or an atheist just repeating a verse from the scriptures- the outcome can be the same -‘ a growth in the compassion that virtually every religion teaches and a decline in negative feelings and emotions.’

Newberg is a medical doctor and professor of radiology, psychology and religious studies. He has written this book with Mark Robert Waldman, a therapist at the Center.

The authors say that even 10 to 15 minutes of meditation seem to have “significantly positive effects on cognition, relaxation and psychological health,

However, Newberg’s research shows that ‘the short prayers most believers say, leave little trace on the brain because they are not as intense as meditation’.

Newberg, who grew up in a Reform Jewish family and has studied many religions, said his work might help both believers and atheists understand religious feelings, which he said were “among the most powerful and complex experiences people have.

The two most powerful forces in all of human history have been religion and science,” he said.

These are the two things that help us organize our world and understand it. Why not try to bring them together to address each other and ultimately our world in a more effective way?”

Something to think about, certainly!
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19 thoughts on “Religion v/s Science? Maybe not!”

  1. Really interesting… meditation really really makes a difference… and he said we can categorize everything in this world in science or religion… and when combined together I hope it will be for greater good 🙂

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  2. very very interesting ! Atleast with science, perpetuation is not faith but driven by evidence !! :)Have never tried meditation. Although there is a huge drive to think of it. Will let you know !

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  3. i have heard a lot about meditation but when i try to meditate in my yoga classi find it very difficult to concentrate, there is a continous flow of thoughts . but as my yoga teacher says slowly i will be able to concentrate i am sure only then i will be able to find out how effective it is.

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  4. Meditation is the absence of thought and therefore is a very difficult activity for the normal human. And meditation is supposed to rest the mind just as rest is to the body after physical activity. And is supposed to be a healing process and brings great peace. As for prayers, I guess the faith is what matters and not the length of the prayer itself. A combination of both can do wonders.

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  5. That is really interesting. My dad says that for everything that science cannot explain, there is religion :)I have heard this about meditation.. from a lot of my relatives who meditate – even if they are not very religious, in the normal sense of the word..

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  6. "'the short prayers most believers say, leave little trace on the brain because they are not as intense as meditation'."That is the feeling I have always had while watching those hurried entries to the temple and equally hurried exits and in between some rituals, some bowing of heads and touching of foreheads….!! The same happens in homes too. You don't have to believe in anything, but spending some time quietly meditating, deep breaths, gives a lot more benefit I feel.Some comments above talk about meditation is difficult. We cannot straight away achieve the state where we are totally free of thoughts of any kind…. that is too far for the average person. But sitting still and allowing those thoughts to enter and exit at will and deep breathing gives much more than that simple act warrants and helps us tremendously.

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  7. Kanagu– I too, hope that religion and science combined together will be for the greater good!Kavi– I would definitely like to hear about your experience with meditation when you try it!Anju– I hope that it will be easier for you to concentrate with time.Radha– I agree that faith is what matters and not the length of the prayer.But the authors of this book are looking at only the concentration aspect of prayer/meditation, I think. Not at the spiritual benefits of prayer.

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  8. Smitha"My dad says that for everything that science cannot explain, there is religion"– I think that we find it comforting to believe that everything can be explained in some way!Shail– A yoga teacher once taught me an exercise- to sit still for 10-15 minutes with eyes closed, just listening to the sounds I could hear. She said I should try to identify the individual sounds.I did this every morning for a few months- at the beginning I could identify only a few sounds but after some days I found that I ould identify around 20 individual sounds. (I did not count them though)I think this exercise helped to put all other thoughts out of my mind temporarily- I found it very calming.

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  9. thanks for bringing up this age-old debate which has never been satisfactorily resolved. But the greatest scientists have also been believers, like Einstein, if not in the man-made deities, at least in a cosmic omnipotence.

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  10. Am I surprised? Every other day we hear that science has found something that has been know to sages for thousands of years. That there is huge difference between meditation and prayer has been always known. Science is only rediscovering the wheel.This is actually a vastfield beyond science – they call it "paraa vigyaan". Your dad is right. Science will never get the whole picture on its own. The rest will come out of meditation and contemplation…

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  11. Roshni– It does seem that this is the case! Sucharita"But the greatest scientists have also been believers….. at least in a cosmic omnipotence."-You know I never thought of it this way, but yes, you're right.Vinodji"Science is only rediscovering the wheel."-Exactly!hitchwriter– Strong word- hate.

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  12. I believe in religion 100%. Science still has to find ansewrs to may questions.And yes beore meditation comes concentration. Attempting meditation before mastering the skills of concentraion is very difficult. That is the science behind Moorti Puja. Concentration and then eventually meditation…which is one of the toughest Yog.

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  13. I think repeating things in your mind has a profound effect. That is why the rishis would keep repeating the mantras. That is a good way of simulating nirvana.I like your new template, very nice. But I do miss the old one. I visited here after many days and was pleasantly taken by surprise 🙂

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  14. L.V.S.– Yes, it's certainly been a while since you visited- Welcome back!It does seem that there was scientific method behind the rituals that the ancient rishis practised.

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  15. I love to meditate. Sometimes on emptiness, sometimes a guided meditation, mantras, on my Guru's smile. It varies but always with positive results.I don't have a religion but I have a very strong faith that I rely on. I certainly don't believe that science and religion are exclusive of each other.There have been a great many monks and yogis examined by scientists while in a meditative state. The findings of the changes in their body an brain functioning is remarkable. Thanks for bringing up this subject.

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  16. weeble– I, too, do not think religion and science are mutually exclusive. In fact, as more advances are made in science, we will probably find that many religious practices are based on scientific theories.

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