Here is my recent article for ZENIT – it is a lengthened version of a blog post from earlier in the year which explains the difference between mere mystical experiences and real religion.
Religious experiences of the mystical kind occur throughout human experience and in most every kind of religion. But what is happening when visionaries see the Blessed Virgin, Hindu holy men go into a trance or charismatics speak in tongues?
Are they experiencing something real or is it just their imagination?
Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg studies how the brain responds to religion. In this fascinating article his work is explained and explored by an atheist journalist named Julia Llewellyn Smith. She submitted to some experiments with Newberg to see if a religious-type experience could be artificially activated in his brain. It didn’t work.
Llewellyn Smith explains:
Newberg is director of research at the Jefferson Myrna Brind Centre of Integrative Medicine, in Philadelphia, and co-author of, among other books, The Metaphysical Mind: Probing the Biology of Philosophical Thought. He is a leading neurotheologist, pioneering a new and highly controversial science that investigates whether – as many sceptics have long suspected – God didn’t create us, but we created God.
Go here to read the whole article