Religion and the Brain

Newsweek International, June 18, 2001 | Go to article overview

Religion and the Brain


Since our May 14 cover story on God and the brain "raised questions that concern every living being," as one letter writer put it, we heard from numerous readers who shared their own widely divergent views on the subject with us. "Congratulations to Sharon Begley for a lucid and balanced article," cheered one. Another said, "We'll never know whether a god created our brains or vice versa." An astrophysicist admonished, "Let's not turn science into a dogmatic religion." Finally, many readers complimented religion writer Kenneth Woodward for his article on the responsibilities of faith.

Science and Spirituality

Congratulations on Sharon Begley's lucid and balanced article, "Religion and the Brain" (SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, May 14). I do believe, however, that materialists will continue to claim that mystical states are caused by deep-rooted psychological needs.

William Page

Bangkok, Thailand

Begley is right: We'll never know whether a god created our brains or vice versa. But does it really matter? The only important question is: does God--if he exists--impose laws and rules on us?

Jose Versluys

La Motte, France

The researchers who interpret the brain are not only narrow-minded, they're inconsistent. Does the optical faculty in the brain belie the existence of the spatio-geometric structure of the world around us? Does the olfactory faculty belie the existence of the fragrant property of flowers? Does the auditory faculty belie the existence of sound? Why then shouldn't the experiences corresponding to the recently discovered "spiritual faculty" pertain to a reality outside the individual? Let's not turn science into a dogmatic religion.

R. Srikanth

Indian Institute of Astrophysics

Bangalore, India

"Religion And The Brain" suggests that ambiguity remains. Since the brain is computer, theater and tale-spinner all in one, who can say if the pie is in the sky or in our skull? It is a never-ending mystery that keeps us on our toes.

Akira Tachibana

Ichihara City, Japan

Your special report on religion and the brain raises questions that concern every living being. Our creator speaks to us through his voice in our brain if one listens carefully. And how can anyone believe that the billions of human and animal species and nature's innumerable phenomena have come into being of themselves? Our planet rotates once every 24 hours, but we feel it is stationary. Part of the time we hang upside down by our feet, thanks to gravity. The sun has the exact distance from our globe to make temperatures neither too hot nor too cold for life on Earth. And our average life span is but a split second in eternity. These are facts to ponder after reading your report.

Eric af Wetterstedt

Leksand, Sweden

Religion may be a part in the brain, but the whole brain is what science is all about. It certainly works much better than religion. Science is the best tool we have thus far for understanding our own nature and the nature of the world we live in. Science has two simple rules. First, there are no sacred truths. All assumptions must be carefully examined--arguments from authority are worthless. Second, whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. Indeed, science is always a self-correcting human enterprise. It is often asked--not by scientists but by religionists--if science and religion can reconcile. They can. But religion must first reconcile with other religions. In the meantime, insofar as religion consists of a way of feeling rather than a set of beliefs, science should leave religion alone. Why bother with an ancient institution that has miserably failed to straighten out the world's mess? Especially here in the Philippines, the only Christian country in Asia.

Poch Suzara

Makati City, Philippines

I appreciated Kenneth Woodward's response to "Religion and the Brain. …

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