“Grandiose Religious Delusion of Revelation”

A remarkable case report describes the brain activity in a man at the moment that he underwent a revelatory experience. According to the authors, Israeli researchers Arzy and Schurr, the man was 46 years old. He was Jewish, but he had never been especially religious. His supernatural experience occurred in hospital where he was undergoing …

CHR Comment: Neuroskeptic is a Discover Magazine sponsored blog that comments in a popular style on technical neurological studies. In this post, the blogger describes a case where an Israeli man had a religious experience while undergoing a brain scan investigating his epilepsy. The researchers concluded that as a result of the man’s medical condition, he had a delusional experience of seeing God. The blogger speculated about whether this man’s experience was similar to those of biblical prophets who founded Judaism and Christianity.

A key difference between this case and those described in the Bible would be that biblical writers commonly describe religious experiences shared by multiple people such as the entire nation of Israel at Mount Sinai or the crowds that witnessed the miracles of Jesus or saw Him after the resurrection. In the Bible, the truth of a person’s testimony would be confirmed through witnesses (two or three; cf. Deuteronomy 19:15–21; John 5:30–47); a prophet’s claims also had to come true in order to have the trust of the people (Deuteronomy 18:15–22). Although this modern case in Israel is helpful for understanding the religious experiences of some people—and is very interesting—it does not follow that this example explains the religious experiences of all people or that religious experiences are necessarily delusions. For example, if the man’s experience was that he saw himself kicking the winning goal in a football match, that would not mean that others who have similar experience were delusional at the time. Their experiences could be quite real as many of us have witnessed at football games.

Source: The Neural Basis of Seeing God? – Neuroskeptic


Scanning a Bishop’s Brain

In an unusual new paper, a group of German neuroscientists report that they scanned the brain of a Catholic bishop: Does a bishop pray when he prays? And does his brain distinguish between different religions? The researchers were Sarita Silveira and colleagues of Munich, and they used fMRI to measure brain activity in “a German …

CHR Comment: Silveira and other researchers were exploring whether there was a notable difference in brain activity while the bishop prayed the Lord’s Prayer repeatedly in his mind. The experiment seems poorly formed since reciting the Lord’s Prayer repeatedly would produce a restful state similar to the control activity of resting and thinking of nothing in particular.

Source: The Case of the Bishop’s Brain – Neuroskeptic