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Keywords:

  • brain;
  • human;
  • neuroimaging;
  • PET;
  • religion

Abstract

The commonsense view of religious experience is that it is a preconceptual, immediate affective event. Work in philosophy and psychology, however, suggest that religious experience is an attributional cognitive phenomenon. Here the neural correlates of a religious experience are investigated using functional neuroimaging. During religious recitation, self-identified religious subjects activated a frontal–parietal circuit, composed of the dorsolateral prefrontal, dorsomedial frontal and medial parietal cortex. Prior studies indicate that these areas play a profound role in sustaining reflexive evaluation of thought. Thus, religious experience may be a cognitive process which, nonetheless, feels immediate.