Samarina T.S. Neurotheology: Origins, Ideological Background and the Heuristic Problem


Tatiana S. Samarina
Doctor of Sciences (Philosophy), Senior Researcher, Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Goncharnaya St, 12, Bld. 1, 109240 Moscow, Russian Federation
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Abstract. In the paper a critical analysis of the neurotheological concept of Andrew Newberg is provided. In the beginning, the specifics of the reception of his legacy in the Russian and foreign research literature are analyzed, a conclusion is made about many prejudices which obscure Newberg's legacy. Then the reconstruction of the origins of the Newberg concept in the work of his teacher E. d'Aquili and the circle of the Zygon journal is carried out. The innovativeness of d'Aquili's ideas regarding the role of the parietal lobe in the formation of religion and his theory of ritual behavior are considered. Then the analysis of the ideological foundations of Newberg's concept is carried out, his criticism of the empirical foundations of new atheism and cognitive religious studies is investigated. It is demonstrated that despite the declared sympathy, Newberg is not an apologist for a religious worldview. He distinguishes two forms in religion: mystical and fundamentalist. The existence of both is associated with the process of brain evolution. The structures responsible for fundamentalism, according to Newberg, arose at the early stages of human development and were directly related to his survival, and those responsible for mysticism are the most recent and are the pinnacle of brain evolution. These data allow Newberg not to recognize fundamentalist elements in religion and suggest that mystical ones should be used by secular consciousness. The article shows that these ideas are based on the humanistic psychology of E. Fromm and the conclusion is made that Newberg's attitude to religion is not so unambiguous as it is commonly believed in the circles of his critics.
Key words: psychology of religion, cognitive religious studies, evolutionary psychology, new atheism, neurobiology, mysticism.

Citation. Samarina T.S. Neurotheology: Origins, Ideological Background and the Heuristic Problem. Logos et Praxis, 2023, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 5-15. (in Russian). DOI:

Creative Commons License
Neurotheology: Origins, Ideological Background and the Heuristic Problem by Samarina T.S. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Download this file (1_Samarina.pdf)1_Samarina.pdf