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Neurotheology - Science of Prayer

What separates me from being an atheist and keep me into looking the world with skeptical eyes is the unknown and yet-not-explained phenomenons. Among all of them, the top mystery around us, is life itself, self-awareness, consciousness mind, brain functionality and prayer. Yes, prayer.

Let me put it this way - unless we live in a delusional world where major population on Earth is doing their religious rituals in vain on daily bases, this topic deserves proper research in regards to brain functionality and social influences to life as we know it. Prayer itself should not be seen and studied as a ritual connected only to religious behavior. If you dismiss all super-divine entities and misusing prayer for questionable reasons to ask for favors, such as health, salvation, fame, victory or winning lottery numbers and transfer it into form of meditation, perhaps we should start understanding how everything works, even a little bit could be a threshold of breakthrough in scientific research of life. If we ever learned something from the computers is that they really started to be interesting gadgets when we invented network. The prayer could be our ticket into network of life if such thing exists and if it is essential for our existence. Comparing all nowadays and past religions, Buddhist prayer seems to have evolved far beyond its "competitors" in the world population of Christians, Muslims, Hinduism, Judaism or other folk religions around the globe, making it the starting point of some future research. Scientific approach of spiritual neurology, or Neurotheology could be the way of understanding prayer if there is a neural basis for religious experience or if there is a god gene responsible of evolving individual ability of praying or meditating.

One study back in 2001 showed neural activity during deep meditation among Tibetan Monks and Franciscan Nuns summarized the finding in this conclusion: "Images taken by SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computerised Tomograph) picked up a dramatic increase of neuronal activity within the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with attention and concentration. However the parietal lobe, the area associated with time concept and spatial orientation, showed very little activity. With limited neuronal activity, the parietal lobe is unable to distinguish the boundary between the external world and the physical self. This could account for the mediators reporting a 'sense of unity' with the universe and a 'mingling with God' during intense trance".

The study of the brains of monks*

When we sleep and dream we also shut down spatial orientation in our brains leaving space for many people to have vivid dreams, sometimes so un-fictional, and in a moment or two, we are unable to separate them from real life. Contrary to that, within meditational prayer, rational part of the brain is still active and in constant battle with reptile brain and emotional response.

In the end the result should be simple, the goal is to shut down all environmental senses and connect to the inner network (or fifth force if you like), if it exists. Fully understanding it is maybe essential for our survival in the future. In simple non-scientific conclusion, the sentence "I believe in what I can see and understand" really gets new dimension, especially in the "see" part where it gets only metaphorical meaning.

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