Neurotheology: media, science and religion today

TitleNeurotheology: media, science and religion today
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Santos, L. de P.
Affiliation (1st Author)Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFRJ) Communication Post-graduate Program (PPGCOM)
Section or WGMedia, Religion and Culture Working Group
DateSat 29 June
Slot CodeMRCS3a
Slot Code (Keyword)MRCS3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session Title‘Media, Religion & Culture’ on Communicating Religiously: Theoretical Explorations - II
Submission ID6069

The paper deals with the emergence of a discursive field called Neurotheology, which has been pointed in science magazines and in the context of mass media production since the beginning of the last decade. The neurotheological discourse is based on the influence of neurosciences in the social imaginary today, widely promoted by the media translation of scientific discoveries to large audiences. The studies the paper broaches track and theorize how the experience of trancendence is registered in the human brain mechanisms as well as the benefits or risks of taking different religious practices in everyday life. Neurotheologists are neuroscientists - in their greater number from USA and Canada - whose researches rely on brain imaging techniques like PET-scanners. The new perception of the human body that backgrounds these studies has been charted, e.g., in recent Alain Ehrenberg and Nikolas Rose works. The neurotheological approaches suggest that the adoption of religion in many different cultural contexts derives from the same adaptive process of our species, indicating that we were biologically predisposed to believe in God. Furthermore, that faith practices (like meditations and prayers) are intimately related to our cerebral functioning and performance. The rise of discourses that associate faith, health and states of mind reveals new features of the so-called "somatic culture", in which the private attention to the body has assumed a moral connotation. Therein, the media coverage of the neuroscientific basis of belief emphasizes the biological effects of cultivating spirituality,, detached from their ontologic meanings, religions appear in this scene as resources to be managed by the individual in the undertaking of itself. In order to introduce these ideas, the paper discusses how the concepts of God and faith had been threatened in the modern period and why these same issues come back in a biologicist tune in the media sphere nowadays.

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