Wired for God?: The biology of spiritual experience
By Charles Foster
Published by Hodder, 2010
Siberian shamans and tantric sex; whirling Sufis and entranced Bushmen; hypnotism and magic mushrooms; hymn-singing in the suburbs and ecstatic drumming in the African night; speaking in tongues and UFOs; prophets dressed in bed-sheets at Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre; naturally theistic toddlers and apparitions of Mary; Upper Palaeolithic cave-paintings and dog-headed saints; chariots of fire and pierced Messiahs; near-death experiences and epileptic nuns; Neolithic tomb architecture; an old monk dying in an Indian ashram, screaming that he’s being overwhelmed by the Feminine; God-helmets, God-spots and God-genes.
What does all this mean for the faithful and the faithless? What does it tell us about what it means to be human?
‘Foster takes us on a most enjoyable journey through the drugs, dreams and profound experiences that lead people to believe in the existence of souls. Although I disagree profoundly with his conclusions Foster’s exploration of why we are so incurably religious is both serious and entertaining.’
- Professor Susan Blackmore
‘A look at the ultimately important questions of life that is itself wonderfully alive: you may not agree, but you will never be bored.’
- Iain McGilchrist, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and author of ‘The Master and his Emissary: The divided brain and the making of the Western World’
‘In this tour of the weird and wacky in religion and spirituality, Charles Foster displays his gift for making science accessible and philosophy entertaining. He will amuse and irritate religious believers and non-believers in turn but won’t let either group stray too far from the evidence. You may not agree with all of Foster’s answers, but he is certainly asking good questions.’
- Justin Barrett, Director of the Centre for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, and author of ‘Why would anyone believe in God?’