How God Changes Your Brain

by Christine Sine

While I was in Canada recently I started to read a fascinating book entitled How God Changes Your Brain. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered a copy and am thoroughly enjoying reading it and reflecting on its relevance. Interestingly, the authors Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman are not writing from a Christian perspective. Andrew is a neuroscientist, Mark is a therapist. They are more interested in the impact that spiritual practices have on our physical and emotional health than on our spiritual development.

That does not reduce its importance however. I think they say some wonderful things for all people of faith to think about. They provide some very practical exercises for all of us to consider.

So here is some of what they say (quoted from the back cover of the book):

Prayer and spiritual practice don’t just reduce stress, but meditation for as little as 12 minutes a day can slow down the aging process.

Contemplating a loving God rather than a punitive God reduces anxiety and depression and increases feelings of security, compassion and love.

Intense prayer and meditation lastingly change numerous structures and functions in the brain, altering your values and the way you perceive reality.

Fundamentalism can be personally beneficial, but the prejudice generated by extreme beliefs can permanently damage your brain.

I know that some people find books like this threatening because they interpret them to say that God is just a chemical reaction going on in our brain. For me however they are exciting because they confirm the activity of God in my life – if God is truly at work in our lives then we should expect that his activity in our brains should create discernable changes. What do you think,


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travismamone83 September 17, 2012 - 9:08 am

“Contemplating a loving God rather than a punitive God reduces anxiety and depression and increases feelings of security, compassion and love.”

Ah, so THAT’S my problem!

Christine Sine September 17, 2012 - 9:09 am

Fascinating isn’t it. I have found that as I focus on God as love that my whole perspective of who God is and who I am changes – this book helps to explain (from a neurological perspective) why.

travismamone83 September 17, 2012 - 9:47 am

Even with my progressive Christianity, I still think God’s tallying up all my screw-ups. The only difference is this time I think God’s tallying up every time I don’t give spare change to a homeless person instead of every time I touch myself.

Christine Sine September 17, 2012 - 11:53 am

I think that this is where focusing on the all embracing, all forgiving love of God is important. I don’t think that God keeps tallies like that.

David Ramos September 17, 2012 - 11:51 am

Definitely going to get my hands on this.

Phil Herzog September 17, 2012 - 6:42 pm

Love this article and agree with it mostly. As one soul whose brain was “permanently” damaged by drugs, alcohol and raucous during my late teens and early 20s I can attest to the healing power of prayer.

But your comment about brain damage due to extreme beliefs sounds, well, dumb. Where did that comment come from (surely not Tom or Christine)? You guys are too smart to be spreading that kind of dogma. Besides, both of you,(and I) and most of your friends would be considered extreme fundamentalists by your professional peers’ standards.

If extreme prejudice includes notions of hatred toward the Devil, the coming Apocalypse followed by the millennial reign (extreme prejudice) maybe we should all get a package deal at Western Hospital, while there’s still room.

Love you guys…great to see you at the Cowie party! Ph

Christine Sine September 17, 2012 - 6:43 pm

Phil – not sure if you read this properly. This is from the book How God Changes your Brain. It is a little scary to think of the possible impact of our beliefs.

Phil Herzog September 17, 2012 - 6:57 pm

I don’t understand the comment “Fundamentalism can be personally beneficial, but the prejudice generated by extreme beliefs can permanently damage your brain.”

What does that mean? Perhaps this statement could be supported by a few examples?

To me it somehow implies that fundamentalism generates extreme beliefs, and more unpardonable, prejudice?

Christine Sine September 17, 2012 - 7:39 pm

Phil in the book it is supported by examples. I am just summarizing some of what the book says

Kristyne September 30, 2012 - 5:54 am

It sounds very interesting.You probably have heard or read the book “The Brain That Changes Itself”. I can’t remember the author. I still have yet to read it . It’s about neuroplasticity I believe. Another neuroscientist by the name of Dr.Caroline Leaf( from South Africa) has several books and DVD’s out about the same subject but she relates it to the Word of God. Very interesting and informative.Have you heard of either one?

Christine Sine September 30, 2012 - 4:40 pm

Kristine I loved The Brain That Changes Itself. This whole area of brain function is fascinating to me

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