How do you connect with God?
Bible reading and study.
Discussion and sharing of your faith with other believers.
These would all be pretty standard answers for most Christians.
A different and more provocative question is: How can you prove within your brain that you are indeed connecting with God?
That fascinating physiological question was the basis of a five-part series last week on National Public Radio (NPR) examining brain chemistry and its links to spiritual experiences.
The series begins in the desert, where Native Americans and others claim to channel spirits through the use of peyote. One woman, who had shingles when the ritual started, said months later the shingles disappeared after she was forgiven by a man whom she wronged. She said she discussed her transgressions with the man’s spirit during the ritual.
Before dismissing this as a re-hash of a ’60s LSD free-for-all, the series discusses how different areas of the brain are stimulated and shaped by connecting with God.
For example, “spiritual virtuosos” such as nuns or Buddhist monks have more activity in their frontal lobes which facilitates the concentration needed for long periods of daily prayer. As a trade-off, research indicated, the parietal lobe, which deals with time and space, goes largely dark allowing for deeper psychological connections.
The power of prayer as a physical healer is also featured. One woman discussed how after years of being HIV-positive she has never progressed into AIDS saying she has persistently talked to God about her illness and He has kept her relatively safe.
Another discusses intercessory prayer – praying for another – and charts how a wife’s brain is stimulated when her husband is thinking about his love for her in separate room at times unknown to her.
What this all means physiologically is for people smarter than me to figure out.
What it means spiritually is that ignoring or discarding the existence of God is short-sighted.