If you've ever wondered which came first (does the brain physiologically induce spiritual experience? or do spiritual experiences physiologically affect the brain?), an article in Scientific American explains that it may not be such a crucial question:
"Such efforts to reveal the neural correlates of the divine—a new discipline with the warring titles "neurotheology" and "spiritual neuroscience"—not only might reconcile religion and science but also might help point to ways of eliciting pleasurable otherworldly feelings in people who do not have them or who cannot summon them at will. Because of the positive effect of such experiences on those who have them, some researchers speculate that the ability to induce them artificially could transform people's lives by making them happier, healthier and better able to concentrate. Ultimately, however, neuroscientists study this question because they want to better understand the neural basis of a phenomenon that plays a central role in the lives of so many. "These experiences have existed since the dawn of humanity. They have been reported across all cultures," Beauregard says. "It is as important to study the neural basis of [religious] experience as it is to investigate the neural basis of emotion, memory or language."
Author David Biello goes to explain that "Artificially replicating meditative trances or other spiritual states might be similarly beneficial to the mind, brain and body." But don't expect neuroscience to prove or disprove the existence of God, as Biello concludes: "Although atheists might argue that finding spirituality in the brain implies that religion is nothing more than divine delusion, the nuns were thrilled by their brain scans for precisely the opposite reason: they seemed to provide confirmation of God's interactions with them."
The rest of article can be accessed here .