There is only one thing that holds all the world’s spiritual ideas in common, the fact that they are known by human beings. All the billions of relationships with God, a higher power, or a higher self of any conception, all find their point of rendering in the mind as ideation. In essence, cognitive neuroscience heralds the end of spirituality. It seems a foregone conclusion that we will soon know exactly which parts of the brain regulate religious feelings and how they operate, leaving the entire cultural artifact of religion across history as nothing more than a set of patterns we follow. The content of religion stands to lose almost all of its import from the coming biological view of the function of religion.
Of course, for most people, this won’t change a thing. There will be no death of spirituality. Indeed, there may arise ever more potent spiritual practices, only, they might not be called “spiritual” anymore.
Hopefully, we can look forward to a very large ding in the phenomenon of sectarianism. If the same parts of the brain light up for most folks’ religious life, the whole rationale for sects vanishes. It truly becomes a case of how you believe rather than what you believe. That sounds like a really good outcome, one that may become possible if neuroscience actually does show us that our deepest experiences of what each of us finds holy share the same pathways in our brains, finally proving what a certain mad brahmin of Dakshineswar once said: “As many faiths, so many paths.”