25th May 2011, 2:34pm
The God Lab psychologist's 'spiritual experiments' to test beliefs at home
The God Lab book cover A clinical psychologist has re-examined the teachings of Jesus through the microscope of modern-day psychotherapy and devised a series of 'spiritual experiments' to test the beliefs of both atheists and avid church-goers.

The God Lab, written by Dr Roger Bretherton, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Lincoln, presents a fresh perspective on eight well-known passages of the Bible, exploring the psychological underpinnings of how traits like forgiveness, generosity and self-belief can improve people's view of themselves and the world around them.

The book is not an academic textbook and is not intended to be a recruitment tool for the Church. But Dr Bretherton, whose research focuses on existential psychotherapy how people find meaning in life and attach significance to life-changing events, such as bereavement said he felt the time was right to look again at the relationship between people's sense of the spiritual world and their attitudes about religion.

He said: "Psychology research has shown that a large proportion of the population feel what you might call vaguely spiritual, without being religious. In other words, they're somewhere between believing in God and disbelieving. People are far more likely now than they were 30 years ago to say they've had a spiritual experience, such as hearing the voice of a dead loved-one or sensing the presence of evil, but at the same time, church attendances have been falling. I wanted to look at why that was happening."

The book is also in part a personal reflection on Dr Bretherton's own crisis of faith. His disaffection with traditional forms of religion drove him to go back to the "source material" and re-examine it from a new perspective.

The God Lab is intended to be used as a handbook by anyone interested in exploring spirituality. Each chapter ends with an experiment which readers can try at home to focus on the questions raised.

"The book challenges a lot of traditional religious ideas and takes the view that if you can't put these teachings into practice in real life, what's their worth? It's saying to those people who are not sure what they believe, 'Why not take a look and if you don't like it, walk away'. To those people who do believe, it's saying, 'Look again'."

Dr Roger Bretherton, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Lincoln, will launch his new book The God Lab on Wednesday 1st June 2011. The launch event, which will feature a talk and Q&A with the audience, will take place at 7.45pm in the Jackson Lecture Theatre, Main Admin Building, on the University of Lincoln's Brayford Pool campus, LN6 7TS. Attendance is free and there is no need to book.
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