Dreams and Visions
How Religious Ideas Emerge in Sleep and Dreams
by Patrick McNamara
September 2016, 307pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4716-5
$80, £60, 67€, A115
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4717-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The vast majority of the world’s population believes in supernatural beings. What can science reveal about the biological connections between REM dreaming and religious ideas?

A standout resource on the emerging field of applying neuropsychology and the latest findings in sleep and dream research to religious experience, this book investigates the proven biological links between REM dreams and religious ideas, covering past and current schools of thought in both the science of dreams and the science of religion.

Across time and around the world, billions of people with highly dissimilar backgrounds and cultures have felt spiritual or religious inspiration that shaped their lives and supplemented their mental strength—and in many cases, this inspiration came via a dream. The “how” and “why” of this common phenomenon is one that science has largely failed to explain. In this book, nationally recognized behavioral neuroscientist Patrick McNamara taps the latest science in sleep and dreams as well as neuropsychology to investigate one facet of the answer from the “inside out”—the human brain’s role.

The first study of its kind in an emerging field, Dreams and Visions: How Religious Ideas Emerge in Sleep and Dreams provides a comprehensive summary of past theory and examines the latest science on dreams, REM sleep, cognitive approaches to religion, and neuroscience approaches to religion. Readers will come away with an in-depth understanding of how and why god beliefs and spiritual convictions so often emerge in our dreams. Dedicated sections address special dream types like visitation dreams, nightmares, precognitive dreams, “big” dreams, lucid dreams, paralysis dreams, twin dreams, and more.


  • Provides detailed, mechanistic, and science-based explanations of how god beliefs emerge in dreams
  • Shows how the dynamics of REM sleep neurochemical processes produce cognitive states that promote beliefs in supernatural beings
  • Presents numerous examples of how the birth of new religious movements was due to dreams of the founders
  • Reviews the extensive literature on the anthropology of dreams, demonstrating their centrality to primal tribal cultures and religion
Patrick McNamara, PhD, is associate professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and professor at Northcentral University. His published work includes Praeger's two-volume Spirit Possession and Exorcism , Praeger's The New Science of Dreaming, The Neuroscience of Religious Experience, and The Cognitive Neuropsychiatry of Parkinson's Disease, among other titles. He is founding coeditor of the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior and cofounder of the Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion.
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