In 1997, neuropsychologist V. S. Ramachandran presented his discovery of the "God module" at the annual conference of the Society for Neuroscience. The "God module" is a cluster of nerve cells located in the temporal lobe of the brain that, when stimulated, appears to trigger a religious experience.
Dr. Ramachandran and his colleagues discovered this spot while studying epileptic patients. Many patients who suffer from temporal lobe seizures also experience intense religious or spiritual encounters during these seizures.
The researchers developed three possible theories to explain the occurrence of these religious experiences.
The first theory was discarded because the experience of a hallucination is not specifically a "religious" experience, and the patients specifically reported religious feelings as a result of their seizures.
The second theory was tested by examining the patients for strong emotional responses to non-religious objects. Since the patients reported elevated emotions only when exposed to religious imagery, the possibility of general elevated emotional response was discarded.
This forced researchers to conclude that the patients were responding to a stimulus to a region of the brain devoted to religious experience. Examination of non-epileptic religious people showed elevated brain activity in the isolated region when the subjects were exposed to religious imagery.
The existence of this brain region does not reduce the validity of spiritual experiences. When told about these findings, Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford, said "it would not be surprising if God had created us with a physical facility for belief."
Sources for this summary: The Age of Spiritual Machines, Ray Kurzweil and "Searching for God in the Machine", David C. Noelle