Logo for How God Works: The Science Behind Spirituality

How God Works: The Science Behind Spirituality

PRX

While religion and science often seem at odds, there’s one thing they can agree on: people who take part in spiritual practices tend to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. The big question is: Why? In How God Works, professor Dave DeSteno takes us on a journey to find out how spirituality impacts our minds and bodies, as well as the world in which we live.

He speaks to leading scientists and philosophers, religious thinkers, and thought leaders to explore what we can learn from the world’s faith traditions to help us meet some of life’s biggest challenges. Along the way, he’ll look at how we can adapt and use spiritual practices in our own lives, whatever our beliefs, including none at all.

It’s by working across the boundaries that usually divide us – science versus religion, one faith versus another – that we’ll find new ways to make life better for everyone.

David DeSteno

While religion and science often seem at odds, there’s one thing they can agree on: people who take part in spiritual practices tend to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. The big question is: Why? In How God Works, professor Dave DeSteno takes us on a journey to find out how spirituality impacts our minds and bodies, as well as the world in which we live.

He speaks to leading scientists and philosophers, religious thinkers, and thought leaders to explore what we can learn from the world’s faith traditions to help us meet some of life’s biggest challenges. Along the way, he’ll look at how we can adapt and use spiritual practices in our own lives, whatever our beliefs, including none at all.

It’s by working across the boundaries that usually divide us – science versus religion, one faith versus another – that we’ll find new ways to make life better for everyone.

David DeSteno
32hr 51min
Thumbnail for "How God Works Presents: No Small Endeavor with Lee C. Camp".
Hey How God Works listeners! While we’re hard at work on Season 6, we’d like to invite you to check out No Small Endeavor, a podcast that explores what it means to live a good life, hosted by professor of theology and ethics Lee C. Camp.
Thumbnail for "The Spiritual (and Political) Crisis in the US".
Anger, loneliness, and despair are hitting record levels in the US. Our social and political fabrics are fraying. Is the turn away from religion in the US part of the problem?
Thumbnail for "Live Event: Can Religion & Science Get Along in the 21st Century?".
Science and religion can often seem at loggerheads. But does it have to be that way?
Thumbnail for "How God Works… for Animals? ".
When it comes to how we treat other animals, humanity’s track record is spotty at best. Has it always been that way? And how do the beliefs we hold about animals shape how we treat them? Are they really as different from us as Western culture has long suggested?
Thumbnail for "Modern Witchcraft".
Do you feel connected to nature’s rhythms and the peace that they provide? Are cooking, crafting, or other small daily rituals a form of spell work or spirituality for you? If you’re a witch, the answers are a definite yes.
Thumbnail for "Tiny Religions".
On this episode, we ask: What’s it like to be a member of a tiny religion in a world dominated by “Big God”? 
Thumbnail for "U.F.Whoa!".
Religion is often about powerful beings coming down from the skies and humans yearning to go up to join them. Does that mean we can swap aliens in for God? More and more people seem to think so.
Thumbnail for "The Power of Pilgrimage".
What makes a trip a pilgrimage? And why have people from across the globe made these treks for millennia?
Thumbnail for "Is War Holy?".
Is religion a source of conflict, or a way to end it?
Thumbnail for "Season 6 Trailer".
Season 6 of How God Works is starting next week!
Thumbnail for "Finding Hope in Dark Times".
Surveys show feelings of sadness and despair peaked in 2023. So as we look to the new year, it's understandable why any of us might be feeling pessimistic, even hopeless. But these feelings aren't written in stone. We always have a choice. It's in these darkest of times, when all feels lost, that hope helps us find our way...not just to heal ourselves, but also the world around us.
Thumbnail for "Religion & Mental Health Part 2: Addiction".
When it comes to treating addiction, twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are some of the most often used in the US. But while twelve-step programs have several components, one of the most central is surrendering control to a higher power. But how important is that idea? Does relying on a divine influence help or hurt? And might there be other routes to recovery? 
Thumbnail for "Religion & Mental Health Part 1: Psychotherapy".
For most of the past 200 years, religion and psychiatry didn’t get along too well.  Or so the story goes. But if you go back far enough, the two have more in common than you might think.
Thumbnail for "Every Breath You Take".
It’s no accident that the Hebrew word for breath is the same as the word for spirit (ruach). Breath doesn’t just give us life: it helps regulate everything from vital organ functions to cognition and emotional states.
Thumbnail for "Touching the Transcendent".
We’ve all heard of spiritual experiences – moments of feeling intense awe and deep love and connection. People who’ve had them – and it’s a lot more than you might think – see them as some of the most profound moments of their lives.
Thumbnail for "Introducing: Mother is a Question".
Today we’re featuring an episode from the new PRX podcast Mother is a Question.
Thumbnail for "From Two Spirit to Bissu, Gender Diversity Has Deep Roots".
Around the world, gender diversity isn't the exception; it's fairly common. It’s also not a new invention.
Thumbnail for "Queer and Here!".
Christianity and Judaism have had long standing theological concerns with LGBTQ+ issues. BUT from the Vatican to certain Jewish denominations, there are movements afoot to be more open, tolerant, and accepting.
Thumbnail for "Seeking Silence".
When’s the last time you actually heard silence? We’re flooded with noise everyday, so much so that we don’t even realize it. And it's not just bad for our ears, it's not great for our health or wellbeing either. We’ll take a look at how noise (and its absence) affect the workings of our mind and our emotions.
Thumbnail for "Season 5 of How God Works is Coming".
How God Works is coming back to your feed on September 24th! Tune in this season as we tackle topics like the value of silence, how different faiths view gender and sexuality, the power of mystical experience and connecting to the breath, and much more.
Thumbnail for "Is Burning Man a Party or a Pilgrimage? (2022)".
Every year, thousands of people head to Nevada's Black Rock Desert for a week at Burning Man. And while from the outside, it might seem like a place for partying, drugs, and debauchery, to many, it offers something deeper, even life changing.
Thumbnail for "Soul-ercise ".
The lights are dimmed, candles are lit, bodies begin to sway together as the voice from the stage says a spirit-lifting, soul-stirring affirmation…and then screams “Now sprint for 10!”. 
Thumbnail for "What’s Old is New Again".
It's not news that the US is becoming more secular. People have been drifting away from religion for decades, and that trend is accelerating right now in people under 40. But there is a small but growing trend in those same generations of people who are seeking just the opposite.
Thumbnail for "Can Ancient Wisdom Help Gen Z's Stress & Unhappiness?".
For decades, studies from around the globe showed that happiness followed a U-shaped curve across the lifespan. For many people, the teens and twenties were some of the happiest and most carefree times of life — a period to be enjoyed before happiness began to drop and hit its low point around 50. BUT, over the past 10 years, a seismic change has taken place. The front end of the happiness curve collapsed, meaning that teens and twenties are now the most unhappy time of life.
Thumbnail for "Moving Beyond Us vs Them".
Hate and prejudice based on ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation are all too common in our world. But are we doomed to be this way? Or is it possible to create a world where cooperation and peace are the norm? 
Thumbnail for "Sacred Sound".
On this episode we’ll take a look at what’s going on in our brains and bodies when we sing sacred songs together... or listen to jazz. And why from Jewish nigunim to John Coltrane, music can deepen our connection with the divine, each other, and even with ourselves.
Thumbnail for "The Flow of Craft".
What do we get out of making things with our hands?
Thumbnail for "God is Green".
When it comes to protecting the environment and addressing climate change, religion has had mixed results. Why is that?
Thumbnail for "The Power of Awe".
Awe fills us with wonder -- we feel small in the face of things that seem vast, inspiring, almost beyond comprehension. So it makes sense that spiritual experiences often inspire awe. But new science is showing it can also work the other way around.  
Thumbnail for "Season 4 Trailer".
Season 4 is coming on Sunday, April 2!
Thumbnail for "From The Happiness Lab: Yoga of the Mind".
While we’re working on Season 4, we wanted to share a special episode from another podcast we love, The Happiness Lab.
Thumbnail for "How to be a Great Ancestor".
What do we owe future humans? In principle, it seems obvious that we should do what we can to make life better for the generations that follow, just as our ancestors did for us. But while most of us agree that doing this is the right thing, it can be hard to put into practice while also avoiding some of the pitfalls that often afflict growing philosophies like effective altruism and longtermism.
Thumbnail for "Grief: Moving Through Loss (2022)".
Sooner or later, most of us experience grief from losing someone we love. It’s always painful, and sometimes even debilitating. But there is plenty we can do to help ourselves and others be resilient.
Thumbnail for "Uniter or Divider? Explore Religion in Modern America. A How God Works Live Event.".
If you ask people what they think about religion, you often get one of two answers: Religion is the source of war, violence, abuse, and hypocrisy OR a route to love, kindness, tolerance, and mercy.
Thumbnail for "A Holiday from Tech Addiction".
Time with family, friends and loved ones is supposed to be at the center of the holiday season… but in our screen-dominated world, how many of us can say that’s still true?
Thumbnail for "How to Forgive".
‘Tis the season for giving and…forgiving. But while forgiveness is something to which we often aspire, it can be harder than it seems at times.
Thumbnail for "How God Works Live Event!".
Join us for the very first How God Works live event this Wednesday, December 7th at 7:30pm, at The Greene Space in New York.
Thumbnail for "How to Fix Work".
Work is becoming a “religion” for many people these days. It’s worship of the efficient, productive, and almighty dollar. But that doesn’t make people very happy. And organizations filled with miserable employees aren’t ideal for making the world a better place either. Can anything be done to fix it?
Thumbnail for "Religion and Robots and AI…Oh My!".
Can you pray with a robot? Will people worship AI like a god? It's not science fiction. It's starting to happen now. But what does it mean if robots become priests, or AIs start offering ethical advice? And how do we know when to trust them?
Thumbnail for "Making God Real".
Have you ever heard a voice, seen an image, or felt a presence around you that you couldn’t explain? If you have, you’re not alone.
Thumbnail for "How God Works Live Event!".
Join us for the very first How God Works live event on Wednesday, December 7 at The Greene Space in New York.
Thumbnail for "Is Burning Man a Party or a Pilgrimage?".
Every year, thousands of people head to Nevada's Black Rock Desert for a week at Burning Man. And while from the outside, it might seem like a place for partying, drugs, and debauchery, to many, it offers something deeper, even life changing.
Thumbnail for "Season Three Trailer".
How God Works will be back with Season 3 starting October 16th. 
Thumbnail for "Death: Embracing the Last Transition".
As a society that fears death, we tend to avoid the subject. But the key to having a positive end-of-life experience might come in doing just the opposite.
Thumbnail for "Grief: Moving Through Loss".
Sooner or later, most of us experience grief from losing someone we love. It’s always painful, and sometimes even debilitating. But there is plenty we can do to help ourselves and others be resilient.
Thumbnail for "Midlife: Leaning Into the Change".
Data shows that for many people, happiness takes a big dip around 50. But aging doesn’t have to be a crisis if we can figure out how to embrace who we’re becoming rather than hanging on to who we used to be.
Thumbnail for "Relationships and Marriage (Part 2): Keeping the Fire Burning".
To hear Hollywood tell it, good sex is a clothes-ripping race to the finish line, often between people who barely know each other. But the version we’re getting from movies and pop culture isn’t what it takes to build real intimacy, trust, and connection in the long term.
Thumbnail for "Relationships and Marriage (Part 1): Finding the Right Balance".
The definition of a “good” marriage has changed drastically over time and today it seems our expectations for our partner are higher than ever.  We want a best friend, intellectual equal, lover, and for many, a sensational co-parent who can also touch our soul. Which is a lot of pressure to put on one person!
Thumbnail for "Adolescence: How to Build an Adult".
When you're a teenager, you're kind of between two worlds. You're leaving the comforts and carefree days of childhood behind and stepping into the challenges and responsibilities adulthood brings. But when exactly should you make that change?
Thumbnail for "Childhood: Growing the Moral Muscle".
Do children need religion to grow into ethical, caring adults? Sixty-five percent of Americans think so, but the relationship between religion and morality is a nuanced one.
Thumbnail for "Birth: Getting Off to Good Start".
For all the joys a new child brings, it can also be a trying time filled with stresses, worries, and for some, depression. Long before new parents turned to books and blogs for advice, they turned to traditional practices and community for support.
Thumbnail for "New Year, New You, Take 2!".
By this time every year, more than 25% of resolutions have already been broken. In this bonus episode, Dave will share three tips to get you back on track.
Thumbnail for "Pain: The Benefits of Suffering".
Whether through painful public rituals or private sacrifices, suffering plays a role in many faiths.
Thumbnail for "Giving Alms: Why Everybody Wins".
December concludes a season of gifts for many. And while it's undeniably enjoyable to get gifts, it’s not what brings us the most happiness.
Thumbnail for "Healing Rituals: There’s Power in Belief".
A majority of people in the US believe that faith can heal. And while there isn’t any strong scientific data backing the idea of faith healing by divine intervention, there is a growing recognition that faith in the power of a person, religious ritual, or even medicine to heal can play a role in recovery via the placebo effect.
Thumbnail for "Transcendence: Why Chemicals Need Rituals".
For centuries, Central and South American cultures have used psychedelics to induce mystical states. And while in the US they’ve mostly been used as recreational drugs, interest in their power to offer a rapid route to transcendence has recently been growing.
Thumbnail for "Gratitude: Why Every Day Should Be Thanksgiving".
Most people think gratitude is an emotion about the past. But in reality, it’s all about the future.
Thumbnail for "Contemplating Death: A Secret for Happiness".
COVID-19 has led to what’s being called The Great Resignation. People are leaving their jobs in record numbers, many to find more meaning in life or to spend more time with family and friends. As it turns out, realizing that death might not be as far off as it usually seems just might have something to do with that.
Thumbnail for "Meditation: A Key to Kindness?".
We all value kindness. But showing it isn’t always easy. Buddhists recognized this problem long ago and developed what may be the world’s first and best tool for cultivating compassion: meditation.
Thumbnail for "Religion's Toolbox".
Research shows that spiritual practices tend to make people happier and healthier. The question is: Why?
Thumbnail for "Season 1 Trailer".
Coming October 3 from PRX Productions.

How God Works Presents: No Small Endeavor with Lee C. Camp

Thumbnail for "How God Works Presents: No Small Endeavor with Lee C. Camp".
January 28, 202449min 30sec

Hey How God Works listeners! While we’re hard at work on Season 6, we’d like to invite you to check out No Small Endeavor, a podcast that explores what it means to live a good life, hosted by professor of theology and ethics Lee C. Camp.