Top neurologists, pharmacologists, anatomists, ethicists and theologians will examine the scientific basis of religious belief and whether it is anything more than a placebo, the London Times reports.
Oxford's new Centre for the Science of the Mind will use imaging systems to find out how religious, spiritual and other belief systems, such as an illogical belief in the innate superiority of men, influence consciousness, the report said.
Researchers believe the study will provide insights into the war on terrorism.
The two-year study, with $2 million from the U.S. philanthropic John Templeton Foundation, will involve dozens of people being subjected to painful experiments in laboratory conditions.
While enduring the agony, they will be exposed to religious symbols such as images of the Virgin Mary or a crucifix. The pain experiments will be conducted according to strict ethical rules, the Times said.