Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer


Religion Explained uses cognitive psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and evolutionary biology to explain to us the evolutionary origins of religious thought.

The interesting approach used by the author is unique.  He describes how the brain receives and organizes information to explain to us how religious thoughts came to be.  He believes that the explanation for religious beliefs and behaviors is to be found in the way all human minds work, not just the minds of religious people.  The author tells us that we have a brain that is prepared to acquire religion and transmit it.  That doesn’t mean that we have to have religion, just like having a respiratory system prepares us to have a cold but we don’t have to have it.  I thought this was a very interesting point that he made.  Boyer also makes the point that when trying to give a definition of religion we should make sure that it is general enough to apply to outside our own understanding of what religion is.  His chapters seek to answer questions like what is the origin, what supernatural concepts are like, what kind of mind does it take to see this, why gods and spirits, why do gods and spirits matter, why religion is about death, why rituals, why belief, and why doctrines, exclusions and violence.

The chapters are extremely informative in an easy layman manner.  It encourages slow reading because as simple as the concepts and ideas are they are also very complex.  They challenge the reader to think outside of their comfort zone.

This is a book that might anger a lot of people who believe and if you are brave enough to read it then please keep an open mind at all times.  The author asks a question and answers it in a manner that you may have answered the same question (sometimes his answers were verbatim what I answered) and then he goes on to tell you why these answers though comfortable are wrong.  He does not ridicule anyone nor is this the object of the book, but some people might view it as such.  This book is a challenge that will change the way you think about religion.  I know that I have a lot to think about now.

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