Religion Is Not About God: How Spiritual Traditions Nurture Our Biological Nature and What To Expect When They Fail by Loyal Rue

The author, Loyal Rue, is a professor of philosophy and religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.  His writing style in this book is easy to follow even when he was explaining a complex thought.

The basic premise of the book is the idea that religion is not about God or Gods but about us.  Religions that are successful are ones that influence our human nature so that we could think, feel and act in ways that are good for us, both on the personal level and on society level.

The book itself is divided into three parts.

Part one examines the evolutionary story and especially the evolution of behavior.  Chapter one traces the evolutionary story from the first moment of creation to the emergence of life.  Chapter two continues with the evolution of behavior from simple molecules to complex neurological systems.  Chapter three concentrated on aspects of human nature that are open to manipulation by religious traditions.  The author focuses on the dynamic interactions between emotional, cognitive and symbolic systems.  Chapter four changes focus from human nature to spiritual traditions.  This chapter talks about (in general) what is religion, its structure, its origins, and its function.

Part two is very interesting as it puts into practice all we have learned in part one.  There are five chapters, each chapter is concerned with one religion and each chapter is broken down into the following: historical context, myth, emotional appeal, ancillary strategies, and personal wholeness and social coherence.  The five religions discussed are: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

Part three considers the future of religion.  It is made up of two chapters.  In these chapters the author gives his version of the future of religion, even though in the beginning he says he is sure nothing will change.  Chapter ten discusses the impact of modern science, religious diversity, and the rise of the consumer culture and what it means for us.  Chapter eleven discusses the impact of the environmental changes that are going on in the world now.  Both these chapters are trying to discuss the viability of the religions we have now and whether they can do what they are supposed to do and if they fail, what then?

Anyone interested in researching religion should read this book.  It is an amazing journey, full of simple information that has totally been over looked by a lot of people.  It puts forward a theory and then sets out to prove it and I think that the author proves his theory extremely well.  And the way he finally brings it to the present then takes it to the future is just a pleasure to read.



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