Religion Explained

Religion Explained

infobox Book

author = Boyer, Pascal
name = "Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought"
language = English
subject = Religion
genre = Science
publisher = Basic Books
release_date = 2001
isbn = ISBN 0-465-00696-5

"Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought" is a book by anthropologist Pascal Boyer that discusses the evolutionary origins of religious concepts. Through an examination of the mind's inference systems - how they work and how they have been shaped over time - Boyer suggests explanations of how it is that we have the religious concepts we do, and why they have been so culturally successful. Boyer presents evidence from many specialized disciplines including anthropology, cognitive science, linguistics and evolutionary biology to support the idea that a naturalistic explanation of religion is possible, and suggests that such an approach is necessary if the field and study of religion is going to make progress.


# What is the Origin?
# What Supernatural Concepts are Like
# The Kind of Mind it Takes
# Why Gods and Spirits?
# Why Do Gods and Spirits Matter?
# Why is Religion about Death?
# Why Rituals?
# Why Doctrines, Exclusion and Violence?
# Why Belief?

Reviews and Comment

David Klinghoffer, one of the nation's leading proponents of intelligent design, in the National Review suggests that "Boyer's talk of "religion" is suspiciously generic" and that his work is "professorial noodlings" that beg the question and that "debunkers like Boyer ...have their own unconscious motivations (to undermine religious faith, after all, is to set oneself free of its many inconvenient strictures)." [ [ Faith no more- Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought - Review] ]

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Haifa, called it "a milestone on the road to a new behavioral understanding of religion, basing itself on what has come to be known as cognitive anthropology, and pointedly ignoring much work done over the past one hundred years in the behavioral study of religion and in the psychological anthropology of religion." He continues: The clearest virtue of this book is that of dealing with the real thing. Even today, most scholarly work on religion consists of apologetics in one form or another, and we are deluged by offers of grants to study “spirituality” or teach “religion and science”. This all serves to make us forget that religion is a collection of fantasies about spirits, and Boyer indeed aims to teach us about the world of the spirits in the grand tradition of the Enlightenment."

ee also

*Evolutionary psychology of religion


* Greek translation by Dimitris Xygalatas and Nikolas Roubekas as "Και ο Άνθρωπος Έπλασε τους Θεούς", Thessaloniki: Vanias 2008. ISBN: 9789602882252. [ [ Πρωτοπορία] ]
* French translation by as "Et l'homme créa les dieux: Comment expliquer la religion", Paris: Robert Laffont 2001. ISBN: 978-2221090466.
* German translation as "Und Mensch schuf Gott", Klett-Cotta 2004, ISBN 978-3608940329.

Notes & References

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