Why is religion natural - Why is Religion Natural Is...

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Why is Religion Natural? Is religious belief a mere leap into irrationality as many skeptics assume?  Psychology suggests that there may be more to belief than the suspension  of reason.  P A S C A L   B O Y E R   Religious beliefs and practices are found in all human groups and go back  to the very beginnings of human culture. What makes religion so 'natural'?  A common temptation is to search for the origin of religion in general human  urges, for instance in people's wish to escape misfortune or mortality or  their desire to understand the universe. However, these accounts are often  based on incorrect views about religion (see table 1) and the psychological  urges are often merely postulated. Recent findings in psychology,  anthropology, and neuroscience offer a more empirical approach, focused  on the mental machinery activated in acquiring and representing religious  concepts.[ 1    Pascal Boyer  is the Henry  Luce Professor at  Washington University, St.  Louis, and author of  Religion  Explained  (Basic Books). He  does experimental and  anthropological research on  the transmission of cultural  knowledge. 
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Do not say... But say...  Religion answers people's  metaphysical questions Religious thoughts are typically activated when people deal  with concrete situations (this crop, that disease, this new birth,  this dead body, etc.) Religion is about a  transcendent God It is about a variety of agents: ghouls, ghosts, spirits,  ancestors, gods, etc., in direct interaction with people Religion allays anxiety It generates as much anxiety as it allays: vengeful ghosts,  nasty spirits and aggressive gods are as common as  protective deities Religion was created at  time  t  in human history There is no reason to think that the various kinds of thoughts  we call "religious" all appeared in human cultures at the same  time Religion is about  explaining natural  phenomena Most religious explanations of natural phenomena actually  explain little but produce salient mysteries Religion is about  explaining mental  phenomena (dreams,  visions) In places where religion is not invoked to explain them, such  phenomena are not seen as intrinsically mystical or  supernatural Religion is about morality  and the salvation of the  soul The notion of salvation is particular to a few doctrines  (Christianity and doctrinal religions of Asia and the Middle  East) and unheard of in most other traditions Religion creates social  cohesion Religious commitment can (under some conditions) be used  as signal of coalitional affiliation, but coalitions create social  fission (secession) as often as group integration
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