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In "Why Would Anyone Believe in God?", Justin L. Barrett explores the landscape of cognitive science to demonstrate how a belief in god or gods is a pervasive human phenomenon. Barrett contends that belief in gods is natural due to the way our minds operate and perceive the world. Barrett begins with an easy to follow explanation of how the brain uses a variety of tools without conscious awareness to make sense of our environments, memories, and experiences. His foundational argument is that be
Barrett gives a cognitive science approach, breaking down "devices" brains use to recognize phenomena and establish belief. From this he formulates the argument that religious beliefs are quite natural. At times, however, the schema of Friedrich Max Müller and others about "development" of religious systems lurks in the background. The short book does not give enough of an account of its own social imbrication.
I'm a bit shocked to realize this book is already more than ten years old. I'd like to imagine I'm so up to date. I'm not, though, so I can't evaluate the strength of the book's claims in light of subsequent research; but I found it a fairly accessible synoptic account of the more central findings of the cognitive science of religion.The first five chapters were the best, in my view, as Barrett developed his account of why belief in gods comes naturally to human beings. Simply entertained as pos...
This book, while a bit theoretical (out of necessity, given the young field), was very interesting to me. It makes me want to study cognitive science of religion. Maybe I will someday?Part of what makes Barrett's work interesting (which he will be continuing with a new book about children "Born Believers") is that he comes from a Christian perspective. This differentiates him from the bulk of scholars in cognitive science of religion. Nevertheless, Barrett maintains a respectably neutral approac...
I use this in my Psych of Religion class because it summarizes a lot of the psych of religion literature and introduces them to evolutionary psychology and includes research from several branches of psychology (developmental, social, cognitive) as well as theory and research from anthropologists and sociologists. I am afraid the title might turn some of them off, but the author is a conservative Christian. It's written in a very accessible style, but I still worry that it might be over their hea...
A promising attempt to apply psychological principles to the persistence of religious belief in human beings--on the surface. Barrett's token analysis of atheism (and the references he makes throughout) are two-dimensional and without foundation and the conclusions he draws are clearly informed by bias.
A short, readable account of the cognitive science behind religious belief. The chapter explaining the proliferation of atheism (and why it is only now happening) was especially interesting.