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from: Pascal Boyer: "Religion Explained. The evolutionary origins of religious thought"

"The explanation for religious beliefs and behaviors is to be found in the way all human minds work. (...) what matters here are properties of minds that are found in all members of our species with normal brains." (p.2

"The mind it takes to have religion is the standard architecture that we all have by virtue of being members of the species [Homo sapiens]. (We need no special mentality or mind) (p.135)

Having a normal brain does not imply that you have religion. All it implies is that you can acquire it, which is very different. (...) evolution by natural selection gave us a particular kind of mind so that only particular kinds of religious notions can be acquired." (p.4)

Salvation is not always a central preoccupation [in religions]
You can have religion without having "a" religion
You can have religion without having "religion"
You can have religion without "faith"

The mistake of intellectualism was to assume that a human mind is driven by a general urge to explain." (p.16)
The urge to explain the universe is not the origin of religion

We must discard the parochial notion that religion everywhere promises salvation, for that is clearly not the case. (p.21)

Religious concepts do not always provide reassurance or comfort. Deliverance from mortality is not quite the universal longing we often assume." (p.22)

Matias 8 Feb 1

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This is exactly what I’ve been propounding. Religion is not an attempt to explain the world. Religion is not about faith or belief. Finally, religion is not necessarily a refuge from the fear of death.

You might find elements of those things in the formal tenets of religious organizations, but behind it all there is also an innate natural religious impulse based on deep awareness of the mystery and grandeur of existence. That innate religion is expressed as joy, excitement, awe, appreciation and gratitude for life, and it is the driver of art, science and philosophy as well as formal religion.

I am not in full accord with the idea that we tend toward religion because our brains evolved as they did. I suspect we tend toward religion because of conscious awareness and that evolution is driven by conscious awareness also. Correlation is not causation.


That’s a nice change from all these silly cartoons saying religious people are mad.

I think that we developed the ability to create scenarios in our mind so as play out different eventualities in our minds. This means that we wouldn’t die from every bad idea we tried out. This ability to imagine has become more sophisticated through the progress of evolution and gradually was able to create the concept of intangibles like god, heaven etc. I got this idea from one of Jordan Peterson’s videos.


While most of his observations are spot on, I must demur in the matter of faith. In as much as religion deals with the unknown or unseen, faith must remain a key element. Base a "religion" on the observable and knowable and it is no longer religion.


Oscar Wilde wrote De Profundis while serving time in jail for "gross indecency with men". While in jail he had plenty of time to consider life.

He said:

"When I think of religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who cannot believe: the Confraternity of the Faithless, one might call it, where on the altar, on which no taper burned, a priest in whose heart peace had no dwelling, might celebrate with unblessed bread and a chalice empty of wine. Everything to be true must become a religion. And agnosticism should have its ritual no less than faith"

I doubt that religion is possible without ritual.

cava Level 7 Feb 1, 2019

Interesting observations, many accurate. Religion is an attempt to survive and prosper in a complex and often threatening world which one does not understand or control. As an evolutionary device, however, it fails. It prevents search for real understanding and consequent truly adaptive behavior.

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