The God Illusion

January 27, 2011

God may work in mysterious ways – but cognitive science is getting a handle on them

Scientific American features an intriguing introduction to Jesse Bering’s new book The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny and the Meaning of Life. One of the leading scholars in the field of religious cognition Bering crafts a thesis that builds on the strengths of his own research and others.

In the chapters that follow, we will be exploring this question of the innateness of God beliefs, in addition to many related beliefs, such as souls, the afterlife, destiny, and meaning. You’re probably already well versed in the man in the street’s explanations for why people gravitate toward God in times of trouble. Almost all such stories are need-based accounts concerning human emotional well-being. For example, if I were to pose the question “Why do most people believe in God?” to my best friend from high school, or my Aunt Betty Sue in Georgia, or the pet store owner in my small village here in Northern Ireland, their responses would undoubtedly go something like this: “Well, that’s easy. It’s because people need . . . [fill in the blank here: to feel like there’s something bigger out there; to have a sense of purpose in their lives; to take comfort in religion; to reduce uncertainty; something to believe in].”

Source: Scientific American

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