An evolutionary anthropology of religion

I talk about religion a lot on this weblog….but to some extent, I think I talk past many of the readers here. Many of my ideas over the past few years in regards to religion have been shaped by the naturalistic program in evolutionary cultural anthropology. The key workers in this area are Dan Sperber, Scott Atran, Pascal Boyer and Lawrence Hirschfeld. In any case, I know I sound gibberishy sometimes. When I first read Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust, I laughed it was so incomprehensible. Nevertheless, after a period of reflection I realized that common sense introspection on questions of human psychology can only go so far. On a personal level the reason is simple: I’m not a common person. I don’t mean this in the “I am very, very special and you are not” sort of way, but, unlike the majority of the human race I simply never have really believed in a personal God. Additionally, I realized explicitly I was an atheist when I was 7 years old. From what I can tell, this is somewhat strange. There are other peculiarties about my personality which make it somewhat problematic for me to extrapolate from my own mind to the human race in general (I am pretty sure I have an attenuated Theory of Mind for example).
In any case, without further ado, I point readers to a 62 page PDF, Religion’s evolutionary landscape. This encapsulates many of the ideas and opinions I myself now have in regards to ‘religion.’ Of course, many times when people talk about religion they mean Christianity or Islam. And certainly that is religion, but it is a layer on top of basal religiosity and supernaturalism. This higher level can be addressed by different disciplines and scholars…more on that later….

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