I did feel myself completely enlightened after reading the wonderful book by Pascal Boyer called "Religion Explained: The Human Instincts That Fashion Gods, Spirits and Ancestors>".
In fact I hope that every human being interested in the world around him or her should read this book in some stage of their lives.
The main reason for this enthusiasm is the fact that Pascal Boyer was the first man to give me a meaningful answer to the question why religions exist. He brings in the findings of neurophysiology and the scientific research to explain how the human mind works.
Pascal Boyer shows in his book that evolution has simply molded our brains in such a way that it is extremely easy for a human to accept various kinds of claims without questioning their validity at all.
It is quite enough, if these claims remain in a certain stage of fuzziness and help people to face different kinds of phenomena, crises and problems in their everyday lives.
Pascal Boyer also tells us why the modern religions are the way they are. There are only those religions left that have learned to use for their benefit the misfiring of human brain that creates causal explanations for things and phenomena that have in reality do have no causal explanations.
A quite similar feature can make us treat a broken down car as a living and thinking creature for a moment.
Pascal Boyer is not content with analyzing the western cultures, but he searches for universal features in all religions. He has done a lot of field work in the Western Africa, but he gives a lot of examples from Asia and Polynesia also.
The single most important feature of this book is that Pascal Boyer does not let his scientific approach lapse for a single moment. He does not speculate or preach his ready-made teachings, but he lets science speak for itself.
This book is a cross-scientific examination of
latest findings in brain research, neuroscience, social anthropology, social
psychology and evolutionary psychology,
Pascal Boyer analyzes in depth those evolutionary forces that have created the religions in the first place and made them so universal. In the later part of the book he examines the reasons that have created the modern monotheistic variants of religions that are based on holy books.
One of the messages of Pascal Boyer is that these religions were created in societies where every profession had their own guilds protecting the interests of that profession.
When creating a new religion is in fact extremely easy, there was a definite need for the religious guild to be constantly on their guard on the possible creation of new competing religious guilds. This is the reason why these religions of the book have been seeking the support of the holders of secular power.
When the power of one’s own guild can vanish almost overnight there is a definite need to ensure the favor of the political elite to protect ones guild from competition.
All in all Pascal Boyer is a scientist who has had the guts to take religions as his subject. Scientists have traditionally avoided this field as there are inevitably strong passions involved.
After reading Pascal Boyer’s book I realize mach more cleared that before why quite even headed and sane people can believe in things like holy trinity or the virgin birth. Also I understand much more clearly why this nonsense is rejected by so many.
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