The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life
I just read the first chapter of this book, and was amazed how bad it was. So, I wrote a snarky review in Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Belief-Instinct-Psychology-Destiny-Meaning/product-reviews/0393072991/ref=cm_cr_dp_hist_1?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addOneStar
Here is my review:
Not sure why the book is getting such high marks., August 10, 2011
I'm not sure why the book is getting such high marks.
Bering, who seems to sincerely believe he has something new to offer, instead treads a frequently-trod path in which God is portrayed as due to some kind of ancient primitive belief now discarded by the righteously well informed.
In this case, he treads the path created by such folks as Pascal Boyer or Scott Atran, to mention a few big names. Their books "Religion Explained" and "In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion" are well worth reading. Both exploit cognitive science approaches to religion and conclude that its a primitive thing - if that is what you are after - but engage you intellectually and spiritually as well.
Bering, bless his soul, wants to convince you - and I'm being serious - that primitive man persuaded himself (or maybe it was primitive woman who persuaded herself) that God exists to prevent - gossip??
Here is how he says it. God evolved in human minds as an "adaptive illusion ... that directly helped our ancestors solve the unique problem of human gossip." So there you have it, folks. God exists because we gossip.
He elaborates: "If [our human ancestors] failed to bridle their selfish passions in the face of temptation, and if there was even a single human witness to their antisocial actions, our ancestors' reputations - and hence their reproductive interests - were foolishly gambled away. The private perception of being intelligently designed, monitored, and known about by a God who actively punished and rewarded our intentions and behaviors would have helped stamp out the frequency and intensity of our ancestor's immoral hiccups and would have been strongly favored by natural selection." God didn't have to exist. Just thinking he existed would have been adequate to achieve this highly desirable result of suppressing gossip.
If you are interested in real ideas, go to Atran, Boyer, or a number of other books by excellent people out there. If you just want to feel superior to those who believe in religion and want an easy read, you might like this book. [color=#][/color]