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Religion explained PDF

385 Pages·2009·1.74 MB·English
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RELIGION EXPLAINED Also by Pascal Boyer The Naturalness of Religious Ideas Tradition as Truth and Communication RELIGION EXPLAINED THE EVOLUTIONARY ORIGINS OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT P B ASCAL OYER Copyright © 2001 by Pascal Boyer Published by Basic Books, A Member of the Perseus Books Group All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address Basic Books, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299. Designed by Elizabeth Lahey Text set inJanson 11 on 14 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Boyer, Pascal. Religion explained: the evolutionary origins of religious thought / Pascal Boyer. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-465-00695-7 1. Religion. I. Title. BL48 .B6438 2001 200—dc21 00-054661 01 02 03 04 / 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 CONTENTS Acknowledgments VII [1] WHAT IS THE ORIGIN? 1 [2] WHAT SUPERNATURAL CONCEPTS ARE LIKE 51 [3] THE KIND OF MIND IT TAKES 93 [4] WHY GODS AND SPIRITS? 137 [5] WHY DO GODS AND SPIRITS MATTER? 169 [6] WHY IS RELIGION ABOUT DEATH? 203 [7] WHY RITUALS? 229 [8] WHY DOCTRINES, EXCLUSION AND VIOLENCE? 265 [9] WHY BELIEF? 297 Further readings 331 Notes 335 References 343 Index 359 This page intentionally left blank ACKNOWLEDGMENTS That I should write this book was clear in the minds of my editors, Abel Gerschenfeld and Ravi Mirchandani, long before I had even started. I am grateful for their gentle prodding. Abel in particular showed great persuasive power, was patient enough to read many different versions, and always trusted me to produce something readable, a real triumph of hope over experience. I must also express my deep gratitude to a number of people whom I coaxed or coerced into imparting their knowledge and intuitions, perfecting or rejecting many versions of each argument, reading and correcting parts or even the whole of the original manuscript, and generally helping me better understand all these complicated issues: Anne de Sales, Brian Malley, Carlo Severi, Charles Ramble, Dan Sperber, E. Thomas Lawson, Harvey Whitehouse, Ilkka Pyssiäinen, John Tooby, Justin Barrett, Leda Cosmides, Michael Houseman, Paolo Sousa, Pascale Michelon, Robert McCauley, Ruth Lawson. [VII] This page intentionally left blank 1 WHAT IS THE ORIGIN? A neighbor in the village tells me that I should protect myself against witches. Otherwise they could hit me with invisible darts that will get inside my veins and poison my blood. A shaman burns tobacco leaves in front of a row of statuettes and starts talking to them. He says he must send them on a journey to dis- tant villages in the sky. The point of all this is to cure someone whose mind is held hostage by invisible spirits. A group of believers goes around, warning everyone that the end is nigh. Judgement Day is scheduled for October 2. This day passes and nothing happens. The group carries on, telling everyone the end is nigh (the date has been changed). Villagers organize a ceremony to tell a goddess she is not wanted in their village anymore. She failed to protect them from epidemics, so they decided to "drop" her and find a more efficient replacement. An assembly of priests finds offensive what some people say about what happened several centuries ago in a distant place, where a virgin is said to have given birth to a child. So these people must be massacred. Members of a cult on an island decide to slaughter all their live- stock and burn their crops. All these will be useless now, they say, because a ship full of goods and money will reach their shores very shortly in recognition of their good deeds. My friends are told to go to church or some other quiet place and talk to an invisible person who is everywhere in the world. That invis- ible listener already knows what they will say, because He knows everything. I am told that if I want to please powerful dead people—who could help me in times of need—I should pour the blood of a live white goat [1]

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