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Friday, January 24, 2014

This is your brain on religion: Uncovering the science of belief

From Pope Francis to Phil Robertson: Why are some people of faith generous — while others are nuts?

By D. F. Swaab
Originally posted on January 4, 2014

Here are some excerpts:

The Evolutionary Advantage of Religion

Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

The evolution of modern man has given rise to five behavioral characteristics common to all cultures: language, toolmaking, music, art, and religion. Precursors of all these characteristics, with the exception of religion, can be found in the animal kingdom. However, the evolutionary advantage of religion to humankind is clear.

(1) First, religion binds groups. Jews have been kept together as a group by their faith, in spite of the Diaspora, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust. For leaders, belief is an excellent instrument. As Seneca said, “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” Religions use various mechanisms to keep the group together:


Paul Verspeek, hosting a local Dutch radio show on Boxing Day 2005, asked psychiatrists how they would recognize Jesus Christ if he returned to Earth. How would they distinguish between him and mentally ill patients who claimed to be Christ? The psychiatrists were stumped for an answer.

The entire article is here.

Thanks to Tom Fink for this article.