Essay on CPHL709 NaturalisticExplanationsOfReligion Student

Submitted By ablek123
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Religion, Science & Philosophy

Naturalistic Explanations of

1. “Mystical experiences are caused by reduced activity in the posterior superior parietal lobe.”
2. “People believe in reincarnation because it is comforting to believe that we have more than one life to live.”
3. “Prayer is essentially a way of clarifying, expressing and affirming our highest intentions and ideals.”
4. “The church's primary function is to provide an illusion of moral legitimacy to the state.”
5. “Public religious rituals are an evolutionary adaptation that increases group cohesion in our complex social species.”

naturalist explanations of religion:

Feuerbach, EC & LER

Religion is idolatry, is


Feuerbach, EC & LER

“the childlike condition of humanity”:

naïve self-awareness

Feuerbach, EC & LER

• religion’s primary cause: egoism

Feuerbach, EC & LER

possible anomalies
• mystical perceptions of God? Is the “desire for happiness” strong enough to facilitate these?
• people who believe that God exists but would prefer he didn’t
• proofs of God’s existence

Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained (2001)

Boyer: four types of explanation of religion:

Intellectual Scenarios: Religion provides explanations
Emotive Scenarios: Religion provides comfort
Social Scenarios: Religion provides social cohesion
“The Sleep of Reason”: Religion is a fundamental mental error Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained (2001)

A1. Intellectual Scenarios
Religion arises gradually in response to our persistent, fundamental desire to explain events and processes.
Boyer lists four common sub-types of this theory of religion:

People created religion to explain puzzling natural phenomena. ii. People created religion to explain puzzling mental phenomena. iii. People created religion to explain the origin of things. iv. People created religion to explain evil and suffering.

Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained (2001)

O1 A1

religious explanations are often so weak or regressive that it’s unlikely they’re meant to explain Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained (2001)

A2. Emotive Scenarios
Religion serves some deep emotional need.
Two versions:

Religion make mortality palatable.
Religion allays anxieties regarding the difficulties of life.

Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained (2001)


Religion often creates as much anxiety as it does comfort
[e.g. the Fang “witches”]


Religious beliefs offer comfort only insofar as they are believed. How is it that they come to be believed in the first place?

Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained (2001)

A3 Social Scenarios
Religion organizes society.

Three versions:
i. Religion gives people common beliefs and ideals. ii. Religion perpetuates a specific social order. iii.Religion supports morality.

Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained (2001)

O1A3 Functionalist explanations simply assume that individuals are inclined to produce social cohesion. But there must be some benefit to the individual for religion to persist.

Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained (2001)

A4“The Sleep of Reason”
Religion is due to some flaw in mental functioning: fallacies Three versions:
ii. iii. People are superstitious and will believe anything.
Religious concepts are irrefutable.
Refutation is more difficult than belief.


Why do the specifically religious beliefs