How helpful is Boyer in explaining or understanding religion? This is an analysis of Pascal Boyer's "Religion Explained"

Essay by Riviera8429University, Bachelor's December 2002

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There may not be any issue more inexplicable than religious belief and thought. Religion is a primary factor in many psychotic actions performed by humans. There are numerous typical cynical answers to the lasting question of why religions exist. Religions are said to offer reasons for dreams, natural phenomena, the beginning of the world, and our place in it. Religion grants solace during times of hardship, and is the glue that binds societies around the world in addition to inspiring and in some cases even being the moral code by which these societies are run. Perhaps religion is no more than another example of our naiveté, vulnerability, and our inclination to follow.

Pascal Boyer's objective in Religion Explained is to explain the underlying faults possessed by the former theories and in the process present an explanation of his own. Boyer claims, as the title of his book so boldly asserts, to have explained religion.

His examination of the subject matter is exceedingly fascinating, but at the same time incredibly wearisome. What is meant by this is that the excerpts say many remarkable things about religion, but fail to acknowledge a crucial point. Boyer asks three vital questions on religion: Why are some beliefs very common across world religions while others are rare? Why are some behaviors common across religion while others are not? How does our knowledge of the evolutionarily based preconceptions of the human brain correlate with our religious beliefs and behaviors? Boyer does an exquisite job of answering these looming questions, but he seems to shy away from a fundamental dilemma about religion, the correspondence between spirituality and the behavior and beliefs performed by world religions. The excerpts barely touch on spirituality's existence. Although Boyer presents convincing ideas and a scientific explanation for various religious aspects such...