Why Gods Persist
A Scientific Approach to Religion, 2nd Edition
Published September 29th 2009 by Routledge – 294 pages
What is it about religion that appeals to people? Why do religions and religious beliefs persist in the face of increasing secularisation, harsh criticism and even political persecution? Robert Hinde argues that it is not enough simply to criticize religion, we must understand it - not only how it causes so much conflict, but also how it brings comfort to many.
Hinde, a distinguished scientist, draws on a wide range of psychological, developmental and evolutionary research to explore this fascinating question. This second edition of Why Gods Persist is designed for everyone interested in the subject, either as a student of psychology and anthropology of religion or as a follower of the current controversies over the value of religious belief.
'Robert Hinde, the respected elder statesman of the science in which I was trained, is a passionate humanitarian, of mature wisdom and legendarily sharp intellect. Though no more religious than I am, he is penetratingly critical of the approach that I and others have taken, and we have to listen to him. He makes the convincing case that it is not enough to be against religion. Whether or not you call it a delusion (as I would, but he would be too polite), you have to understand its attractions and its motivations. Robert Hinde is superbly qualified to aid our understanding.' - Richard Dawkins, formerly Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, University of Oxford
List of illustrations Acknowledgements Preface 1. Religion and science: the questions 2. Some background issues 3. What does it mean to say ‘I believe?' 4. What are gods like? 5. The development of beliefs 6. Why do people believe in gods? 7. The dynamics of belief and its relation to the social system 8. Narratives 9. Ritual: background considerations 1.0 The form and sequence of ritual: magic 1.1 The motivation and consequences of ritual 12. Moral codes: background considerations 13. Prosocial behaviour and reciprocity 14. Other moral precepts 15. Religious experience 16. Social aspects of religious systems 17. Why do religious systems persist? 18. Where do we go from here? Notes Bibliography Index
Robert A. Hinde is a Professor Emeritus and former Master of St. John’s College, Cambridge. He is also the British chairman of the Pugwash Group. His work in zoology, psychology and anthropology has been widely recognised; amongst his many distinctions he is a Fellow of the Royal Society, an honorary Fellow of the British Academy, Foreign Hon. Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and Hon. Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.