The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion

The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion

The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion

The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion

Synopsis

Offers a fresh and detailed take on the evolution of religious behavior from a biobehavioral perspective, promoting a new understanding that may help build bridges across the religious divide.

Excerpt

The firstborn child of two young parents is born prematurely. The pediatrician tells her parents that she has a 50:50 chance of surviving. Her father, who previously had not considered himself a religious man, looks upward with tears in his eyes and says, “Please God. Don’t let her die.” A middle-aged man dressed in a dark business suit sits in the first row at the funeral parlor staring ahead at the mahogany casket containing the remains of his mother. His wife sits next to him with her arm around his shoulder trying to comfort him. His sorrow is consoled by the minister saying that his mother is now in heaven with her maker.

An old orthodox Jewish rabbi, who as a young man was liberated from Mauthausen concentration camp, explains that during that terrible time in his life when everything else in the world had been taken from him, all he had was God. A thirty-some–year-old Navajo Indian woman, who outwardly seems quite acculturated, is told by the Indian Health Service doctor that she has cervical cancer and needs surgery. She asks if the surgery could be postponed for a week so that she can have a traditional Navajo healing ceremony first.

A young Balinese Hindu man walks toward the grave of his father who, six months earlier, was buried in a temporary-grave area near the cremation grounds because the family did not have enough money for a cremation ceremony. On the way he buys a cup of hot coffee at a small roadside stand. He takes the Styrofoam cup with the hot coffee to his father’s grave, carefully stirring in the milk and sugar as he walks. He stops and lights a cigarette. He kneels and then places the steaming hot coffee and the lit cigarette on the ground at the head of his father’s grave. He bows his head and softly says something in the . . .

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