Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn't

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Oxford University Press, Dec 3, 2007 - Social Science - 176 pages
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Why do religious people believe what they shouldn't -- not what others think they shouldn't believe, but things that don't accord with their own avowed religious beliefs? D. Jason Slone terms this phenomenon "theological incorrectness." He argues that it exists because the mind is built in such a way that it's natural for us to think divergent thoughts simultaneously. Human minds are great at coming up with innovative ideas that help them make sense of the world, he says, but those ideas do not always jibe with official religious beliefs. From this fact we derive the important lesson that what we learn from our environment -- religious ideas, for example -- does not necessarily cause us to behave in ways consistent with that knowledge. Slone presents the latest discoveries from the cognitive science of religion and shows how they help us to understand exactly why it is that religious people do and think things that they shouldn't.

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User Review  - getdowmab - LibraryThing

A brief, yet dense and insightful examinatio nof the cognitive mechanisms underlying many of our religious inclinations. This book is especially interested in research examining the cognitive basis ... Read full review

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This book is a neat analysis of religion using the tools of cognitive psychology. The main goal of the author is, as the title suggests, to explain why religious people (orthodox, even) are often found to believe in things that are contrary to the explicit teachings of their religion. Such "theological incorrectness" is widespread among the world's religions : many practising Buddhists have explicitly regard Gautama Buddha as a God, praying to him and making offerings, despite his explict teaching that he is not to be regarded a God. Similarly, despite the official teachings of many religions that God is omnipresent and beyond time, believers have been known to answer to questions that reveal that they conceive of God as being present in only one place at a given time.
Cognitive psychology is the branch of psychology that tries to understand human behaviour in terms of the algorithms and internal processes that the human brain employs (or rather, likely to employ). Although to a computer scientist, this looks like the obvious way to do psychology, but the dominant school of psychology before Cognitivism rose to prominence in the 1950s - Behaviorism - viewed humans as mappings of stimuli to reflexes, and ignored the contents of the brain entirely. The author devotes a chapter to explaining and defending the tenets of cognitive psychology, covering the Noam Chomsky argument for the existence of an innate language module in humans in the process. This chapter is a pretty good review of


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