I recently saw this quote: “In the old days, religion was needed to make sense of the world. These days, the world can’t make sense of religion” I don’t know who it’s from but I liked it. Religion is widespread. It can motivate people for good and for bad. So, like it or not, modern societies find it necessary to interact with religion and this is sometimes problematic. This book is helpful for this as it provides an overview of findings from the scientific study of religion
It’s a version of lectures given by Pascal Boyer at the Universities of Frankfurt and Gießen, in May 2008 (as part of the Templeton Research Lectures on science and religion). Boyer explains that “being lectures, these were delivered in the form of sermons – that is, in this case, with greater emphasis on argument than evidence.” Descriptions of experimental studies are minimal but each chapter is well-referenced and there is a 7-page bibliography.
This has the advantage of providing an authoritative overview and access to the literature in a short book (112 pages in total, including a 5-page afterword or critique of the lectures by theologians Elisabeth Gräb-Schmidt and Wolfgang Achtner).
As well as describing conclusions from the scientific study of religious thought Boyer also explores the implications for several questions: “Can there be a free civil society with religions? Does it make sense to talk about religious experience?” And “Do religions make people better? “