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Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn't Hardcover – February 26, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0195169263 ISBN-10: 0195169263 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (February 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195169263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195169263
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,507,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"An exploration of the reasons why religious people often behave in unorthodox, if predictable, ways, Jason Slone's Theological Incorrectness is the latest in a growing number of cognitive studies of religion--and the most accessible to date. The chapters presenting this new approach--which argues that religion is a natural by-product of ordinary cognition--are exceptionally clear, making the book a welcome choice for use in undergraduate education. And Slone's examples--Buddhism, Christianity, and the perseverance of luck in religious practices--convincingly demonstrate its value not only to those encountering it for the first time but to established scholars of religious studies as well." --Luther H. Martin, Professor of Religion, The University of Vermont

"This is a splendid book that greatly adds to our knowledge of religion. Slone demonstrates how cognitive science illuminates persistent mysteries of religious thought and behavior: why some religions apparently dispense with gods and transcendence, why beliefs in luck will outlive all religious systems, and many other such enigmas. He tackles one of the most puzzling features of organized religion, that theologically sanctioned beliefs rarely command complete adherence even from the most devout followers. People do believe, but they often do not believe what they think they believe, and Slone brilliantly explains why that is so. --Pascal Boyer, author of Religion Explained

The cognitive science of religion aims to explain religious thinking and behavior in ways that are both precise and testable. Jason Slone shows how many previous theories of religion have fallen short in this respect and he provides a masterly overview of the new sciences that reverse that trend. But Slone has done much more than that. He has managed to produce a concise survey that is as accessible and entertaining as it is authoritative, interwoven with his own distinctive and important ideas. The result is a book that will appeal as much to lay readers and undergraduates as to advanced scholars and scientists interested in the psychological foundations of religion. --Harvey Whitehouse, author of Arguments and Icons: Divergent Modes of Religiosity

"Jason Slone's Theological Incorrectness shows in an erudite, humorous and compelling way how the cognitive science of religion is in the process of developing intriguing, plausible and empirically confirmable answers to the many puzzling features of religious ideas and the practices they inform. He distinguishes between the theologically correct explicit beliefs and the intuitive beliefs that actually drive religion on the ground. This important and groundbreaking book will make waves not only in the academic community but also in the larger marketplace of ideas. If I were a salesperson I would advise people to run rather than walk to buy it. Slone has made a signal contribution both to scholars engaged in the scientific study of religion and to the wider audience tuned to new voices presenting compelling ideas in exciting ways. --E. Thomas Lawson, Editor, Journal of Cognition and Culture

About the Author

D. Jason Slone is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Findlay in Ohio.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By R. Brekhus on October 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Slone's book will make the "reflexive" or "intuitive" religious believer uncomfortable, because it defines personal intuition and emotion as parts of ourselves that have been formed in the crucible of the brain's evolution, much like what many people think of as "animal instincts."

Slone suggests that there is a wide gulf between religous philosophers and average believers, and that the latter are predisposed to belief because the kind of brains that produce religious belief are, for other reasons, the kind of brains that helped our early ancestors survive in a hostile enviornment. All of Slone's examples from particular religions that show the contradictions between religious dogma or philosophy and popular expressions of the same religion seem to be a sort of lure to draw religous thinkers into Slone's way of conceiving of an origin of religious thought that need not involve an actual deity at all, which is the really interesting part.

I won't spoil the surprise and say WHAT it is about a well-tuned brain that, accidentally, also tends to produce religious thinking. To find out, read the book!

Because I am both an atheist and someone who is interested in cognitive psychology (I like Steve Pinker's work, for instance), I am inclined to feel that Slone's explanation of run-of-the-mill religous belief makes a lot of sense. I'd like to see these explanations expanded in a later book, and perhaps brought together with other evolutionary theories of the more social aspects of religion.

However, I fully expect people with a large emotional investment in religion to run from this book screaming.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Adam L. on January 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Why do human beings find religious ideas such an appealing explanation for events and why is supernatural attribution so ubiquitous and often more satisfying than naturalistic accounts? Jason Slone goes a long way in answering these questions and the short version is somewhat paradoxical - supernatural beliefs are a natural by-product of cognition.

For anyone read in the literature in this field, you will find many ideas that aren't new - Slone draws heavily on the ideas of Scott Atran, Pascal Boyer, and Stewart Guthrie among many others. But the book isn't just rehash and regurgitation as its thesis weaves the ideas into a coherent and refreshing look into religion and how human beings interact with it, generate it, and often use it to understand the world around them.

The main thrust of the book, from which the title is derived, is that the often simple ways religious beliefs contradict or are inconsistent with each other in the minds of believers can offer a keen insight into the nature of religion. To paraphrase an example given in the book: Christians were asked if God was omnipotent and of course they gave the "theologically correct" response of yes. They then were asked about the idea in practice as such how God operates with prayer requests. Their description consisted of a "naturalized" account more in tune with intuition - that God dealt with them one at a time. The key here being that as per the professed theological doctrine, God would be capable of dealing with all prayer requests devoid of any chronological constraints. But that turned out to be inconsistent with the "online" thinking of the prompted conceptualizations. The conclusion that reverberates here is that religion is constrained by cognition, not that cognition is constrained by religion.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful By William Mccorkel Jr. on November 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Slone has done what scholars have tried to do for years. He takes a theory about the way religious people behave and think and applies a method that can actually be tested. This, young grasshoppers, is called method. You see Slone is one of the bright new scholars who understands that simply belonging to a "snobby book club" and going in circles talking about "insert big postmodern scholar here" is not scientific, academic, an/or intellectual. Well, it is not intellectual to people that actually are trying to advance a theory of their own. Hell, even a theory of someone else. Slone's explanation of Buddhism is, quite frankly, refreshing. If Cognitive Science has nothing to add to the domain of culture and/or religion, then why are Psychologists, Archaeologist, Linguists, Historians, Evolutionary Biologists, and other "scientists" participating in the new and exciting method? The reason is that we can go beyond recycle and regurgitation. It's called science.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Einstein on August 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting book. No ground breaking thought but worth a read.
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