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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deconstructing God, May 10, 2010
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This review is from: In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence (Paperback)
Have you ever wondered how science meets the challenge of explaining the origin of religious morality? Here's how.

In his "In the name of God", John Teehan shows how evolutionary psychology can provide us with an understanding of religious moral thinking. Although Teehan focuses on two of the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions (Judaism and Christianity), his analysis and conclusions could well apply to most forms of religious thinking: as long as there is an IN-GROUP (pro-social ethics), there must always be an OUT-GROUP (violence).

As one might expect, this book is critical of religions. Violence in the name of God is not an exceptional aberration that happens in spite of religious virtue (as believers usually claim), it is intrinsic to religion. To the extent that religions ride on our evolved psychology, religious morality will contain both sides of our nature, good and evil. To me, this is a central message in Teehan's book: we cannot ignore the ugly side of religious ethics (violence) or downplay it as an exception to the rule.

This is not a "new atheism" book, however, for Teehan never lets his analysis become a tool to criticize religion. Because of its unusually neutral approach, this book offers a great opportunity to the believer to better understand the real roots of her/his faith. In fact, in the last chapter Teehan devotes a section to admonish the "new atheists" (Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett) for their radical attitude which, ironically, creates another in-group/out-group dichotomy (just like religions do, according to Teehan).

T. Dobzhansky famously said that "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution". Teehan's book invites us to replace "biology" with "religion". Darwin would be very happy to see the far reach of his theory. Ironically, not only does religion not pose a real threat to evolutionary theory -- it has become its subject of study.
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