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120 of 129 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does This Book Really Answer The Question, January 6, 2000
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This review is from: How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science (Hardcover)
To me the title of this book suggested a treatise essentially on the psychology of belief systems. Indeed we are presented with quite interesting material in this regard. Mr. Schermer uses the fields of psychology, evolutionary biology, sociology, philosophy, and anthropology, amongst others, to help explain belief systems.
While I found that almost all the book held my interest, it seemed somewhat disjointed. Some of the material is also quite controversial. While such matters only serve to entertain me, others may get offended - Christians may take umbrage at having their beliefs repeatedly referred to as "myths".
The book presents intriguing survey results on why people believe in God. What is most fascinating is that respondents felt that other people believe in God for reasons that differ considerably from their own. Shermer moves on into a discussion of evolutionary biology and a "belief module" (more controversy). Then, surprisingly, we move into a section concerned with traditional philosophical arguments (primarily those of Thomas Aquinas) for belief in God. When you get right down to it, no one embraces religious belief purely on the basis of philosophical arguments. Creationists will be offended by a section on their beliefs. A chunk of the book is given to the Indian Ghost Dance of the 1890s, and we read a discussion on a mathematical refutation of the recent best seller The Bible Code. Good stuff, but its like reading a collection of essays that are not often obviously related to each other.
The final chapter had me scratching my head the most. It's a section discussing the controversy surrounding Stephen Jay Gould's theories of evolution regarding necessity/contingency/chance. While poring through this I kept wondering what it had to do with religion. My question was never answered satisfactorily. Shermer forces this subject into a paean to the wonders of living in a contingent universe. He states that his abandonment of religion allows him to bask in the beauty of our magnificent universe. I get annoyed with concept that if you are religious you can't appreciate science and nature. Not every religious believer is constrained by fundamentalist young earth/intelligent design theories. I am an agnostic who was brought up a Catholic. My intense curiosity and admiration of nature was as strong when I was a believer as it is as a non-believer today.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 31, 2009 10:26:33 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2011 7:18:58 PM PST
Dear Robert, stay an agnostic.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 18, 2013 3:07:10 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 18, 2013 3:13:41 AM PDT
hans peter says:
Rudeness is not the way to understanding. It does, however, say something about the speaker. I hesitate to suggest that he does
indicate a certain lack of perspective, and is certainly troubled
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