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Supernatural and Natural Selection: Religion and Evolutionary Success (Studies in Comparative Social Science) Hardcover – September 30, 2008
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Have you ever had disconnected ideas floating around in your head like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle still in its box? Then one day you read a book that puts all those pieces together into one coherent picture. For me, this is that book.
Without going into a lengthy discussion let me briefly mention the points that most intrigue me. First, Steadman's and Palmer's definition of religion is the only one-size-fits-all definition I've ever read. To paraphrase, they define religion as the non-skeptical communicated acceptance of another's supernatural claim. It is elegant in its simplicity yet comprehensive.
Second, they emphasize the idea that particular beliefs are inconsequential. As far as beliefs are concerned, one religion is as good or bad, true or false as any other. From ancestor worship to Scientology, all religions are poured from the same mold and share easily identifiable characteristics.
Third and, perhaps, most important, religions survive and create "descendants" by assuming the guise of a family. Priests may be called "father", fellow religionists may be called "brother and sister" and a supreme being is merely the ultimate ancestor. In any case, religions act like surrogate families in order to retain members and create descendants.
Finally, Steadman and Palmer contrast the shaman and the prophet in this way. The actions of the shaman preserve the status quo, that is, they conserve the existing religion. The actions of the prophet, however, create a new religion.Read more ›