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- Donald Dutton
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Religion on Trial189
In the 1950s, a group of social psychologists infiltrated a doomsday cult?a religious group that believed the world was coming to an end?and studied how its members sustained their beliefs when the prophecy failed.
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How are major religions different from cults? My argument is that they persist through political fiat rather than the evidence provided for their central dogma. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all quote private conversations that were never recorded until decades, sometimes centuries, after the fact. Can these be accurate? I think not.
Religion on Trial reviews the origins of religion, the early days of the chief ?desert religions,? and the arguments of notable dissenters. It examines the likelihood that a ?god-concept? is inborn, showing up in 5-year-old children regardless of their parents? beliefs. Finally, it delves into the realm of neuropsychology, which shows that humans are wired to consider new beliefs not on a basis of evidence, but on how that belief resonates with our other preconceptions.
It is possible to forge a society on a moral basis rather than a central god-concept; given the divisiveness of religion, I believe it is time we did so.
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Religion on Trial is the best introduction to the psychology of religion available: grounded in a wide-ranging scholarly literature, but clear and insightful; open-minded in discussing various religious traditions and addressing contemporary public concerns about multi-religious societies; unique and essential. I can only wish that I had read it 50 years ago!
- professor michael harris bond, cross-cultural psychologist, hong kong polytechnic university, china
a tour de force. Dutton has revealed not only how and why religions arise, but explains their resilience in the face of disconfirming scientific knowledge.
- ehor boyanowsky, professor emeritus, simon fraser university
Don Dutton is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia. He is also the author of several books including The Abusive Personality, Rethinking Domestic Violence, and The Psychology of Genocide.
introduction ... vii
1 The Epistemology of a Cult: Prophecies and Predictions ... 1
2 The Origin of Early Christianity: Birth, Sex, and Death ... 43
3 The Archaeology of Religion: The Judeo-Christian God of the Old Testament ... 75
4 The Christian New Testament and the Basis of Christian Dogma ... 98
5 Islam and the Arab Conquests ... 134
6 The Legacy of Christianity: The Past is Prologue ... 164
7 Some Notable Heretics: From Julian to String Theory ... 197
8 The Heretics Part 2: Psychological, Political, Moral, and Cosmological Issues of Faith ... 223
9 God in the Brain: The Developmental Psychology of Religious Belief ... 251
10 The Social Psychology of Belief Systems ... 280
Coda ... 315
About the Author ... 333