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Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith Paperback – Jun 1 2011

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Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith + God Virus, The: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture + Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Pitchstone Publishing (June 1 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984493212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984493210
  • Product Dimensions: 12.1 x 1.3 x 17.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #41,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"This book about the evolutionary drivers of religiosity would have delighted [Darwin].... One by one the components of religion receive the Thomson treatment. Every point he makes has the ring of truth, abetted by a crisp style and vivid imagery. Andy Thomson is an outstandingly persuasive lecturer, and it shines through his writing. This short, punchy book will be swiftly read—and long remembered."

—Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, from the foreword of Why We Believe in God(s)

"Andy Thomson, with Clare Aukofer, has written a wonderfully concise introduction to our growing scientific understanding of religion. If you would like to learn, in the span of an hour, why we have every reason to believe that God is man-made—this is the book to read."

—Sam Harris, author of the New York Times best sellers The Moral LandscapeLetter to a Christian Nation, and The End of Faith

About the Author

J. Anderson Thomson Jr., MD, is a staff psychiatrist at the University of Virginia's Student Health Center and Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy. He maintains a private practice of adult and forensic psychiatry and serves as a trustee of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Clare Aukofer is a medical writer and editor. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Richard Dawkins is an ethologist, an evolutionary biologist, and a writer. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was formerly University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science. Among his previous books are The Ancestor’s Tale, The God Delusion, and The Selfish Gene.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By SuperE on Sept. 3 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A perfect marriage of psychology, religious beliefs and evolution.

If I wanted to debate anyone about religion, this would be the book to bring up - once you can show that god is in the mind, there's no argument to refute it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This short book provides a nice rounded summary of some important aspects of psychology and sociology which explain the ubiquitous nature of religious belief. I would recommend it for any reader interested in psychology and a critical analysis of religious thinking and belief.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Concise, readable explanation of why we believe. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 62 reviews
158 of 170 people found the following review helpful
Incomplete but interesting April 16 2011
By Jack D. Eller - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Thomson's tiny book (114 miniature pages) is a commendable introduction to the emerging science of religion. Those who are unfamiliar with the new convergence of psychology, biology, and anthropology in evolutionary-cognitive theory will find the book useful for getting them started on the subject. (Those already familiar with the much more substantial treatments of Boyer, Atran, Guthrie, Kirkpatrick, de Waal, and others will not learn anything new here.) The book suffers from its very brevity: for instance, in the discussion of human evolution in chapter 2, no dates or descriptions are included with the names of various species. Also, the book commits the standard error of virtually all studies of religion, namely conflating theism--and sometimes specifically CHRISTIAN theism--with religion. For example, on page 32, it says that "All religions...begin with belief in one or more central holy figures or teachers." That is not quite accurate: not all religions even include a notion of "the holy." Later on the page Thompson admits that he will only discuss one religion, but that makes the entire point of the evolutionary theory of religion moot, since Christianity was most assuredly not the first religion to evolve, nor was theism a part of that first religion. On page 46 Thompson says that "Religions give us supernormal 'parents,' magnificent attachment figures...." but the reality is that not all religions imagine their spirit-beings as parents either. That is likewise a very Christian way of thinking. So, this little book is a decent starting place to learn about the latest thinking on the human and social origins of religion, but use it as a jumping-off point into the more detailed and culturally-informed literature that puts theism in its place--late in the religion game, as a branch of a branch of the evolving religion tree.
58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
An excellent introduction to the field April 7 2011
By Paul - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book summarizes the scientific research that explains the human inclination to create divinity. It is not a defense of atheism, but rather shows what science has to say about the various modules and capacities that humans have developed over the millenia that lend themselves to the generation and embrace of religious explanations. Although the authors make it clear that they are not people of faith, the book is not an attack on faith so much as an account of why people might believe, other than "because it's true." Very current in terms of the literature, well written, and thus a good portal for someone seeking to learn more about the field.
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
"Millions of years in the making" March 8 2011
By Fifth Generation Texan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As Thomson and Aukofer point out in this compelling little book, our snap judgements are "millions of years in the making" and so is the human propensity to construct and to believe in gods. I know of no clearer or more concise summary of the various preadaptations that cause humans to generate and sustain religious belief.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
The Evolutionary Mechanism of Belief Sept. 9 2011
By Todd Branch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Evolutionary Mechanism of Belief

What this book is:

This is a great introduction into the idea of religion as the by-product of our evolutionary development. It does not ridicule religion as something that only the foolish follow; it instead gives a reason why so many people naturally fall into the prevailing religions of their areas. It does assume that the people who are reading the book can get over the assumption that evolution is a scientific fact which will really only turn off those who would not get a lot out of the book in the first place.

What this book is not:

This is not any sort of direct confrontation of any of the specific claims of religion or evolution. While it touches on some of the topics, it is not a focus of the book. Don't expect to find irreducible complexity or specified information nonsense being challenged here.

The best part for me:

For me personally this was somewhat of a "missing link" in my understanding of how normally rational people can be convinced of irrational notions. Unlike the books I have read by more mystically oriented people who use a lot of emotional appeals that always left me feeling like I had been sold something, when reading this book the ideas just clicked into place.
While this is not a definitive end to the question, it does give a direction that the answer most likely lies in and some very factual and compelling reasons to go down that road.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Short book with a powerful message April 12 2011
By Sharon Fratepietro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I've long wondered why intelligent people can have such irrational religious beliefs, and after reading this book I now have a better understanding. Thomson and Aukofer offer insightful analogies from different fields to explain why it was inevitable that humans would create gods. I was fascinated to see arguments and examples about why "belief" can be more compelling than "truth," and why some people have trouble distinguishing one from the other. This book will give religious believers and atheists alike something new to think about, and they will better understand not only what they believe, but why they believe as they do.