Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn't / Edition 1

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"Ask two religious people one question, and you'll get three answers!"
Why do religious people believe what they shouldn't—not what others think they shouldn't believe, but things that don't accord with their own avowed religious beliefs? This engaging book explores this puzzling feature of human behavior.
D. Jason Slone terms this phenomenon "theological incorrectness." He demonstrates that it exists because the mind is built it such a way that it's natural for us to think divergent thoughts simultaneously. Human minds are great at coming up with innovative ideas that help them make sense of the world, he says, but those ideas do not always jibe with official religious beliefs. From this fact we derive the important lesson that what we learn from our environment—religious ideas, for example—does not necessarily cause us to behave in ways consistent with that knowledge.
Slone presents the latest discoveries from the cognitive science of religion and shows how they help us to understand exactly why it is that religious people do and think things that they shouldn't. He then applies these insights to three case studies. First he looks at why Theravada Buddhists profess that Buddha was just a man but actually worship him as a god. Then he explores why the early Puritan Calvinists, who believed in predestination, acted instead as if humans had free will by, for example, conducting witch-hunts and seeking converts. Finally, he explains why both Christians and Buddhists believe in luck even though the doctrines of Divine Providence and karma suggest there's no such thing.
In seeking answers to profound questions about why people behave the way they do, this fascinating book sheds new light on the workings of the human mind and on the complex relationship between cognition and culture.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195169263
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/26/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 168
  • Lexile: 1280L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

D. Jason Slone is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Findlay in Ohio.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Is God a Notre Dame Football Fan? 3
1 Religion Is for Dummies and Romantics 7
2 Religion Is What Your Parents Say 29
3 Religion Is Perfectly Natural, Not Naturally Perfect 46
4 Buddha Nature 68
5 W.D.G.D.? (What Does God Do?) 85
6 I'd Rather Be Lucky Than Good 103
Conclusion: Religion Rethought 121
Bibliography 127
Index 152
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2004

    Cognitive Imperialism

    The title Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn¿t is an apparent take off from the term ¿political correctness.¿ Slone asks many of the right questions about religion, but his answers are often inconsistent with the findings of social science that he relies on. a. Is religion inherited from our parents or our culture? Slone says it isn¿t inherited but derives from mental delusions. If Slone is correct, why are Arabs Muslims and North American academics mostly atheists? b. Is religion for dummies and romantics? Slone says religion is dumb and romantic because it doesn¿t rely on the scientific method. If Slone is correct, why have many prominent scientists been religious (e.g., Newton, Mendel, Einstein, Darwin, etc.)? c. Is religious thinking natural, but irrational? Slone says religious thinking is by its nature irrational and should be replaced with unnatural scientific thinking. If Slone is correct, why does social science show religious people much less likely to be psychotic and why do they have better mental health by nearly every psychological measurement? d. What is Buddha nature? Buddhist nature is that the self and the world is an illusion. If Slone is correct, why is there an indisputable physical world as proven by science and why do humans create religious institutions to order their subjective lives and better understand the external world? e. Is it better to be lucky than good? Slone says luck happens, refuting religious notions such as predestination, God¿s will, or karma. But if Slone is correct, why are some religious groups such as Protestants more economically ¿lucky¿ than Catholics or Buddhists? f. How can we speak of religious correctness at all if religious people all have different answers even within the same religion? Slone says theological thinking is incorrect because every person thinks differently even in a culture or within a religion. But Slone ignores that religious institutions are created and maintained around a coherent set of beliefs and practices. If as Slone asserts one man¿s religious illusion is another¿s man¿s reality, then why should we believe Slone¿s view that man is trapped in his own religious delusions over the religious person who believes in some larger reality? Why Slone singles out religion as incorrect, irrational, and unscientific is curious. Why not environmentalism, which is often based on junk science, illusory predictions, and by banning use of DDT has caused unnecessary suffering in the Third World? Slone bases his views of religion on the insights of cognitive psychology. But he fails to provide cognitive respect to religion ¿ which means that no outsider, including the outsider who purports to possess scientific knowledge, is in a position to know better when it comes to the finalities of other people¿s lives. Slone¿s book claims that cognitive psychology and the scientific method offers a higher consciousness than incorrect religious thinking. This is a sort of cognitive imperialism that is reflected in the title to Slone¿s book Theological Incorrectness.

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