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date: 19 November 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews and advances a theory the author has long advocated, namely that religion may best be understood as anthropomorphism and that the latter is largely the byproduct of an evolved cognitive strategy. The strategy is to resolve uncertainty, which pervades cognition, with the logic of Pascal’s Wager: When in doubt about the nature of a phenomenon, bet on the most relevant possibility. For humans, that possibility usually is that the phenomenon is personal or has personal features or traces. From earliest infancy, we are preoccupied with persons, and our prototype of intentional agency evidently is our concept of the human mind. We interpret phenomena as personal involuntarily, automatically, and mostly unconsciously.

Keywords: religion, cognition, evolution, anthropomorphism, theory

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