From: "BigBooster" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> 'Faces in the
> Clouds: A New Theory of Religion' by Stewart Guthrie
Thank you! Looks like yet another book I need to read.
Religion is universal human culture. No phenomenon is more widely shared or
more intensely studied, yet there is no agreement on what religion is. Now, in
Faces in the Clouds, anthropologist Stewart Guthrie provides a provocative
definition of religion in a bold and persuasive new theory.
Guthrie says religion can best be understood as systematic
anthropomorphism--that is, the attribution of human characteristics to
nonhuman things and events. Many writers see anthropomorphism as common or
even universal in religion, but few think it is central. To Guthrie, however,
it is fundamental. Religion, he writes, consists of seeing the world as
As Guthrie shows, people find a wide range of humanlike beings plausible:
Gods, spirits, abominable snowmen, HAL the computer, Chiquita Banana. We find
messages in random events such as earthquakes, weather, and traffic accidents.
We say a fire "rages," a storm "wreaks vengeance," and waters "lie still."
Guthrie says that our tendency to find human characteristics in the nonhuman
world stems from a deep-seated perceptual strategy: in the face of pervasive
(if mostly unconscious) uncertainty about what we see, we bet on the most
meaningful interpretation we can. If we are in the woods and see a dark shape
that might be a bear or a boulder, for example, it is good policy to think it
is a bear. If we are mistaken, we lose little, and if we are right, we gain
much. So, Guthrie writes, in scanning the world we always look for what most
concerns us--livings things, and especially, human ones. Even animals watch
for human attributes, as when birds avoid scarecrows. In short, we all follow
the principle--better safe than sorry.
Marshalling a wealth of evidence from anthropology, cognitive science,
philosophy, theology, advertising, literature, art, and animal behavior,
Guthrie offers a fascinating array of examples to show how this perceptual
strategy pervades secular life and how it characterizes religious experience.
Challenging the very foundations of religion, Faces in the Clouds forces us to
take a new look at this fundamental element of human life.
Useless hypotheses, etc.:
consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, CYC, and ELIZA
We won't move into a better future until we debunk religiosity, the most
regressive force now operating in society.
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