Examined Lives

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Why Are People Religious?

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For some, the answer is obvious: because one religion—their religion—is deeply, obviously right. If we wish to understand religiosity generally, though, we need to understand the role it plays in peoples’ lives. What benefits does religious devotion confer? What is it about (most) human minds that make religious belief so compelling? Did religiosity confer evolutionary advantages? Is religiosity a by-product of other evolutionary adaptations, or was it selected for directly? Can a scientific understanding of religion help us bridge the ideological chasm between religious and nonreligious worldviews?