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Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  793 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
In this groundbreaking volume, J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., MD, with Clare Aukofer, offers a succinct yet comprehensive study of how and why the human mind generates religious belief. Dr. Thomson, a highly respected practicing psychiatrist with credentials in forensic psychiatry and evolutionary psychology, methodically investigates the components and causes of religious beli ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 1st 2011 by Pitchstone Publishing (first published 2011)
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Apr 14, 2011 Megan rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing little book. It's only 144 pages (including the foreword, preface, notes, and short glossary) but it packs quite a punch. Dr. Thomson succinctly and clearly explains why man has created and believed in gods since we evolved into homo sapiens and still believe in them today. He offers medical and psychological data and experiments as his evidence and understandable logic to guide you through his arguments (Michael Persinger's "God Helmet" experiments sounded especially fascinat ...more
Mar 05, 2011 Kurt rated it it was amazing
God is a creation of man's mind--not vice versa. That's the basic thesis of this work by psychiatrist Andy Thomson, with Clare Aukofer. Drawing on the latest research from the neurosciences and longstanding insights from cognitive psychology, it explains in clear, accessible language how and why the human mind is primed for (or, as the book says, hijacked by) religion and all the beliefs that religion entails. Sam Harris sums up the merits of the book the best with this line: "If you would like ...more
Apr 15, 2011 Julie rated it did not like it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book through Goodreads First Reads and I admit that I did not research it enough before I signed up to win it. In my defense, there were not many reviews at that time!
I really tried to keep an open mind as I read this book, but when statements such as - No one ever craves brussel sprouts - appear as a basis of arguement... that is a stretch to me... maybe that is because two nights ago I was craving green beans and therefore that is all I ate for dinner. I also do not get the "runner
Kelley Ross
Apr 18, 2011 Kelley Ross rated it it was amazing
This fascinating book studies the exact reasons why religion is alive and well in our society today by referring to both historical and chemical facts. Religion developed as a way for humans to comfort and excite themselves by unconsciously increasing the amount of chemicals their brains produced, like dopamine. For example, dancing was a part of the earliest religions and still survives today because it still provides the same effect. Thomson calls this immediate gratification the "fast-food" e ...more
May 06, 2011 Monica rated it liked it
I decided to read this book to try to understand the point of view of scientists who believe that religion does not coincide with their version of science. I found the book to be interesting, however the fact that Thomson used Darwin's evolution theory throughout the book seemed repetitive. As a christian, I have found that the miracles of science can only be explained by admitting and accepting that there is a Creator. To think the world was created from a single cell organism or a "Big Bang" h ...more
May 11, 2011 Daniel rated it it was amazing
This book, slim as it is, offers a brilliant overview of the byproduct theory of religious belief, and, from the description given, it seems to be plenty valid. And though it is an overview, it still seems sufficiently thorough, and in depth. I feel like I have a good understanding of the subject matter, and could very well describe it to someone else (or, more likely, whip it out in an argument.) The text is full of interesting examples and hypotheticals, playing on experiences we've all had. I ...more
Jul 05, 2015 Gendou rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This "book" is terrible. It's really a short pamphlet surveying the human instincts which predispose humans to believe in gods. The forward is a nice sloppy blowjob from Richard Dawkins who I'm not entirely convinced actually read it.

The first chapter is, I kid you not, a table of contents.

The second chapter talks about human evolution and concludes that nobody likes Brussels sprouts. Except I like them, so I had a hard time understanding the point.

The rest is basically a list of definitions of
Sep 28, 2011 Wally rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am still full of questions. What existed before life forms? How did it come about from a singularity? Is time an illusion? Why am I here, and where am I going?
Gwen Nicodemus
Sep 23, 2012 Gwen Nicodemus rated it it was amazing
Religion is a by-product of evolutionary psychological adaptations

I read the text of the book first and then read the foreward and preface. Low and behold, the book is also a video. In fact, he made the video first and just expanded it a bit for the book. Whilst my family did not read the book, they did watch the video.

The book is an introduction, and it says "concise" on the cover. Remember that when you read it, because it IS an introduction and it IS
Jun 23, 2013 Harris rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
While many of the scientific/psychological explanations for our propensity as a species to believe in god(s) are very intriguing and, in some cases (such as anthropomorphization), convincing, the book as a whole comes across as extremely dogmatic and condescending--not to mention, not very well written. Clearly, the author is unfamiliar with and an outsider to religious practice and the emotional responses we have to religions, using elementary understandings of prayer (for example) and other is ...more
May 16, 2011 Jason rated it it was amazing
A real quick and easy read (I like quick and easy) that summarizes the latest theories on how the mind is prone toward religious belief. This is primarily a psychological account, but it touches upon anthropological and evolutionary causes as well, and has an interesting section on the role of various neurotransmitters.

This is written for an investigative audience interested in religion as a natural phenomenon (See Daniel Dennett's excellent Breaking the Spell). It's concise, gets to the point,
Sep 09, 2012 Bridget rated it it was amazing
I read this book in about two hours and it was two hours of pleasure! If you'd like a point-by-point, succinct explanation of why we believe in gods, this is the book for you!
(nb: I received a review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss)

This book’s thesis can be summed up as follows: God and religion are all in our heads.

Dr. Andy Thomson has been at the forefront of brain research, and in this slim volume—a hundred pages and change, not counting notes—he presents his findings in clear, surprisingly readable language. Most scientific texts are dry and stilted. “Why We Believe in God(s)” is a friendly read, a fact Dr. Thomson attributes to his co-writer, Clare Aukofer
Thomas Lawson
May 22, 2012 Thomas Lawson rated it it was amazing
Andy Thomson answers the question that I've always had on my mind: What was religion like before gods were invented? We merely have to take notice of Native American or African tribal dances and rituals. Ancient societies had a loose set of rules which were made up on the fly, i.e., if a young girl died and it rained, the next time rain was needed a young girl had to die. Ignoring, of course, the days it rained when it wasn't needed. In 2012, we have supposedly unalterable rules that were though ...more
David S. T.
May 04, 2011 David S. T. rated it liked it
Warning: I got this book from the goodreads first-reads giveaway, but I don't think that influenced my rating.

I think the question of why do so many humans have an innate drawing towards religion is a good one and its one which this book attempts to answer. I can't tell how many times I've heard we have a God shaped hole in us, this desire for the supernatural. Basically this book views religion as misfires from our evolution, a “fast-food” mentality. Fast-food analogy is used because fatty / s
Todd Martin
Sep 11, 2011 Todd Martin rated it really liked it
In Why We Believe in God(s) , psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson Jr. examines the hard-wired psychological factors that make humans predisposed to supernatural belief. There is a growing body of experimental evidence that shows that children are hard wired to have an attachment system to adult caretakers, to perceive mind/body dualism, to sense agency in natural events, etc. All of which lend themselves to belief in a superhuman caretaker, separate from physical reality, who makes things happen f ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Allison rated it it was ok
Interesting but vastly underdeveloped. Thomson ticks off the checkmarks of the various brain chemistries at work in the development and practice of his religious faith, but he is so insistent upon the superiority of atheism that it's hard to take him too seriously. He oversimplifies religion and occasionally lumps all religions into a single extreme fundamentalist blob; he does not deal in nuances and shade. It honestly feels like more of a list than a carefully constructed argument, and thus th ...more
Jan 10, 2012 Jien rated it it was amazing
I wanted to give it four stars because there are areas I wanted it to expand upon more, but this is meant to be a concise book so just skimming the surface is the point. This book definitely clarifies some of the reasons for religion from an evolutionary psychology perspective. That is what it sets out to do, and that is precisely what it does. It is exactly as advertised, the title sums up what the book is entirely about.
Jul 31, 2015 Agape rated it it was amazing
This tiny book is amazing and straight to the point. It sums up perfectly all the current theories and studies regarding religion, outlines the cognitive mechanisms that people use in order to fool ourselves that there is a divine creator, and finally presents some of the main processes happening inside our brains. Even though it doesn't provide too many details, it definitely gives one some interesting food for thought.
Oct 19, 2015 Eli rated it it was amazing
Excellent display of the current psychological and evolutionary understandings behind religious ideas. A very informative, understandable and quick read which covers all of the bases. Highly recommended for theists and atheists alike.
Kristina Franken
Sep 04, 2012 Kristina Franken rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book for anyone

FTC: I received a free copy of this book and was not reimbursed in any other way.
Alan Michael Wilt
Sep 05, 2013 Alan Michael Wilt rated it it was amazing
A succinct and accessible overview of the science behind understanding the nature and creation of gods and religions.
Feb 25, 2016 tabilanga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Hay que releerlo porque los nombres son medios difíciles
Las capacidades me refiero
Tienen nombres poco intuitivos
Igual se entienden las ideas
Aug 06, 2011 Tahira rated it it was amazing
Oh, Science how I love you. Short but sweet. 5 Stars. Highly recommended.
Nov 16, 2016 Kat rated it it was amazing
I don't normally write reviews, the only reason I was compelled to do so for this book is because I wish I could give it more stars. Amazing book. Would recommend it to anyone and everyone.
Sep 30, 2011 Book rated it really liked it
Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith by J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., MD with Clare Aukofer

"Why We Believe in God(s)" is the brief yet commendable book that studies faith through the eyes of science. This 144-page book is composed of ten chapters: 1. In the Beginning Was the Word: Our Propensity to Believe, 2. In the Image and Likeness: Evolution 101, 3. Our Daily Bread: Craving a Caretaker, 4. All That is Seen and Unseen: Conceiving Souls, 5. Because the Bible Tells Me
May 04, 2012 David rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: All curious about human nature and belief.
Recommended to David by: National Atheist Party
This was a very interesting buy and one that I would strongly recommend to believers and non-believers alike.

When believers are asked, "Why do you believe this way?" the most common answer is "Faith." So is one's belief in "faith" nurtured or learned? Dr. J. Anderson Thomson and medical writer Claire Aukofer suggests both.

Dr. Thomson is a “forensic psychiatrist,” and works with the University of Virginia and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. However, this does not mean this
Ahmet Kasapsaracoglu
As it has been said that the book was a thin one, that is true I have confirmed it too. The author mentions about the brain structure but in my opininon he can not explain the relationship between why we believe in something and the brain cortexes and the brain functioning

He did forget to talk about something crucial, that is we believe because we need to believe in something because we want to live forever, we want an eternal life, and we are constructing a framework in which there resides a me
Dan Kalmar
Nov 25, 2012 Dan Kalmar rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book and I learned a great deal from it. I found it informative and concise, but I did have a problem with the way it was presented.

Whether you believe in some deity or you don't, you can agree on the premise of this book — human beings invent gods. If you're a Christian, you still believe that human beings invent gods in their mind. You think that Buddhists do it, you think that the ancient Greeks did it, essentially everyone accept for you. Because your god is real. Atheists ob
Ben Frey
Jul 07, 2012 Ben Frey rated it really liked it
very interesting book. explains different psychological adaptations we evolved over time and how religions use those adaptations. being a psych major i think i gained more pleasure as i knew a lot of things dr thomson talks about, however its written so that anyone can pick it up and understand it. theres a small glossary in the back with key terms and a 24 page 'notes' section that gives background info and further reading for each chapter.

at less than 150 pages i recommend this book for anyon
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J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., MD, is a Trustee of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and a staff psychiatrist for Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Virginia Student Health Center, as well as the University of Virginia's Institute for Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy. Thomson also has his own private practice, and is a forensic psychiatrist for Region Ten Co ...more
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“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact.” 2 likes
“Genuine morality is doing what is right regardless of what we may be told; religious morality is doing what we are told.” 2 likes
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