Robert Fischer's Reviews > Modes of Religiosity: A Cognitive Theory of Religious Transmission

Modes of Religiosity by Harvey Whitehouse
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Dec 13, 11

bookshelves: math-science, neuroscience-cognitive-psych, theology-philosophy-religion
Read from December 04 to 13, 2011

This book literally changed the way that I think about religion. At the same time, it represents the kind of religious scholarship which I hope to see more of going forward. If you are at all interested in the academic treatment of religion or in the way religion is conceived of and transmitted, then you really should read this book.

The book considers how religion is transmitted based on cognitive science about learning and motivation. The analysis is extremely in-depth and empirically supported, which makes the case it constructs very strong. The author further provides suggestions for further empirical studies in order to distinguish between his theory and competing theories, and that coming from a religious scholar just blows my mind with its awesome. The book is well-written, engaging, and profoundly insightful. It's a real 5 star book.

My only critique of the book is that it sometimes seems like it is speaking too much about Christian/Jewish/Islamic religiosities, and so some of the purportedly universal claims may not actually be universal. But I don't actually have a particular point where I can fault the analysis of the text as being too "Western" — it's just a general sense I have. And that's the worst thing I can say about this book.

I am not overstating when I say that this book, combined with Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, has fundamentally changed the way that I think about religion and my own religious experiences. It is that significant a text. If you've read this far into the review, you almost certainly should read this book.
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Reading Progress

12/04/2011 page 17
8.0% "This is an extremely chewy book, but it's also extremely concise. It's amazing that way: Whitehouse has a way of talking which is technical without being overblown or exaggerated. More importantly, though, Whitehouse has my number. Particularly coming off of "Incognito" and "Consciousness Explained", this book is hitting my right in my heart. It's right on, at least to my experience. And it's freaking me out."
12/04/2011 page 22
11.0% "The discussion of "to meme or not to meme" in chapter 1 is superb. His advocacy for moving beyond static conceptualizations of knowledge processing (based on the computational model) is spot on. I am rapidly developing a scholar-crush on Harvey Whitehouse."
12/04/2011 page 35
17.0% "Whitehouse just made an extremely interesting and convincing case that the existence of OCD points to an innate human capacity and affinity for ritual, thereby explaining its universal popularity. Great science/argumentation and some good citations to follow up on. Whitehouse is *definitely* now target of my new scholar-crush."
12/04/2011 page 68
33.0% "Harvey Whitehouse just used the adverb "relatively" and then felt compelled to clarify "Relative to what?" That alone would make him my hero."

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