Why Would Anyone Believe In God? (Book Review) Book Reviews Example
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Why Would Anyone Believe in God. Barrett, Justin. Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2004.
Justin Barrett’s “Why Would Anyone Believe in God” is a ground-breaking, exceptionally-written piece of work in the theological field of studies. Barrett poses the question about one’s reason to believe in the existence of God and provides the answer himself. He claims that the minds of human beings are designed in such a manner that they are obliged to believe in God’s existence.
Barrett has been triumphant in providing valuable and comprehensive data and facts from cognitive science demonstrating that faith in God is an unavoidable outcome of the kind of minds human beings possess. He also explains how our beliefs are, to a large extent, consciously driven by the beliefs we have in our unconscious minds. However, the renowned psychologist has shown so without using complicated technical language. Barrett has also successfully demonstrated that beliefs in a god or gods correspond well with such involuntary suppositions. In the similar manner, beliefs in an omnipotent and all-knowing God fit in even better. Furthermore, Barrett also provides substantial explanations regarding the pervasiveness of religious beliefs. I think that this book must be read by every individual who is seeking a succinct, understandable, and logical explanation concerning the reason that makes it necessary for human beings to believe in God.
For centuries, religious scholars, theologians, philosophers, and other intellectuals have endeavored to offer reasonable explanations regarding religious belief. As far as Barrett is concerned, he is the brilliant psychologist who has practically introduced the cognitive religious studies. Working at The Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology and The Centre for Anthropology and Mind, Barrett is undoubtedly an eminent Oxford Researcher who may offer a theological theory from the mushrooming field of cognitive psychology. The mentioned book contains provocative discussions that actually challenge other presented explanations in the same field. I think so because Barrett has not only provided concise philosophical analysis; he has also based his theories on innovative and capturing empirical studies. Barrett’s theory is unique in the sense as it claims theism to be the true natural condition of human beings. Such a theory has the propensity of compelling the readers to delve deeper into the differences among theism and atheism.
In my opinion, “Why Would Anyone Believe in God” may shake up the theological field and must be considered by religious philosophers and psychologists. His exceptional writing style presents a beautiful argument as he has brought together miscellaneous cognitive psychological material to show the naturalness of belief in God. He explains belief to have an instinctively gratifying characteristic because of its reliance on mental tools every human being possesses. However, he also argues that this natural instinct does not depict its authenticity as human beings have enhanced their mental tools through various cultural and natural means. He goes on to say that mental tools are not only meant for survival but also needed for finding the truth.
Throughout the book, Barrett has managed to put together and amalgamate various approaches in the field of cognitive studies. A number of these approaches were initially proposed to particularly explain religious belief. On the other hand, he has also made use of various approaches through an adaptive method. Readers having know-how of cognitive sciences may specifically identify fundamentals of mental theories of modularity proposed by Tooby and Cosmides. In addition, Barrett has also used elements from Harvey Whitehouse's model of images and doctrines in religious ceremonies and practices. Even if a reader is not acquainted with the mentioned theorizers and their proposed concepts, there is nothing to be worried about as “Why Would Anyone Believe in God” contains everything that is required to understand it.
The basis thesis presented by Barrett is that the belief in one god or multiple gods is an innate derivative originating from two specific abilities of the human mind. According to him, these two capacities are Theory of Mind (ToM) or Hyper Active Agency Detection (HADD). He acclaims that the mentioned capacities have facilitated human beings in more or less every context throughout species’ evolution. In every chapter, Barrett provides explanations about the workings of these capacities in the formulation of general beliefs.
He gives even the minutest details concerning how these beliefs are weakened or strengthened in various contexts. It is important to mention that the goal of this book is definitely not to argue over the presence or non-existence of God. Instead, Barrett has written this book with the purpose of explaining how every human being enters into this world already an equipped mind and how this natural tool has made faith in the mystic a completely natural component of the humanity, for better or for worse.
What I particularly liked about this book is how Barrett has provided a description of atheism. He states that atheism seems natural to all individuals who take pleasure in specifically-designed environments created “to short-circuit intuitive judgments tied to natural day-to-day demands and experiences" (Barrett, 2004, p 118). I believe that it is a very concise and factual definition of an atheist. I agree with Barrett that atheism is an ‘unnatural’ way to pursue as the Universe cannot function without the presence of an Omnipotent God. Barrett's account and defense of theistic belief is an important contribution to the perennial debate over the existence of God.
As far as Barrett’s writing technique is concerned, I believe he has a one-of-a-kind writing style. Unlike other religious scholars, he uses understandable and comprehensible vocabulary that helps the reader to get clear explanations. In the discussed book, Barrett has simplified the entire discussion by delineating experimental results and not going into unnecessary details. He has not touched any controversial area that may make others anxious or apprehensive. Instead, he has focused on his central point related to belief in God and reasons behind it.
Barrett’s point of view is distinctive and explains religion in terms of primary offshoot of human psychology. I really liked how he has not portrayed religion as a facilitator for survival and reproduction. Barrett’s work is interesting considering the fact that he practices Christianity. As a majority of scholars related to cognitive religious studies are not Christians, this difference sets Barrett apart. Nevertheless, the Oxford researcher has been triumphant in maintaining a neutral approach portraying respect and reverence for others’ beliefs. The best thing is his concepts and conclusions neither augment nor take back from other distinctive religious claims.
“Why Would Anyone Believe in God” should offer an essential direction for students as well as religious scholars a roadmap for developments in the cognitive religious studies field. In fact, this book is a must-read for scientists, theologians, and anthropologists, and anyone who is perplexed by religious forces.
Barrett, J. (2004). Why Would Anyone Believe in God? Lanham, MD: AtaMira Press.
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