Gods and Why They Matter
This chapter looks at how god concepts are represented and processed by the human mind, particularly at features of social cognition that support thinking about supernatural agents, enhance their relevance to daily life, and lead people to accept them as real. Gods are naturally represented as concerned, relational beings made salient by their counterintuitive access to strategic information. Gods also evoke important emotional responses and fit into the ritual structures that organize human social relations. In addition, the chapter describes the nature of belief formation, differences between intuitive and reflective beliefs, and explains belief in gods on the basis of “aggregate relevance” — the combined activation of crucial mental inference systems not only renders the representation of gods possible but also plausible.
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