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In Gods We TrustThe Evolutionary Landscape of Religion$
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Scott Atran

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195178036

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195178036.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 January 2022

Counterintuitive Worlds

Counterintuitive Worlds

The Mostly Mundane Nature of Religious Belief

(p.83) 4 Counterintuitive Worlds
In Gods We Trust


Oxford University Press

This chapter deals with the issue of counterintuition in religious beliefs. Core religious beliefs minimally violate ordinary intuition about how the world is, with all of its inescapable problems, thus enabling people to imagine minimally impossible worlds that appear to solve existential problems, including death and deception. The dual aspect of supernatural beliefs, commonsensical and counterfactual, renders them intuitively compelling yet fantastic, eminently recognizable but surprising. Such beliefs grab attention, activate intuition, and mobilize inference in ways that greatly facilitate their mnemonic retention, social transmission, cultural selection, and historical survival. There is considerable recurrence of symbolic content across historical isolated cultures.

Keywords:   counterintuition, religious beliefs, social transmission, cultural selection, existential problems

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