Why We Need Religion

Why We Need Religion

English | 2018 | ISBN-10: 0190469676 | 272 Pages | PDF | 10.40 MB

How we feel is as vital to our survival as how we think. This claim, based on the premise that emotions are largely adaptive, serves as the organizing theme of Why We Need Religion. This book is a novel pathway in a well-trodden field of religious studies and philosophy of religion. Stephen Asma argues that, like art, religion has direct access to our emotional lives in ways that science does not. Yes, science can give us emotional feelings of wonder and the sublime-we can feel the sacred depths of nature-but there are many forms of human suffering and vulnerability that are beyond the reach of help from science. Different emotional stresses require different kinds of rescue. Unlike secular authors who praise religion's ethical and civilizing function, Asma argues that its core value lies in its emotionally therapeutic power.

No theorist of religion has failed to notice the importance of emotions in spiritual and ritual life, but truly systematic research has only recently delivered concrete data on the neurology, psychology, and anthropology of the emotional systems. This very recent "affective turn" has begun to map out a powerful territory of embodied cognition. Why We Need Religion incorporates new data from these affective sciences into the philosophy of religion. It goes on to describe the way in which religion manages those systems-rage, play, lust, care, grief, and so on. Finally, it argues that religion is still the best cultural apparatus for doing this adaptive work. In short, the book is a Darwinian defense of religious emotions and the cultural systems that manage them.

Review
"Balanced in its approach and careful in its research, Asma's fine book will appeal equally to religious and non-religious readers, and provides a genuinely fresh perspective on tired old discussions."- Publishers Weekly

"A fascinating if unsettling read for those interested in religion or science."- Library Journal

"The assumption of the 'new atheists' that religion does more harm than good has always been just that-an assumption, never backed by sound argument or persuasive evidence. Now Stephen Asma shows how much argument and evidence there is on the other side of the question. Why We Need Religion is a refreshingly original take on an old but urgently contemporary question. And it is a severe challenge to the na?ve belief that secularization will be our salvation."-Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God

"Asma combines a deep and broad knowledge of religious traditions with the best that contemporary psychology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology have to offer. He makes a powerful case for the essential role of religion in helping us to manage our emotional lives and our relations with one another. And he does it with prose that is informal and engaging. This book gave me something to think about on almost every page."-Barry Schwartz, author of Practical Wisdom and Why We Work

About the Author
Stephen T. Asma is a Professor of Philosophy and Founding Fellow of the Research Group in Mind, Science, and Culture at Columbia College, Chicago. He is the author of On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears and Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums.

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