Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Religion Explained - Pascal Boyer

I'm working my way through this amazing book on the anthropology of religion. When I finish the book I plan on quote mining the book on my blog. Here is an example of a passage in the book I found particularly poignant.

Chapter 6: Why is religion about death?
"Displaced Terror and Cold Comfort" (Page 205)
In experimental studies, subjects are asked to read a story or magazine article that highlights the inevitability of death. They are then asked a set of apparently unrelated questions...Their reactions are compared to those of subjects who had read an innocuous piece of prose with no mention of morality. The difference between these two grounds is always striking.

Those who have read "mortality-salient" stories tend to be much harsher in their reactions to socially deviant behaviour. They are less tolerant of even minor misdemeanours and would demand longer sentences and higher bail. They react more strongly to offensive use of common cultural symbols such as the American flag or a crucifix. They also become more defensive toward members of other groups and more prone to stereotype them, to find an illusory correlation between being a member of another social ground and being a criminal.

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