My personal observation is that religion is ‘the terrible feeling that someone somewhere is happy’.
But the experts in the field of psychology called the Cognitive Science of Religion, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_science_of_religion, such as Pascal Boyer, David Sloan Wilson, Justine Barrette, Jesse Baring, Scott Atran, Stewart Guthrie, and many more are debating the whether religion is either: -
An evolutionary adaptation ~ vs. ~ A byproduct or ‘spandrel’
However, people such as Richard Dawkins, (Evolutionary Biologist), Daniel Dennett, (Philosopher and Evolutionist), and J. Anderson Thompson, (Psychiatrist), and Darrel Ray, (Psychiatrist), believe that religion is a cultural parasite that has hijacked normal cognitive mechanisms for it’s own ends, which, like any viral infection is to survive and multiply. To me, this sounds just like religion, so I’m going with it.
As purely an academic exercise, it made me think of trying to group the human thought processes that contribute to religious belief into the adaptation or byproduct categories. Even though the religious mental pathogen infects all of them, this is what I came up with.
Religion’s Cognitive Mechanisms that are primarily an adaptation:
Minimally Counter Intuitive (MCI)
Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD)
Theory of Mind
Deference to Authority
Religion’s Cognitive Mechanisms that are primarily a byproduct:
Dealing with Death
Memetic Replication (Transfer)
Contagion Interference Systems
Perception of Design
Quest for Purpose
Need for Explanation
Belief in Belief
Elaboration Likelihood Model (Peripheral route)
Costly Signals of Commitment
Mere Messenger Strategy
Naïve Group Psychology
In Group/Out Group Psychology
What do you think?