1st Edition

Supernatural as Natural A Biocultural Approach to Religion

By Michael Winkelman, John R. Baker Copyright 2010
    384 Pages
    by Routledge

    384 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book provides a general introduction to the biological and evolutionary bases of religion and is suitable for introductory level courses  in  the anthropology and psychology of religion and comparative religion.

    Why did human ancestors everywhere adopt religious beliefs and customs? The presence and persistence of many religious features across the globe and time suggests that it is natural for humans to believe in the supernatural. In this new text, the authors explore both the biological and cultural dimensions of religion and the evolutionary origins of religious features.

    Religion’s Family Resemblances
    Religion, Spirituality, and Religiosity
    Overview of Book
    Chapter 1: Anthropology and the Study of Religion
    Introduction to the Anthropological Study of Religion
    Western Perspectives on Religion
    The Development of Anthropological Approaches to Religion
    The Four-Field Approach of Anthropology
    Conclusion: The Biocultural Approach to the Study of Religiosity
    Chapter 2: Our World and How We Know It
    Science, Religion, and the Universe
    Mysticism as Science
    Conclusions: Comparing Science and Religion
    Chapter 3: Consciousness and Spiritual Experiences
    Opening vignette: Visionary Spiritual Experiences and the Origins of Major Religious Traditions
    What is Consciousness?
    The Biological Bases of Spiritual Consciousness: The Integrative Mode of Consciousness
    Origins of Religious Experiences: Natural Induction of the Integrative Mode of Consciousness
    Adaptive Aspects of the Integrative Mode of Consciousness
    Conclusion: Religious Experience as Personal Experience of Biology
    Appendix: Assessing Mystical Experiences/Hood’s Mysticism Scale
    Chapter 4: Animal Rituals and the Roots of Religiosity
    Introduction: Ritual in the Animal World
    What are Rituals?
    The Triune Brain and Ritual Behavior
    Animal Rituals
    The Evolution of Ritual Behaviors
    Conclusions: The Animal Roots of Human Ritual Activity
    Chapter 5: The Origins of Shamanism and the Flowering of Religiosity
    Introduction: Evidence for the Emergence of New Forms of Ritual
    What are Shamans?
    The Evolutionary Origins of Spiritual Experiences
    Psilocybin-Containing Mushrooms as Sources of Spiritual Experiences
    The Middle/Upper Paleolithic Transition and Human Cultural Evolution
    Human Cognitive Evolution: The Emergence of Specialized Intelligences
    “Complex Hunter-Gatherer Type Religions”: The Rise of Ancestor Cults and Priests
    Chapter 6: Origins and Functions of Religious Healing
    Introduction: Religious Healing as a Cultural Universal
    The Co-Evolution of Healing and Religiosity
    Shamanism as a Foundation for Religious Healing Adaptations
    Religious Adaptations in Healing Processes
    Conclusions: Shamanic Healing and the Holistic Imperative
    Chapter 7: Religion and Cognition: How Religion Shapes How We Think
    Introduction: Religious Ideas and the Structure of the Universe
    Animism: The Belief in Spirit Beings
    Myth and the Universe
    Substantive Beliefs
    Conclusions: Spirit Concepts as Indigenous Psychologies
    Chapter 8: Religion and Emotions
    Bronislav Malinowski: The Emotional Adaptiveness of Magic and Religion
    Sigmund Freud and the Roles of the Unconscious in Religion
    Religion, Sex, and Gender
    How Religion Shapes Our Development
    Religion as an Evolutionary Byproduct? Attachment Theory and Religion
    Religious Conversion as Learning a Second Culture
    Chapter 9: Religion and Society: How Religion Shapes Our Relations with Others
    The Evolutionary Origins of Human Social Organization and Religion
    Durkheim and the Social Symbolic Approaches to Religion
    Religion and Social Control
    The Social Origins of Conceptualizations of Deity and the Sacred
    Religion as a Biologically-Based Adaptive Social Mechanism
    Conclusions: Durkheim’s Legacy in Understanding Religion as a Social and Symbolic Phenomenon
    Chapter 10: Supernatural Evil
    Introduction: Supernatural Evil as a Religious Universal
    Anthropological Views of Sorcery and Witchcraft
    The Sorcerer/Witch as a Social Universal of Religion
    and Shamanism
    Witchcraft and Heresy in Europe
    Human Sacrifice
    Chapter 11: Conclusions: Religion in Evolutionary Perspective
    The Conceptual Frameworks of Evolution
    Assessing the Evolutionary Status of Religious Features
    Why Must we Learn to Disagree?
    Conclusions: Universalist Perspectives


    Michael Winkelman, Ph.D. (University of California-Irvine), M.P.H. (University of Arizona) is an Associate Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. He served as President of the Anthropology of Consciousness section of the American Anthropological Association, as was the founding President of its Anthropology of Religion Section. His principal publications on shamanism include Shamans, Priests and Witches (1992) and Shamanism (2000). He has also addressed the role of psychedelic medicines in shamanism in his co-edited Psychedelic Medicine.
    John Baker, Dr. Phil. (Universität Hamburg, Germany) is a Professor of Anthropology at Moorpark College. He has authored several papers on the constructive use of altered states of consciousness and on the history and ritual uses of psychoactive substances. He is presently serving as the President of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness.