Psychologist - rubric Diversity of religious experiences
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Diversity of religious experiences
Subbotsky E. - I Believe Because This is Absurd: The Magic of Religion pp. 76-115


Abstract: In this paper I discuss the following issues: Why do people believe in god when there is no proof of god’s existence? Can one live without believing in anything? How does a traditional belief in god coexist with the belief in magic? The analysis brings one to the conclusion that the belief in the supernatural world appears in early man as a result of the convergence of two factors. The first was the emergence of new cognitive abilities, such as the ability to view all nature as alive and ascribe some kind of consciousness to inanimate things (animistic thinking). The second was the awareness of the inevitability of death, and frustration resulting from this awareness. Spirits of the ancestors, which populated the invisible world of dead, became the first gods. Gradually, the “mainstream” religion separated itself from everyday magic, yet it maintained the link with magic through the belief in the supernatural beings and miracles. Novelty: (1) For the first time, religion is analysed in the context of recent psychological studies of magical thinking; (2) The analysis of the alliance between mainstream religion and science against magic is also a novel element. Conclusions: (1) Historically and psychologically, religion is derivative from early magical beliefs; (2) When mainstream religion separates itself from magic, it starts to view magic as a rival in the struggle for human minds; (3) As a result, religion becomes hostile towards magic and views magic as a manifestation of dark forces; (4) Science ousted the belief in magic into the subconscious, while putting pressure on the mainstream religious belief at the same time. Nevertheless, there still exist a number of supernatural phenomena that remain unexplained by science; (5) There is a possibility that in the future contradictions between science, magic and religion will be smoothing out. As a result, certain supernatural phenomena, which at present are a subject for hot debates, will become part of the mainstream worldview and, quite possibly, will be used for controlling some spiritual and physical processes.
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