Pascal Boyer
The naturalness of religious ideas: A cognitive theory of religion
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994

(from the jacket)

The main theme of Pascal Boyer's work is that important aspects of religious representations are constrained by universal properties of the human mind-brain.... The transmission of religious representations, as Boyer points out, does not occur in a cognitive vacuum. There is growing evidence that human minds are predisposed to acquire certain types of mental representations. In particular, experimental psychology shows that a number of universal, richly structured, early developed conceptual principles organize our understandings of particular aspects of natural and social environments. These representations in turn constrain the range of religious representations humans are likely to acquire, memorize, and transmit. This explains why certain aspects of religious ideas are found in a strikingly similar form in so many different cultural environments.... (The book) will be widely discussed by cultural anthropologists and psychologists, as well as students of religion, history, and philosophy.

     Part one: Religious ideas as conceptual structures.
     Recurrence, naturalness, and under-determination.
     The varieties of religious representations.
     Two aspects of conceptual structures.
     Part two: Four repertoires of religious representations.
     Natural ontologies and supernatural furniture.
     Causal judgments.
     Essentialism and social categories.
     Ritual episodes and religious assumptions.
     Part three: A sketch of cultural transmission.
     Cross-strengthening, religious truth, and stability.
     Cultural transmission and the biology in history.


Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles