Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One reason why religion survives despite predictions of its demise

A Guardian UK article asks why religion has endured despite all the predictions of its demise. Here's one economics explanation given:
One underlying reason for religion's endurance is that science treats humans and intentions only as incidental elements in the universe, whereas for religion they are central. Science is not particularly well-suited to deal with people's existential anxieties – death, deception, sudden catastrophe, loneliness or longing for love or justice. It cannot tell us what we ought to do, only what we can do. Religion thrives because it addresses people's yearnings and society's moral needs.
In other words, there is a latent demand for certain goods that cannot be acquired via standard scientific method, so we not should not be surprised that suppliers of these goods, which we call religious goods, will survive in the marketplace. We will talk about this later in the quarter. The article also gives some (non-economics) cognitive/neurological explanations for the persistence of religion.

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