Attachment, Evolution, and the Psychology of Religion

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9781593850883: Attachment, Evolution, and the Psychology of Religion

"In this highly engaging, wide-ranging, and gracefully written book, Kirkpatrick moves from his own innovative work on attachment processes and religious phenomena to a much broader, multidimensional analysis of religion as an outcome of evolution. The book stands out from other writings on evolution and religion, which tend to have a narrow focus (on cognition or ritual or mystical experience, for example) and to see religion as a unitary adaptation. In contrast, Kirkpatrick argues persuasively that religion is best explained by a confluence of several different evolved mechanisms, each with its own primary, nonreligious function."--Phillip R. Shaver, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis "Kirkpatrick has provided a dazzling and insightful analysis of the psychology of religion. Groundbreaking and gripping from start to finish, the book takes readers on a tour of religious phenomena, from the origins of belief to the nature of religious leaders and their followers. The result is the most incisive and scientifically sound analysis of religion I have seen, using principles drawn from modern evolutionary psychology. It's a landmark publication, and sure to form the center of lively debate for years to come."--David M. Buss, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin "In this brilliant work, Lee Kirkpatrick embeds the study of religion within an integrative evolutionary framework that draws extensively on attachment theory. In elaborating his comprehensive explanatory theory, Kirkpatrick boldly proposes a route for advancing the science of the psychology of religion. This book is essential reading for students and scholars of the psychology of religion and evolutionary psychology, particularly those interested in the psychological origins of religion."--Crystal L. Park, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut "This is a masterful example of scholarship aimed at integrating an attachment and evolutionary theoretical approach to the wide and far-reaching domain of the psychology of religion. Kirkpatrick is the world's leading expert on attachment theory and religion, and in this book he has expanded the argument to encompass a broader perspective, one that places the psychology of religion squarely in the emerging field of evolutionary psychology and thus links it with the larger orbit of sciences. The writing is rich with research whose data argue in a compelling way that religious phenomena match the predictions of an attachment-evolutionary framework. Other approaches are acknowledged but are challenged with the question of why they work, if they do. Written with a high level of sophistication, the book is nonetheless extremely accessible. Kirkpatrick clearly loves his material. His logic is keen, his writing beautiful, his topic and message timeless."--Raymond F. Paloutzian, PhD, Department of Psychology, Westmont College

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Why has religion played such a strong role in all human cultures throughout history? Despite the remarkable diversity of forms of religious belief, why have certain common themes consistently emerged? And why do people in modern societies vary widely in whether and what they believe, and how they act on their faith? In this compelling book, Lee Kirkpatrick addresses these essential questions and more, establishing a comprehensive framework for approaching the psychology of religion from an evolutionary perspective. Within this framework, attachment theory provides a powerful lens through which to reconceptualize many aspects of religious belief and behavior. Provocative and engaging, the book brings fresh ideas to bear on universal concerns and outlines a bold agenda for future research.

Rejecting the notion that humans possess religion-specific instincts or adaptations, Kirkpatrick argues that religion instead is a collection of byproducts of numerous psychological mechanisms and systems that evolved for other functions. Among these systems is attachment, which has been the subject of growing scientific interest over the last decade. Systematically applying attachment theory to religion, chapters identify key parallels between early attachment relationships and adult romantic relationships, on the one hand, and individuals' perceived relationships with God, on the other. Seeing the deity as an attachment figure offers new ways of thinking about such core religious phenomena as images of God, prayer, religious development, and conversion. Along with attachment, the book considers how a variety of other evolved psychological mechanisms/m-/including intrasexual competition for status and mates, kinship, social exchange, and coalitional psychology/m-/underlie other aspects of religious belief and behavior. Also provided are promising evolutionary hypotheses for phenomena outside the margins of mainstream religion, such as parapsychological beliefs.
Written in a lucid, straightforward style, this integrative work will spark discussion, debate, and further investigation among readers in social and personality psychology and the psychology of religion, as well as clinical psychology and religious studies. It will serve as a text in advanced undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in the psychology of religion, evolutionary psychology, attachment theory, and personality.

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