Just started reading this last night. I’ve never thoroughly read it before, just spent some time with it at the library and I thought I’d note here some of my responses as I read along.
A few notes before I set out:
1. This book tries to lay out many serious lines of argument regarding religion, assess them, and use them as seems fit. So, as I read along in the text I will no doubt be making caveats that Boyer himself makes later on in the book. So reading my notes on the book will require a certain amount of charity–both for me–because I just haven’t gotten to that part of the book yet–and for Boyer–because I just haven’t gotten to that part of the book yet.
So when I complain about a passage in Religion Explained, that doesn’t mean that Boyer doesn’t see the same point or that there is necessarily a huge gap between my understanding of religion and his. I’m more or less taking this book as a good launching place for intelligent discussion of where religion may have come from.
2. This is a pretty old book–copyright 2001–so there’s no doubt more good data out there than this book reflects.
3. Boyer uses the concept of memes and I hope to line out some of the weaknesses of memes even as a heuristic device here. But I am decidedly biased against memes.
Anyhow, I hope to get a few passages from the book posted here shortly with a bit of critical analysis.