Rational People and Religion

Witham Larry

in Marketplace of the Gods

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780195394757
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199777372 | DOI:
Rational People and Religion

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Economics and cognitive psychology have long debated the nature of human rationality. One says humans have a capacity for rational calculation, while the other points to “cognitive bias” in people’s judgments. Herbert Simon, a psychologist and Nobel Prize winner in economics, offers a consensus view that humans have objective and subjective rationality. The first rationality is consistent behavior toward a goal, while the second is having personal “good reasons” for beliefs and behavior. The historical idea of “economic man” was invented for use in theoretical models, so to end that stereotype, economist are providing richer definitions of rational behavior. Anthropologists have linked religion to the “primitive mind,” while critics of religion say it is irrational. However, not all anthropologists agree. Most people, including the well-educated, adhere to religion, suggesting a “rational choice” for its personal and social usefulness and its explanations of reality.

Keywords: anthropology; behavioral economics; bounded rationality; cognitive bias; game theory; methodological individualism; rationality; reason; Herbert Simon; utilitarianism

Chapter.  7453 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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