Religion, Science, and Rationality
"A fundamental debate has surfaced within the social-scientific study of religion. Though
fueled by new, economic models of religious behavior, the debate finds its origins in a growing
body of empirical findings. These findings challenge the received wisdom that religious beliefs
and behavior are grounded in primitive, pre-scientific, and non-rational thinking.
The distorting force of the received wisdom is underscored by the body of “stylized facts”
that it has spawned. For example: (1) religion must inevitably decline as science and technology
advance; (2) individuals become less religious and more skeptical of faith-based claims as they
acquire more education, particularly more familiarity with science; and (3) membership in deviant
religions is usually the consequence of indoctrination (leading to aberrant values) or abnormal
psychology (due to trauma, neurosis, or unmet needs)...Our review of traditional claims and contemporary data leads us to conclude that standard
social-scientific theories of religious behavior have accorded unwarranted status to the assumption
of nonrationality. The view of religion as nonrational, not to mention irrational, emerged from a
19th century scholarly tradition largely devoid of empirical support and tainted by prejudice,
ignorance, and antireligious sentiment."