"Guthrie proposes that religion is basically an outgrowth of the natural human propensity, probably hardwired in by evolution, to interpret vague or random appearances anthropomorphically. That is, we naturally tend to see faces in clouds or the image of Jesus in a spaghetti ad. This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary viewpoint since it would be beneficial to survival to have a perceptual strategy in which vague appearances were interpreted as (possibly hostile) humans. Better to think we see a glaring face and find that we're wrong than to miss seeing an enemy. Clearly, much of the human propensity towards religiosity could be explained in this way. Guthrie argues his case well." -- Keith M. Parsons
if religion is not real this is by far the best explanation i have come across regarding its origin and development. I am a christian some would say fundamentalist, i would say conservatve :) but I have to agree with the atheist reviewer above, this book is really good. guthrie thinks that the mechanism of anthropomorphism is inherent in us because it is better for living creatures to see agency in the world, sort of erring on the side of caution.
anthorpomorphism is the tendancy to see things as alive and having human qualities. this mechanism is in built. it lets us see things in the envirinment which may alive. it lets us identify things in terms of importance. if something is going to eat us then its in our interest to see it as alive. if we can eat it then we need to know its going to run when we try to eat it. if it is human we can interact with it, possibly getting help or needing to avoid its intentions toward us. unlike other books written by atheists regarding religion this does not come across as patronising, hostile, too critical or abusive. guthrie thinks that this mechanism explains that religious belief is a perfectly natural phenomena and as such does not despise religious people.
I realy liked this explanation and it is by far the closest mechanism to darwinian evolution, if you believe we evolved and you want to look at the origins or religion then this is the best possible mechanism i have seen. forget that dawkins guy and his meme stuff, guthrie is the way ahead. (though memes may explain the transmission of the idea)
its cleary written, freindly logical well illustrated, and Guthrie seems like a nice guy.