The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longings

John C. Wathey. Prometheus Books, $28 (445) ISBN 978-1-63388-074-0
“What seems to be missing is a good explanation for the powerful emotions both positive and negative, associated with religious belief,” Wathey writes, after systematically discussing popular explanations for belief in God, including that of Richard Dawkins. Wathey, a computational biologist and neuroscientist, fills this dense and lengthy tome with examples of religious feeling and experience from every possible source and angle, including his own—an undertaking reminiscent of William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience. Wathey’s writing is strong and his examples are accessible to the layperson, even though this is anything but a light philosophical and theological read. Not for the faint of heart, Wathey’s analysis of the roots of religious and spiritual feeling—while highly sympathetic and respectful of the faithful—will certainly challenge believing readers. Fans of Hitchens and Dawkins may find Wathey’s nonreductive approach to belief in God a tad too sympathetic, yet will also find another smart, critical argument that ultimately supports their views. Overall, this is a well-done and well-argued addition to the popular discussion about God’s existence that takes a measured and middle path. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/09/2015
Release date: 01/12/2016
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