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Palgrave Macmillan

Theology after the Birth of God

Atheist Conceptions in Cognition and Culture

ISBN 9781137364548
Publication Date August 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Radical Theologies

The gods are born - and we have borne them! This proclamation, derived from insights in the biocultural study of religion, may engender even more atheism than Nietzsche's message about the "death of God." Engaging recent empirical findings and theoretical developments within a wide variety of evolutionary and social sciences, F. LeRon Shults unveils the cognitive and coalitional mechanisms by which god-conceptions are bred in human minds and nurtured in human cultures. Shared imaginative engagement with punitive supernatural agents emerges "naturally" as a result of inherited tendencies that lead to the over-detection of agents and the over-protection of in-groups. The integration of these tendencies helped our early ancestors survive by fostering cooperation and commitment in small-scale coalitions. However, these "religious" traits also generate faulty interpretations of nature and violent inscriptions of society. Arguing for the importance of having "the talk" about religious reproduction, especially in complex, pluralistic environments increasingly shaped by naturalism and secularism, Shults proposes the liberation of a radically atheist trajectory that has for too long been suppressed within the discipline of theology.

F. LeRon Shults is professor of theology and philosophy at the University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway and the author or editor of twelve other books, including his recent Iconoclastic Theology: Gilles Deleuze and the Secretion of Atheism (2014). Shults is also a senior research fellow at the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion in Boston, USA.

1. The Gods are Born – and we Have Borne Them
2. Anthropomorphic Promiscuity and Sociographic Prudery
3. The Scientific Discipline of Theology
4. Arguing about Axiological Engagement
5. Religious Family Systems
6. Letting Gods Go: Naturalism and Secularism
7. Theology after 'the Birth of God'


"A sophisticated and significant exploration of the implications of the biocultural study of religion; important not only for theologians and philosophers, but for all those interested in the role religion plays in the world today. With a series of entertaining metaphors, Shults guides us through the ways our evolved cognitive mechanisms both generate and constrain, in sometimes dangerous ways, our religious and anti-religious discourse. He makes a compelling case that this new paradigm is a profound game changer that no serious discussion of religion can responsibly ignore. I believe the same can be said of this book." - John Teehan, author of In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence (2010)
"Theology After the Birth of God is a valuable part of any atheist's library. Sun Tsu taught us to know our enemies; Shults teaches us that gods are not only man-made, but an inevitable byproduct of evolution. This information is devastating to the concept that gods are real, as Shults shows exactly how they are made, shaped, and used to the advantage of those in charge. He then takes the next step of teaching us how to use this information toward the betterment of society. Shults answers once and for all, how so many people can believe in a god and still be wrong." - David Silverman, President of American Atheists
"Taking his point of departure in the biocultural science of religion that a few of us have been promoting, Shults shows how even theology may benefit from these insights. His proposed anthropomorphic promiscuity and sociographic prudery is a refreshing take on religion, atheism, cognition and culture." - Armin W. Geertz, author of Brain, Body and Culture: A Biocultural Theory of Religion, Director of the Religion, Cognition and Culture Research Unit (RCC) at Aarhus University, Denmark
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