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Religion

An Anthropological Perspective

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H. Sidky

Religion: An Anthropological Perspective provides a critical view of religion focusing upon important but overlooked topics such as religion, cognition, and prehistory; science, rationality, and religion; altered states of consciousness, entheogens and religious experience; religion and the paranormal; magic and divination; religion and ecology; fundamentalism; and religion and violence. In addition, this book offers a unique and concise coverage of traditional topics of the anthropology of religion such as shamanism and witchcraft (past and present), ritual, myth, religious symbols, and revitalization movements. A vast range of findings from ethnography, ethnology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, prehistory, history, and cognitive science are brought to bear on the subject. Written in clear jargon-free prose, this book provides an accessible and comprehensive yet critical view of the anthropology of religion both for graduate and undergraduate students and general audiences. Its scope and critical scientific orientation sets Religion: An Anthropological Perspective apart from all other treatments of the subject.
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Chapter Eight: Religion and the Paranormal

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Religion and the Paranormal



Cognitive science has shown how the human mind is predisposed toward populating the world and universe with supernatural or paranormal beings, such as ghosts, souls, spirits, demons, aliens, and gods (see chapter 2). It comes as no surprise to find that large numbers of people today believe in the existence of such paranormal agents. Harvey Irwin (1993: 1) defines the term paranormal as “hypothesized processes that in principle are physically impossible or outside the realm of human capabilities as presently conceived by conventional scientists.” According to Erich Goode (2000: 18):

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