Bill Maher hoped to use science to paint religion as a neurological disorder, but the researchers in his film Religulous hold a more complex picture of why we have faith.
Nathan Schneider in Seed Magazine:
Robert Burton’s 17th century treatise, The Anatomy of Melancholy, treats psychological disorders as a religious problem. Depression, Burton believed, is an expression of original sin. Three centuries later, Freud reversed the diagnosis entirely by calling religion a symptom of mental dysfunction. Now, a growing number of scientists are studying why we are religious with modern research methods from a range of disciplines. For some interpreters, such as philosopher Daniel Dennett and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, science reveals religious beliefs to be malignant memes gnawing their way through believers’ brains, diseases needing to be cured. Yet for many of the researchers closest to this work, the recognition that religion has biological roots only makes it harder to talk about severing it from ourselves.