Beautiful Reflections: The Cognitive and Evolutionary Foundations of Paradise Representations

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Jani Närhi Department of Comparative Religion, University of Helsinki, Finland

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In addition to god beliefs, belief in life after death or in a nostalgic era when everything was perfect is a widespread phenomenon in world religions. In this paper, my aim is to explain how and why paradise beliefs have emerged and why they have survived over generations. Using recent theories and results from the cognitive and evolutionary study of religion as well as from studies of environmental preferences, I suggest that the answer lies in pan-human unconscious motivations, the architecture of mind, and the way human mind processes information.

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