By Rodney Stark
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Additional info for Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion
Finally, it is self-evident that people may only select from among available options, although the full range of choices actually available may not be evident to them. However, if humans all attempt to make rational choices, why is it that they do not always act alike? Why don’t people reared in the same culture all seek the same rewards? Because their choices are guided by their preferences and tastes. Preferences and tastes deﬁne what it is that the individual ﬁnds rewarding or unrewarding.
Wallace, a prominent anthropologist, asserted in an undergraduate textbook. “Belief in supernatural beings and supernatural forces that aﬀect nature without obeying nature’s laws will erode and become only an interesting historical memory. . Belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as the result of the increasing adequacy and diﬀusion of scientiﬁc knowledge” (, ). A third basis of consensus among the founders of the social sciences was that religion is an epiphenomenon.
As noted in chapter , the notion that people weigh the an- RATIONALITY AND THE “RELIGIOUS MIND” ticipated rewards of a choice against its anticipated costs is fundamental to all mainstream social scientiﬁc traditions. In , Adam Smith made rational self-interest the basis of his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and economists have followed in his footsteps. Even sociology has been dominated by this assumption. George Homans and the exchange theorists have, of course, emphasized rationality, but as noted in chapter , a belief in human rationality also fully underlies the work of symbolic interactionists, structural functionalists, and Marxists.