Drawing from sources including the ethology of art and the cognitive science of religion this book proposes an improved understanding of both art and religion as behaviors developed in the process of human evolution. Looking at both art and religion as closely related, but not identical, behaviors a more coherent definition of religion can be formed that avoids pitfalls such as the Eurocentric characterization of religion as belief or the dismissal of the category as nothing more than false belief or the product of scholarly invention.

The book integrates highly relevant insights from the ethology and anthropology of art, particularly the identification of "the special" by Ellen Dissanayake and art as agency by Alfred Gell, with insights from, among others, Ann Taves, who similarly identified "specialness" as characteristic of religion. It integrates these insights into a useful and accurate understanding and explanation of the relationship of art and religion and of religion as a human behavior. This in turn is used to suggest how art can contribute to the development and maintenance of religions.

The innovative combination of art, science, and religion in this book makes it a vital resource for scholars of Religion and the Arts, Aesthetics, Religious Studies, Religion and Science and Religious Anthropology.

chapter 1|16 pages

General introduction1

part I|168 pages

Theorizing religion and art

chapter 2|17 pages

The ethology of art (and religion)1

chapter 3|21 pages

The cognitive science of religion

An artless art

chapter 4|24 pages

Skill and the sacred

Redefining art, redefining religion

chapter 6|32 pages

Art and the sacred

chapter 7|21 pages

Wisdom and the personality of reality

part II|98 pages

Applying the theory

chapter 9|21 pages


The vanishing point of religion

chapter 10|24 pages

From caves to cities

Religion and the earliest art

chapter 11|16 pages

The art of Biblical prophecy

The technocracy of the text1

chapter 12|14 pages

Where is the art we have lost in religion?

chapter 13|11 pages

Where is the religion we have lost in art?

chapter 14|10 pages


Representation as response to the really real