The rulings (‘canons’) of the first council of Christian leaders to survive provide more insight into the Christianity of this period. Held in the obscure Andalusian town of Elvira, the council shows us a world in which the gathered church leaders found it necessary to legislate against a large number of mundane activities that they determined were prejudicial to Christian wellbeing. The council decided, for instance, to forbid the holding of certain kinds of public office (such as the office of duumvir , effectively the local mayor, as the role might require inflicting punishment or abusing other Christians). What this tells us is that Christians were integrated into the fabric of social and political life, serving in public office, and so forth. Clearly, both Christians and non-Christians found that integration quite normal – Christians had come a long way since the days of the last persecution.
An essential feature of religious experience across many cultures is the intuitive feeling of God's presence. More than any rituals or doctrines, it is this experience that anchors religious faith, yet it has been largely ignored in the scientific literature on religion.
"... [Dr. Wathey's] book delves into the biological origins of this compelling feeling, attributing it to innate neural circuitry that evolved to promote the mother-child bond...[He] argues that evolution has programmed the infant brain to expect the presence of a loving being who responds to the child's needs. As the infant grows into adulthood, this innate feeling is eventually transferred to the realm of religion, where it is reactivated through the symbols, imagery, and rituals of worship. The author interprets our various conceptions of God in biological terms as illusory supernormal stimuli that fill an emotional and cognitive vacuum left over from infancy.
These insights shed new light on some of the most vexing puzzles of religion, like:
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