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The Death of Religion and the Rebirth of Spirit is a far-reaching survey blending philosophy, religion and sociology. It is not light reading, and in fact challenges many of our perceptions about why we function as we do in society. Pearce begins his discussion with a survey of violence in human society and questions whether cruelty truly is part of human nature. He argues that the roots of human behavior aren't violent, but instead derive from our culture. Succeeding chapters use recent neuroscience, cultural anthropology and brain development research to explore our trend towards violence, before moving on to discuss spiritual understanding and how to reverse violence to achieve a higher level of being.

Building on Darwin, Pearce pleads that humanity rise above its lower, instinctual "brain" to allow "our newest brain" (which he also calls the "fourth brain") to flourish. In doing so, we will bring about a higher stage in evolution, one where love and altruism are prized beyond measure. For him, the biggest roadblocks to this higher stage of evolution are religion and science, because together they promote violence and arrogance. From his perspective, these "two mongrels" have long forced us into a false either/or choice, a choice "between being hanged or shot." To overcome the terrible evils of science and religion and fulfill the promises of the fourth brain, we must cultivate "the dynamic of the heart-brain-mind relationship," literally listening to our heart as a kind of brain itself that prioritizes love and intimate relationship above all else.

There are some mistakes. For example: the famous French explorer Alexandra David-Neel turns into an Englishwoman (with a slightly misspelled name). Pearce’s etymology of "sin" as originally meaning "separate" (p. 166) is baffling, to say the least. There are others, and although minor they nonetheless detract from the overall excellence of the book.

In the end, I’m not sure I am convinced by Pearce’s logic. But because I want his basic premise (work on your self-understand to root out negativity and helps others do the same) read by others, I recommend this book.

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Joseph Chilton Pearce

Park Street Press, 2007

pp. 272, $22.95

 

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