How We Believe, 2nd Edition Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God

Michael Shermer; With a new afterword

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

368 Pages



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Recent polls report that 96 percent of Americans believe in God, and 73 percent believe that angels frequently visit Earth. People are turning to religion in greater numbers than in recent generations. Even with the rise of science, technology, and secular education, people believe. Why?

Drawing on studies that bring scientific fact to such phenomena as out-of-body experiences, coincidence, and extraordinary perception, science historian Michael Shermer dissects the workings of the human mind, exploring how and why humans put their faith in a higher power, create rules of morality, turn to apocalyptic myths, and negotiate compromises between science and religion. In this new edition, Shermer explores findings and theories from neuroscientists, as well as recent polls on religious belief, to illuminate how reason and skepticism can shape our understanding of the universe and out place in it. An all-new afterword covers the latest scientific research on how the brain make us believers or skeptics.


Praise for How We Believe, 2nd Edition

"Well-researched, comprehensive, and persuasive. How We Believe is especially notable in stressing the great power of narration as the vehicle of complex thought . . . The humanistic, evolutionary explanation may in fact be ready to break out of the intellectually remote domain in which it has been developed and too long hemmed-in."—Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University, author of Consilience

"This is an important book, which is at the same time a great read. Michael Shermer digs into the American religious psyche with devastating logic and intensity . . . Too often politeness (or cowardice) prevents people from asking questions or from expressing dissent. No such barriers stand in the way of Shermer's acute intellect, the more powerful since he so obviously cares about the issues on which he writes. I love his discussions of God and morality and when I disagree, I simply want to argue the more."—Michael Ruse, University of Guelph, author of Taking Darwin Seriously

"Shermer's latest contribution is an insightful tour de force that will no doubt provoke virtually everyone who reads it. Those who approach this intriguing and informative book with a receptive mind will come away with a much deeper appreciation for the wonderful interplay of biology and culture that makes us who we are—perhaps unique creatures in the universe."—Donald Johanson, Director of the Institute of Human Origins, author of From Lucy to Language

"Those who enjoyed Michael Shermer's acclaimed Why People Believe Weird Things will welcome the extension of his critical but balanced study of the belief in God . . . Insightful, intriguing, and enlightening."—American Scientist

"This book will convince and delight all who are not chronically averse to opening their minds and thinking for themselves."—Richard Dawkins, author of Unweaving the Rainbow

"[How We Believe] is unusually useful . . . It sheds unique light on the interior life of a well-informed atheist today, and may foreshadow a new spirit of amity and mutual inquiry."—The Washington Post Book World

"[Shermer] brilliantly explores our propensity to be story-telling animals."—Natural History

"Shermer marches bravely into the arena where theists, atheists, and agnostics argue their views . . . Ranges eloquently and learned over broad areas of philosophy, theology, and science [to summarize] 'the God Question' and why we hold these opinions."—Scientific American

"[Shermer's] human understanding of the roots of faith is no insult to those of another persuasion. My hope is that plenty of people, reading the title of this book and its subtitle, will pick it up rather than the latest Hal Lindsey on the shelf below. Herein lies enlightenment."—The Times of Acadiana

"Anyone interested in contemporary discussions on science and religion will find this book immensely helpful."—Science Book & Film

"Although Shermer's arguments will probably not be decisive for debates between nonbelievers and believers, both will be able to appreciate this readable and generally fair-minded treatment of a subject that often provokes contentious dispute."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Part IGOD AND BELIEFR. Buckminster Fuller

Sometimes I think we’re alone.
Sometimes I think we’re not.
In either case, the thought is quite staggering.Chapter 1DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?The Difference in Our Answers and the Difference It Makes

The word God is used in most cases as by no means a term of science or exact knowledge, but a term of poetry and eloquence, a term thrown out, so to speak, as a not fully grasped object of the speaker’s consciousness,—a literary term, in short; and mankind mean different things by it as their consciousness dif
Read the full excerpt


  • Michael Shermer; With a new afterword

  • Michael Shermer is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine (, the director of the Skeptics Society, the host of the Skeptics Lecture Series at the California Institute of Technology, and a contributing editor of and monthly columnist for Scientific American. Author of the bestselling Why People Believe Weird Things, Denying History, and The Borderlands of Science.
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    Michael Shermer


    Michael Shermer

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