This week’s New Scientist has an interesting article summarising the current thinking on the psychology of religion.
The research treats religion and belief in God or other supernatural entities as a natural consequence of how the brain works.
This has taken two main strands in the research literature: the first is that these tendencies to believe in supernatural forces have evolutionary benefits for social cohesion and kinship, which is why they have been selected for.
The other is that these beliefs are a side-effect of the actions of other useful cognitive processes we have developed. In other words, we have certain mental abilities, typically attributing intention and desire, which we unwittingly over-apply and hence attribute random uncontrollable events to mysterious but intelligent beings.
The article is not particularly in-depth but is notable for its breadth of coverage and will give you a taste for the direction in which the cognitive science of religion is heading.
Link to NewSci article ‘How your brain creates God’.