About the Book


On the Slopes

In this groundbreaking volume, J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., MD, with Clare Aukofer, offers a succinct yet comprehensive study of how and why the human mind generates religious belief. Dr. Thomson, a highly respected practicing psychiatrist with credentials in forensic psychiatry and evolutionary psychology, methodically investigates the components and causes of religious belief in the same way any scientist would investigate the movement of astronomical bodies or the evolution of life over time—that is, as a purely natural phenomenon. Providing compelling evidence from psychology, the cognitive neurosciences, and related fields, he, with Ms. Aukofer, presents an easily accessible and exceptionally convincing case that god(s) were created by man—not vice versa. With this slim volume, Dr. Thomson establishes himself as a must-read thinker and leading voice on the primacy of reason and science over superstition and religion.

About the Authors

J. Anderson “Andy” Thomson Jr., MD, is a staff psychiatrist at the University of Virginia's Student Health Center and Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, and maintains a private practice of adult and forensic psychiatry. He serves as a trustee of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Clare Aukofer is a medical writer and editor in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Andy Thomson, with Clare Aukofer, has written a wonderfully concise introduction to our growing scientific understanding of religion. If you would like to learn, in the span of an hour, why we have every reason to believe that God is man-made—this is the book to read.”

—Sam Harris, author of the New York Times best sellers

The Moral Landscape, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The End of Faith


ISBN: 978-098449321-0 (paperback)

SRP: $12.95 (paperback)

Page count: 144 pages

Trim size: 4 3/4 x 7

Pub date: June 2011

Ebook availability: Yes

Audiobook availability: Yes

Foreword by Richard Dawkins. Preface. Acknowledgments. In the Beginning Was the Word: Our Propensity to Believe. In the Image and Likeness: Evolution 101. Our Daily Bread: Craving a Caretaker. All That Is Seen and Unseen: Conceiving Souls. Because the Bible Tells Me So: Believing in the Invisible. And Deliver Us from Evil: Anthropomorphizing God(s). Thy Will Be Done: Submitting to the Law of God(s). Wherever Two or More of You Are Gathered: Harnessing Brain Chemistry through Ritual. Oh Ye of Little Faith: Discovering the Physical Evidence of God(s) as By-product. Lest Ye Be Judged: Educating Our Minds. Notes. Glossary.


Op-ed in Los Angeles Times

Interview in Austin American-Statesman

Dr. Thomson discusses Why We Believe in God(s)

Op-ed in Los Angeles Times

Dr. Thomson lectures on belief in god(s)

Penn Jillette reviews Why We Believe in God(s)

“This book about the evolutionary drivers of religiosity would have delighted [Darwin]. . . . One by one the components of religion receive the Thomson treatment. Every point he makes has the ring of truth, abetted by a crisp style and vivid imagery. Andy Thomson is an outstandingly persuasive lecturer, and it shines through his writing. This short, punchy book will be swiftly read—and long remembered.”

Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, from the foreword of Why We Believe in God(s)

“As an amateur woodworker, I can state from experience that there’s noth- ing like having the right tools for the job you’re trying to do. Here Andy Thomson and Clare Aukofer have assembled an oh-so-handy tool chest for the layperson who wants to think more clearly about the ever-less-mystical origins of religious belief.”

August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director, Secular Student Alliance

“Simply put, this book provides the most compelling scientific explanation for religion ever advanced. Andy Thomson and Clare Aukofer explicate pre- cisely that evolved psychological and brain mechanisms combine to produce religious experiences, and show how religious leaders exploit these mechanisms, sometimes with disastrous results. The book is fascinating from start to finish. It’s at the top of my ‘most highly recommended books’ for 2011.”

David M. Buss, author of Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind

“As Andy Thomson and Clare Aukofer point out in this compelling little book, our snap judgments are ‘millions of years in the making’ and so is the human propensity to construct and to believe in gods. I know of no clearer or more concise summary of the various preadaptations that cause us to generate and sustain religious belief.”

Sarah B. Hrdy, author of Mother Nature and Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding

“Despite all the advancements we have made in science, technology, and medicine, our Paleolithic psychology continues to drag us down into the abyss of archaic beliefs, blind faith, and tribal conflict. Andy Thomson and Clare Aukofer explain to us not only why the human mind is so susceptible to believing the unbelievable but also why we are willing to not only die for it, but kill for it as well. Read this book, and when you are done—send it to your congressional representative.”

R. Elisabeth Cornwell, PhD, Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science

“How does the human brain generate belief in an invisible god? Spurred by his study of suicide terrorism, psychiatrist Andy Thomson and Clare Aukofer elegantly describe many innate capacities of the human brain to explain how we can believe in an unknowable phenomenon: god. The writ- ing is clear, fair, deeply knowledgeable, wickedly intelligent, and full of new scientific facts about how the mind works. This topic touches all of us, from those who wait to pass through airport security to those who live under religious tyranny. Know thy neighbor and thyself; Thomson and Aukofer have given us a smart read.”

Helen Fisher, PhD, Biological Anthropologist, Rutgers University, and author of Why Him? Why Her?

“Brain washed? Andy Thomson and Clare Aukofer clearly explain why we are so susceptible to religious belief. Priests, rabbis, and imams ask us to dance, and then seduce us—and it appears we have a hardwired vulnerabil- ity to the seduction. Why We Believe in God(s) is easy and fun to read (and it’s got pictures). No wonder so much of the world believes the fairy tales.”

Woody Kaplan, Chair, Advisory Board of the Secular Coalition for America, and President, Defending Dissent Foundation

“A stimulating and enlightening journey into the mind we all possess, a mind primed to believe. Andy Thomson and Clare Aukofer take us on a fast-paced trek from how the human brain evolved in a primitive world to how religion harnesses those adaptations in the modern world.”

Todd Stiefel, President, Stiefel Freethought Foundation

Advance Praise


A small (almost pocket-size) book . . . to pique the interest of believers and nonbelievers alike.”