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Attempts to understand the origins of humanity have raised fundamental questions about the complex relationship between cognition and culture. Central to the debates on origins is the role of religion, religious ritual and religious experience. What came first: individual religious (ecstatic) experiences, collective observances of transition situations, fear of death, ritual competence, magical coercion; mirror neurons or temporal lobe religiosity? Cognitive scientists are now providing us with important insights on phylogenetic and ontogenetic processes. Together with insights from the humanities and social sciences on the origins, development and maintenance of complex semiotic, social and cultural systems, a general picture of what is particularly human about humans could emerge. Reflections on the preconditions for symbolic and linguistic competence and practice are now within our grasp. Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture puts culture centre stage in the cognitive science of religion.
The cognitive science of religion examines the mental processes that govern religious belief and behaviour. It offers a fresh and exciting approach to the scientific study of religion. 'Religion and Cognition' brings together key essays which outline the theory and illustrate this with experimental case material. The central topics in this new critical field of research are all addressed: meta-theoretical arguments for cognitive explanations of religion; theoretical models of cognition employed in the cognitive science of religion; prominent cognitive theories of religion; methods used to gather data and test theories; and experimental findings by cognitive scientists of religion.
The cognitive science of religion is an inherently heterogeneous subject, incorporating theory and data from anthropology, psychology, sociology, evolutionary biology, and philosophy of mind amongst other subjects. One increasingly influential area of research in this field is concerned specifically with exploring the relationship between the evolution of the human mind, the evolution of culture in general, and the origins and subsequent development of religion. This research has exerted a strong influence on many areas of religious studies over the last twenty years, but, for some, the so-called 'evolutionary cognitive science of religion' remains a deeply problematic enterprise. This book's primary aim is to engage critically and constructively with this complex and diverse body of research from a wide range of perspectives. To these ends, the book brings together authors from a variety of relevant disciplines, in the thorough exploration of many of the key debates in the field. These include, for example: can certain aspects of religion be considered adaptive, or are they evolutionary by-products? Is the evolutionary cognitive science of religion compatible with theism? Is the evolutionary cognitive approach compatible with other, more traditional approaches to the study of religion? To what extent is religion shaped by cultural evolutionary processes? Is the evolutionary account of the mind that underpins the evolutionary cognitive approach the best or only available account? Written in accessible language, with an introductory chapter by Ilkka Pyssiäinen, a leading scholar in the field, this book is a valuable resource for specialists, undergraduate and graduate students, and newcomers to the evolutionary cognitive science of religion.
With contributions from founders of the field, including Justin Barrett, E. Thomas Lawson, Robert N. McCauley, Paschal Boyer, Armin Geertz and Harvey Whitehouse, as well as from younger scholars from successive stages in the field's development, this is an important survey of the first twenty-five years of the cognitive science of religion. Each chapter provides the author's views on the contributions the cognitive science of religion has made to the academic study of religion, as well as any shortcomings in the field and challenges for the future. Religion Explained? The Cognitive Science of Religion after Twenty-five Years calls attention to the field whilst providing an accessible and diverse survey of approaches from key voices, as well as offering suggestions for further research within the field. This book is essential reading for anyone in religious studies, anthropology, and the scientific study of religion.
Examines 13 secular and 13 religious theories to produce a wide-ranging comparative study of the roots of moral development.
This book highlights religious faith from a positive psychology perspective, examining the relationship between religious faith and optimal psychological functioning. It takes a perspective of religious diversity that incorporates international and cross-cultural work. The empirical literature on the role of faith and cognition, faith and emotion, and faith and behaviour is addressed including how these topics relate to individuals’ mental health, well-being, strength, and resilience. Information on how these faith concepts are relevant to the broader context of relational functioning in families, friendships, and communities is also incorporated. Psychologists have traditionally focused on the treatment of mental illness from a perspective of repairing damaged habits, damaged drives, damaged childhoods, and damaged brains. In recent years, however, many psychological researchers and practitioners have attempted to re-focus the field away from the study of human weakness and damage toward the promotion of a positive psychology of well-being among individuals, families, and communities. One domain within the field of positive psychology is the study of religious faith as a human strength that has the potential to enhance individuals’ optimal existence and well-being.

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