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The Monist

Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2013
Naturalizing Religious Belief

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Displaying: 1-8 of 8 documents


1. The Monist: Volume > 96 > Issue: 3
Justin L. Barrett, Ian M. Church

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Recent work in cognitive science of religion (CSR) is beginning to converge on a very interesting thesis—that, given the ordinary features of human minds operating in typical human environments, we are naturally disposed to believe in the existence of gods, among other religious ideas (e.g., see Atran [2002], Barrett [2004; 2012], Bering [2011], Boyer [2001], Guthrie [1993], McCauley [2011], Pyysiäinen [2004; 2009]). In this paper, we explore whether such a discovery ultimately helps or hurts the atheist position—whether, for example, it lends credence to atheism by explaining away religious belief or whether it actually strengthens some already powerful arguments against atheism in the relevant philosophical literature.We argue that the recent discoveries of CSR hurt, not help, the atheist position—that CSR, if anything, should not give atheists epistemic assurance.
2. The Monist: Volume > 96 > Issue: 3
John Teehan

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The problem of evil is a central issue in the philosophy of religion, for countless believers and skeptics alike. The attempt to resolve the dilemma of positing the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, creator while recognizing the presence of evil in the world has engaged philosophers and theologians for millennia. This article will not seek to resolve the dilemma but rather to explore the question of why there is a problem of evil. That is, why is it that gods are conceived in ways that give rise to this dilemma? The topic will be approached using insights into the religious mind being developed by the disciplines contributing to the Cognitive Science of Religion. The thesis to be developed is that this problem is a product of natural cognitive processes that give rise togod-beliefs, beliefs that are shaped by evolved moral intuitions.
3. The Monist: Volume > 96 > Issue: 3
Jason Marsh

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Problem one: why, if God designed the human mind, did it take so long for humans to develop theistic concepts and beliefs? Problem two: why would God use evolution to design the living world when the discovery of evolution would predictably contribute to so much nonbelief in God? Darwin was aware of such questions but failed to see their evidential significance for theism. This paper explores this significance. Problem one introduces something I call natural nonbelief, which is significant because it parallels and corroborates well-known worries about natural evil. Problems one and two, especially when combined, support naturalism over theism, intensify the problem of divine hiddenness, challenge Alvin Plantinga’s views about the naturalness of theism, and advance the discussion about whether the conflict between science and religion is genuine or superficial.
4. The Monist: Volume > 96 > Issue: 3
Steven Horst

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This article examines the notions of “intuitive” and “counterintuitive” beliefs and concepts in cognitive science of religion. “Intuitive” states are contrasted with those that are products of explicit, conscious reasoning. In many cases the intuitions are grounded in the implicit rules of mental models, frames, or schemas. I argue that the pathway from intuitive to high theological concepts and beliefs may be distinct from that from intuitions to “folk religion,” and discuss how Christian theology might best interpret the results of studies in cognitive psychology of religion.
5. The Monist: Volume > 96 > Issue: 3
Adam Green

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Rather than being in inherent conflict with religion or operating on planes that do not intersect, the cognitive science of religion (CSR) can be used to renovate a religious understanding of the world. CSR allows one to reshape the perspectives of Aquinas and Calvin on the natural knowledge of God. The Christian tradition affirms that all human beings have available to them some knowledge of God. This claim has empirical import and thus invites scientific investigation and clarification. A CSR-inspired lens allows one’s theological reflections to move from paradigms that focus on the cognitive reach of a domain-general power of human thought to a paradigm focused on different ways of relating to another person. The case study of the natural knowledge of God presented here models a productive way of relating CSR and religious perspectives from within a faith tradition.
6. The Monist: Volume > 96 > Issue: 3
Paul Draper, Ryan Nichols

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Work in philosophy of religion exhibits at least four symptoms of poor health: it is too partisan, too polemical, too narrow in its focus, and too often evaluated using criteria that are theological or religious instead of philosophical. Our diagnosis is that, because of the emotional and psychosocial aspects of religion, many philosophers of religion suffer from cognitive biases and group influence. We support this diagnosis in two ways. First, we examine work in psychology on cognitive biases and their affective triggers. This work supports the view that, while cognitive biases are no doubt a problem in all inquiry and in all areas ofphilosophy, they are particularly damaging to inquiry in philosophy of religion. Second, we examine work in social and evolutionary psychology on religious sociality and its attendant emotions. This work establishes that the coalitional features of religion are correlated with group bias, and we contend that this bias is also harmful to inquiry in philosophy of religion. We close by offering both a prognosis and recommendations for treatment.
7. The Monist: Volume > 96 > Issue: 3
Konrad Talmont-Kaminski

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Religious beliefs, it has been noted, are often hard to disprove. While this would be a shortcoming for beliefs whose utility was connected to their accuracy, it is actually necessary in the case of beliefs whose function bears no connection to how accurate they are. In the case of religions and other ideologies that serve to promote prosocial behaviour this leads to the need to protect belief systems against potentially disruptive counterevidence while maintaining their relevance. Religions turn out to be particularly adept at this because of the use they make of existing cognitive by-products to make them plausible without exposingthem overly to investigation.
8. The Monist: Volume > 96 > Issue: 3
Robert Audi

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