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Evolution, Religion, and Cognitive ScienceCritical and Constructive Essays$
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Fraser Watts and Léon P. Turner

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199688081

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199688081.001.0001

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Neither Friends nor Enemies: The Complex Relationship between Cognitive and Humanistic Accounts of Religious Belief

Neither Friends nor Enemies: The Complex Relationship between Cognitive and Humanistic Accounts of Religious Belief

Chapter:
(p.152) 9 Neither Friends nor Enemies: The Complex Relationship between Cognitive and Humanistic Accounts of Religious Belief
Source:
Evolution, Religion, and Cognitive Science
Author(s):

Léon Turner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199688081.003.0009

This chapter argues that, whereas some (perhaps most) of CSR’s widely accepted cognitive explanations of various aspects of religion leave plenty of room for alternative, non-contradictory sociohistorical explanations, some clearly do not. This claim is illustrated primarily through the analysis of Justin Barrett’s extremely influential account of why people believe in gods. It is argued that some CSR theorists advance naturalistic causal explanations both of the origins of belief in gods, and the pan-cultural recurrence of certain beliefs that explicitly preclude the possibility of their explanation in terms of meaningful sociohistorical narratives. This has significant implications for the compatibility between sociohistorical accounts of religious belief and those CSR theories that suppose some beliefs in gods to be mere by-products of human cognitive evolution. It is suggested that conflict between CSR and sociohistorical accounts of religion are likely to be most pronounced in precisely those areas where evolutionary psychology is presumed to make its most significant contributions.

Keywords:   belief in gods, conflict, cognitive tools, maturational naturalness, sociohistorical, humanistic, origins, supernatural agent concepts, causal naturalistic explanation, counterintuitive

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