While evolution does provide a biologically rooted framework that affords cognitive psychologists the theoretical rationale for extrapolating that all cultures utilize the same mental facilities (albeit quite differently depending on their environment), in order to explain religion in all its variants both past and present, cognitive psychology is both necessary and sufficient.

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In this hard-hitting report, Alex Uzdavines reflects on the highs and lows of his recent experience at the American Psychological Association Division 36 Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 2015 Mid-Year Conference hosted by Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, United States on March 20th and 21st 2015.

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Alex Uzdavines

Can one really engage in a “serious conversation” in which one always has “the last word”? Or is that perhaps a “misrecognized monologue,” to use Lincoln’s terms? And what are the potential political implications of the assertion that scholars “have the last word”?

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I am interested in how displays by religious paragons which contradict expressed statements of belief may be uniquely corrosive to the religious certainty of believers.

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Are we to believe those mountains weren’t here before humans came to name them?! Mountains, dammit! They’re real and they’re mind-independent! (It’s at this point that the radical constructionists ask, “can you say that without discourse?” and then the realists really go apoplectic.)

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With the strength of a research method, there is a corresponding weakness. And these weaknesses turn out to be overcome by the strengths of other, “opposite” kinds of methods.

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The RSP collaborated with Society for the Scientific Study of Religion at their 2014 Annual Meeting in Indianapolis to offer and video record an interdisciplinary panel on the study of religion. Each of the papers presented are not only from different fields in the study of religion but also methodologically or theoretically apply an interdisciplinary approach. The authors represent the best in their fields. Some are established scholars with a body of work while others are up-and-coming talent.

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Many of my participants felt that familiarity with Christianity permitted them to be critical in a way that they could not with other religious traditions.

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Recent scholarship on Mesoamerican religions has been influenced by Mircea Eliade in a persistent fashion that has yet to be critically addressed.

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Comic books frequently include alternative or heterodox religious ideas, something underscored by the fact that two of the most acclaimed writers working today (Alan Moore and Grant Morrison) are practising magicians, and their work frequently contains references to their practises.

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While there is little disagreement as to the basic content of Gurdjieff’s spiritual teaching, there is currently no concrete proposal about the place of Gurdjieff within the broadly scientific study of religions.

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Since the 1980s, social and economic pressures to stay within mainstream society have become more prominent, and spiritually minded individuals often seek more limited, loosely bonded participation in New Age-style modes of thought.

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aboutMaster

I hope I can place Webster’s research [on the Scottish Brethren] in the wider social and historical context, the ‘national level’ alongside the ‘local’ and ‘global’ ones.

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The reasons people might go on what they call ‘a pilgrimage’ are complex. Amusement may be as important as communion, escape from everyday life as important as prayer. But, and this is an important point that does not come up in the interview, they may not be the reasons a person may give when asked by fieldworking scholars.

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What is a pilgrim? Who is a pilgrim? Simply visiting a shrine, cathedral, temple, or other ‘sacred’ site cannot be the defining characteristic.

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