belief

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The God-Shaped Elephant

Most of the health psychology of religion sub-sub-field suffers less from a God-shaped hole and more of a God-shaped elephant sitting in the room that usually goes undiscussed. The most important, but always implicit, mechanism in these studies is God.
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The Return of Homo Religiosus

A couple years ago I stumbled across a cartoon in my Facebook feed. It details two images on top of one another: The first image is of two ‘cavemen‘ who randomly decide to draw a bunch of dicks and boobs on a cave wall.
Podcast

Why do we believe? Evolution, Primates, and the Human Niche

In this wide-ranging interview, Chris and Professor Fuentes discuss the themes of the lecture series, the intersections of research on human evolution, ethnoprimatology, and human nature, with the study of religion more generally, the Planet of the Apes films, and more. Along the way,...
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Not Just Any Body Will Do!

White’s research, in conjunction with my own and others’, calls into question a theoretical assumption held by many CSR scholars that the body plays a negligible role in beliefs about supernatural agents. Dr. Claire White’s research addresses the religious topic of reincarnation that, although perhaps more adhered to by human cultures across time and space than the belief that we have only one earthly life followed by eternal reward or punishment, has received little serious scientific investigation—especially from the question through which Dr. White addresses it.
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2015 APA Convention Report (Religion and Spirituality Research)

Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by David Bradley, a PhD student at Case Western Reserve University. The American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention was held in Toronto, Ontario from August 6 through August 9, 2015. Conferences often have an organizing theme, but the APA Convention is simply too big to be focused on one or two themes.
Podcast

‘Religious’ and ‘Spiritual’ Struggles: Now in ‘Nonreligious’ and ‘Nonspiritual’ flavors!

In this interview, Dr. Julie Exline discusses what led to her interest in Struggles and some of the background behind the development of the Religious and Spiritual Struggle Scale. She goes on to talk about why the scale includes struggles relevant to both religious believers and nonbelievers and how this work related to some of her current work on god images in both groups.
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Self-Report: We Can Do Better (And Are!)

Those of us within psychology of religion who study secularity are privileged to be working in a time where secular beliefs and nonbelievers are starting to be taken seriously within the field as a whole. The Religious Studies Project interview with Dr. Luke Galen conducted by Tommy Coleman was an excellent cross-section of some of the a long way to go in figuring ...
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Workshop: ‘What is religious belief?’ report

The question ‘What is religious belief?’ has a long history and with no definitive answer to date. The aim of this one day workshop was to shed new light on the question by combining three perspectives on the matter: cognitive science of religion, philosophy, and theology. The day consisted of four talks by Neil Van Leeuwen (philosopher), Michiel van Elk (cognitive scientist), Helen de Cruz (philosopher) and Gijsbert van den Brink (theologian).
Podcast

God’s Mind, Your Mind, and Theory of Mind

What do God's mind and your mind have in common? A core tenet of cognitive science of religion (CSR) is that the folk-psychological ability to explain human behavior in terms of beliefs, desires and intentions – known as theory of mind (ToM) – is also a system that makes us receptive to belief in the supernatural.
Podcast

Is Britain still a Christian country?

In what sense can a country be “Christian”? Today on the Religious Studies Project, we welcome back Professor Linda Woodhead to discuss and interrogate the question "Is Britain Still a Christian Country?", the topic of her recent Croall Lectures at the University of Edinburgh.
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Measuring Secularity

While often rigorously testing for variance among the religious, many studies treat the irreligious as if they have a static identity, resulting in an elision of the range of beliefs and behaviors that have been found within this growing group. At the home of the first secular studies undergraduate program, amid dozens of secularity scholars from around globe, Tommy Coleman's interview with sociologist ...
Podcast

Understanding the Secular

Making their own contributions to the discourse, Shook and Zuckerman briefly discuss the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Secularism they are co-editing, the growing field of secular studies, what it might mean to ’be secular‘, different secularisms, and offer up two different views of the relationship between categories such as ’religion‘ and ’secular‘.
Podcast

Narrative and Reflexivity in the Study of Religion: A Roundtable Discussion (Video and Audio!)

The idea for this roundtable was that it would follow on directly from this week's interview on religion and literature, but expand the discussion to cover a variety of points relating to narrative, autobiography and (auto)ethnography in the study of religion. Featuring Dr Wendy Dossett, Prof. Elaine Graham, Dr Dawn Llewellyn, Ethan Quillen, and Dr Alana Vincent.
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A Response by James Cox to Bjørn Ola Tafjord on the Classification ‘Indigenous Religions’

By defining Indigenous Religions as focused primarily on ancestors and as rooted in location, I have restricted the term in a way that then opens up wide permutations of ancestral and localised traditions as they are affected by modernity, globalisation, travel and mass communication, including indigenous people living in diaspora...
Podcast

Religious Studies and the Paranormal, Part 2

In this second part we ask "the epistemic/ontological question": in studying these experiences, how far should we be concerned with the ontology? Would to do so be an abandonment of the scientific materialism which underpins the discipline, and therefore a slide back into theology? Or can there be a bigger model of materialism - a "complicated materialism", to use Ann Taves' expression - in which these phenomena might be suitably explicable?
Podcast

Religious Studies and the Paranormal, Part 1

In October 2013, a four day international conference was held at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, on the theme of ‘Anthropology and the Paranormal’. This special two part episode explores some aspects of the sometimes fraught relationship between "paranormal" events and beliefs (The World Religions")...
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Young People of ‘No Religion’ and Religious Education Beyond Religious Belief

"Although this might help pupils develop their critical thinking skills, this approach to the study of religion seems to reinforce the notion that religion is concerned with private, individualized beliefs of an ontological, epistemological and/or moral nature. It does not provide room for pupils to consider how ‘religion’ might be broader than assent to propositional beliefs or to explore further the nature of belief and how it can function in all our everyday lives."
Podcast

Belief, Belonging, and Academic Careers

Almost twenty years ago, Grace Davie observed that despite plenty of studies into the ‘exotic edges’ of religion, ‘the picture in the middle remains remarkably blurred’. Seeking to address this imbalance and engage with the ‘beliefs of ordinary British people in everyday life’, Abby Day's recent book, ...
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A Brief Re-Examination of the Concept of Belief in the Study of Religion

"Belief [...] can be used as a concept to bridge [...] frameworks, to allow scholars to understand and appreciate the framework within which religious actors presume to act without using it themselves (or necessarily having to adopt it)." The work of Professor Martin Stringer is a breath of fresh air for all those who reject both the simplistic belief-centred approach to religion and its attendant backlash.
Podcast

Situational Belief

“Belief” is a critical category in the study of religion. Indeed, for some scholars, it is the very essence of religion; as Clifford Geertz wrote, “To know, one must first believe.” Others, however, see the emphasis on belief as part of the Protestant bias in the development of the discipline, and have proposed various ways of avoiding talking about it at all. In this interview, ...
Podcast

Bruno Latour, Talking “Religiously”, part 2

This is the second part of our interview with Professor Bruno Latour. This time, Latour and David Robertson discuss Latour’s recent works We Have Never Been Modern and On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods. Discussion moves from his critique of the distinction between the manufactured and “real”, and how this affects our models of belief.
Podcast

Bruno Latour, Talking “Religiously”, part 1

Professor Bruno Latour is one of the most respected scholars in the social sciences today. In this first part, Latour and David Robertson discuss the broader relevance of his work for Religious Studies. They discuss actor-network theory, of which Latour was instrumental in developing. This includes some discussion of phenomenology and religious “essence”.
Podcast

Five Lectures on Atheism, Nonreligion, and Secularity, from the NSRN

In partnership with the NSRN (Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network), it is our pleasure to bring you the audio recordings of five very important lectures from Grace Davie, Humeira Iqtidar, Callum Brown, Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, and Jonathan Lanman.
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Vernacular Religion: Because you’ll Find More than the Devil in the Details

There is an important message embedded in Marion Bowman’s notion of “vernacular religion”–that when we plant our feet firmly on the ground, amidst the fray of religious life, we are confronted with the unmistakable heterogeneity of both belief and practice. As living people “do religion” on the ground it may not always resemble the religion of the Qur’an, the Vatican or your Buddhism 101 textbook.
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The Faith-Spangled Banner: Changes in American attitudes and belief in all directions

In contemplating a response to Prof Ariela Keysar’s interview with the Religious Studies Project over her work as Associate Director of ISSSC and its most famous endeavour, ARIS, I was struck by the dilemma faced when introducing myself to people here in the UK and telling them where I am from. The replies range from everywhere and between,
Podcast

Ariela Keysar on “What does ‘belief’ mean to Americans?”

'Belief' lies at the core of E.B. Tylor's canonical definition of religion as belief in 'spiritual beings'. However, in the last decades of the twentieth century the concept became unfashionable in the social sciences, with scholars from all parts of the world denouncing its centrality as a Western, Protestant bias which has limited application to other religions. Ariela Keysar disagrees...
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What to do with Davie’s ‘Vicarious Religion’?

Like with many of Grace Davie’s conceptualizations, the notion of “vicarious religion” is destined to garner much attention and debate. I must admit that when I first read about it, I rolled my eyes without really knowing why. Perhaps I predicted that the same puddle of ink would be spilt in debating the finer points of what was meant and what was actually meant by the new concept.
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What We’re Learning from the Cognitive Study of Religion

"As the cognitive science of religion matures, there will no doubt be creative and exciting approaches to the current debates and to questions that are only beginning to arise in the field, such as how thinking about malevolent agents differs from thinking about benevolent ones. It is an exciting time for the study of religious cognition." In Armin Geertz’s recent interview with the Religious Studies Project, he provides an excellent overview of the methods and challenges in the cognitive study of religion and provides examples of some interesting theories and findings from the field.