The Roots of Religion: Exploring the Cognitive Science of Religion, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Roots of Religion

Exploring the Cognitive Science of Religion, 1st Edition

Edited by Roger Trigg, Justin L. Barrett


242 pages

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The cognitive science of religion is a new discipline that looks at the roots of religious belief in the cognitive architecture of the human mind. The Roots of Religion deals with the philosophical and theological implications of the cognitive science of religion which grounds religious belief in human cognitive structures: religious belief is ’natural’, in a way that even scientific thought is not. Does this new discipline support religious belief, undermine it, or is it, despite many claims, perhaps eventually neutral? This subject is of immense importance, particularly given the rise of the ’new atheism’. Philosophers and theologians from North America, UK and Australia, explore the alleged conflict between truth claims and examine the roots of religion in human nature. Is it less ’natural’ to be an atheist than to believe in God, or gods? On the other hand, if we can explain theism psychologically, have we explained it away. Can it still claim any truth? This book debates these and related issues.


'These are accomplished, provocative essays … Recommended.'

- Choice

'An outstanding set of authoritative essays, essential reading for all who are interested in the nature of religion.'

- Keith Ward, Christ Church, Oxford, UK

"The strength of this book is in offering something of a preview of how research coming out of CSR might be received by scholars working in various areas of religious studies. It is valid to assume that some scholars will, based on their individual interests, fear or hope for a “conclusive case against a religious world-view.” The Roots of Religion offers the revelation that these individual hopes or fears add up to collective concern over the implications of integrating cognitive (and evolutionary) science into religious studies. Barrett and Trigg offer an exploration then not of the cognitive science of religion, but the reception of it. Considering Teehan’s observation that “contemporary cognitive science, grounded in an evolutionary perspective, 'shakes the foundations' of religious belief in a more profound way than evolutionary theory has done so far” (167) The Roots of Religion is particularly valuable for scholars concerned with what will someday be considered the early reception history of the cognitive science of religion."

- Edward N. Surman, Claremont Graduate University

Table of Contents

1 Cognitive and Evolutionary Studies of Religion

Justin L. Barrett and Roger Trigg

2 Intuition, Agency Detection, and Social Coordination as Analytical and Explanatory Constructs in the Cognitive Science of Religion

Robert Audi

3 Whose Intuitions? Which Dualism?

Steven Horst

4 Explaining Religion at Different Levels: From Fundamentalism to Pluralism

Aku Visala

5 HADD, Determinism and Epicureanism: An Interdisciplinary Investigation

Robin Attfield

6 Understanding ‘Person’ Talk: When is it Appropriate to Think in Terms of Persons?

Graham Wood

7 Knowledge and the Objection to Religious Belief from Cognitive Science

Kelly James Clark and Dani Rabinowitz

8 Assessing the Third Way

Jason Marsh

9 Cognitive Science of Religion and the Rationality of Classical Theism

T.J. Mawson

10 Cognitive Science and the Limits of Theology

John Teehan

11 Some Reflections on Cognitive Science, Doubt, and Religious Belief

Joshua C. Thurow

12 Human Nature and Religious Freedom

Roger Trigg

About the Editors

Roger Trigg is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Warwick, and Senior Research Fellow at the Ian Ramsey Centre, University of Oxford. He was the Founding President of the British Society of the Philosophy of Religion, and from 2008-10 was President of the European Society for Philosophy of Religion. The author of many books on the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of science, his most recent have been Equality, Freedom and Religion (2012) and Religious Diversity: Philosophical and Political Dimensions (2014).

Justin L. Barrett is the Thrive Professor of Developmental Science at Fuller Seminary’s Graduate School of Psychology, where he directs the Thrive Center for Human Development. He is also a research associate of Oxford University’s School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography. He is author of scores of academic articles and book chapters concerning cognitive science of religion and three books: Why Would Anyone Believe in God? (2004); Cognitive Science, Religion, & Theology (2011); and Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Beliefs (2012).

About the Series

Routledge Science and Religion Series

Science and religion have often been thought to be at loggerheads but much contemporary work in this flourishing interdisciplinary field suggests this is far from the case. The Science and Religion Series presents exciting new work to advance interdisciplinary study, research and debate across key themes in science and religion. Contemporary issues in philosophy and theology are debated, as are prevailing cultural assumptions. The series enables leading international authors from a range of different disciplinary perspectives to apply the insights of the various sciences, theology, philosophy and history in order to look at the relations between the different disciplines and the connections that can be made between them. These accessible, stimulating new contributions to key topics across science and religion will appeal particularly to individual academics and researchers, graduates, postgraduates and upper-undergraduate students.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Theology
RELIGION / Religion & Science