Preface: Research Approaches to the Study of Religion
Preface to the special issue ‘Research Approaches to the Study of Religion’. First of all we pay attention to cognitive studies of religion and compare theology and philosophy of religion.
Religion's Possible Role in Facilitating
Eusocial Human Societies.
A Behavioral Biology (Ethological) Perspective
Eusociality is the most successful animal social system on earth. It is found in many social insects, a few crustacean species, and only three vertebrates: two African naked mole rats and human beings. Eusociality, so unusual for a vertebrate, is one of main factors leading to human beings becoming the most successful land vertebrate on earth by almost any measure. We are also unique in being the only land vertebrate with religions. Could the two be related? This article will present evidence, illustrated primarily with Judaism and Christianity, that these two seemingly unrelated social systems ̶ eusociality and religion ̶ that correlate temporally in our evolution, are possibly related. Evidence will also be presented that a (mostly) non-reproducing exemplar caste of celibate clergy was a eusocial-facilitating aspect of religion in western social evolution.
Religious Belief is Not Natural.
Why Cognitive Science of Religion
Does Not Show That Religious
Belief is Trustworthy
It is widely acknowledged that the new emerging discipline cognitive science of religion has a bearing on how to think about the epistemic status of religious beliefs. Both defenders and opponents of the rationality of religious belief have used cognitive theories of religion to argue for their point. This paper will look at the defender-side of the debate. I will discuss an often used argument in favor of the trustworthiness of religious beliefs, stating that cognitive science of religion shows that religious beliefs are natural and natural beliefs ought to be trusted in the absence of counterevidence. This argument received its most influential defense from Justin Barrett in a number of papers, some in collaboration with Kelly James Clark. I will discuss their version of the argument and argue that it fails because the natural beliefs discovered by cognitive scientists of religion are not the religious beliefs of the major world religions. A survey of the evidence from cognitive science of religion will show that cognitive science does show that other beliefs come natural and that these can thus be deemed trustworthy in the absence of counterevidence. These beliefs are teleological beliefs, afterlife beliefs and animistic theistic beliefs.
“Responsible Interim”: Revising Hermeneutics and
Ethics in the Era of Globalization
and Religious Plurality. Philosophical and Sociological
Reflections on the Modern State of Religion
Coming from a more comparative point of view as far as Theology of Religions and Interreligious Studies are concerned – though to a certain extent as well a pluralist in the sense of hope for universal understanding and well being - I want to ask how Interreligious and Intercultural Hermeneutics are a necessary tool when we try to set up minimal standards for a Global Ethics in the reality of nowadays multicultural societies. I introduce for Ethics as well as for Hermeneutics the concept of “Responsible Interim” – the latter reflecting the fact that human beings do have universals only under the “eschatological reserve” (in Christian terminology), as “Suchness in Emptiness” (in Buddhist terminology).
I will proceed from universal truth questions and more general questions of philosophy of religion towards questions of cultural i.e. religious contexts shaping ethical and religious view(s) and convictions. Can smallest common denominators be found? How does legal rule help to establish and keep them? How does society, how do individuals change by starting from a spiritual, creative and holistic and maybe even transpersonal point of view – a view of co-creation and incarnatio continua in religious, i.e. in Christian terminology again?
Searching for Neurobiological Foundations
of Faith and Religion
Considering that the brain is involved in human thinking, feeling and behaviour, we must also ask the question of whether finding neural correlates of religious experience is not just a matter of time. The questions “if” and “how” human brain responds to or generates religious experience capture the interest of researchers from various fields of science. Their joint efforts and scientific discourse lead to implementation of bold interdisciplinary research projects, with a far-reaching goal of explaining the mystery of faith and religion. Studies conducted at the meeting point of empirical and theological sciences raise controversies and criticism. Examples include the discussions on natural and theological experiments, collectively called neurotheology.
Reliability and Adaptability of Religious Beliefs
in the Light of Cognitive Science of Religion
Cognitive approach towards the study of religion is a good and promising way. However, I think that this approach is too narrow and it would be better to use some basic concepts of CSR as a starting point for further, not cognitive explanation of religious. I suppose that religious beliefs should be explained also by their pragmatic functions because they were probably always associated with some pragmatic purposes at the group or at the individual levels. To develop further this last approach, the good explanatory way is the evolutionary study of religion.