Spirit possession: everyone’s doing it

Anti-religion writers and cognitive scientists of religion alike tend to consider religion as if it were mostly sets abstract, linguistically representable propositions, like “God exists” or “Jesus saves.” But spirit possession shows us that if we really want to tackle the question of what religion is and why we humans have it, we have to look squarely at practices that don’t fit into our own, Western cultural schemas. Read more

My employer: The Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion

The Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion, also known as IBCSR, is an independent research institution. IBCSR researchers make use of a staggering variety of different research tools and methods, drawn from a number of fields, to study religion from biological, cultural, and evolutionary perspectives. Read more

Does atheism arise from wealth?

is atheism a luxury of the wealthy? Yes. But this isn’t simply because the wealthy don’t need the comforts of a posited afterlife. It’s also because materially comfortable people have more energy to expend on negotiating their social worlds. Read more

Farewell to Ian Barbour

Ian Barbour, the physicist and religious studies scholar who passed away at the end of 2013, showed that we don’t have to be tribal in the way we choose what to believe. Read more

Is religion anthropomorphism?

Anthropologist Stewart Guthrie argues that religion arises from humans’ inborn tendency to anthropomorphize the world around us. What does this mean for how we relate to religious claims? Read more

Inclusive fitness, models, and religious evolution

New research in evolutionary theory sheds light on a long-simmering debate in the scientific study of religion. Read more

Religion, imagination, and secret worlds

Why do religions seem to create such strong communities? Partly, it’s because they help people to share secret, imaginative worlds with one another – just like children playing. Does this mean religions are infantile? Hardly – this sort of imaginative play is almost the only thing that CAN make relationships happen. Read more

We are all teachers. Or at least we should be.

Internet comments and opinion pieces show that we’re all pretty impatient with those who disagree with us. But if we as a culture are going to begin to solve our problems, rather than merely sit around feeling superior to those who are trying to solve them badly, we are going to have to forget about just respecting one another. Instead, we are going to have to become teachers. Read more

Religion makes you prejudiced. God doesn’t.

Some kinds of religious priming makes people more prejudiced against minorities. Others seem to make people LESS prejudiced. What gives? New research from the University of Illinois suggests that the difference might be between God and religion. Read more

What’s the Point of the Humanities? A Response to Pinker and Wieseltier

Science is sexy, confident, and universally adored—the star quarterback of our intellectual culture. But the glamour of science is largely due to the technological power it produces, and power is not an intrinsic good—it is only good when it is tempered by wisdom and wielded to achieve noble ends. This is why we should value the humanities. Read more

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