Do we have free will when it comes to mental illness?

Mental illness arises from complex interactions between the self, the social environment, and our own behaviors and habits. We can’t control others, nor (for good or ill) do we have much control over our broader social world. But to an extent, we can control our habits. And habits matter. Read more

Mental illness: it’s not just in our brains.

Our idea that mental illness just “happens” is dangerous. It’s not your fault if you’re depressed or need drugs to feel okay. But we’re the world’s most social vertebrate species. Nothing in our lives arises only from the brain outward. Read more

Yes, fundamentalism is religion. And it starts wars.

The “no true Scotsman” fallacy is often used to claim that no real, believing Muslim could be a terrorist. But the war in northern Iraq is impossible to separate from fundamentalist Islam. Read more

Believing Impossible Stuff Is Dangerous. Except When It’s Awesome.

What happens when all children know to only accept plain facts, and to cannily dismiss all fictions? It would be the genocide of the imagination – no one would have enough imagination to ask the outlandish questions. And we’d never learn a thing about the world. Read more

Informal Study Finds Bloggers Can’t Tell Fact from Fiction

A study shared widely in the TwitFaceBlogosphere says that religious children can’t tell fact from fiction. This is why it’s wrong. Read more

Nerd culture, the new aristocracy

Nerd culture is a form of aristocracy. Try mentioning that you study religion in a room full of educated techies in Cambridge; the silence that falls over the room is thick enough to swim through. Read more

The Wave of the Future: Experimental Religious Studies

Ted Slingerland’s work at UBC-Vancouver shows that the scientific study of religion has undergone a quantum leap in maturation. We can now learn from Mother Nature which of our ideas are good, which are okay but need work, and which are simply better put out with next week’s garbage pickup. Read more

Is religion good or bad for the world?

Across studies, there’s a regular but modest positive correlation between religiosity and prosocial behavior, and a negative correlation between religion and antisocial behaviors. But these effects are weak. What does this mean for religion’s place in the world? Read more

How do we make meaning of evolution? By admitting its uncomfortable truths.

the most vital trait of evolution is also its most difficult: there’s no purpose in it, no trajectory whatsoever. In evolution, things survive because they are not killed, not because they’re more noble or closer to God’s vision for how the world should be. Read more

Theories of religion: The early years

This week we’re looking at three early anthropologists who believed that cultures evolve from “primitive” to “civilized” stages, and that religion is a characteristic of the earlier stages. Excelsior! Read more

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