Why I Do Not Equate Religious Belief with Mental Illness

I'm not a psychiatrist, but as a teenager I worked for an elderly woman who I later found out was a paranoid schizophrenic with organic brain decomposition. (As an aside, if you have any empathy at all, it's impossible to get to know someone like this and not find their situation heartbreaking.) I agree that you cannot talk the mentally ill out of their delusions, hallucinations, etc. But this would only be relevant to the claim that all religious belief is mental illness if it were the case t … [Read more...]

Is HADD Evidence Against Theism? Part 1

I've been thinking lately about whether HADD, on the assumption that it exists, is evidence for or against the existence of God. I'm starting to think it is neutral, but I'm posting this here for feedback.ContextBefore diving into the details, let's review a few items for context.First, let's address terminology. HADD is an acronym which stands for "Hypersensitive Agency Detection Device." HADD is a theory in the cognitive science of religion which says that most humans seem to be … [Read more...]

Religious Belief Systems of Persons with High Functioning Autism

Abstract:The cognitive science of religion is a new field which explains religious belief as emerging from normal cognitive processes such as inferring others' mental states, agency detection and imposing patterns on noise. This paper investigates the proposal that individual differences in belief will reflect cognitive processing styles, with high functioning autism being an extreme style that will predispose towards nonbelief (atheism and agnosticism). This view was supported by content … [Read more...]

If There Is No God, Then Why Do So Many People Believe in God?

A reader recently asked me this question. I was raised Catholic and even as a child I just couldn't believe that if there was a God who created the universe and, by extension, us, that He wouldn't expect us to use our brain to reason and learn was was real and unreal.  My major concern, I guess, is that so very many educated, intelligent, and respected people claim to believe.  Why do they believe when I don't?? What am I missing?  Or perhaps, what are they missing?  I'm … [Read more...]

Justin Barrett’s “Hyperactive Agency Detection Device” (HADD)

Another item for the "not new, but new for me" category. Justin Barrett is a cognitive scientist of religion and the author of Why Would Anyone Believe in God? In that book, Barrett advances an intriguing explanatory hypothesis for why most people believe in God: the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD) hypothesis. I have to admit that, when I first heard about HADD, I considered it to be very plausible on the assumption that humans are the products of evolution. It reminds me of Stewart … [Read more...]