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Building Blocks of Religion

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The contributions in this book all concern the Building Block Approach to the study of religions as proposed and explored by Professor Ann Taves (University of California, Santa Barbara) during the last 30 years. This approach suggests that analysis of and explanations for complex cultural phenomena such as religion should entail dividing these phenomena into “the constituent parts that interact to produce them”, in terms of basic cognitive, psychological and biological processes. In this way, the approach opens up a path to achieving consilience between the humanistic, behavioural and natural sciences.

The book provides a short and user-friendly introduction to the Building Block Approach suitable for use in the undergraduate classroom as well as by graduate and more advanced scholars. The book opens with a lengthy introduction by Ann Taves and Egil Asprem (Stockholm University, Sweden) outlining the Building Block Approach and its relevance for the study of religions. The introduction is followed by seven responses, comments and critiques that identify pros and cons of the approach from different perspectives and areas of study within the larger field of the study of religions. In the concluding chapter, Taves and Asprem provide their responses to the comments and critiques raised.

Published: Feb 15, 2020

Section Chapter Authors
Preface Göran Larsson, Andreas Nordin, Jonas Svensson
By Way of Introduction Göran Larsson, Andreas Nordin, Jonas Svensson
Chapter 1
The Building Block Approach: An Overview Ann Taves, Egil Asprem
Chapter 2
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Analysing the Reception of and Debate Over the Building Block Approach Göran Larsson
Chapter 3
Fantastic Stories, Emotions and Ancient Religions: Open Questions and Ideas in Conversation with the Building Block and Worldviews Approach Laura Feldt
Chapter 4
Counterintuitive Supernaturalism as a Building Block of Religious Dream Imagery Andreas Nordin
Chapter 5
Invisible Hands and Sacred Unicorns: Occulture as a Schema for Supernatural Ascriptions in the Millennial Generation Ingela Visuri
Chapter 6
Qur'ans through the Lens of Moral Foundations: An Explorative Study of Qur’an Translations in a Building Block Framework Jonas Svensson
Chapter 7
Computing Consilience: How Modeling and Simulation can Contribute to Worldview Studies Fount LeRon Shults
Chapter 8
Comments and Reflections Ann Taves, Egil Asprem
End Matter
Index Göran Larsson, Andreas Nordin, Jonas Svensson


Provides a handy introduction to an approach that can show what the academic study of religion can look like when one takes both humanistic and scientific approaches seriously.
Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses

In essence, the book provides an approach, the theoretical frame-work it is based on, critiques of it, and case studies using it. The book would thus be a wonderful teaching tool for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels who are exploring ways methods are developed and used. In addition, the utmost value of this book lies not only in that it presents another way to interpret religious phenomena and experience, but that it also represents the next step in melding fields (the natural, behavioral, and humanistic sciences) in an attempt to expand interdisciplinary studies, an enterprise valued by so many in the scholarly community.
Religious Studies Review