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Studying the Religious Mind

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The cognitive science of religion does not have its own methodology, and yet from the very beginnings of the discipline, methodology has defined it not only in relation to the general study of religion in the humanities but also to the sciences interested in the mind. Scholars of the cognitive science of religion are using a range of methodologies, borrowing mostly from the cognitive sciences and experimental psychology, but also from biology, archaeology, history, philosophy, linguistics, the social and statistical sciences, neurosciences, and anthropology. In fact, this multi-disciplinarity defines the cognitive science of religion. Such multi-disciplinarity requires hard work and truly interdisciplinary teams, but also continual reflections on and debates about the methodologies being used. In fact, no study of the cognitive science of religion worth its name can rely on only one methodology. Triangulation is standard, but often even more approaches are used.

This book consists of selected papers from the Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion and the Journal of Cognitive Historiography. Each chapter demonstrates a particular method or group of methods and how those methods advance our knowledge of the religious mind from the ancient past up to today.

Published: Oct 4, 2022

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
List of Figures Armin Geertz
List of Tables Armin Geertz
Studying the Religious Mind Armin Geertz
Part I: Fieldwork
1. Go WILD, Not WEIRD Martha Newson, Michael Buhrmester, Dimitris Xygalatas, Harvey Whitehouse
2. Cognitively Informed Ethnography: Using Mixed Methods to Capture the Complexity of Religious Phenomena in Two Ecologically Valid Settings Hugh Turpin, Mark Stanford
Part II: Experimental Study of Religion
3. Experimental Cognitive Science of Religion Dimitris Xygalatas
4. The Experimental Study of Religion: Or There and Back Again Jesper Sørensen, Kristoffer Nielbo
5. Fast and Slow: Questions and Observations in the Psychology of Religion Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
6. The Embodiment of Worship: Relations among Postural, Psychological, and Physiological Aspects of Religious Practice Patty Van Cappellen, Megan Edwards
7. Past its Prime? A Methodological Overview and Critique of Religious Priming Research in Social Psychology Shoko Watanabe, Sean Laurent
Part III: Cognitive Neuroscience
8. Religious Experience in Mediterranean Antiquity István Czachesz
9. Ritual Mourning in Daniel's Interpretation of Jeremiah's Prophecy Angela Kim Harkins
10. Tours of Heaven in Light of the Neuroscientific Study of Religious Experience István Czachesz
11. (Religious) Language and the Decentering Process: McNamara and De Sublimitate on the Ecstatic Effect of Language Christopher Holmes
12. Do You Need Cognitive Neuroscience to Understand Religious Cognition, Experience and Texts? Patrick McNamara
Part IV: Cognitive Historiography
13. What is Cognitive Historiography, Anyway? Method, Theory, and a Cross-Disciplinary Decalogue Leonardo Ambasciano
14. The Rites of the Day of Blood (dies sanguinis) in the Graeco-Roman Cult of Cybele and Attis: A Cognitive Historiographical Approach Panayotis Pachis
15. The Gendered Deep History of the Bona Dea Cult Leonardo Ambasciano
16. Defilement and Moral Discourse in the Hebrew Bible: An Evolutionary Framework Yitzhaq Feder
Part V: Big Data
17. Exploring the Challenges and Potentialities of the Database of Religious History for Cognitive Historiography Brenton Sullivan, Michael Muthukrishna, Frederick Tappenden, Edward Slingerland, M. Willis Monroe
18. An Introduction to Seshat: Global History Databank Peter Turchin, et. al.
Part VI: Computational Approaches
19. Mining the Past – Data-Intensive Knowledge Discovery in the Study of Historical Textual Traditions Kristoffer Nielbo, Ryan Nichols, Edward Slingerland
20. The Computational Science of Religion Justin Lane, Fount LeRon Shults
Part VII: Open Science
21. Advancing the Cognitive Science of Religion through Replication and Open Science Suzanne Hoogeveen, Michiel van Elk
22. Promoting the Benefits and Clarifying Misconceptions about Preregistration, Preprints, and Open Science for the Cognitive Science of Religion Christopher Kavanagh, Rohan Kapitány
Part VIII: Consilience
23. The Arts Transform the Cognitive Science of Religion Joseph Bulbulia
24. Toward a Second Wave of Consilience in the Cognitive Scientific Study of Religion Edward Slingerland
End Matter
Index Armin Geertz