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Book: Navigating Universalism and Particularism in the Study of Religions

Chapter: The Cognitive Study of Religiosity and Contemporary Lived Religion: Complementarity as a Methodological Approach

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.44296


Among cognitive scholars of religion (e.g. Boyer 2001; Atran, 2003), a strong case has been made for the idea that religion can be explained from a perspective of human evolution and cognition. This often relies on observations of universals across time and space, linguistic and cultural boundaries. In this chapter, we focus on lived religion (e.g. Ammerman 2015) in Peru, Ghana, and China; countries with a distinct history of traditional forms of religion that furthermore are present in various and complex ways. In these cultures, traditional forms of religiosity may still be present and surface in form of emerging new or revitalized aspects of religiosities within the framework of more recent religious or secular positions. In light of such complex forms of lived religion it becomes relevant to explore the relevance of a cognitive approach to religion. To what extent can it be applied within a framework of the complexity of lived religion? This chapter, on the one hand, sheds light on to what extent and how traditional forms of religion surface in contemporary religiosities and, on the other hand, advances to explore to what extent such complex configurations allow for the adaptation of observations from a cognitive study of religion. The chapter proposes a model of interpretative complementarity that differentiates between two key ways of understanding current concepts, beliefs and practices. The first points to universal cognitive mechanisms and the second to cultural and contextual factors in light of contemporary forms of lived religion.

Chapter Contributors

  • Slawomir Sztajer ( - ssztajer) 'Adam Mickiewicz University, Pozna┼ä'
  • Rafael Fern├índez Hart ( - rfhart) 'Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, Lima, Peru'
  • Ben-Willie Kwaku Golo ( - bgolo) 'University of Ghana'
  • Sidney Castillo ( - sidneycastillo) 'University of Helsinki'