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On Dialectical Religiology
Editor: Dustin J. Byrd
In The Critique of Religion and Religion’s Critique: On Dialectical Religiology, Dustin J. Byrd compiles numerous essays honouring the life and work of the Critical Theorist, Rudolf J. Siebert. His “dialectical religiology,” rooted in the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, especially Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Leo Löwenthal, and Jürgen Habermas, is both a theory and method of understanding religion’s critique of modernity and modernity’s critique of religion. Born out of the Enlightenment and its most important thinkers, i.e. Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, religion is understood to be dialectical in nature. It contains within it both revolutionary and emancipatory elements, but also reactionary and regressive elements, which perpetuate mankind’s continual debasement, enslavement, and oppression. Thus, religion by nature is conflicted within itself and thus stands against itself. Dialectical Religiology attempts to rescue those elements of religion from the dustbin of history and reintroduce them into society via their determinate negation. As such, it attempts to resolve the social, political, theological, and philosophical antagonisms that plague the modern world, in hopes of producing a more peaceful, justice-filled, equal, and reconciled society. The contributors to this book recognize the tremendous contributions of Dr. Rudolf J. Siebert in the fields of philosophy, sociology, history, and theology, and have profited from his long career. This book attempts to honour that life and work.

Contributors include: Edmund Arens, Gregory Baum, Francis Brassard, Dustin J. Byrd, Denis R. Janz, Gottfried Küenzlen, Mislav Kukoč, Michael, R. Ott, Rudolf J. Siebert, Hans K. Weitensteiner, and Brian C. Wilson.

Abstract

This article proposes a 7E model of the human mind, which was developed within the cognitive paradigm in religious studies and its primary expression, the Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR). This study draws on the philosophically most sophisticated currents in the cognitive sciences, which have come to define the human mind through a 4E model as embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended. Introducing Catherine Malabou’s concept of “plasticity,” the study not only confirms the insight of the 4E model of the self as a decentered system, but it also recommends two further traits of the self that have been overlooked in the cognitive sciences, namely the negativity of plasticity and the tension between giving and receiving form. Finally, the article matures these philosophical insights to develop a concrete model of the religious mind, equipping it with three further Es, namely emotional, evolved, and exoconscious.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

Pseudoscience spreads through communicative and inferential processes that make people vulnerable to weird beliefs. However, the fact that pseudoscientific beliefs are unsubstantiated and have no basis in reality does not mean that the people who hold them have no reasons for doing so. We propose that, reasons play a central role in the diffusion of pseudoscience. On the basis of cultural epidemiology and the interactionist theory of reasoning, we will here analyse the structure and the function of reasons in the propagation of pseudoscience. We conclude by discussing the implications of our approach for the understanding of human irrationality.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

This essay discusses Cecilia Heyes’ groundbreaking new book Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking. Heyes’ point of departure is the claim that current theories of cultural evolution fail adequately to make a place for the mind. Heyes articulates a cognitive psychology of cultural evolution by explaining how eponymous “cognitive gadgets,” such as imitation, mindreading and language, mental technologies, are “tuned” and “assembled” through social interaction and cultural learning. After recapitulating her explanations for the cultural and psychological origins of these gadgets, we turn to criticisms. Among those, we find Heyes’ use of evolutionary theory confusing on several points of importance; alternative theories of cultural evolution, especially those of the Tomasello group and of Boyd, Richerson and Henrich, are misrepresented; the book neglects joint attention and other forms of intersubjectivity in its explanation of the origins of cognitive gadgets; and, whereas Heyes accuses other theories of being “mindblind,” we find her theory ironically other-blind and autistic in character.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

The cognitive science of religions’ By-Product Theory contends that much religious thought and behavior can be explained in terms of the cultural activation of maturationally natural cognitive systems. Those systems address fundamental problems of human survival, encompassing such capacities as hazard precautions, agency detection, language processing, and theory of mind. Across cultures they typically arise effortlessly and unconsciously during early childhood. They are not taught and appear independent of general intelligence. Theory of mind (mentalizing) undergirds an instantaneous and automatic intuitive understanding of minds, mental representations, and their implications for agents’ actions. By-Product theorists hypothesize about a social cognition content bias, holding that mentalizing capacities inform participants’ implicit understanding of religious representations of agents with counter-intuitive properties. That hypothesis, in combination with Baron-Cohen’s account of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in terms of diminished theory of mind capacities (what he calls “mind-blindness”), suggests an impaired religious understanding hypothesis. It proposes that people with ASD have substantial limitations in intuitive understanding of and creative inferences from such representations. Norenzayan argues for a mind-blind atheism hypothesis, which asserts that the truth of these first two hypotheses suggests that people with ASD have an increased probability, compared to the general population, of being atheists. Numerous empirical studies have explored these three hypotheses’ merits. After carefully pondering distinctions between intuitive versus reflective mentalizing and between explicit versus implicit measures and affective versus cognitive measures of mentalizing, the available empirical evidence provides substantial support for the first two hypotheses and non-trivial support for the third.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

Attitudes toward ecological consumption can trigger environmentally responsible intentions and behaviors. Understanding how ecological messages can influence attitudes is essential to mitigate climate change. This paper analyzes how religious affiliation (or lack of), can influence attitudes toward green advertising and explores the role of religious affiliation in the effectiveness of ecological messages. The findings indicate that religious affiliation has an influence on the degree of effectiveness of each message. So, green communications can be a useful tool to persuade atheists to develop more sustainable attitudes when they are exposed the benefits that can be achieved with green behavior. However, persuasive environmental messages, in general, do not generate major changes of attitude among Catholics. Businesses, NGO s, states, educators and society in general should acknowledge that environmental discourses fostering sustainable behavior. Furthermore, messages depicting the problems of environmental behavior have no repercussion on atheists and little on Catholics.

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Abstract

In the second half of the nineteenth century, many people lost their faith in the Christian God. Nevertheless, they were eager to show that this move towards a secular world picture did not mean the end of morality and that it could continue as much before. In a Darwinian age this was not possible and the Christian cherishing of the virtue of meekness was replaced by a moral respect for vigor and effort directed both towards self-realization and to the well-being of society. We compare the British moves to those promoted by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. There are significant similarities but also differences that reflect the British industrialized notion of progress versus the German idealistic notion of progress.

In: Secular Studies

Abstract

In accordance with Terror Management Theory research, secular beliefs can serve an important role for mitigating existential concerns by providing atheists with a method to attain personal meaning and bolster self-esteem. Although much research has suggested that religious beliefs are powerful defense mechanisms, these effects are limited or reveal more nuanced effects when attempting to explain atheists’ (non)belief structures. The possibility of nonbelief that provides meaning in the “here and now” is reinforced by the importance placed on scientific discovery, education, and social activism by many atheists. Thus, these values and ideologies can, and do, allow for empirically testable claims within a Terror Management framework. Although religious individuals can and largely do use religion as a defense strategy against existential concerns, purely secular ideologies are more effective for atheists providing evidence for a hierarchical approach and individual differences within worldview defenses. Evidence for and implications of these arguments are discussed.

In: Secular Studies

Abstract

There has been a growing visibility of witchcraft beliefs in the African media. The dominant paradigm in the academic literature on witchcraft is that the media reinforce witchcraft beliefs by disseminating information and ideas that are related to witchcraft accusations and witch hunting. However, a careful examination shows that this is not always the case because the media serve other counter purposes. Using ethnographic data from the Dagomba area in Northern Ghana and the concept of forum shopping, this paper explores how accused persons in the Dagomba communities utilize the limited media coverage to enhance their responses to witchcraft accusations. Apart from disseminating information regarding the activities of assumed witches, the media publicize perspectives that reject witchcraft notions.

In: Secular Studies

Abstract

This paper, by the founder of the UK based Secular Liturgies Network and Forum, explores the concept and purpose of secular liturgy, and the potential for liturgical events in modern secular societies. It examines the practice of writing secular liturgy, discusses potential contributions from atheists, agnostics, humanists and religious progressives, and considers the new pastoral roles that may evolve alongside a secular liturgies movement. The author argues that secular liturgies and liturgical events have the potential to enrich secular culture, nurture community, facilitate healthy social interaction, advance ethical thought, promote creative writing and other arts, and galvanise people in their efforts towards sustainability and the creation of cultures and environments of health.

In: Secular Studies