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An Intellectual History of Anti-Intellectualism in Modern America
In The Secular Religion of Franklin Merrell-Wolff: An Intellectual History of Anti-intellectualism in Modern America, Dave Vliegenthart offers an account of the life and teachings of the modern American mystic Franklin Merrell-Wolff (1887–1985), who combined secular and religious sources from eastern and western traditions in order to elaborate and legitimate his metaphysical claim to the realization of a transcendental reality beyond reason.



Using Merrell-Wolff as a typical example of a modern western guru, Vliegenthart investigates the larger sociological and historical context of the ongoing grand narrative that asserts a widespread anti-intellectualism in modern American culture, exploring developments in religious, philosophical, and psychological discourses in North America from 1800 until the present.
In: The Secular Religion of Franklin Merrell-Wolff
In: The Secular Religion of Franklin Merrell-Wolff
In: The Secular Religion of Franklin Merrell-Wolff
In: The Secular Religion of Franklin Merrell-Wolff
In: The Secular Religion of Franklin Merrell-Wolff
In: The Secular Religion of Franklin Merrell-Wolff

Abstract

The disenchantment of reality has bankrupted conventional sources of meaning for many people in modern Western cultures. This has led a growing number of figures and groups to search for alternative sources of meaning. Typical of their quests for meaning is the entanglement of secular and religious discourses. Since the twentieth century, scholars have studied the social configurations of these figures and groups as “cults” or “new religious movements” and their ideologies as “New Age” or “spirituality,” which are seen as parts of a longer tradition of “Western esotericism” (Europe) or “metaphysical religion” (North America). Several leading scholars have also interpreted them as forms of “secular religion,” but this has yet to gain academic traction. This article argues that the former concepts are lacking or losing a logical connection with the socio-historical phenomena to which they pertain and reintroduces the latter concept as a more appropriate one.

In: Numen

Abstract

Neurotheology is a fast-growing field of research. Combining philosophy of mind, neuroscience, and religious studies, it takes a new approach to old questions on religion. What is religion and why do we have it? Neurotheologists focus on the search for the neural correlate of religious experiences. If we can trace religious experiences to specific parts of the brain, chances are we can reduce religion as such to that grey soggy matter as well. This article predicts neurotheology will not be able to locate the neural correlate of religious experiences. As we cannot decide phenomenally what makes an experience religious, neurologically we cannot find its correlate either. That is, if there are fixed neural correlates to begin with, because their existence is still a matter of debate. In addition, religious experiences seem to be a kind of experience, like emotional or relational experiences, making them indistinguishable from similar nonreligious experiences. Even if one manages to trace the neural correlate of religious experiences, neurotheology will still not be able to account for the rise of religion without resorting to theories from other disciplines. In the end, we do not know enough about consciousness and the way it relates to the brain to make conclusive claims about the search for religious states of consciousness. It seems, however, that even though neurotheology could provide fascinating insights in the workings of the religious brain, on its own, it will prove unable to explain religion fully.

In: Archive for the Psychology of Religion