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Are There Any Religions? An Evolutionary Exploration

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Common sense holds there are distinctive religions, an intuition that informs most scholarship and teaching in religious studies and the social sciences, but the intuition is somewhat misleading. In spite of apparent religious difference, recent psychological inquiry suggests that religion emerges from a single panhuman psychological design that strongly constrains variation. There is some variation in the religiosity of individuals and groups, but not the variation of "traditions". This paper uses recent research in the cognitive and evolutionary study of religion to explore some basic properties of the mental architecture that generates human religiosity, including features that enhance the illusion of religious difference.


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