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How Not to Do the Cognitive Science of Religion Today

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

This article is a critical examination of Dennett's book Breaking the Spell. The main argument is that there are good and effective ways of doing the cognitive science of religion and there are poor and ineffective ways of doing it. Dennett's book is poorly done on a number of fronts: it is exceedingly hostile and rhetorical, thus missing the public audience he wishes to persuade, it is arrogant towards and shows clear ignorance of the professional study of religion, and it poorly represents serious cognitive science of religion. Furthermore, Dennett ignores the vast amount of literature on the very subjects that worry him the most, namely, fundamentalism, terror, violence, bigotry, deception, oppression, rape, child abuse, and false beliefs—all of which are not necessarily related to religion, on which he is silent. He also leaves untouched the literature on a number of subjects highly relevant to his evolutionary scenario, such as the evolution of consciousness, theories of memory, the role of narrative, the development of persons and selves, embodied cognition, extended mind, etc.

Affiliations: 1: Department of the Study of Religion, University of Aarhus, Taasingegade 3, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

10.1163/157006808X260232
/content/journals/10.1163/157006808x260232
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/content/journals/10.1163/157006808x260232
2008-01-01
2016-08-26

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