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God Belief as an Innate Aspect of Human Nature: A Response to John Shook and Questions for Justin Barrett

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

John Shook’s article “Are People Born to be Believers, or are Gods Born to be Believed?” (this volume) critiques research findings and writings by Justin Barrett suggesting that god beliefs may be innate among human beings. In response to points raised by Shook, we first discuss several complications that need to be balanced when defining and assessing the innateness hypothesis. Second, we address the question of how both god believers and nonbelievers might have both favorable and unfavorable responses to claims of god beliefs being innate. Third, we consider whether certain additional features, besides (vague) god beliefs themselves, might be part of a human predisposition toward religious belief. We agree with Shook’s claims that researchers’ own beliefs may impact their research questions, methods, and interpretations of findings. Given the pervasive risk of blind spots and biases, we conclude by emphasizing the need for accountability, transparency, skepticism, open-mindedness, and collegiality among scholars.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, 44106-7123USA ; 2: Department of Psychological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, 44106-7123USA


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