Do You Need Cognitive Neuroscience to Understand Religious Cognition, Experience and Texts?
Keywords:Decentering, neuroscience, religious cognition, religious texts
In this article I review “Ritual Mourning in Daniel’s Interpretation of Jeremiah’s Prophecy” by Angela Kim Harkins; “Tours of Heaven in Light of the Neuroscientific Study of Religious Experience” by István Czachesz; “(Religious) Language and the Decentering Process: McNamara and De Sublimitate on the Ecstatic Effect of Language” by Christopher T. Holmes. I present an argument that we need neuroscience in order to understand religious cognition as it occurs today and as it was presented in these ancient religious texts. The reason neuroscience is not merely an optional item in the toolbox but absolutely necessary is because religious cognition is characterized by decentering and decentering cannot be understood in the absence of reference to its brain mechanisms. Decentering crucially involves a four-step process whose steps are united not by any inherent logic but rather by the brain processes that produced them in the first place.
Harkins, Angela Kim. 2016. “Ritual Mourning in Daniel’s Interpretation of Jeremiah’s Prophecy”. Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2.1: 14–32.
Holmes, Christopher T. 2016. “(Religious) Language and the Decentering Process: McNamara and De Sublimitate on the Ecstatic Effect of Language”. Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2.1: 53–65.
McNamara, P. 2009. The Neuroscience of Religious Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511605529
McNamara, P., Minsky, A., Pae, V., and Gusev, A. 2015. “Cognitive Phenomenology of Religious Experience in Religious Narratives, Dreams, and Nightmares”. Archive for the Psychology of Religion 37: 343–57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/15736121-12341311
Wildman, W. J., and P. McNamara. 2010. “Evaluating Reliance on Narratives in the Psychological Study of Religious Experiences”. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 20: 223–54. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10508619.2010.507666