Reimagining the Imaginaries

Towards a Biocultural Theory of (Non)religion


  • Mari Ovsepyan University of Oxford



social imaginaries, (non)religion, CSR, excarnation, theory of mind


A number of scholars of nonreligion and secularity have argued inrecent years for the need to get beyond the neat binaries and the negativeidentities signaled by atheism and agnosticism (e.g. Taves et al.2018). However, these binaries are deeply ingrained in the landscapeof ideas that have shaped the way we do scholarship. I will explore theEnlightenment sense of "excarnation" found in the CSR approachesto (non)religion, and will discuss what has contributed to it being"too much mind, and not enough brain, body, and culture," as ArminGeertz (2010) sums it up.Charles Taylor in his seminal work A Secular Age (2007) makes afamous case against the "subtraction stories" expressed in the popularnarrative as a mere reduction of religious belief. Taylor's interpretationinvolves the radical transformation of the social imaginaries that shapethe way we conceptualize the world we inhabit. Conceptualizingimaginaries as a way of collective production of sense offers a helpfulway of engaging with the question of how differently historied bodiescome to experience and engage with the world in different ways, andleads to the possibility of thinking about the role imaginaries play inreligious experience. In this essay, I will argue for the use of the socialimaginaries as a conceptual tool that contributes to our understandingof local theories of mind, offers a helpful contribution to the bioculturaltheory of (non)religion and functions as a bridge between itscognitive and affective elements.

Author Biography

Mari Ovsepyan, University of Oxford

DPhil student in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford


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How to Cite

Ovsepyan, M. (2020). Reimagining the Imaginaries: Towards a Biocultural Theory of (Non)religion. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 5(1), 85–99.