Naturalism, Religion, and Mental Disorders


  • Daniel Cohen University of Missouri



cognitive science, religious experience, mental disorders, psychotics, mystics


This article explores the analysis developed in the book, Hearing Voices and Other Matters of the Mind: What Mental Abnormalities Can Teach Us about Religions, by Robert N. McCauley and George Graham. In the book, the authors develop a model of the relationship between religious cognition and cognition associated with mental illness. Their model is based on the longstanding consensus that many classical mystical experiences appear to overlap phenomenologically with pathological states. This article argues that the model presented in the book, while compelling, could be strengthened by extending it to include discussion not only of the cognitive association between religious experiences and mental disorders, but also about how religious cognitions can similarly be associated with mental wellness. Such occurrences are seen, for example, in the positive mental health outcomes that can be associated with the religious/spiritual experiences of mystics, in contrast to the negative outcomes experienced by psychotics.


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How to Cite

Cohen, D. . (2021). Naturalism, Religion, and Mental Disorders. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 7(1), 21–38.



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