Claire White’s An Introduction to the Cognitive Science of Religion

Establishing CSR in University Curricula?


  • Luther H. Martin University of Vermont



scientific study of religion, the future of a scientific study of religion, evolution, cognition and history, fractionation, Holocene, shamanism, cognitive science of religion, undergraduate teaching of religion


In this commentary on Claire White’s An Introduction to the Cognitive Science of Religion: Connecting Evolution, Brain, Cognition, and Culture (London: Routledge, 2021), I contrast the circuitous way in which I (and probably a number of others) initially came to teach cognitive science of religion (CSR) at the undergraduate university level with the more direct (and knowledgeable) way in which White came to do so. I then briefly discuss her comprehensive and coherent presentation of the CSR, noting, however, several issues with which I have problems (fractionation, an ahistorical “presentist” bias, and whether or not an “agnostic” view of religious teachings should remain the norm in the modern university curricula). Nevertheless, White’s Introduction is a most welcome and long-overdue contribution to the academic study of religion, the 150-year trajectory of which has been characterized by an anti-scientific history.

Author Biography

Luther H. Martin, University of Vermont

Luther H. Martin is Professor Emeritus of Religion, University of Vermont. He also has been a Distinguished International Fellow at the Institute of Cognition and Culture, Queen’s University Belfast, and a Visiting Professor at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. He is the author of Hellenistic Religions (1987) and of numerous articles in this field of his historical specialization. He has also published widely in the field of theory and method in the study of religion, especially, in the area of cognitive theory and historiographical method, and has coedited several volumes in this area, including Past Minds: Studies in Cognitive Historiography (2011). He is a founding member of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion and is co-editor of its Journal of the Cognitive Science of Religion.


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How to Cite

Martin, L. H. . (2022). Claire White’s An Introduction to the Cognitive Science of Religion: Establishing CSR in University Curricula?. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 7(2), 135–146.



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