E-pub ahead of print
Department / Unit
Department of Applied Psychology
Religion and wellbeing, World values survey, Cognitive science of religion
The cognitive science of religion examines the naturalness of religious phenomena by identifying universals in the human cognitive apparatus and process, then exploring the nomological nets surrounding them. There is variation both within and across populations in these constructs and in their linkages, thereby enabling cultural examination of these religious phenomena that have so far been operationalized. We hypothesize that religious phenomena so approached occur within a social-psychological context characterized by affordances that channel their realization and enactments. A fuller understanding of any religious outcome-of-interest will be better understood by considering the characteristics of these contexts that may impinge upon the religious phenomena experienced by a given person. In this essay, we consider the available evidence supporting this hypothesis in multi-national data sets addressing religious beliefs and practices, particularly with regard to their implications for a person’s subjective well-being. The available results support the notion that religion differentially matters to the life of an individual in different cultures. However, the data sets are few, their measures atheoretically conceived, piecemeal, and survey-derived. To encourage more thoughtful, culturally embedded research on the naturalness of religious phenomena, we conclude by exhorting colleagues to address these shortfalls and broaden their conceptual range and empirical reach in the scientific study of religion.
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