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Notes on video lecture:
The Landscape of Religious Belief and Practice
Choose from these words to fill the blanks below:
control, workforce, mistake, DNA, manipulate, pyramids, pressures, individual, rituals, exaggerated, bracket, blank, structure, tools, virus, social, environmentalism, sacred, attitudes, science, boring, override, naturalism, ancestor, supernatural, naturalistic, compete, practical, culture, empirically, intention, puzzled, define, paralyzes, Pope, costly, communities, group, definitional
how do you define a religion?
the folk idea of religion is that it has to do with                          beings
other people define it as having to do with the             
other people think religion has more to do with practice and we want to define it in terms of rituals and communities, i.e. what people do together and what                they practice is important
one of the advantages of the cognitive science of religion is that it sidesteps the whole                          issue
we simply fractionate what people call religion into different types of beliefs and practices
we look at any sort of phenomenon that people are inclined to call religion
in this way, we approach religion as a type of radial category, it's not in the box or out of the box, it's more of a prototype, we have a basic idea of what most people call religion, but we will include anything that anybody calls religion, it's just that various definitions lie closer or further away from what we consider a prototype religions
so something like the          conducting a mass is clearly religious
people in China doing                  worship, that seems pretty religious
spectator sports and ideologies have many characteristics and provide many of the functions of a religion, both giving people meaning to their lives and binding them into                        with rituals and beliefs
                                 can be considered a religion in that it suggests there is something not right with how human relate to the world, and invites you strive for a kind of salvation through joining the group and it's activities and do what you can to right the wrongs in the world world and to protect the Earth which is seen as a kind of deity
the fact that we're not going to              religion enables us to explore all these possibilities
we're looking at certain types of beliefs and                   , and different types of groups of people with different aims and goals and practices and rituals, all fall somewhere on the spectrum of our area of study
how do we define               
we're not talking about science and religion
focuses on how you reconcile the claims of science with the claims of religion
e.g. evolution vs. religion
this is not our focus
we will be using            from science to analyze religion behavior
methodological                     
a position where we                the truth claims of religion
we're analyzing the phenomenon of religion based on what we know about the world
what we can                        verify about the world
bracketing claims about gods and supernatural rewards about the afterlife
the reason we bracket these truth claims because the naturalistic empirical approach to studying the world has proved the most effective way to gain reliable knowledge of the world
evolutionary theory
neo-Darwinian model of evolution
not              Darwinism
Darwin's ideas about natural selection coupled with our modern knowledge about how        work
it is shaped by adaptive pressures
gene-culture evolution
we inherit                as well
two channels: one are the genes, and the other is culture
we're not talking about theology, not a process tending toward some goal
there's no end point
it's not a story about progress
no direction to it
no                    behind it
evolution is just heritable variation followed by selection                   
the mind is not just a            slate
it has a certain                   
is expecting a certain type of input
why do humans have religion
if you approach religion from within the practice of a religion, there is nothing puzzling about religion at all
it's only when you adopt a                          stance which brackets the truth claims in religion, that religion becomes a puzzling phenomenon
religious belief is              in a way that doesn't seem to bring any real benefits
valuable items are giving up to the Gods
people spend an enormous amount of time
             rituals, things that are cognitively costly
give up pleasures
engage in scarification practices
even if you are within a religious tradition and believe that why you do these things if explained by your god
you have to be                why people in other religions do what they do
why do people engage in behavior that doesn't seem to have any                    benefit
in large scale societies, it even gets more                       
they are creating monuments,                 , in China building underground palaces, buried elaborate wealth in the ground
take up an enormous amount of the                   
you would think that groups who focus on practical issues such as grain storage and defense mechanisms would out-compete those cultures who spent so much time in religious activity
hypotheses
1. religion is a               
it's an over-firing of desire, a misunderstanding
2. it's a meme, a cultural           
they are good at getting into people's brains and spreading them to other people
but they don't actually help the people they are infecting
3. social               
religion is function but only for a certain group
it's a creation of or an adoption of ancient beliefs by a certain group
to allow a small group to                      and control the rest of society
4.                      adaptation theories
religious practices are beneficial for the individual
the fear of death and the fear of uncertainty                    human beings
religious beliefs are a kind of psychic cushioning
5.            adaptation theories
religion binds groups together effectively
allowing them to out-               other groups
even though they may not be beneficial for the individuals in those groups
it doesn't matter, since in these cases the needs of the group dynamics                  the needs of any individual in the group

Ideas and Concepts:

Critical question via this morning's Science of Religion class: "Why is the central image of Christianity this rather gruesome image, especially in Catholic iconography, of someone being tortured, rather than an image of, say, Jesus walking on the water, or Jesus multiplying loaves and fishes?"
Critical analysis via tonight's Science of Religion class:

"Taking a scientific approach to religion is similar to the way an inquisitive child looks at religion, they simply ask questions about it. They don't just accept that human beings have religious beliefs and behaviors, and they haven't yet been intimidated by others to not inquire about odd or contradictory behavior of people in their world.

For instance, why do religions focus on sacrifice? Why is sacrifice so important, as in the crucifixion? Why do religions take the form they do? Why does religious behavior and belief exist at all, especially given how time-consuming and costly it can be for the people who engage in it?"
On the definition of religion, via tonight's Science of Religion class:

"One of the odd things about the field of Religious Studies is that we can't agree on what it is we study. What is religion exactly?

The folk idea of religion is that it has something to do with supernatural beings. Other people define religion as having to do with anything that is sacred, whether supernatural beings are involved or not. Others see religion as having more to do with rituals and communities, i.e. what people do together and what communal rituals they practice is what defines religion.

One of the advantages of the cognitive science of religion is that it sidesteps this whole definitional issue. We simply fractionate what people call religion into different types of beliefs and practices. We look at any sort of phenomenon that people are inclined to call religion.

In this way, we approach religion not as a box in which some things are in the box and some out of the box, but more like a prototype. So we have a basic idea of what most people call religion, but we will include anything that anybody calls religion, it's just that various definitions lie closer or further away from what we consider to be a prototype religion.

So for example, the Pope conducting a mass is clearly religious. People in China doing ancestor worship is also quite religious. Spectator sports and ideologies also have many characteristics of religions and provide many of the same functions to large groups that a religion does, i.e. giving people meaning to their lives and activities, giving them something to hope for, and providing them with communal rituals to engage in with each other.

Environmentalism can also be considered a religion in that it suggests there is something not right with how humans relate to the world, and invites each of us to strive for personal salvation through becoming part of the solution to this problem instead of being part of the problem, joining the group and its activities and doing what we can to right the wrongs in the world, and to honor the Earth, which is seen as a kind of deity that we protect, as it in turn, nurtures us and provides us with life."
Evolutionary theory defined, via this evening's Science of Religion class:

"Evolutionary theory is the neo-Darwinian model of evolution. It's not social Darwinism, but rather, Darwin's ideas about natural selection coupled with our modern knowledge about how DNA works.

It has a component called gene-culture evolution which expresses that we inherit culture as well as traits from our genes, i.e. there are two channels:one is our genes, and the other is culture.

But there is no theology involved in neo-Darwinism. There's no process tending toward any goal. There's no end point. It's not a story about progress. There's no direction to it and no intention behind it.

Evolution is simply heritable variation followed by selection pressures."
Worst-case scenario for the purpose of religion, via this evening's Science of Religion class: "Religion is a meme, a cultural virus which is good at getting into people's brains and spreading itself to other brains, but doesn't actually help the people it's infecting."
The Landscape of Religious Belief and Practice
Building-Block Cognitive Analysis: The Road to Emmaus and Haunted House Stories