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C O U R S E 
The Science of Religion
Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Building-Block Cognitive Analysis: The Road to Emmaus and Haunted House Stories
Notes taken on May 11, 2018 by Edward Tanguay
the building block approach to religion
break a story down into its blocks and components
one finds stories with some blocks added or removed, and it changes the story
the concepts of religion, magic and superstition are unstable
other cultures don't necessarily have a concept that translates directly into what we generally think of as religion
to approach religion scientifically, we has to figure out how to express the phenomena that we want to explain
instead of words that are usually expressed as nouns e.g.
we have to talk in terms of what people are doing or things that are happening in terms of an event or a behavior that an individual or a group is doing
basic form
Apostle's creed
Jesus rose from the dead
what we have are accounts of Jesus appearing to disciples
The Road to Emmaus
two of Jesus' disciples walking to Emmaus
had heard that angels had appeared and reported that Jesus was still living
Jesus had died not that long before
they are deeply disturbed since they didn't expect that a Messiah would be crucified and die on a cross
a stranger joins in their conversation and suggests they should read their own scripture which explained that Jesus would have to suffer and die
they convince the stranger to join them for a meal in Emmaus
during the meal, they suddenly realize that the stranger is Jesus
this story can be broken down into building blocks
grief of his followers
the experience of the women at the tomb who had the vision of the angels
represents a prime in psychological terms
it primed them to think that Jesus might still be alive
cognitive dissonance
a predisposition to believe a certain way
unlikely occurance
appearance of a stranger
synchronous event
Jesus appears right in the midst of their struggles
memory cue
the breaking of the bread reminded them the last time he broke bread
the minute they recognize him, he was gone
we can use these building blocks to analyze other stories
a castle people claim is haunted
a person who doesn't believe in ghosts goes
just as the point that he is announcing he doesn't believe in ghosts, a sword falls off the wall and narrowly misses his arm
the first thing that pops into his mind is: it's a ghost
but he's not in the throes of grief, so we remove the grief block
priming block: the castle is haunted
synchronous event: sword falls just as he states there are no ghosts
humans have a tendency to think that correlated events must have some kind of meaning
fear: new block
sword falls very close to his arm
these stories thus have components that are similar at a cognitive level
when we take a building block approach, we don't have to be so concerned if we are talking about religion or haunted houses
we analyze the events and behaviors themselves