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The Monist

Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2013

Naturalizing Religious Belief

Justin L. Barrett, Ian M. Church
Pages 311-324
DOI: 10.5840/monist201396314

Should CSR Give Atheists Epistemic Assurance? On Beer-Goggles, BFFs, and Skepticism Regarding Religious Beliefs

Recent work in cognitive science of religion (CSR) is beginning to converge on a very interesting thesis—that, given the ordinary features of human minds operating in typical human environments, we are naturally disposed to believe in the existence of gods, among other religious ideas (e.g., see Atran [2002], Barrett [2004; 2012], Bering [2011], Boyer [2001], Guthrie [1993], McCauley [2011], Pyysiäinen [2004; 2009]). In this paper, we explore whether such a discovery ultimately helps or hurts the atheist position—whether, for example, it lends credence to atheism by explaining away religious belief or whether it actually strengthens some already powerful arguments against atheism in the relevant philosophical literature.We argue that the recent discoveries of CSR hurt, not help, the atheist position—that CSR, if anything, should not give atheists epistemic assurance.