Religious authority and the transmission of abstract god concepts

Philosophical Psychology 31 (4):609-628 (2018)
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According to the Standard Model account of religion, religious concepts tend to conform to “minimally counterintuitive” schemas. Laypeople may, to varying degrees, verbally endorse the abstract doctrines taught by professional theologians. But, outside the Sunday school exam room, the implicit representations that tend to guide people’s everyday thinking, feeling, and behavior are about minimally counterintuitive entities. According to the Standard Model, these implicit representations are the essential thing to be explained by the cognitive science of religion. It is argued here that this theoretical orientation of mainstream CSR misses a whole dimension of religiosity—the acceptance of certain religious authorities, that is, the acceptance of other people’s superior expertise. Average believers tend to accept the authority of religious experts who espouse highly counterintuitive ideas that they understand in a distorted form, if at all....

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Nathan Cofnas
Cambridge University


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