Religion: Mental Religion. Part of the Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks: Religion Series (2016)
The extended mind thesis claims that mental states need not be confined to the brain or even the biological borders of the subject. Philosophers and cognitive scientists have in recent years debated the plausibility of this thesis, growing an immense body of literature. Yet despite its many supporters, there have been relatively few attempts to apply the thesis to religious studies, particularly studies of religious cognition. In this essay, I indicate how various dimensions of religious cognition might be thought of as extended. In particular, I focus on the mutually-supporting relationship between religious cognition and material culture: the many things we use to organize and enact our religious practices and beliefs, from relics and rituals to songs and holy spaces. As we’ll see, taking the extended mind thesis seriously suggests that an investigation of religious material culture is, simultaneously, an investigation of religious cognition.