Some Reflections on Cognitive Science, Doubt, and Religious Belief

In Justin Barrett Roger Trigg (ed.), The Root of Religion. Ashgate (2014)
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Religious belief and behavior raises the following two questions: (Q1) Does God, or any other being or state that is integral to various religious traditions, exist? (Q2) Why do humans have religious beliefs and engage in religious behavior? How one answers (Q2) can affect how reasonable individuals can be in accepting a particular answer to (Q1). My aim in this chapter is to carefully distinguish the various ways in which an answer to Q2 might affect the rationality of believing in God. A literature has sprouted around this exact issue, but it has heretofore focused almost exclusively on one way in which a genealogy for p can affect the rationality of believing p – namely, by the genealogy functioning within a debunking argument. However, there are other ways a genealogy can affect the rationality of a belief. I suggest that we should be interested in whether genealogies more broadly cast doubt on religious beliefs. My main goal is: (i) to argue that CSR does not cast doubt on theistic belief in a few of the primary ways that propositions can cast doubt on other propositions, including via a debunking argument; and (ii) to suggest that one plausible way in which CSR might cast doubt on theistic belief is by undermining various traditional theistic reasons, and to illustrate how this might work with one example of a traditional theistic reason – religious experience.

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Joshua C. Thurow
University of Texas at San Antonio


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