Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, Vol 5, No 1

Reimagining the Imaginaries: Towards a Biocultural Theory of (Non)religion

Mari Ovsepyan
Issued Date: 30 Jan 2020


A number of scholars of nonreligion and secularity have argued in recent years for the need to get beyond the neat binaries and the negative identities signaled by atheism and agnosticism (e.g. Taves et al. 2018). However, these binaries are deeply ingrained in the landscape of ideas that have shaped the way we do scholarship. I will explore the Enlightenment sense of "excarnation" found in the CSR approaches to (non)religion, and will discuss what has contributed to it being "too much mind, and not enough brain, body, and culture," as Armin Geertz (2010) sums it up.

Charles Taylor in his seminal work A Secular Age (2007) makes a famous case against the "subtraction stories" expressed in the popular narrative as a mere reduction of religious belief. Taylor's interpretation involves the radical transformation of the social imaginaries that shape the way we conceptualize the world we inhabit. Conceptualizing imaginaries as a way of collective production of sense offers a helpful way of engaging with the question of how differently historied bodies come to experience and engage with the world in different ways, and leads to the possibility of thinking about the role imaginaries play in religious experience. In this essay, I will argue for the use of the social imaginaries as a conceptual tool that contributes to our understanding of local theories of mind, offers a helpful contribution to the biocultural theory of (non)religion and functions as a bridge between its cognitive and affective elements.

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DOI: 10.1558/jcsr.37524


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