Intuitive Belief

Born Idolaters *

Idol Baby

*With thanks to the illustrious Jonathan Jong for the title!

A flurry of recent research in the cognitive science of religion (CSR) has suggested that from our childhood we are “teleologically promiscuous“- detecting purpose readily behind everything from birds to rocks, “intuitive dualists“- distinguishing between physical bodies and immaterial minds, and possess a “hyperactive agency detector device” (HADD), which makes us quick to worry about what caused that twig to snap in the bush behind us. All of these factors (and more beside) are said to make us Born Believers in the words of  Justin Barrett, a psychologist specialising on religious thought (and my former supervisor). However, even if we accept such accounts, then an important question remains: what exactly are we ‘born to believe’ ?

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