Date of Graduation

12-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Philosophy

Advisor

Eric Funkhouser

Committee Member

Thomas Senor

Second Committee Member

Edward Minar

Keywords

Philosophy, religion and theology; Psychology; Cognitive science of religion; Evolutionary psychology; Philosophy of religion; Psychology; Religious belief

Abstract

Religious belief is a byproduct of evolutionarily designed cognitive mechanisms. The ubiquity of religious belief and experience across human cultures is explained by our common human psychology; our domain-specific cognitive mechanisms give rise, collectively, to the phenomenon of byproduct religious belief/experience. In this thesis, I will examine what I call religion-generating cognitive mechanisms, and I will argue that byproduct raw god-beliefs are developed by cultures into refined god-beliefs. These refined god-beliefs are co-opted by evolutionary processes and are cultural adaptations. My conception of “religious belief” in terms of raw and refined god-beliefs allows a disambiguation of the term “religion,” and it contributes to the ongoing debate between byproduct theorists and adaptationists by clarifying that raw god-beliefs are biological byproducts while refined god-beliefs are cultural adaptations.