Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy (MA)

Degree Level





Eric Funkhouser

Committee Member

Thomas Senor

Second Committee Member

Edward Minar


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


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.