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  • © 2017

Religious Cognition in China

“Homo Religiosus” and the Dragon

  • Summarizes and discusses findings from the “Is Religion Natural? The Chinese Challenge” research project

  • Includes contributions from psychologists, anthropologists, and Chinese Studies scholars

  • Presents new data refuting the longstanding myth of Chinese religious exceptionalism

  • Uniquely brings qualitative and quantitative data from China to bear on the naturalness theory of religious cognition

Part of the book series: New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion (NASR, volume 2)

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  • ISBN: 978-3-319-62954-4
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Table of contents (14 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-viii
  2. Introduction: Homo Religiosus and the Dragon

    • Justin L. Barrett, Ryan G. Hornbeck
    Pages 1-14
  3. Reexamining Chinese Religious Exceptionalism

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 15-15
    2. Is Chinese (Lack of) Religion Exceptional?

      • David A. Palmer
      Pages 17-34
    3. Chinese Thinking Styles and Religion

      • Li-Jun Ji, Emily Chan
      Pages 35-54
  4. Testing Naturalness Theory Hypotheses in China

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 77-77
    2. Dogs, Santa Claus, and Sun Wukong: Children’s Understanding of Nonhuman Minds

      • Tyler S. Greenway, Gregory S. Foley, Brianna C. Nystrom, Justin L. Barrett
      Pages 97-109
    3. Ritual Imbalance in Contemporary China: A Ritual Form Theory Analysis

      • Justin L. Barrett, Ryan G. Hornbeck, Brianna D. Bleeker, Skylar T. Barrett, Chenfeng Hao
      Pages 111-123
  5. Situating Naturalness Theory in Chinese and Global Contexts

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 159-159
  6. Back Matter

    Pages 215-221

About this book

Are human tendencies toward religious and spiritual thoughts, feelings, and actions outcomes of “natural” cognition? This volume revisits the “naturalness theory of religious cognition” through discussion of new qualitative and quantitative studies examining the psychological foundations of religious and spiritual expression in historical and contemporary China. Naturalness theory has been challenged on the grounds that little of its supporting developmental and experimental research has drawn on participants from predominantly secular cultural environments. Given China’s official secularity, its large proportion of atheists, and its alleged long history of dominant, nonreligious philosophies, can any broad claim for religion’s psychological “naturalness” be plausible? 

Addressing this empirical gap, the studies discussed in this volume support core naturalness theory predictions for human reasoning about supernatural agency, intelligent design, the efficacy of rituals, and vitalistic causality. And yet each study elucidates, expands upon, or even challenges outright the logical assumptions of the naturalness theory. Written for a non-specialist audience, this volume introduces the naturalness theory and frames the significance of these new findings for students and scholars of cultural psychology, the psychology of religion, the anthropology of religion, and Chinese Studies.

Keywords

  • Afterlife Beliefs
  • Chinese Religiosity
  • Cognitive Science of Religion
  • Consilience
  • Counterintuitive Representations
  • Naturalness Theory of Religious Cognition
  • Religion and Wellbeing
  • Ritual Form Hypothesis
  • Teleological Reasoning
  • Vitalistic Causality

Editors and Affiliations

  • Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian Province, China

    Ryan G. Hornbeck, Justin L. Barrett

  • Office for Science, Theology, & Religion Initiatives Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, USA

    Madeleine Kang

About the editors

Ryan G. Hornbeck is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Xiamen University. His research interests include the scientific study of religion, digital culture, experimental ethnography, and interdisciplinary collaboration. His articles have appeared in International Journal of the Psychology of ReligionGames and CultureJournal of Cognition and Culture, and European Journal of Philosophy of Religion. He holds a DPhil in anthropology from the University of Oxford. 

Justin L. Barrett is the Chief Project Developer for the office for Science, Theology, and Religion initiatives at Fuller Theological Seminary. He also serves as program chair for the doctorate in psychological science. He came to Fuller from the University of Oxford, U.K., where he taught and served as senior researcher for Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind and the Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology. He has also taught at the University of Michigan and Calvin College. Barrett’s academic work has concerned cognitive scientific approaches to the study of religion. His current research interests include cognitive, evolutionary, and psychological approaches to the study of religion; cognitive approaches to the study of culture and archaeology generally; and religious and character development in children and adolescents. Barrett’s book publications include Why Would Anyone Believe in God? (2004, AltaMira), Psychology of Religion (ed., 2010, Routlege), Cognitive Science, Religion, and Theology (2011, Templeton Press), Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief (2012, Free Press), and  and The Roots of Religion: Exploring the Cognitive Science of Religion (with Roger Trigg, Ashgate, 2014).  

Madeleine Kang is a writer, editor, and Cornell University alumnus. She was a featured writer for the 2017 CBS Diversity Showcase and was named a semi-finalist for the 2017 Second City Original Sitcom contest.

Bibliographic Information

Buying options

eBook USD 79.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-319-62954-4
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book USD 99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)