Ölüm Ötesi İnancının Bilişsel Açıklamalarının Eleştirel Bir Analizi Cover Image

A Critical Analysis of Cognitive Explanations of Afterlife Belief
Ölüm Ötesi İnancının Bilişsel Açıklamalarının Eleştirel Bir Analizi

Author(s): Sayyed Mahdi Biabanaki
Subject(s): Theology and Religion, Cognitive Psychology
Published by: Cumhuriyet Üniversitesi İlahyat Fakültesi
Keywords: Cognitive Science of Religion; Religious Beliefs; Afterlife; Intutive Dualism; Simulation Constraint;

Summary/Abstract: The Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR) is a scientific approach to the study of religion that seeks to provide causal explanations of religious beliefs and practices. Proponents of CSR seek to explain the process of the formation, acceptance, transmission, and prevalence of religious beliefs by explaining the natural features of the human mind and how it functions. One of the religious beliefs that exists in all human cultures, and has attracted the attention of many CSR scholars in the last decade, is the belief in afterlife. According to CSR researchers, this belief is rooted in the natural structures of the human mind. They see the belief in life after death as a non-reflective or intuitive belief that results from the functioning of mental tools. They have proposed various theories to explain the formation, development, spread, and transmission of belief in life after death. But among these theories, two theories have been more widely accepted, intuitive dualism theory and simulation constraint theory. Intuitive dualism theory says that all humans have the two mental tools: Intuitive Biology and Intuitive Psychology. Intuitive Biology in the face of a dead person makes us believe that he is no longer alive because he cannot move and act. Intuitive Psychology continues to attribute invisible features (such as desires, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions) to the dead person automatically. The simultaneous functioning of the above two mental tools makes the human mind believe that a part of the dead person is immaterial and remains after the physical death. Simulation constraint theory says that all humans have the mental tools to process information from the environment and acquire religious beliefs. None of the mental tools can imagine or simulate the nonexistence of one's desires, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Therefore, the human mind in the face of the dead person, although easily imagining his physical death, continues to believe in the existence of another part of the person (thoughts, desires, etc.). Both of these theories seem to face challenges and limitations in explaining the formation of belief in afterlife. These include inability to provide causal explanation, the lack of distinction between the natural and the rational foundations of belief in afterlife and disregarding the supernatural foundations of the afterlife belief. Neither of the two theories seems to provide a sufficient causal explanation for the formation of belief in the afterlife. Both theories attempt to present a possible story about the formation of afterlife beliefs based on how mental tools function. They provide only a reasonable story of the process that has led to the belief in afterlife. What these two theories offer is a description (not causal explanation) of the human mind and its tools and how they function. This in itself does not explain that these tools have produced a belief in the afterlife. Therefore, the claim that belief in the afterlife is the result of the functioning of mental tools requires a causal relationship between mental tools and this belief. Neither of these two theories can explain this causal relationship, and they merely describe a reasonable story of the relationship between them. Furthermore, distinction between rational foundations of religious belief and natural foundations of religious belief shows that finding a natural origin for believing in the afterlife or describing the cognitive mechanisms associated with it does not in any way mean rejecting or discrediting that belief. Cognitive theories about the natural origins of the belief in the afterlife cannot show us whether this belief is rational or irrational. These explanations can only (if they can) show us the natural roots of the formation and prevalence of this belief. Also Religious belief is a complex notion. Firstly, it is a natural notion, in that sense it is rooted in the human nature and is related to human cognitive systems and mental tools. Secondly, it is a cultural and social notion, in that sense it is both influenced by cultural and social change, and also affects it. Thirdly, it is a supernatural notion, in that sense it is deeply connected with both revelation and prophecy, and with the immaterial aspect of human. Belief in afterlife seems to require all three levels of explanation.

  • Issue Year: 24/2020
  • Issue No: 2
  • Page Range: 749-764
  • Page Count: 16
  • Language: English