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An Attachment-Theoretical Approach to Religious Cognition

An Attachment-Theoretical Approach to Religious Cognition

(p.152) Nine An Attachment-Theoretical Approach to Religious Cognition
Universalism without Uniformity
Charles W. Nuckolls
University of Chicago Press

A variation on the theme of universalism is the question of where religious concepts come from. The “naturalness of religion” hypothesis, developed by Pascal Boyer and his colleagues, asserts that agency is part of a “security motivation system.” It is a fundamental human adaptation to the detection of prey and predators. “Agents,” in this view, become significant first and foremost as sources of opportunity or danger, and from this Boyer constructs a theory of religious presentations that depends on the natural human tendency to detect agency. The superhuman entities universally posited by religion emerge from a psychologically inherent agency detection system that all humans share, and that, for reasons not entirely understood, detects agency even where there is none. This chapter will examine the nature of attachment, not as a supplement to, but as a core component of the cognitive theory of agency detection and religious representations. It will be shown that the agency/attachment system is a developmental process, shaped by the circumstances of human evolution, but also and importantly subject to cultural variation.

Keywords:   attachment, Boyer, cognition, agency, supernatural, psychological pluralism, naturalism, spirits, Bowlby, human evolution

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