Cognitive Science of Religion and the Cognitive Consequences of Sin

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In this contribution we explore how CSR relates to a core idea, important in mainstream Christianity, namely that sin and evil have certain cognitive consequences. The idea is the notion that sin, in addition to affective and existential consequences, has certain consequences for our knowledge, insight, and understanding. In particular, sin is believed to have diminished and distorted human knowledge of God. This is important, for, recently, a few authors in CSR, in particular Helen de Cruz and Johan de Smedt, have suggested that some CSR theories are in tension with the notion that sin has somehow diminished and distorted our human knowledge of God. According to them, it is problematic to claim that certain evolutionary explanations are correct and that sin has such cognitive consequences. After some terminological clarifications with respect to notions like ‘sin’, ‘cognitive consequences of sin’, the ‘Fall’, and ‘evolutionary explanations of religious belief’, we spell out in detail the argument developed by De Smedt and De Cruz against a historic Fall. Next, we pause a moment in order to ponder exactly what is at stake here. Subsequently, we discuss three possible solutions of how evolutionary explanations of religious belief can be wedded to a historic account of the Fall. We conclude that there is no tension between CSR on the one hand, and the ideas that human beings have fallen into sin and that that has had devastating cognitive consequences on the other.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Developments in the Cognitive Science of Religion
Subtitle of host publicationThe Rationality of Religious Belief
EditorsHans van Eyghen, Rik Peels, Gijsbert van den Brink
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer International Publishing AG
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783319902395
ISBN (Print)9783319902388
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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