The acquisition of religious belief and the attribution of delusion

José Eduardo Porcher

Abstract


My aim in this paper is to consider the question ‘Why is belief in God not a delusion?’. In the first half of the paper, I distinguish two kinds of religious belief: institutional and personal religious belief. I then review how cognitive science accounts for cultural processes in the acquisition and transmission of institutional religious beliefs. In the second half of the paper, I present the clinical definition of delusion and underline the fact that it exempts cultural beliefs from clinical diagnosis. Finally, I review cognitive models of the intuitive attribution of mental disorders and how they support cultural exemption. Through the comparison of the models of cultural acquisition of religious beliefs and of cultural exemption in the attribution of delusion I intend to make it clear that we can provide an answer to our motivating question: even though some institutional religious beliefs may seem as strange as the most florid delusions, humans can readily recognize that they are not the product of mental dysfunction due to the fact that their acquisition and transmission is embedded within a cultural context.

Keywords: religious belief, clinical delusion, cultural learning, folk psychiatry.


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ISSN: 1984-8234 - Best viewed in Mozilla Firefox

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License [Updated on September 23, 2016].

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