Hearing Voices and Other Matters of the Mind: What Mental Abnormalities Can Teach Us About Religions

ISBN : 9780190091149

Robert N. McCauley; George Graham
280 ページ
156 x 235 mm

A man with schizophrenia believes that God is instructing him through the public address system in a bus station. A nun falls into a decades-long depression because she believes that God refuses to answer her prayers. A neighborhood parishioner is bedeviled with anxiety because he believes that a certain religious ritual must be repeated, repeated, and repeated lest God punish him. To what extent are such manifestations of religious thinking analogous to mental disorder? Does mental dysfunction bring an individual closer to religious experience or thought? Hearing Voices and Other Unusual Experiences explores these questions using the tools of the cognitive science of religion and the philosophy of psychopathology. Robert McCauley and George Graham emphasize underlying cognitive continuities between familiar features of religiosity, of mental disorders, and of everyday thinking and action. They contend that much religious thought and behavior can be explained as the cultural activation of our natural cognitive systems, which address matters that are essential to human survival: hazard precautions, agency detection, language processing, and theory of mind. Those systems produce responses to cultural stimuli that may mimic features of cognition and conduct associated with mental disorders, but which are sometimes coded as "religious" depending on the context. The authors examine hallucinations of the voice of God and of other supernatural agents, spiritual depression often described as a "dark night of the soul," religious scrupulosity and compulsiveness, and challenges to theistic cognition that Autistic Spectrum Disorder poses. Their approach promises to shed light on both mental abnormalities and religiosity.


List of Figures
Table of Acronyms
Preface and Acknowledgments
Chapter One: God Naturally, Disorder Actually: Ecumenical Naturalism and Religious Cognition
Chapter Two: Voice of God, Sound of Self: Sources of Religious Experience and Symptoms of Illness
Chapter Three: Praying in the Dark: Depression and Divine Abandonment
Chapter Four: Scrupulosity, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Ritual
Chapter Five: Searching for the Gods' Minds the Hard Way
Chapter Six: Ecumenical Naturalism: Principles, Presuppositions, and Prospects
Reference List


Robert N. McCauley is William Rand Kenan Jr. University Professor of Philosophy at Emory University and the founding Director of Emory's Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture. He is the author of Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not and Philosophical Foundations of the Cognitive Science of Religion. He is also the co-author, with E. Thomas Lawson, of Rethinking Religion and Bringing Ritual to Mind. He has been elected president of both the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion, and he will serve as a Gifford Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in 2021. ; George Graham has held professorships in philosophy at Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia State, and Wake Forest, where he was A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy. He has published more than a dozen books, including The Disordered Mind and The Abraham Dilemma: A Divine Delusion. He is also co-author, with G. Lynn Stephens, of When Self-Consciousness Breaks. He has served as President of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and received numerous awards for teaching and research awards from such institutions as The Rockefeller Foundation and The National Endowment for the Humanities.