Knowing the Past to Co-Create the Future.

Last week, I received an e-mail with the delightful news that my abstract for the next IRAS-conference , titled: “How Can We Know? Co-creating Knowledge in Perilous Times”, has been accepted. Moreover, the organizing committee awarded me with a Fellowship to enable me to join them. Obviously, I’m thrilled about this: a perfect way to end my phd-research! Below is my abstract. The hard work of developing it into the last chapter of my dissertation is in full progress!

In cognitive science of religion, a distinction is often made between reflective and unreflective elements of religion. While this distinction might seem to be a reason for conflict between cognitive science of religion, which focuses on the latter, and theology, which identifies foremost with the former, this paper will use it as a starting point for a dialogue between both fields. Unreflective elements in religion, we will argue, are part of the information which the human species accumulated throughout its evolutionary history (Bellah 2011). It is the reflection upon these elements, illuminated by knowledge about their emergence, which enables theology to connect humanity with its deep past. This connection, we will suggest, is of crucial importance in the light of current global challenges.

First, we will argue that the study of the emergence of religion’s unreflective elements helps to understand the context of religion in deep history, or religion’s ‘deep context’. Second, we will discuss Philip Hefner’s view on religion as the connection or, as one might add, the ‘interface’, between the human species and nature (Hefner 1993). Third, we will apply Lieven Boeve’s notion of ‘recontextualisation’ on the dialogue between theology and scientific studies of religion to show the relevance of this dialogue for a world in search of wisdom  (Boeve 2003).


Robert Bellah, Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA), London (UK), 2011

Lieven Boeve, Interrupting Tradition (Louvain Theological & Pastoral Monographs), Leuven, Peeters, 2003.

Philip Hefner, The Human Factor. Evolution, Culture, and Religion. Theology and the Sciences, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1993.

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