Examining religion and well-being across cultures : the cognitive science of religion as sextant

Michael Harris BOND*, Vivian Miu-Chi LUN

*Corresponding author for this work

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The cognitive science of religion examines the naturalness of religious phenomena by identifying universals in the human cognitive apparatus and process, then exploring the nomological nets surrounding them. There is variation both within and across populations in these constructs and in their linkages, thereby enabling cultural examination of these religious phenomena that have so far been operationalized. We hypothesize that religious phenomena so approached occur within a social-psychological context characterized by affordances that channel their realization and enactments. A fuller understanding of any religious outcome-of-interest will be better understood by considering the characteristics of these contexts that may impinge upon the religious phenomena experienced by a given person. In this essay, we consider the available evidence supporting this hypothesis in multi-national data sets addressing religious beliefs and practices, particularly with regard to their implications for a person’s subjective well-being. The available results support the notion that religion differentially matters to the life of an individual in different cultures. However, the data sets are few, their measures atheoretically conceived, piecemeal, and survey-derived. To encourage more thoughtful, culturally embedded research on the naturalness of religious phenomena, we conclude by exhorting colleagues to address these shortfalls and broaden their conceptual range and empirical reach in the scientific study of religion.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReligious Cognition in China : "Homo Religiosus" and the Dragon
EditorsRyan G. HORNBECK, Justin L. BARRETT, Madeleine KANG
PublisherSpringer, Cham
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783319629544
ISBN (Print)9783319629520
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameNew Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion
ISSN (Print)2367-3494
ISSN (Electronic)2367-3508

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer International Publishing AG.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Religion and wellbeing
  • World values survey
  • Cognitive science of religion


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