The Cognitive Study of Religiosity and Contemporary Lived Religion: Complementarity as a Methodological Approach

Researching Global Religious Landscapes - A Methodology between Universalism and Particularism - Peter Nynäs

Slawomir Sztajer [+-]
Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań
Sławomir Sztajer holds a PhD in philosophy from Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland, where he is University Professor at the Center of Religious and Comparative Studies. He has published books and articles on religious language, religious cognition, and religious change. Recent publications include Changing Trajectories of Religion and Popular Culture: Cognitive and Anthropological Dimensions (LIT Verlag 2018, co-authored with Jarema Drozdowicz) and Religion and Religiosity in the Processes of Modernization and Globalization (WN UAM 2016, coedited with Zbigniew Drozdowicz).
Rafael Fernández Hart [+-]
Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, Lima, Peru
Rafael Fernández Hart, PhD, is Professor and Director of the Facultad de Filosofía, Educación y Ciencias Humanas, Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, Lima, Peru. His research focuses on issues related to the philosophy of religion with a special emphasis on the development of the sacred in contexts of secularization and the links between philosophy, theology, and spirituality. Fernández functioned as local investigator for the YARG project in Peru. Recent publications include “Revelación y religion en Levinas” in Estudios de Filosofía (Vol 57, 2018) and “The Internet, social media, and the critical interrogation of traditional religion among young adults in Peru” with Sidney Castillo Cardenas and Marcus Moberg in Moberg, M. & Sjö, S. 2020. Digital media, young adults, and religion: An international perspective. Abingdon, NY: Routledge.
Ben-Willie Kwaku Golo [+-]
University of Ghana
Ben-Willie Kwaku Golo (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in the Department for the Study of Religion, University of Ghana, Legon. He teaches in the areas of theological studies, religion and society, and ecological theology/ethics. Some of his recent publications are "Religious Environmental Stewardship, the Sabbath and Sustainable Futures in Africa: Implications for Sustainability Discourse," Consensus: A Canadian Journal of Public Theology Vol. 41: Issue 1, Article 4. (2020), and “The Contents and Discontents of Internet and Social Media Use in the Religious Lives of Ghanaian Young Adults.” In Marcus Moberg and Sofia Sjo (eds.) Digital Media, Young Adults and Religion: An International Perspective. London: Routledge (2020). Ben-Willie Kwaku Golo was the Local Investigator (LI) for the international research project Young Adults and Religion in a Global Perspective at Åbo Akademi University (ÅAU), Turku, Finland (2014–18).
Sidney Castillo [+-]
University of Helsinki
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Sidney Castillo is a Ph.D. Candidate in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki, Finland. He has a Master of Arts in Sociology and Social Anthropology from Central European University, Budapest, Hungary (2018); and a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Perú (2014). He served as research assistant for the Åbo Akademi Universit Centre of Excellence Young Adults and Religion in a Global Perspective Project (2015–2019) in Peru. Currently, he is working on his dissertation as a member of the research group “Religion, Self, and the Ethical Life” (2021-2023), University of Helsinki, unit of Social and Cultural Anthropology. He focuses on the relationship between ayahuasca rituals and ethical self-making among indigenous contexts in the Peruvian Amazon. He is also an associate editor, writer, and interviewer for The Religious Studies Project. His research interests encompass youth and religion, ritual and religion, indigenous religions, new religious movements, western esotericism, religion and conflict, and secular identities.


Among cognitive scholars of religion (e.g. Boyer 2001; Atran, 2003), a strong case has been made for the idea that religion can be explained from a perspective of human evolution and cognition. This often relies on observations of universals across time and space, linguistic and cultural boundaries. In this chapter, we focus on lived religion (e.g. Ammerman 2015) in Peru, Ghana, and China; countries with a distinct history of traditional forms of religion that furthermore are present in various and complex ways. In these cultures, traditional forms of religiosity may still be present and surface in form of emerging new or revitalized aspects of religiosities within the framework of more recent religious or secular positions. In light of such complex forms of lived religion it becomes relevant to explore the relevance of a cognitive approach to religion. To what extent can it be applied within a framework of the complexity of lived religion? This chapter, on the one hand, sheds light on to what extent and how traditional forms of religion surface in contemporary religiosities and, on the other hand, advances to explore to what extent such complex configurations allow for the adaptation of observations from a cognitive study of religion. The chapter proposes a model of interpretative complementarity that differentiates between two key ways of understanding current concepts, beliefs and practices. The first points to universal cognitive mechanisms and the second to cultural and contextual factors in light of contemporary forms of lived religion.

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Sztajer, Slawomir; Fernández Hart, Rafael ; Kwaku Golo, Ben-Willie; Castillo, Sidney. The Cognitive Study of Religiosity and Contemporary Lived Religion: Complementarity as a Methodological Approach. Researching Global Religious Landscapes - A Methodology between Universalism and Particularism. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Feb 2024. ISBN 9781800503915. Date accessed: 06 Feb 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44296. Feb 2024

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