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Lecture ‘But…But…But…Extremists!’ by Neil Van Leeuwen

Datum evenement: 11 July 2024
Locatie: Hybrid: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Zoom


Time: 15.30
Registration: send an e-mail to extremebeliefs.fgw@vu.nl, to receive the location and/or zoomlink.
According to the theory I propose in Religion as Make-Believe, a great many religious “beliefs,” as psychological states, are in fact imaginings, albeit imaginings that are central to people’s group identities and sacred values. This means that their key cognitive processing features are the same as those of the kinds of imaginings that guide people’s make-believe play, though they are in other respects more serious than other imaginings due to the identity-constituting roles they play in people’s lives and due to their marking certain entities and events as inviolable. To have a clear term, I dub such sacred imagining, as a cognitive attitude type, religious credence. One common objection to this theory is that religious extremists—those who commit violent acts in the name of their religion—must factually believe their religious doctrines and stories (as opposed to having religious credence in them): Otherwise, why would they go to such lengths? In this keynote, I show how the religious credence model in fact better coheres with facts about religious extremists than the factual belief model: the religious credence model is able to explain violent acts by appeal to the emotional dynamics of group identity and sacred values, while doing a better job than the factual belief model of making sense of the kinds of behavioral hypocrisy that surface among extremist and non-extremist religious practitioners alike.