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Phantom Limbs, Extended Minds and the Decline of Religiosity: A Cognitive and Evolutionary Perspective

Carles Salazar
Published Online: 2017-11-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0049


The purpose of this paper is to advance a hypothesis that might explain the decline of religious belief and practice among the so-called WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) populations. The main point of this paper is to postulate a causal relationship between two variables that appear to be significantly correlated: on one hand, the decline of religious belief and practice that has been observed in those populations during the twentieth century, and especially since the second half of that century; on the other, the remarkable growth of their life span during that period. The factor that the author proposes as an explanation for that correlation is the causal link relating to the experience of the death of significant others and belief in the supernatural in such a way that the more that experience happens to be relevant in a population’s day-to-day life the more that population will be prone to entertain beliefs in the supernatural, and conversely, the less prominent that experience happens to be, the less inclined that population will be to uphold those beliefs.

Keywords: Cognition; Death; Demography; Evolution; Secularization


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About the article

Received: 2017-09-24

Accepted: 2017-10-09

Published Online: 2017-11-16

Published in Print: 2017-11-27

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 630–641, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0049.

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© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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