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The Latest Scientific Studies of Religion and Spirituality

January 31, 2014

Are you keeping up on research into religion and spirituality?

I don’t mean the popular kinds of books or blog articles that merely, and often validly, criticize religion (and sometimes all aspects of “spirituality”), or seek to “explain it away” psychologically or as an illusory by-product of evolution, etc.  I mean the carefully controlled, exploratory kind of real science… that which seeks to discover and explain so that we all learn and can apply new understandings for our own benefit, and society’s.

Well, I didn’t realize just how much is being done in this realm that was not on my personal radar!  I’m setting out to correct that, and I’ll share one key resource with you in a moment.  

Meanwhile, I’ll share that my main passion is the application of knowledge toward overall human advancement, which must include religion and spirituality.  I appreciate certain aspects of the critiques of skeptics and atheists — I have a lot of beefs with religion myself.  But I believe they are seriously misguided when they try to talk people out of any kind of belief in God or participation in communities of faith (organized around a religion or spiritual practices)…. Ain’t gunna happen (on a widespread basis)!!

So, regardless how much we love or resent systems that promote particular approaches to what we might call a “spiritual orientation” to life, we owe it to ourselves or to the majority of the population (in the US and most of the world) which is involved, to understand them…. Help ourselves/them mature and function more productively.  Ken Wilber, author of many great books and founder of the Integral Institute, makes this plea repeatedly.  He calls religions and “wisdom traditions” the great “conveyor belt” to potentially carry cultures and societies to higher levels of positive functioning.

I strongly encourage reading of Wilber and his associated thinkers and (importantly) practitioners of meditation or other “disciplines” and the various “lines” of development they describe in depth.  I’ve spoken about Wilber and “Integral” theory before… so something else is today’s featured resource.

That is the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion.  They also run a blog on Patheos, called “Science on Religion”, here.

I can’t easily tell you how much I appreciate and resonate with what they are doing… their interdisciplinary approach, their posture toward understanding religion and spirituality better, combine with their mission to share both the sensible things we already know and what so many researchers continue to discover.  Their set of linked sites includes which includes a number of sophisticated inventories you may find interesting, as I have, or personally helpful.  By participating (for free) you also help them extend their research and build a broader database.

Now… I’ve got to get back to exploring, there and elsewhere myself… and preparing my next post!  It will probably include more detail about this set of wonderful sites and the work of the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion.

Please share any resources from the sciences or from interdisciplinary studies or comments on religion/spirituality that have been helpful to you!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2014 11:43 am

    Agree completely with misguided atheists proving their naturalistic worldview.

    I don’t waste any time with either fundamentalist extreme (Leviticus or Dawkins based …)

    Once you’ve given up on the proof (for or against), it is (for me, at least) more relevant to read authors that take our shared premise as a given. Of late, I’ve read four books on Christian mysticism (just finished Growing into God by John R Mabry, and excellent “beginners guide”).


  2. October 22, 2014 10:45 am

    It seems much of this thought is the same early American Liberation movement thoughts of Thomas Paine (died 1809). Who proclaimed that rationality leads to Natural Human Faith which is instinctive and was common see his own words here:
    A Writing by Reverend Thomas Paine, Socrates of the Modern Times and The Most Valuable Englishman Ever Lived

    I had a rather rough writing posting I am afraid:
    Public Falsification of Scientific Evidences in Western Education to Promote Polytheism
    like to see how you look at it?

    • October 23, 2014 2:35 pm

      Thanks for the referral, Ehsan. I took a quick look but will have to come back to it later. I did read most of “The Age of Reason” by Paine a few years ago… was very impressed by it, and especially that he very accurately quoted or paraphrased many Bible passages without any ability to consult a Bible at the time, being confined in a French prison. A good clear thinker indeed.

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