9 Part Series: What are emotions? Can an all knowing, all powerful, perfectly good God have them? What would that mean? --This series takes us into the budding field of affective science and then, fortified with a better understanding of emotions, we turn to examine traditional or orthodox Christian concepts of God.
What is the mental machinery that lets us form beliefs? What does evidence and reason have to do with it?
The more we learn bout the hardware and operating systeams of the human brain--the more we understand about human information processing--the more we glean bits of insight into the religious mind:
• How does the structure of human information processing pre-dispose us to religious thinking? Given how our minds work, what kinds of religious beliefs are possible and what kinds are we immune to?
• How do we know what we know? What gives us a feeling of certainty? What is the relation between reason, evidence, and our sense of knowing?
• How do conversion experiences work? What makes religious conversion transformative?
• How does our social group influence or even control our religious beliefs? How do beliefs get transmitted from one person to another?
• Why do missionaries target children? How does religious identity develop in childhood? How is belief in childhood different from belief acquired as an adult?
• What makes beliefs resistant to change? What causes people to lose belief? When are people open to reexamining religious assumptions?
Why is belief so wide-spread and powerful? The traditional Christian answer is: because it's true, and people who haven't hardened their hearts against God recognize this when God's plan of salvation is presented to them.
But cognitive science offers a new way to look at this question, not from a moral or theological standpoint but from a practical standpoint.