Is Christianity Natural?

In 2011 and 2012, I attended two seminars at Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Michigan) on the cognitive science of religion and Christianity. The seminars were led by Justin Barrett (then at Oxford, now at Fuller).

The goal I had in mind was to develop a top-notch project proposal that would bridge the gap between the cognitive science of religion on the one hand and the philosophy of religion and systematic theology on the other.

The two seminars were excellent. They were very stimulating and we were forced to work extremely hard (we had to read a pile of about 10 books on the subject and a reader of about 600 pages of densely written research articles). I am extremely grateful that I was allowed this opportunity.

For me, the end result was a couple of articles, and a top-notch project proposal that I submitted to the Netherlands Foundation for Scientific Research (NWO) in the end of 2011. The external referees gave the project A+, A+, A+, and A/A+. Yet, the committee that was hired to judge the papers decided in their immeasurable wisdom to overrule the external referees and decided not to fund the project. This was around May 2012.

After that I was contacted by the Templeton World Charity Foundation to submit the project in a different form. I collaborated with a professor in Philosophy of Mind and another postdoc and we transformed the NWO-proposal to another top-notch project proposal. With the end result that without any motivation, the Templeton Foundation decided not to fund the proposal. All of this was in June of this year.

The upshot of all this is that I have now been out of work for almost a year now (though I haven’t been inactive). Because the financial crisis is still raging in the Netherlands, work at universities is very scarce and competition is brutal.

Anyway, complaining does not help and is also not what I had in mind with this blog post.

The intention of the seminars was that there would be a capstone conference, which took place in last September, at Seattle Pacific University. Because I had no funds available to make the trip to the US, I have not been able to attend the conference. However, it turns out that the plenary lectures and the sessions in which the seminar participants presented their work, are now online and can be viewed by anyone who is interested in the question whether Christianity is natural. Speakers include Robert McCauley (who lectures about his brilliant book Why Religion is Natural and Science Is Not) and Justin Barrett.

Here are the videos in the appropriate order:

Open Plenary session


Session I


Session II


Session III


Session IV


Session V


Closing Plenary Session