2011 - Why are humans religious? An interdisciplinary symposium


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Du lundi 6 juin 2011 au mercredi 8 juin 2011

First international symposium of the Interfacultary Department of Religious Studies (DIHSR)


Johannes.Bronkhorst@unil.ch et Ruth.Satinsky@unil.ch


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Many academics study religion, but few address the question why humans are religious to begin with. Why do human beings dedicate so much effort, so many resources, and often so much suffering to behaviors that to those outside their tradition appear useless and fruitless? Are there hidden gains? If so, which are they? And do they benefit individual practitioners or rather the groups to which they belong? Alternatively, is religion the by-product of other features that make us human? If so, which ones? Is it possible that religion is the unavoidable outcome of our capacity to use language? Or symbolic thought? Finally, is the assumption that all (or most) humans are religious correct? Do all humans share beliefs and activities that can reasonably be covered by the single term “religion”? Is this not rather a term that we conveniently use to designate a variety of features and activities that have nothing in common?

These questions are fundamental to the study of religion. They are rarely addressed directly. The symposium will bring specialists together from a number of different fields — history of religion, anthropology, cognitive science, psychology, psychiatry, biology, linguistics, etc. Its aim is to find answers to at least some of these questions.

Anthropole - CH-1015 Lausanne
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