Todd Tremlin

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Comparative Religion

First Advisor

Dr. E. Thomas Lawson

Second Advisor

Dr. Brian C. Wilson

Third Advisor

Dr. Susanne Mrozik

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only


Understanding how human mind/brains work bears directly on the study of religion. One line of investigation being pursued by cognitivists is the relation of mental processes to forms of religiosity. Harvey Whitehouse proposes a distinction between two dichotomous "modes of religiosity" - the "doctrinal" and the "imagistic." This paper critiques Whitehouse's modal theory and explains religious modality on the basis of religious conceptualization. Chapter I reviews Whitehouse's ethnographic research and modal theory. Chapter II examines Whitehouse's theory in light of Robert McCauley and E. Thomas Lawson's work connecting the representation of superhuman agents with religious action. Chapter III uses recent findings from cognitive science to expand on the centrality of the representation of superhuman agents for discussions of religion at any level. Chapter IV outlines a theory of religious modulation that utilizes McCauley and Lawson's "Principle of Superhuman Immediacy" to explain the arising of religious modes and to isolate the cognitive mechanism that causes modulations between them. The thesis of this study is that the immediacy of superhuman agents gives rise to religious modality and directs occurrences of modulation within religious systems.

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