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Palgrave Macmillan

The New Sciences of Religion

Exploring Spirituality from the Outside In and Bottom Up

ISBN 9780230114746
Publication Date November 2010
Formats Ebook (PDF) Paperback Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

The New Sciences of Religion is a critical analysis of new scientific research on religious and spiritual phenomena. William Grassie takes a two-staged phenomenological approach working from the "outside in" and the "bottom up" without privileging at the outset any religious traditions or philosophical assumptions. Using insights from economics, evolutionary psychology, the neurosciences, and medicine, Grassie develops a complex and multifaceted understanding of religion as potentially functional and dysfunctional in specific contexts, differentially so for individuals and groups. The New Sciences of Religion then asks what in religion and spirituality might also be true and profound when our received traditions are reinterpreted in light of contemporary sciences. In contrast to the New Atheists, Grassie argues for a concept of God-by-whatever-name that is fully compatible with contemporary science and the reinterpretation of traditional religions. In the end, there is no grand unified theory of religion and none of the many scientific explanations of religion preclude that religions have intuited, experienced, and discovered true and profound insights into the nature of ultimate reality and human existence. This is an original and compelling scientific interpretation of religion and also a religious interpretation of science that will challenge and delight students and scholars alike.

William Grassie is founder of the Metanexus Institute, which works to promote the constructive engagement of religion and science. He received his doctorate in religion from Temple University in 1994 and his B.A. from Middlebury College in 1979. Grassie has taught in a variety of positions at Temple University, Swarthmore College, the University of Pennsylvania, City College of New York, and Pendle Hill.

PART I: RELIGION FROM THE OUTSIDE IN * The Challenge of Comparative Religion * The Old Sciences of Religion * The Economics of Religion * The Evolution of Religion * The Neurosciences of Religion * The Medicine of Religion * PART II: RELIGION FROM THE BOTTOM UP * The Narratives of Religion * The New Religion of Science * God-by-Whatever-Name * Reiterations and Reflections


"A typically colorful and significantly original approach to religion, as contemporary science interprets it. It is rare to find a book that covers so wide a range of scientific approaches to religion, and Grassie does so without falling prey to reductionism of either the scientific or the theological kinds. A remarkable achievement." - Wesley J. Wildman, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics, Boston University and the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion"Grassie's new book is a timely and much needed contribution to religious scholarship. The author makes a strong case that various scientific approaches may contribute to the understanding of religion but that scientific claims to have fully illuminated religions have been considerably overblown at times. This work will prove to be of great value for scholars of religion as well as for philosophers, scientists, students, and other educated readers. Strongly recommended." - Johh F. Haught, Distinguished Research Professor and Senior Fellow of Science and Religion, Georgetown University"The significance of this work lies in the fact that it brings together in one accessible volume relevant scientific materials that are very up-to-date, materials that have not heretofore been assembled in a single work, and it relates those materials to the profound questions concerning the study of religion - both historically and in contemporary times. Furthermore, it engages its readers with a creative set of proposals for making sense of the mass of material it surveys. They enable the reader (including this reader) to move on to further study and reflection." - Philip Hefner, Professor of Theology Emeritus, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago; past editor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science"Grassie transcends the current conflict between religion and science to form a new synthesis that offers maximum support to both cultures (in the words of C.P. Snow). No current work has succeeded in this reconciliation and, given Grassie's background both in terms of academic training and life experience, no one of whom I know is more qualified to succeed. Unlike prevoious efforts of this magnitude, Grassie preserves rather than negates the independent autonomy of traditional religions. It is an argument I will be happy to endorse both because it seems right and because it in no way compromises my commitment to Judaism. On the contrary, it enhances that commitment." - Norbert Samuelson, Harold and Jean Grossman Chair of Jewish Studies at Arizona State University"From his experience leading Metanexus, Grassie has long been in a privileged position to see (and sometimes to see through) what multiple sciences have been claiming when they attempt to explain (maybe trying to explain away) religious belief. From outside in and from bottom up, comprehensively, he is quite sure-footed in keeping the dialogue open or, as he says, 'functional.' Religions can be enriched by sciences; sciences can remain open to the insights of faith." - Holmes Rolston, III, University Distinguished Professor, Colorado State University
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