Religion 21st Century

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Cognitive Boxes - Religious Beliefs

To make sense of how humans operate, you have to look closely about how individuals learn, how they depend on local groups for guidance and support and how they organize cognitive structures. You have to understand the differences among cognitive categories such as knowledge, facts, opinions and beliefs.

One idea that makes sense only when you look closely at yourself and others around you is that each person acquires cognitive containers that permit learning but also limit what is learned and understood. Some people acquire a lot of knowledge and skills and can move easily from one cognitive contained to another. Others have a limited number of containers and have difficulty moving from one to another. You can play with the idea of cognitive boxes and develop a better understanding of yourself and others.

Religious beliefs are collected in a cognitive container that resists change. Inside a religious container, you are consumed by the specific language and beliefs of the religion, its symbols, assumptions and claims. Inside the religion container, you have costumes, rituals and celebrations that can be enjoyable and reassuring; however, fixed beliefs and beliefs systems are cognitive cocoons.

The concept of a large cognitive container such as “Christianity” is not realistic; Christianity has a thousand sub containers and each of these has a thousand more. The final sub containers are individual minds, each with its own cognitive boxes. If you examine the subdivisions of a ‘world religion” with a zoom lens, as you zoom into local areas, you see more and more differences, arguments, and disputes. You never find consensus.

If you zoom down to individuals who belong to local groups you see them competing with each other, arguing, and failing to reach agreements on important issues. The big divisions are well known and big disagreements are stable over centuries. The smaller disagreements are in flux; some subside others proliferate. There are infinite possibilities for arguments and finite possibilities for consensus.

Sometimes the larva trapped inside a religious cocoon enjoys a metamorphosis and emerges as a butterfly that can fly far away and enjoy a new life with new friends, and new freedom. True freedom is to live without beliefs and to invent your own community. In the ecstatic religions, the whole point of spiritual exercise is to fly away.


  • Religion for the 21st Century is available as an eBook download. The book is intended for a well-educated smart reader who is interested in a world view of religious expressions past, present and future. The main theme is that each religious group has its own claims and stories and will tend to reject others. A reader committed to one point of view may not accept the egalitarian review presented here. Innate tendencies are expressed as religions and in the past have created conflicts that hinder progress towards the real and true. The book examines paths for religious renewal in the 21st century.

    The author is Stephen Gislason

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    Print Books Read Topics Download
      Human Nature
    Good Person - Ethics
    Pieces of Puzzle
    Sound of Music
      Surviving Human Nature
      Language & Thinking
      I and Thou
      Emotions & Feelings
      Neuroscience Notes
    Children & Family
    Intelligence, Learning
      Religion 21st Century

    The Psychology & Philosophy series was developed by Persona Digital Books. All rights to reproduction by any means are reserved. We encourage readers to quote and paraphrase topics from Religion for the 21st Century, published online and expect citations to accompany all derivative writings. The author is Stephen Gislason. Persona Digital is located at Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada.

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