Boyer to study ‘wild religions’


Pascal Boyer, the Henry Luce Professor of Collective and Individual Memory in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, along with collaborators at the University of Oxford and California State University, won a $2 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust for research examining the success of religions within a psychological context.

The project focuses on “wild” religions, characterized as those that spread naturally among people without strict doctrines, in contrast to institutionalized religions such as Christianity and Islam. This grant builds upon a previous project funded by Templeton.

“Wild” religions are built on cultural beliefs that arise from instinctual responses to one’s environment, like the fear of a predator at night, Boyer said. The folk customs that respond to these beliefs include examples of divination, shamanism and appeasing ancestral spirits. Boyer hopes a main takeaway of this project will be destigmatization of folk traditions.

Read more about the project in The Ampersand.

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