Language and Religion offers an innovative theory of religion as a class of cultural representations, dependent on language to unify diverse capacities of the human mind. It argues that religion is widespread because it is implicit in the way the mind processes the world, as it determines what we ought to do, practically and morally, to achieve our goals. Focusing on the world religions, the book relates modern cognitive theories of language and communication to culture and its dissemination. It explains basic features of religion such as the supernatural, the normative, abstract and ideal theological concepts such as 'God', and religious feeling. It develops a linguistic theory, based on how utterances are understood, of metaphysical and moral 'mysteries' and their key role in thought and action. It shows how such concepts gain strength in the light of their successful use and, when tempered by criticism, can also have genuine authority.
William Downes is currently Adjunct Professor of English and Linguistics, Glendon College, York University, Toronto and formerly lectured in linguistics at the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, and the University of East Anglia, Norwich.
Introduction; 1. A cognitive theory of religion; 2. The supernatural and the uses of the intentional; 3. Dissemination and the comprehension of mysteries; 4. Pragmatics and pragmatism; 5. Authority; 6. Conceptual innovation and revelatory language.