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This Week in World Religion 2018–07–29


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/07/29

“ Robin Williams was a comedy legend. Known for his hyper energy and spot-on impressions, he was a successful stand-up comedian, sitcom sensation, and celebrated actor. In 2014 Williams tragically committed suicide. The spotlight has returned to his life and death with the HBO documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind. However, there is one question that defies a clear answer: what religion was Robin Williams?

The Hidden Religion Of Comedian Robin Williams TWEET THIS Robin Williams’ parents were Episcopalian and Christian Scientist. He identified as an Episcopalian in some interviews. He described his faith as “Catholic lite: the same religion, half the guilt.” But he never was seen publicly describing religious tendencies in great detail. Given how open the actor was about his personal life, this seemed unusual. Part of the explanation could be his distance and strained relationship with his father. William’s father was gone for a large percentage of his life and was reserved in giving emotional support to his son.”


“WASHINGTON — As an elementary-school student, Ken Marcus once wandered down a street just outside his predominantly Jewish hometown of Sharon, Mass., when a group of children spotted him.

“They started throwing rocks and yelled for me to go back to my ‘Jew town,’” he recalled in an interview this week.

The episode, Mr. Marcus said, shaped his…”


“SOME people believe that a religious country would not be able to enjoy economic prosperity. In other words, as a nation grows more religious, it may have lower economic growth, whereas a more secular country that has civil liberties and political rights may have better economic growth.

Traditional values emphasise the importance of religion, respect for authority and family values. African and South Asian countries, such as Zimbabwe, Morocco, Bangladesh and Malaysia, are considered to have high traditional values.

Secular-rational values are the opposite. Ex-communist countries (Russia, Bulgaria and Ukraine), European (Germany, France and Switzerland) and English-speaking countries (Britain, Canada and Australia) are those with high secular-rational values.

There are few notable observations on the relationship between religion and economic wealth.”


“As an evolutionary psychologist who has only fairly recently started really focusing on religion, I’ve been impressed by what a difficult topic religion actually is. Religious systems are complex, cross-culturally diverse, and hard to define. Religions vary in whether or not they explicitly evoke a concept of god(s), for instance, and religious social systems often swallow up other kinds of social systems that are not themselves inherently religious. For example, systems of morality, ritual, philosophy, and community can get tangled up with religion in some societies, but exist independently of religion in others. So it can be challenging to identify the essence of religion cross-culturally: what’s unique about the kind of worldview we consider ‘religious’, that sets it apart from ‘non-religious’ worldviews? Adding to the confusion are concepts like ‘spirituality’, which can seem very similar to religiosity in some but not all respects.

Despite the complexity of religion, I think there’s one way of conceptualizing it that does a particularly good job of capturing its essence. To describe this concept, I’ll use the term ‘existential theory of mind’. This specific term was coined by psychologist Jesse Bering [1], but as a general concept, existential theory of mind has been researched by many evolutionary and cognitive psychologists of religion.”



In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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