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The Psychology of Religion: Religious Belief and the Mind

Why do people believe in religious claims? How does religious belief influence a person's interaction with the world? And where does what many call "spirituality" and "spiritual experience" fit into all of this? A panel including scientist-come-philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, CFI's Michael De Dora Jr., and NYU's Zoran Josipovic, Ph.D., will tackle these questions and more. Admission is free and open to the public. A Q&A session will follow the presentations from the panelists. This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Inquiry | New York City and the NYU Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers. Panelists: Massimo Pigliucci is a Professor of Philosophy and chair of the philosophy department at the City University of New York-Lehman College. His research is concerned with philosophy of science, the relationship between science and philosophy, and the relationship between science and religion. He received a Doctorate in Genetics from the University of Ferrara in Italy, a PhD in Botany from the University of Connecticut, and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee. He has published over a hundred technical papers, several books, has columns in the magazines Philosophy Now and Skeptical Inquirer, and pens the "Rationally Speaking" blog. His upcoming book will be released in the spring, and is entitled Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk.

Zoran Josipovic, Ph.D., is a research scientist and an adjunct professor at the Center for Neural Science and Psychology Department at New York University. His main interests are the nature of consciousness and its relation to the brain, global versus local theories of consciousness, and the functioning of anti-correlated neural networks. Zoran is a long-term practitioner of meditation, has taught meditation at Esalen Institute for many years, and has worked as a psychotherapist.

Michael De Dora Jr. is executive director of the New York City branch of the Center for Inquiry (CFI), serving as a public voice for a thinktank that advocates for science, reason, free inquiry and humanist values. He is also political science graduate student at City University of New York-Brooklyn College, where he studies philosophy and government. Michael spent his undergraduate years at the SUNY Albany, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and Communication Theory.

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  • Nina

    The first speaker, Massimo Pigliucci, was great. His speech was concise and engaging. I lost sight of the general direction of the second speaker, Zoran Josipovic's speech but he tied it in at the end because he was short on time. There was a small technical problem viewing a short video on the projector so that may have disrupted his flow. The last speaker who filled in for Jennifer Hecht, Michael —I can't remember his last name— was interesting too. I enjoyed the topic about how religious beliefs affect politics. He was a little nervous at first but got the hang of it soon enough.

    In the Q&A session, I will admit, I was more interested in hearing Massimo speak but some may have felt that he took up most of the discussion and Zoran didn't get to speak much but Massimo's topic was broader than Zoran's and therefore allowed more room for debate/questions.

    November 17, 2009

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