RVI2175 - Explaining religion: Why are people religious?


Examination arrangement

Examination arrangement: Assignment
Grade: Letter grades

Evaluation Weighting Duration Grade deviation Examination aids
Assignment 100/100

Course content

Why are people religious? Believe it or not, scholars have some pretty good answers to this question. This course will give students tools to explain the origins and persistence of religion to the present day. The tools come from the fields of evolutionary and cognitive science of religion. If religion is anything, it is both a cultural and a biological phenomenon. In this course we will read a few classic texts from this area of research, in addition to texts that exemplify the state of the art of research today. Students will have the option to follow either a theoretical or methodological trajectory in the course. All students will assess and critically evaluate theories that explain the origin and persistence of religion. Students that follow the theory trajectory will try to devise a theory of their own to explain religion. Students that follow the methods trajectory will develop an experiment that tests a theory or an element of a theory. Such knowledge can be extended beyond the field of religion to other phenomena.

Learning outcome

According to the course curriculum, a candidate who passes this course is expected to have the following learning outcome (defined as knowledge and skills):


The candidate has attained

  • a broad understanding of theories in the evolutionary and cognitive science of religion (CSR)
  • a broad understanding of methods in the evolutionary and cognitive science of religion (CSR)
  • knowledge of what constitutes scientific explanation
  • insight into recent research pertaining to the questions above


The candidate has acquired skills to:

  • analyze, compare and criticize theories from CSR
  • analyze, compare and criticize methods from CSR
  • analyze the construction of the following categories: religion, nature, technology and science
  • operationalize state of the art theories from CSR into experimental settings
  • apply tools from the mind sciences to cultural and religious studies
  • ability to update his/her own knowledge of the disciplines research questions
  • do interdisciplinary scientific research

Learning methods and activities

The teaching consists of lectures and seminars. The lectures and seminars aim at outlining broad frameworks for thinking about the issues that are treated in the course readings.

In order to sit the exam students have to attend at least 80 % of the lectures and seminars, and get up to three oral presentations approved. For more information on the obligatory activity, see Blackboard. The obligatory activity can only be approved in the semester when the course is taught, but is valid in this and the subsequent term.

Compulsory assignments

  • Approved obligatory activity

Further on evaluation

The exam consists of a written assignment (8000 words).

Required previous knowledge


Course materials

The required reading list will be available at the beginning of the semester.

More on the course

Version: 1
Credits:  15.0 SP
Study level: Intermediate course, level II


Term no.: 1
Teaching semester:  AUTUMN 2024

Language of instruction: English

Location: Trondheim

Subject area(s)
  • Comparative Religion
Contact information
Course coordinator:

Department with academic responsibility
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies


Examination arrangement: Assignment

Term Status code Evaluation Weighting Examination aids Date Time Examination system Room *
Autumn ORD Assignment 100/100 INSPERA
Room Building Number of candidates
Spring ORD Assignment 100/100 INSPERA
Room Building Number of candidates
  • * The location (room) for a written examination is published 3 days before examination date. If more than one room is listed, you will find your room at Studentweb.

For more information regarding registration for examination and examination procedures, see "Innsida - Exams"

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