Unifying my research on religion is a tendency to see religion in a historical and natural historical perspective, as would a naturalist—or a Humean. For me, this has meant that approaching beliefs like “Belief in God is justified” is best done by first answering questions about psychological, physiological, and social functions of beliefs about God (or about the justification for belief in God). Oftentimes, issues about the rationality of belief in God are best pursued through historical contexts since that allows fallible human beings to set aside many but not all our biases. My hope is to demonstrate to an interdisciplinary field of religious researchers techniques that can identify and ferret out biases that often block discovery and dissemination of knowledge about religion and philosophy of religion.
To this end, I've written papers (on my own, with Robert Callergård, and with Justin Barrett) on belief in God during the sweeping changes of the 18th century that chart maneuvers in debates about belief in God, especially as they responded to scientific progress. Wondering whether natural events alter religious beliefs, I've studied the relationship between the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and (contrary to historians of the 18th century) the uptick in religious belief that resulted. As a teacher, I noticed that students rarely change their religious belief after the presentation of counterevidence. So I conducted a psychological study that tested hypotheses about the contemplation of the problem of evil for God's existence and its affect on religious belief. I wrote a paper (with Paul Draper) that argued that the philosophy of religion is subject to extreme biases, biases that serve as defeaters for the religious beliefs of many philosophers of religion. I also conducted a psychological study (with Jen Wright) that revealed a new moral bias against atheists.