Our cultural comfort zones, when growing up, can be vastly different. We are often led to believe, to varying extents, that the culture we are raised in is the norm. When we encounter other cultures and ideologies, even within our own country, it can take what we thought we knew and flip it upside-down. And if we can adapt to life in these unfamiliar places, it can give us unique insights into how the two cultures split off in the first place.

As part of Sinai and Synapses’ series “More Light, Less Heat,” Sinai and Synapses Fellow Kendra Moore and fellow PhD student Kate Stockly discuss how the assumptions they grew up with were challenged when they turned their gaze outward.

Kendra M. H. Moore is a PhD student at Boston University’s Graduate Division of Religious Studies. She primarily focuses her work on the psychology and neuroscience of religion. She graduated with a Bachelor of Behavioral Sciences from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and subsequently graduated with a Master of Theological Studies from Boston University. Her research centers on the role of the religious imagination and how our knowledge of this role might unveil the cognitive constructs that influence human behavior on an ethical and moral level. This research addresses how central and authoritative religious images (such as concepts of God and afterlife) construct or deconstruct human relationships, institutions, biases, rituals, and ideas of self. Kendra hopes her research can further our understanding of how to be responsible bearers of the concepts that inform our perspectives of the world. When she is not reading and writing, Kendra enjoys being outdoors, and in Boston this often means walking around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir or kayaking and paddleboarding on the Charles River.

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Kate Stockly is a PhD student in the Science, Philosophy, and Religion program. She holds a BA from Pacific Lutheran University in Religion and Psychology (separate majors) with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies and an MA from the University of Washington in Comparative Religion. Her research interests are driven by a desire to develop a well-rounded religious anthropology – to understand how and why humans are homo religiosus. With this goal in mind, she investigates the ways in which the cognitive, neurological, and sociological aspects of human nature culminate in dynamic interaction to contribute to religiosity and religious experience. As a case study, Kate has explored many aspects of American religion and is currently co-authoring a book on evangelical megachurches. Kate is also interested exploring the philosophical assumptions of contemporary neuroscience and biology and the theoretical and theological implications of including scientific methods and data in conversations about religion.

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