Thomas B. Ellis


Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania (Phila., PA) – Religious Studies

M.A. University of Pennsylvania (Phila., PA) – Asian and Middle Eastern Studies – Indology

B.A. University of South Carolina (Cola., SC) – Religious Studies

Research Interests

South Asian religious and philosophical traditions (classical and contemporary); psychology and biology of religion; infectious disease and culture; secular humanism; methods and theories in the study of religion



  • 2022. Religion, Disease, and Immunology. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • 2013. On the Death of the Pilgrim: The Postcolonial Hermeneutics of Jarava Lal Mehta. New York, NY: Springer.

Journal Articles 

  • 2018. “Let's Get Physical: The Ethology of Religious Submissions and Intimidations,” Body and Religion 1:2, 148-168.
  • 2016. “Of Gods and Devils: Differential Cognition and the Adaptive Illusions of Control,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 28, 479-511
  • 2015. “Evoked Puja: The Behavioral Ecology of an Equatorial Ritual,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 83:4, 1108-1156.
  • 2012. “Growing Up amid the Religion and Science Affair: A Perspective from Indology,” Zygon 47:3, 589-607.
  • 2011. “Chasing Cosmic Tennis Balls,” Bulletin for the Study of Religion 40:4, 11-14.
  • 2011 “Disgusting Bodies, Disgusting Religion: The Biology of Tantra,” Journal of the  American Academy of Religion 79:4, 879-927.
  • 2009. "Teaching and Learning Guide for: On Spirituality: Natural and Non-natural," Religion Compass 3:6, 1042-1047.
  • 2009. “I Love You, I Hate You: Toward a Psychology of the Hindu Deus Absconditus,” International Journal of Hindu Studies 13:1, 1-23.
  • 2008. “On Spirituality: Natural and Non-natural,” Religion Compass 2:6, 1117-1138.
  • 2008. “Of And and Of: The Politics of Grammar and the Study of Religion,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 20:3, 270-290.
  • 2008. “The Meta-ethics of Viraha Bhakti in the Philosophical Writings of J. L. Mehta,” Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 16:2, 71-91.
  • 2005. “Imagining a Theory: Questioning the Eschatological and Soteriological  Motivations in Gananath Obeyesekere’s Imagining Karma,” Journal of Ritual Studies 19.2, 153-158.

Book Chapters

  • 2017. “India and European Philosophy” in Routledge History of Indian Philosophy, ed. by P.  Bilimoria, R. King, and G. Petterson.  New York: Routledge.
  • 2016. “Disgusting Bodies, Disgusting Religion: The Biology of Tantra” in Religion, Sexuality, and Spirituality, ed. by Carole M. Cusack and Jason H. Prior. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • 2010. “On the Death of the Pilgrim: The Postcolonial Hermeneutics of Jarava Lal Mehta”in Postcolonial Philosophy of Religion, ed. by P. Bilimoria & A. B. Irvine.  New York, NY: Springer
  • 2009. “Natural Gazes, Non-natural Agents: The Biology of Religion’s Ocular Behaviors” in The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion, ed. J. R. Feierman. Westport, CT.: Praeger Press


  • 2019. Review of Matthew Slouber, Early Tantric Medicine: Snakebite, Mantras, and Healing in the Garuda Tantras (Oxford University Press, 2016) in Journal of Asian Studies.
  • 2019. Review of Leonardo Ambasciano, An Unnatural History of Religions: Academia, Post-Truth and the Quest for Scientific Knowledge (Bloomsbury, 2019) in Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

  • 2018. Review of Stephen K. Sanderson, Religious Evolution and the Axial Age: From Shamans to Priests to Prophets (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018) in Reading Religion.
  • 2017. Review of Jonathan Jong and Jamin Halberstadt, Death Anxiety and Religious Belief:  An Existential Psychology of Religion (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016) in Reading Religion.
  • 2016. Review of D. Jason Slone and James A. Van Slyke, The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Psychology of Religion (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), in Religious Studies Review 42(2).
  • 2008. Review of Wei Zhang’s Heidegger, Rorty, and the Eastern Thinkers (Albany: SUNY Press, 2006) in Sophia 47, 253-255.
Title: Professor of Religious Studies
Department: Philosophy and Religion

Email address: Email me

Phone: (828) 262-7780

Office address
I. G. Greer Hall 220