Religious actions speak louder than words. Dr. Jonathan Lanman on credibility enhancing displays (CREDs), and the role that such public displays of commitment play in the acquisition of both belief and nonbelief.Actions typically speak louder than words. A common version of this statement - practice ...

About this episode

  Actions typically speak louder than words. A common version of this statement – practice what you preach – is a popular conversational quip, used by the religious and nonreligious alike to scoff hypocrites. In short, action codifies our cognitive sentiments – our beliefs. It is one thing to say you believe and quite another to act “as if” you believe. We typically take some actions (e.g. going to a church) to both entail, and lend credence to certain beliefs (e.g. believing in the Christian God), as opposed to others (e.g. not believing in a god, or believing in Allah). Nonetheless it is quite possible to attend church or participate in ritual without holding belief in a God or gods (c.f. Silver, Coleman, Hood & Holcombe, 2014). Importantly however, acting on our beliefs only lends CREDibility to them, and not veridicality. Conversely, failing to act on a professed belief has the potential to undermine the credibility of said belief (CRUDs): if it is important to attend church, but no one goes – is it really that important to attend? Moreover, if no one is going to church, maybe belief in God is not that important after all? Much of the past research in the cognitive sciences of religion (CSR) has dealt primarily with how abstract symbols (minimally counterintuitive content (MCI); e.g. a talking mouse or invisible entities that can communicate with you) are processed by our mental architecture, and easily transmitted within populations due to their conceptual shape (for a critical review see, Purzycki & Willard, practices what they preach (both in and out of the religious domain), they may be seen as credible sources with which to acquire further information from (Henrich, 2009; Lanman, 2012). In this interview with Thomas Coleman, Dr. Jonathan Lanman highlights the role that public displays of commitment (CREDs & CRUDs) play in the acquisition of both belief and nonbelief. Dr. Lanman begins by discussing his research interests and some of the current work underway at the Institute of Cognition and Culture.  Next, he explains both content and context biases, and briefly outlines the notion of dual-inheritance theory. Importantly, Lanman goes on to emphasize how actions (CREDs), and failing to act (CRUDs), may contribute to the varying levels of religiosity seen throughout the world. In closing, Lanman suggests that while content biases are important for the transmission of religious concepts, they always occur in a given context: “upon initial evidence…[CREDs/CRUDs are] one of the most important factors in determining who ends up a theist and who ends up a nontheist.” You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com, or Amazon.ca links to support us at no additional cost when buying academic texts, buckets o’soldiers, light bulbs, and more.

References

  • Silver, C. F., Coleman, T. J. III, Hood, R. W. Jr., & Holcombe, J. M., (2014) The Six Types of Nonbelief: A qualitative and quantitative study of type and narrative. Mental Health, Religion & Culture. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2014.987743
  • Henrich, J. (2009). The evolution of costly displays, cooperation and religion. Evolution And Human Behavior, 30(4), 244-260. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2009.03.005
  • Lanman, J. (2012). The Importance of Religious Displays for Belief Acquisition and Secularization. Journal Of Contemporary Religion, 27(1), 49-65. doi:10.1080/13537903.2012.642726
  • Purzycki, B. G., & Willard, A. K. (in press). MCI Theory: A Critical Discussion [Target Article with Commentaries]. Religion, Brain and Behavior.

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

Related Resources

The Problem with ‘Religion’ (and related categories)

Podcast

Tim Fitzgerald - a founding figure in the critical study of religion - discusses his career up to his seminal volume, The Ideology of Religious Studies, published twenty years ago this year.
Getting to Know the North American Association for the Study of Religion

Podcast

In this interview, Russell McCutcheon and Aaron Hughes discuss the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR), an international organization dedicated to historical, critical, and social scientific approaches to the study of religion. In this interview, Russell McCutcheon and Aaron Hughes discuss the North American ...
Religious Education

Podcast

For those of us in Britain the question of Religious Education (notionally 'Religious Studies at primary and secondary school level') has become an ever-increasing issue of concern. Just what exactly should RE entail? Should RE be teaching about religion or teaching religion? Who, even, should be RE teachers? In this interview, ...

Responses to this episode

Religion Without Culture is No Religion at All

If content can explain the tendency to hold supernatural beliefs, but cultural learning is required to create religions, then we can make specific predictions about how these things should vary around the world. I’d like to start by thanking Jon Lanman for his insightful description of CREDs, CRUDs, and the larger issue of content and context biases as the foundations of religion.

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Faith Development Theory

Podcast

Over ten years ago, Streib saw applicability to Fowler’s stages, but not in their typical empirical application. Heinz realized that Fowler’s descriptions had descriptive utility in how individuals structure and formalize their belief, but he also recognized that the graduated method of “stages” was empirically and culturally problematic. For Streib, these systems of meaning were not passé or scant in any way, only different.
Invented Religions

Podcast

What is an "Invented Religion"? Why should scholars take these religions seriously? What makes these “inventions” different from the revelations in other religions? What happens when an author does not want their story to become a religious text? You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes.
Situational Belief

Podcast

“Belief” is a critical category in the study of religion. Indeed, for some scholars, it is the very essence of religion; as Clifford Geertz wrote, “To know, one must first believe.” Others, however, see the emphasis on belief as part of the Protestant bias in the development of the discipline, and have proposed various ways of avoiding talking about it at all. In this interview, ...
Doe Daughtrey on Teaching Religious Studies Online

Podcast

As online communications technologies become more pervasive and sophisticated, this provides new opportunities and challenges for the creation of alternative learning environments which may differ in significant ways from traditional face-to-face environments. In this interview, Doe Daughtrey talks to Kevin Whitesides about the issues surrounding this increasingly important aspect of academia.
Material Religion Roundtable

Podcast

What exactly does Material Religion bring to Religious Studies? Is it a potentially revolutionary phenomenon, or merely a passing fad? How might one apply the theoretical perspectives and methodologies developed in this growing field to some of the defining debates of our subject area? To discuss these issues, and reflect on the conference in general,...
Who joins New Religious Movements?

Podcast

In this episode of the Religious Studies Project, Lewis shares some of his views on the study of NRMs. It seems, claims Lewis, that our current generalizations about who joins such movements is based on outdated statistics. It seems no longer to be the case that it is primarily young people who join NMRs, rather joiners’ age has increased during recent decades.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).