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

No, Secularism is not a World Religion

Response

Once we acknowledge that the invention of religion as a universal category and its subsequent critique by the forces of secularism took place under a certain Western provenance, why would we continue expanding the scope and reach of the world religion paradigm?
Sociotheology and Cosmic War

Podcast

Over the course of the last few decades religious violence has become an increasingly salient topic of public discourse and particularly in its global manifestations. In the social sciences these discourses focus primarily on explanations of violent acts that are driven by the socio-political contexts enveloping them.
Stereotyping Religion: Critical Approaches to Pervasive Cliches

Podcast

"Religions are belief systems", "Religions are intrinsically violent", "Religion is Bullshit"... these are just some of the pervasive cliches that we might hear from time to time in the English-speaking world about our central topic of discussion on the RSP, 'religion'.

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

The Burning Saints, Fire-Walking Rituals of the Anastenaria

Podcast

It’s dark outside. The moon hangs in the sky and the soft smell of smoke permeates the warm air as it stings your eyes. Looking down, you notice the glow from burning coals, as hot as 535 degrees C, scattered on the ground below. When Saint Constantine calls you to become a firewalker – you answer - at least if you are one of the Anastenaria.
Christian Reconstruction

Podcast

Rousas John Rushdoony might be one of the most important Christian theologians you've never heard of. In this interview, Professor Michael McVicar discusses Rushdoony and Christian Reconstruction. McVicar gained unprecedented access to Rushdoony's personal files, ...
Vernacular Religion

Podcast

Images of Jesus on a slice of toast; Koran verses in an aubergine; statues which cry blood; Angel Colour cards and Atlantean crystal therapies; popular religious expressions are everywhere. In this interview, Marion Bowman showcases her fascinating research into the ways in which religion permeates everyday life, paying particular attention to the manifestations at the famous Glastonbury Festival.
Religion in a Networked Society

Podcast

On a recent visit to Edinburgh, Louise met with Heidi Campbell to discuss her recent article “Understanding the Relationship between Religion Online and Offline in a Networked Society”, which presents five key traits of the concept of “networked religion”. These are: networked community; storied identities; shifting authority; convergent practice; ...
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, ...
Titus Hjelm on Marxist Approaches to the Study of Religions

Podcast

"The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is indeed the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, state, society. This state and this society produce religion, ...

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).