- Bath Artificial Intelligence

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Wrath of God: Religion, Prosociality and Punishment - Ryan McKay

Tuesday 30th Nov, 5:15pm, 8W 2.30

Religion carries formidable costs. Religious believers must maintain and compartmentalize beliefs that are extravagantly at variance with generally accepted biological, physical and logical principles. Religious rituals, moreover, are often physically taxing and painful, and frequently require the sacrifice of precious resources.

In this presentation I will describe two recent studies that bear, in very different ways, on the question of what forces sustain costly religious practices. The first study investigated whether subliminal religious primes would affect the costly punishment of unfair behaviour. Our finding suggests a mechanism by which fairness norms can be stabilized in large anonymous groups, and supplies a piece to the puzzle of how prosocial religions evolved. Our second study looked at whether costly donations to religious charities are associated with a defensive form of religiosity, in which conscious and unconscious religiosity diverge. I will argue that such donations can be a means of signalling to oneself one's real degree of religious commitment.