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date: 03 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes an evolutionary model of religion called “charismatic signaling.” The theory focuses on features of religion that express automated within-group cooperation—that is, cooperation that does not rely on strategic reasoning or explicit social prediction. The model is interesting because it explains otherwise puzzling features of religious systems. Such puzzles range from intrinsic religious motivations to ritual human sacrifice as evolved adaptations for social coordination. An additional virtue of the model is that it explains the reliability of cooperation with strangers who cannot observe or assess cooperative intentions directly or by reputation. The chapter describes the intellectual motivations for charismatic signaling theory and outlines ethnographic and historical puzzles the theory solves.

Keywords: evolution, cooperation, costly signaling, charismatic signaling, aposematic signaling, religion, syncretism, ritual

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