Summary of core assumptions underlying the conceptualization of belief in CSR

1 Intuitive assumptions can be distinguished from propositional beliefs

Propositional beliefs are conscious, and metarepresentational states. Beliefs can be separate from intuitive assumptions about the world, which are often automatically generated without conscious reflection. Some beliefs spread more quickly because they are based on intuitive assumptions about the world; others require more social support, such as opportunities for rehearsal.

2 CSR explains the transmission potential of religious ideas

CSR explains the transmission potential of religious ideas. Cross-culturally recurrent beliefs are often based on reflective elaborations on intuitions. These types of beliefs are the most obvious candidates to study from a cognitive perspective.


CSR is also characterized by its distinctive conceptualization of religion and belief. In this chapter, we considered how debates about what religion is do not derail CSR scholars in their empirical attempts to capture recurrent ideas and behaviors. Cognitive and evolutionary scientists categorize beliefs as propositional ideas about the world, which can be contrasted to inherent ideas that all normally developing humans adopt with minimal instruction.

Discussion questions

  • 1 What is religion, according to CSR?
  • 2 How does the approach to conceptualizing religion in CSR differ from others?
  • 3 To what extent do you think CSR explains why people believe in religion?

Selected further reading


  • 1 McCauley, Robert N., and Emma Cohen. “Cognitive science and the naturalness of religion.” Philosophy Compass 5, no. 9 (2010): 779—792.
  • 2 McKay, Ryan, and Harvey Whitehouse. “Religion and morality.” Psychological Bulletin 141, no. 2 (2015): 447.

3 Pyysiainen, Ilkka. “Intuitive and explicit in religious thought.” Journal of Cognition and Culture 4, no. 1 (2004): 123—150.


  • 1 Jensen, Jeppe Sinding. What is religion? Routledge, 2019.
  • 2 Pals, Daniel L. Nine theories of religion Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.