This grant will support one year of a new podcast, hosted and curated by David DeSteno, that will be produced and marketed by PRX. The podcast is titled "How God Works," and will consist of two seasons of 8 episodes each.
In How God Works, DeSteno intends to lead listeners on an adventure of discovery (and for many, self-discovery) to reveal how religious practices help people meet the challenges of life. In each episode, he'll focus on how rituals or practices have been used for centuries to address specific problems (e.g., grief, character building, transitions to adulthood, health problems). What makes How God Works unique, though, is that DeSteno will approach each issue through the eyes of a scientist, interweaving psychology, neuroscience and other disciplines with interviews of religious leaders, to illuminate not only the scientific reasons each of these rituals and practices work, but also if, how, and when they can be used to help anyone, regardless of their faith (or lack of faith).
As its title suggests, this podcast can be listened to in one of two ways. One: god works, in the sense that religion has “technological” elements (like an “iron-works”) that shape the human mind on a deep level. Or two: God works, in the sense that religion is effective: when used appropriately, it can often lead to a better life. For believers, the podcast offers an opportunity to see the divine’s influence in shaping how the mind functions. For agnostics or atheists, the podcast provides a window into how long-standing, culturally-transmitted practices evolved to nudge human nature toward its better angels and a more harmonious life. In either case, How God Works will offer practical insight for listeners at whatever point on the path of life or belief they find themselves.
The podcast's final goal is to foster respectful conversations between scientists and religious leaders, and in so doing, reveal them as complementary.