The Modeling Religion Project (MRP) kicks off at the Virginia Modeling, Analysis, & Simulation Center (VMASC), bringing together a group of computer experts and religion scholars. The project aims to use the scientific study of religion to build computer models of religious beliefs and behaviors. The project applies social simulation to the study of religion to test academic theories and see if they are reflective of the real world. The team hopes to make a simulation platform that scholars from any discipline can use to test theories and hypotheses, without knowing any programming language. Through background on modeling, a historical look at the scientific study of religion, and the use of agents, the scholars can combine their knowledge and build models that show religious social processes.
The MRP team members recognize that religion is difficult to model, because many aspects of religion are informed by psychology, cognition, institutions, cultures, embodied experience, and many other complexities. Even so, the scholars are eager to model the aspects of religion that can be simulated, and they hope to find the “sweet spot” in relevant details to inform the model, but also find unique insight through the models. The scholars discuss the future of modeling and how they may better understand human religious interactions if they are able to successfully complete the project.