Publication details

Moralizing gods, impartiality and religious parochialism across 15 societies

Authors

LANG Martin PURZYCKI Benjamin G APICELLA Coren L ATKINSON Quentin D BOLYANATZ Alexander COHEN Emma HANDLEY Carla KUNDTOVÁ KLOCOVÁ Eva LESOROGOL Carolyn MATHEW Sarah MCNAMARA Rita A MOYA Cristina PLACEK Caitlyn D SOLER Montserrat VARDY Thomas WEIGEL Jonathan L WILLARD Aiyana K XYGALATAS Dimitris NORENZAYAN Ara HENRICH Joseph

Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Proceedings of the Royal Society B
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Citation
WWW https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.0202
Doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.0202
Keywords impartiality; parochialism; supernatural punishment; cultural evolution; religion; punishing gods
Description The emergence of large-scale cooperation during the Holocene remains a central problem in the evolutionary literature. One hypothesis points to culturally evolved beliefs in punishing, interventionist gods that facilitate the extension of cooperative behaviour toward geographically distant co-religionists. Furthermore, another hypothesis points to such mechanisms being constrained to the religious ingroup, possibly at the expense of religious outgroups. To test these hypotheses, we administered two behavioural experiments and a set of interviews to a sample of 2228 participants from 15 diverse populations. These populations included foragers, pastoralists, horticulturalists, and wage labourers, practicing Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism, but also forms of animism and ancestor worship. Using the Random Allocation Game (RAG) and the Dictator Game (DG) in which individuals allocated money between themselves, local and geographically distant co-religionists, and religious outgroups, we found that higher ratings of gods as monitoring and punishing predicted decreased local favouritism (RAGs) and increased resource-sharing with distant co-religionists (DGs). The effects of punishing and monitoring gods on outgroup allocations revealed between-site variability, suggesting that in the absence of intergroup hostility, moralizing gods may be implicated in cooperative behaviour toward outgroups. These results provide support for the hypothesis that beliefs in monitoring and punitive gods help expand the circle of sustainable social interaction, and open questions about the treatment of religious outgroups.
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