Moralizing gods, impartiality and religious parochialism across 15 societies

Martin Lang, Benjamin G. Purzycki, Coren L. Apicella, Quentin D. Atkinson, Alexander Bolyanatz, Emma Cohen, Carla Handley, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Carolyn Lesorogol, Sarah Mathew, Rita A. McNamara, Cristina Moya, Caitlyn D. Placek, Montserrat Soler, Thomas Vardy, Jonathan L. Weigel, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ara Norenzayan, Joseph Henrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages1
JournalProceedings. Biological sciences
Volume286
Issue number1898
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 13 2019

Fingerprint

cooperative behavior
Cooperative Behavior
Hinduism
Buddhism
Christianity
cooperatives
Hostility
Monitoring
monitoring
Salaries and Fringe Benefits
Interpersonal Relations
Random Allocation
horticulturists
Population
Wages
Interviews
wage
ancestry
interviews
Holocene

Keywords

  • cultural evolution
  • impartiality
  • parochialism
  • punishing gods
  • religion
  • supernatural punishment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Cite this

Lang, M., Purzycki, B. G., Apicella, C. L., Atkinson, Q. D., Bolyanatz, A., Cohen, E., ... Henrich, J. (2019). Moralizing gods, impartiality and religious parochialism across 15 societies. Proceedings. Biological sciences, 286(1898). https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.0202

Moralizing gods, impartiality and religious parochialism across 15 societies. / 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.

In: Proceedings. Biological sciences, Vol. 286, No. 1898, 13.03.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lang, M, Purzycki, BG, Apicella, CL, Atkinson, QD, Bolyanatz, A, Cohen, E, Handley, C, Kundtová Klocová, E, Lesorogol, C, Mathew, S, McNamara, RA, Moya, C, Placek, CD, Soler, M, Vardy, T, Weigel, JL, Willard, AK, Xygalatas, D, Norenzayan, A & Henrich, J 2019, 'Moralizing gods, impartiality and religious parochialism across 15 societies', Proceedings. Biological sciences, vol. 286, no. 1898. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.0202
Lang M, Purzycki BG, Apicella CL, Atkinson QD, Bolyanatz A, Cohen E et al. Moralizing gods, impartiality and religious parochialism across 15 societies. Proceedings. Biological sciences. 2019 Mar 13;286(1898). https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.0202
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. / Moralizing gods, impartiality and religious parochialism across 15 societies. In: Proceedings. Biological sciences. 2019 ; Vol. 286, No. 1898.
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