Belief may have driven societal expansion

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Alembé's picture
Belief may have driven societal expansion

"Belief in punitive gods linked with expansion of human societies."

"Be afraid. Be very afraid. Our civilisation may depend on it.

Complex modern societies may have grown and prospered thanks to a pervading fear of moralistic, all-knowing and, above all, punitive gods."

Johnson sees the paper as "an antidote to the arguments of atheists such as Richard Dawkins. Far from being a poison in society, religion emerges as an evolutionary adaptation that provides societies with “a powerful way of promoting cooperation”.

Hmmm, it's a long way from the lab games to whole societies cooperating. However it may be another illustration of people behaving better because they believe God is watching them.

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Nutmeg's picture
"Complex modern societies may

"Complex modern societies may have grown and prospered by smart power-mad bastards spreading a pervading fear of moralistic, all-knowing and, above all, punitive gods."

There, I fixed it for you. This was the original and best scam in the world: bribe and threaten the weak-minded so they do as they are told.

R_squared's picture
Yuval Noah Harari asserts a

Yuval Noah Harari asserts a similar theory in his book Sapiens. In trying to understand how homo sapiens moved from small collectives of hunter gatherers to larger societies he posits that our ability to imagine structures like corporations, nation states, political parties and religion were the space elevators that allowed us to cooperate on larger scales than a few hundred individuals.
It's a compelling idea, certainly as we gradually moved from a nomadic, or semi nomadic state to a settled agricultural society, religion is a convenient societal glue.
Although there is evidence that pre-agricultural societies may have had complex religious ideas.

But religion isn't the only societal motivator. Lots of abstract concepts play their part, such as money and nationhood.

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