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Cultural EvolutionSociety, Technology, Language, and Religion$
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Peter J. Richerson and Morton H. Christiansen

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780262019750

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262019750.001.0001

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The Evolution of Prosocial Religions

The Evolution of Prosocial Religions

Chapter:
(p.335) 17 The Evolution of Prosocial Religions
Source:
Cultural Evolution
Author(s):

Edward Slingerland

Joseph Henrich

Ara Norenzayan

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262019750.003.0017

Building on foundations from the cognitive science of religion, this chapter synthesizes theoretical insights and empirical evidence concerning the processes by which cultural evolutionary processes driven by intergroup competition may have shaped the package of beliefs, rituals, practices, and institutions that constitute modern world religions. Five different hypothesized mechanisms are presented through which cultural group selection may have operated to increase the scale of cooperation, expand the sphere of trustworthy interactions, galvanize group solidarity, and sustain group-beneficial beliefs and practices. The mechanisms discussed involve extravagant displays, supernatural monitoring and incentives, ritual practices, fictive kinship, and moral realism. Various lines of supporting evidence are reviewed and archaeological and historical evidence is summarized from early China (roughly 2000 BCE–220 BCE), where prosocial religion and rituals coevolved with societal complexity. Published in the Strungmann Forum Reports Series.

Keywords:   prosocial religions, beliefs, rituals, evolution of religion, cognitive science of religion, institutions, cooperation, fictive kinship, group solidarity, moral realism

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