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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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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 27 May 2022

The Cultural Evolution of Religion

The Cultural Evolution of Religion

(p.381) 20 The Cultural Evolution of Religion
Cultural Evolution

Joseph Bulbulia

Armin W. Geertz

Quentin D. Atkinson

Emma Cohen

Nicholas Evans

Pieter François

Herbert Gintis

Russell D. Gray

Joseph Henrich

Fiona M. Jordon

Ara Norenzayan

Peter J. Richerson

Edward Slingerland

Peter Turchin

Harvey Whitehouse

Thomas Widlok

David S. Wilson

The MIT Press

Religion may be one factor that enabled large-scale complex human societies to evolve. Utilizing a cultural evolutionary approach, this chapter seeks explanations for patterns of complexity and variation in religion within and across groups, over time. Properties of religious systems (e.g., rituals, ritualized behaviors, overimitation, synchrony, sacred values) are examined at different social scales, from small-scale forager to large-scale urban societies. The role of religion in transitional societies is discussed, as well as the impact of witchcraft, superhuman policing, and the cultural evolution of moralizing gods. The shift from an imagistic to a doctrinal mode of religiosity is examined, as are the relationships between sacred values and secular worlds. Cultural evolutionary approaches to religion require evidence and methods from collaborative and multidisciplinary science. The chapter concludes with an overview of several projects that are working to provide conceptual, methodological, and empirical groundwork. Published in the Strungmann Forum Reports Series.

Keywords:   Patterns of complexity, Variation, Rituals, Overimitation, Synchrony, Sacred values, Witchcraft, Superhuman policing, Moralizing gods

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