Appealing to the minds of gods: Religious beliefs and appeals correspond to features of local social ecologies

Citation:

Bendixen, Theiss, Coren Lee Apicella, Quentin Atkinson, Emma Cohen, Joseph Henrich, Rita Anne McNamara, Ara Norenzayan, Aiyana Koka Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, and Benjamin Grant Purzycki. “Appealing to the minds of gods: Religious beliefs and appeals correspond to features of local social ecologies.” Religion, Brain & Behavior (Forthcoming).
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Abstract:

While appeals to gods and spirits are ubiquitous throughout human societies past and present, deities' postulated concerns vary across populations. How does the content of beliefs about and appeals to gods vary across groups, and what accounts for this variation? With particular emphasis on locally important deities, we develop a novel cultural evolutionary account that includes a set of predictive criteria for what deities will be associated with in various socioecological contexts. We then apply these criteria in an analysis of individual-level ethnographic free-list data on what pleases and angers locally relevant deities from eight diverse societies. We conclude with a discussion of how alternative approaches to cross-cultural variation in god beliefs and appeals fare against our findings and close by considering some key implications of our methods and findings for the cognitive and evolutionary study of religion.

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Last updated on 07/06/2022