To foster complex societies, tell people a god is watching – Science

People are nicer to each other when they think someone is watching, many psychology studies have shown—especially if they believe that someone has the power to punish them for transgressions even after they’re dead. That’s why some scientists think that belief in the high gods of moralizing religions, such as Islam and Christianity, helped people cooperate with each other and encouraged societies to grow. An innovative study of 96 societies in the Pacific now suggests that a culture might not need to believe in omniscient, moral gods in order to reap the benefits of religion in the form of political complexity. All they need is the threat of supernatural punishment, even if the deities in question don’t care about morality and act on personal whims, the new work concludes. [more]

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