Press

"Why religion?" Aiken Lao

The Science of Religion Online Course

A new massive open online course from UBC on the science of religion is combining science and the humanities to discover why some of us believe. The course is hosted by edX, an open-source online course provider, and is one of 38 currently offered by UBC on the platform. With over 1000 courses offered in […]

Moralistic gods, supernatural punishment and the expansion of human sociality

Moralistic gods, supernatural punishment and the expansion of human sociality

Benjamin Grant Purzycki & CERC in Nature Belief in moralistic, punitive gods that take an interest in human affairs may have facilitated the expansion of human societies, finds a study published in Nature this week. Several theories have been invoked to explain the expansion of human cooperation and societal complexity, which has been taking place since the origins […]

Merry Christmakwanzika – Ara Norenzayan in UBC News

Merry Christmakwanzika – Ara Norenzayan in UBC News

At this time of year, many Canadian households are setting up Christmas trees, lighting menorahs, celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad, or marking the solstice. And an increasing number of families are observing more than one religious holiday. As UBC psychology professor Ara Norenzayan explains, interfaith families are a part of a diverse society. They […]

Which Comes First, Big Cities or Big Gods – Norenzayan in Nautilus

Which Comes First, Big Cities or Big Gods – Norenzayan in Nautilus

Warriors among the Kwara’ae, a collection of tribal communities indigenous to the Solomon Islands, sacrificed pigs before battle. The tradition granted the combatants, so the belief went, aid from heroic ancestral spirits—like the mighty A’orama, a fierce fighter in Kwara’ae folklore. For every man who prepared to shed blood, a hog met its end. [more]

Turning history into a binary code – the DRH in Science

Turning history into a binary code – the DRH in Science

In January of this year, Anders Petersen folded his nearly 2-meter frame into an airplane seat for a flight from Copenhagen to Vancouver, Canada, crossing two continents on his way to check boxes on a computer screen. It would be a new experience for the religious studies scholar from Aarhus University in Denmark, who, like […]

Why big societies need big gods – CERC in Science

Why big societies need big gods – CERC in Science

An ancient Egyptian spent her whole life preparing for the moment when her heart would be weighed. After death, she was escorted before a divine scale. In one pan rested an ostrich feather belonging to Maat, the goddess of social order. The other pan held her heart. The deceased had been buried with a list […]

Inside the Mind of God – Benjamin Purzycki in Aeon Magazine

Inside the Mind of God – Benjamin Purzycki in Aeon Magazine

Of all humanity’s eccentricities, religion could very well be the most baffling. Even though no one has produced a fleck of evidence for the existence of the gods, people will engage in repetitive, often taxing behaviours, under the impression that some ethereal being out there knows and cares. And regardless of whether or not they […]

Complex societies evolved without belief in all-powerful deity – Nature

Complex societies evolved without belief in all-powerful deity – Nature

All human societies have been shaped by religion, leading psychologists to wonder how it arose, and whether particular forms of belief have affected other aspects of evolved social structure. According to one recent view, for example, belief in a “big God” — an all-powerful, punitive deity who sits in moral judgement on our actions — […]

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

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 […]

Will Religion Ever Disappear? – Norenzayan on the BBC

Will Religion Ever Disappear? – Norenzayan on the BBC

A growing number of people, millions worldwide, say they believe that life definitively ends at death – that there is no God, no afterlife and no divine plan. And it’s an outlook that could be gaining momentum – despite its lack of cheer. In some countries, openly acknowledged atheism has never been more popular. [more]