A new study published Wednesday in the weekly journal of science Nature reveals how man’s belief in divinities helped build our current societies. Researchers suggest that even though there were certain geographical disjunctions, religion played a vital role in promoting a peaceful coexistence between people, especially among those with corresponding beliefs.
The authors of the study claim that people have a wider trust in others and they can integrate easily within most social circles because they believe gods will inflict a punishment upon them if they don’t behave accordingly.
In order to demonstrate this hypothesis, the researchers analyzed 591 subjects coming from Brazil, Siberia, Mauritius, Fiji, Tanzania and Vanuatu. They wanted to explore a large array of social backgrounds, but also to incorporate people of different religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism.
While exploring all these different traditions and belief systems, they were able to gain a thorough understanding of the impact that religion has on people and communities in general.
The study was conducted through games and interviews designed to examine what their gods thought about matters of morality and how it influenced each individual’s behavior.
The participants were also asked to decide how they would use a specific amount of money, whether they would use it for themselves and their community or whether they would give it to a complete stranger, but of the same religion as them.
Lead author of the study, Benjamin Purzycki, says that as far as the results were able to demonstrate, it appears as though people who believed in deities were more likely to play by the rules and not do anything illegal.
This, however, is a common denominator for all humans, because the way we behave when we believe we are being watched, judged and punished differs completely from the times when we don’t feel we are being monitored.
Nevertheless, this way of conducting ourselves does not come from a desire to be rewarded, but rather from a fear of being punished and it is proof of our psychological inclinations as humans.
The authors of the study do not dismiss the importance that various institutions, such as judicial courts, police departments and other authorities have over a society, but their results certainly demonstrate that there is an inextricable link between religion and the way most people choose to conduct themselves in social environments.
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