Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict by Ara Norenzayan

By Ara Norenzayan

How did human societies scale up from tight-knit teams of hunter-gatherers to the massive, nameless, cooperative societies of today--even even though anonymity is the enemy of cooperation? How did equipped religions with "Big Gods"--the nice monotheistic and polytheistic faiths--spread to colonize such a lot minds on the planet? In Big Gods, Ara Norenzayan makes the spectacular argument that those basic puzzles in regards to the origins of civilization resolution every one other.

Sincere religion in watchful massive Gods unleashed exceptional cooperation inside ever-expanding teams, but while it brought a brand new resource of capability clash among competing teams. And in a few elements of the realm, societies with atheist majorities--some of the main cooperative and filthy rich within the world--have climbed religion's ladder, after which kicked it away.

Big Gods" solutions basic questions about the origins and unfold of worldwide religions and is helping us comprehend the increase of cooperative societies with no trust in gods.

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Despite being a very subtle social cue, exposure to a watching-­eyes configuration tempered selfishness. Only 25 percent of participants who saw dots configured to look like a face gave nothing (the selfish strategy), whereas 40 percent of the control participants chose this strategy. 22 It is remarkable that in these experimental findings, people are merely exposed to eyes. There is no promise of reward, no threat of punishment. Just knowing that we are under surveillance is enough to motivate us to put our best foot forward.

In this task, participants are instructed to write specific numbers in small circles while alone in a room with their eyes closed. The temptation to cheat is high, as they can receive additional extra credit for high scores. Those who saw the God-­related words prior to the task cheated less than those who were exposed to the neutral words. 4 In another study, researchers gave student participants at MIT a 50-­item multiple-­choice general knowledge test. Subjects could win money for every correct answer.

This is the engine that drives genetic evolution. 39 Earlier, I explored how cognitive by-­products of genetically evolved human brains encourage certain default intuitions, such as the feeling that minds can exist without bodies. Cultural evolution picks up on these default intuitions and works with them in a number of ways. Here, I briefly highlight how these cultural learning biases shape religious belief. These ideas are further elaborated throughout the book. 40 For example, research shows that supernatural concepts that mildly violate intuitive expectations we have about agents, life forms, and physical objects are more memorable in the long run than those that are wildly counterintuitive or completely intuitive.

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