1st Edition

The Evolution of Religion and Morality Volume II

    This volume draws on a unique dataset to answer pressing questions about human religiosity. Building upon the first volume in this series, it presents results from the second phase of the Evolution of Religion and Morality (ERM) project.

    The second volume investigates key questions in the evolutionary and cognitive sciences of religion and highlights cultural variability and context specificity of diverse religious systems. Chapters draw on a dataset comprising 2,228 participants from 15 ethnographically diverse societies that stretch from Africa and India through Oceania to South America, and include hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, horticulturalists, subsistence farmers and wage laborers. Four chapters using the full dataset answer the following questions:

    • What are the general predictors of commitment to supernatural agents?
    • Is there a gender gap in religiosity?
    • Does belief in punitive gods facilitates cooperation?
    • Are supernatural agents implicitly associated with moral concerns?

    Chapters from individual field sites further explore the distinction between moralizing and local gods, the potentially disruptive role of belief in local gods on cooperation with anonymous co-religionists, and the relationship between belief in moralizing gods, cooperation, and differential access to material resources. Above these empirical studies, the book also includes an informed discussion with specialists on the challenges of running such a large cross-cultural project and gives concrete recommendations for future projects.

    The Evolution of Religion and Morality: Volume II will be a key resource for scholars and researchers of religious studies, human evolutionary biology, psychology, anthropology, the cultural evolution of religion and the sociology of religion. This book was originally published as a special issue of Religion, Brain & Behavior.


    Introducing a special issue on phase two of the Evolution of Religion and Morality project
    Richard Sosis, Joseph Bulbulia, Wesley J. Wildman, Uffe Schjoedt, and John H. Shaver

    1. Material insecurity predicts greater commitment to moralistic and less commitment to local deities: a cross-cultural investigation
    Adam Baimel, Coren Apicella, Quentin Atkinson, Alex Bolyanatz, Emma Cohen, Carla Handley,
    Joseph Henrich, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Martin Lang, Carolyn Lesogorol, Sarah Mathew, Rita McNamara, Cristina Moya, Ara Norenzayan, Caitlyn D. Placek, Monserrat Soler, Thomas Vardy, Jonathan Weigel, Aiyana Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, and Benjamin Purzycki 

    2. The religiosity gender gap in 14 diverse societies
    Tom Vardy, Cristina Moya, Caitlyn D. Placek, Coren L. Apicella, Alexander Bolyanatz, Emma Cohen, Carla Handley, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Carolyn Lesorogol, Sarah Mathew, Sarah A. McNamara, Benjamin G. Purzycki, Montserrat Soler, Jonathan L. Weigel, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ara Norenzayan, Joseph Henrich, Martin Lang, and Quentin D. Atkinson

    3. The moralization bias of gods’ minds: a cross-cultural test
    Benjamin Grant Purzycki, Aiyana K. Willard, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Coren Apicella, Quentin Atkinson, Alexander Bolyanatz, Emma Cohen, Carla Handley, Joseph Henrich, Martin Lang, Carolyn Lesorogol, Sarah Mathew, Rita A. McNamara, Cristina Moya, Ara Norenzayan, Caitlyn Placek, Montserrat Soler, Tom Vardy, Jonathan Weigel, Dimitris Xygalatas, and Cody T. Ross

    4. When god is watching: dictator game results from the Sursurunga of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea
    Alexander H. Bolyanatz

    5. Moralistic and local god beliefs and the extent of prosocial preferences on Tanna Island,
    Thomas Vardy and Quentin D. Atkinson

    6. Moralizing gods, local gods, and complexity in Hindu god concepts: evidence from South India
    Caitlyn Placek and Aaron Lightner

    7. Cigarettes for the dead: effects of sorcery beliefs on parochial prosociality in Mauritius
    E. Kundtová Klocová, M. Lang, P. Maňo, R. Kundt, and D. Xygalatas

    8. Perceptions of moralizing agents and cooperative behavior in Northeastern Brazil
    Montserrat Soler, Benjamin Grant Purzycki, and Martin Lang

    9. Prosociality and Pentecostalism in the D.R. Congo
    Gilbert Tshiebue Kapepula, Max Mbosho Konshi, and Jonathan L. Weigel

    10. Do religious and market-based institutions promote cooperation in Hadza hunter-gatherers?
    Michael N. Stagnaro, Duncan N. E. Stibbard-Hawkes, and Coren L. Apicella


    11. The Evolution of Religion and Morality project: reflections and looking ahead
    Benjamin Grant Purzycki, Martin Lang, Joseph Henrich, and Ara Norenzayan

    12. Cultural lessons missed and learnt about religion and culture
    Ronald Fischer

    13. Two questions for the cultural evolutionary science of religion
    Joshua Conrad Jackson

    14. Big comparison
    Tanya Luhrmann

    15. Depth vs. breadth: lessons from the Evolution of Religion and Morality project
    Rebekah A. Richert

    16. The Evolution of Religion and Morality project: some modest reservations
    Kim Sterelny


    17. Guiding the evolution of the evolutionary sciences of religion: a discussion
    Benjamin Grant Purzycki, Martin Lang, Joseph Henrich, and Ara Norenzayan


    Martin Lang is Assistant Professor at LEVYNA: Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. His work focuses on the question of whether and how religious beliefs and behaviours facilitate cooperation.

    Benjamin Grant Purzycki is Associate Professor at Aarhus University’s Department of the Study of Religion, Denmark. His books include Religion Evolving: Cultural, Cognitive, and Ecological Dynamics (with Richard Sosis, 2022) and The Minds of Gods: New Horizons in the Naturalistic Study of Religion (with Theiss Bendixen, 2023).

    Ara Norenzayan is Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has published widely on the evolutionary origins of religion, and the psychology of religious diversity in today’s globalized world. He is the author of Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict.

    Joseph Henrich is Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA. His research deploys evolutionary theory to understand how human psychology gives rise to cultural evolution and how this has shaped our species’ genetic evolution. His most recent book is The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West became psychologically peculiar and particularly prosperous.