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Vengeful Deities May Help Develop Societies

Update Date: Feb 15, 2016 02:08 AM EST

People's belief in a disciplinary god keeps them more altruistic towards others outside of their own community as well as their family, especially to those who hold the same belief, say the researchers.

A recent study published in Nature says that religion may be responsible for cooperation amongst people even though they may be geographically separated. "People may trust in, cooperate with and interact fairly within wider social circles, partly because they believe that knowing gods will punish them if they do not," the study's authors wrote.

"Moreover, the social radius within which people are willing to engage in behaviors that benefit others at a cost to themselves may enlarge as gods' powers to monitor and punish increase," reported Discovery News

To get a deeper understanding of this idea, the researchers analyzed 591 people from Brazil, Fiji, Siberia, Tanzania, Mauritius, and Vanuatu. In these regions, people are known to follow broad range religions such as Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism. They also have rich local traditions such as worship of their ancestors and animism.

The participants of the study were made to play a game in which they had to choose a financial favorite for themselves and their local community. They also had the option to go with the fate and obey the die roll, which could sometimes mean giving money to a person of the same religion but not related to the participant. The researchers found that the people who had stronger belied in an all-seeing punitive god ended up giving more money to distant people with common religious belief system.

The participants for whom their gods were highly moral, knowledgeable and retributive, they were fairer to a stranger who belonged to the same faith. "They're playing by the rules towards people they never interact with," said lead author Benjamin Purzycki, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia's Centre for Human Evolution, Cognition, and Culture, reported Washington Post

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