Monday, November 10, 2014

The Ecology of Religion

Global distribution of societies that exhibit beliefs in moralizing high gods (blue) or not (i.e., atheism or beliefs in non-moralizing deities or spirits in red). The underlying map depicts the mean values of net primary productivity (i.e., the net balance of monthly consumption relative to production of carbon dioxide by living plants) in gray scale. Darker localities reflect places with greater potential for overall plant growth.

A key paper this week "The ecology of religious beliefs" from PNAS ( shows the ecological basis of moral deities in harsh environmental and social conditions. Notice that moral deities are not universal and that in regions of high natural abundance they do not emerge from the social milieu, so the notion that religion and 'pro-social' morality are somehow bound together is an illusion.

The study shows that belief in moral high gods correlates inversely with natural resource abundance and peaks in societies with several levels of political hierarchy as opposed to egalitarian cultures.

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