Moralistic supernatural punishment is probably not associated with social complexity

Evolution and Human Behavior Vol/Iss. Online only Elsevier Published In Pages: 1-11
By Lightner, Aaron D., Bendixen, Theiss, Purzycki, Benjamin Grant


This paper examines the relationship between moralizing gods (gods that impose moral rules or punish those who break them) and social complexity. The authors argue that previous research, which relied on the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample's "moralizing high gods" variable as a proxy measure for the presence of moralizing gods, may have underestimated the presence of moralizing gods in societies. This is because the criteria used to define "moralizing high gods" are not relevant to whether a god is moralistic or punitive. The authors argue that this leads to a false positive association between moralizing gods and social complexity, and that ethnographic evidence suggests that moralizing gods are actually more prevalent in small-scale societies than had previously been thought. Future researchers, therefore, need to be careful about making assumptions about the moralizing gods of small scale societies based on "moralizing high gods", and find other ways to identify whether moralizing gods are present.

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:jacob.kalodner