The moralization bias of gods’ minds: a cross-cultural test

Religion, Brain, and Behavior Vol/Iss. 12(1-2) Taylor and Francis Published In Pages: 38-60
By Purzycki, Benjamin Grant, Willard, Aiyana K., Klocová, Eva Kundtová, Apicella, Coren, Atkinson, Quentin D., Bolyanatz, Alexander, Cohen, Emma, Handley, Carla, Henrich, Joseph, Lang, Martin, Lesorogol, Carolyn, Mathew, Sarah, McNamara, Rita A., Moya, Cristina, Norenzayan, Ara, Placek, Caitlyn D., Soler, Montserrat, Vardy, Tom, Weigel, Jonathan, Xygalatas, Dimitris, Ross, Cody T.


In this study, the authors inspect the relationship between religion, morality, and cooperation by examining the extent to which people associate their deities with moral concern. Using data from 2,228 individuals in 15 different field sites, they find that on average, people tend to ascribe at least some moral concern to their deities, and this effect is stable even after controlling for the influence of explicitly moralistic deities that these societies also worship. The authors also find that ratings of moral concern are not necessarily very high, even for deities that are typically considered to be moralistic, and that there is individual-level variation in the degree of moral concern attributed to deities. In addition, there is an individual-level correlation between how morally interested two selected deities are conceived to be and that being male or more educated decreases the likelihood of associating deities with moral concern. These findings challenge the longstanding belief that belief in moralistic deities is unique to certain societies or religions and instead suggest that the association between deities and moral concern is more widespread and variable, and suggest that the moral character of gods may be tied to cooperation within societies.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
Purzycki et al. 2022 data setResearchers' ownData on moral qualities of moralizing and local deities

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:jacob.kalodner