Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict

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How “Big Gods” Transformed Human History

Second, they can both provide comfort in the face of adversity and suffering. Third, they both offer external sources of control and stability when a personal sense of control is under threat. Norenzayan weaves in one convincing scientific study after another, leaving me as a study junkie highlighting about every page. The effects of prosocial gods is powerful and there is little doubt that we are in a place in history where it is uncertain where things will go from here, since we are—for the first time—entering a stage where governments can be these stabilizing forces.

Life expectancy and income levels increase, and with better nutrition and health care, infant mortality becomes a thing of the past. Moreover, with unemployment and retirement support, universal medical care, as well as poverty reduction strategies, people are rescued by social safety nets in times of trouble or uncertainty. These societies with atheist majorities…[are]…some of the most cooperative, peaceful, and prosperous in the world.

Where there is no need for big gods, the door is also opened to atheism. Norenzayan suggests four pathways to atheism and they are interesting. As a result, cognitive scientists see a correlation between autism and disbelief. Another more common direction comes from analytical thinking. Analytic thinkers if they do endorse religious belief, show more unconventional and less fervent inclinations, such as the belief in a distant, nonintervening God Deism , and the belief that the universe and God are identical Pantheism.

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Of course, not all people are encouraged to think analytically, all the time. So what are the results if they are? These subcultures are called universities. And indeed, this link between analytic thought and disbelief might explain the overrepresentation of disbelievers among the more educated classes.

Do Religions Really Cause Violence?

Some of this is surely self-selection atheists are drawn to higher education, particularly to science , but exposure to university education also in turn undermines religious belief. It showed that college students are divided three ways on the subject of religion, with So will the religious or the secular win out in society? First, analytical thinking did not end religious inclinations, especially in times of trouble. In the rest of the country, religious devotion declined a little between and , consistent with an overall secularization trend that has been observed in New Zealand over the last half-century.

However, among citizens who reported being directly affected by the earthquake, in that same period, devotion increased. In other words, while analytical thinking spurred doubt, religion thrived in turmoil. There are other unknown factors like reproduction.

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  • Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict by Ara Norenzayan?
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Studies show that—unlike secular families—the religious are good at making children and, as is often the case, these children become adherents. This brave, lucid, balanced blend of compassion and science tackles our most cherished values and most intractable disputes.

Did major faiths thrive by keeping societies honest?

Big Gods sheds light on the cultural evolution of sacred watchers who arguably make us better humans. And it opens the door to explain how and when secular institutions can do the same. For all of us who worry about the role of religion in the modern world, this is a must-read, original milestone. The rich narrative ranges all over the world, covering not only religious people and the difference between big and little gods but also the puzzling durability of widespread prejudice against atheists.

Big gods : how religion transformed cooperation and conflict (Book, ) []

Packed with information extending from international social trends to findings from scientific experiments, this deeply thought-provoking book will change the way you understand the connection between religion and social life. Ara Norenzayan combines ingenious cross-cultural experiments and judicious historical analysis to give an original evolutionary account of the civilization-creating idea of Big Gods. He also provides a compelling exploration of the ongoing global competition for humanity's heart and mind between the monotheisms and various forms of atheism that represent God's secular offspring, including the great ideologies of the modern era and perhaps science itself.

The data reveal how religion impacts human behavior. His view that an omniscient God is our own creation designed to deal with the problem of freeriders deserves much more attention. It brings faith closer to where Darwin thought it belonged, in the sphere of social life and cooperation.


Authoritative, clear, and written in a straightforward, entertaining style, it deals with a problem of great interest to a wide range of general readers and academics, including psychologists, anthropologists, historians, and sociologists. Ara Norenzayan is professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.

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Condition: New. Hardcover with dustjacket. New book. How did human societies scale up from small, tight-knit groups of hunter-gatherers to the large, anonymous, cooperative socieies of today - even though anonymity is the enemy of cooperation? How did organized religions with "Big Gods" - the great monotheistic and polytheistic faiths - spread to colonize most minds in the world? Seller Inventory X1. More information about this seller Contact this seller.

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Book Description How did human societies scale up from tight-knit groups of hunter-gatherers to the large, anonymous, cooperative societies of today--even though anonymity is the enemy of cooperation? Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. Seller Inventory Book Description Princeton University Press. Seller Inventory NEW Book Description Princeton University Press,