The Biological Evolution of Religious Mind and Behavior

Part of the series The Frontiers Collection pp 117-126


The Reproductive Benefits of Religious Affiliation

  • Michael BlumeAffiliated withInstitut für Religionswissenschaft, University of Heidelberg Email author 

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As the brain of early humans expanded, they gained increasing abilities of considering cooperative tasks – finally including reproduction . The subsequent, probably convergent evolution of religious beliefs and related behaviors such as burials and offerings among Homo sapiens and among Homo neanderthalensis illustrates that religious abilities evolved as a logical consequence: perceived supernatural agents like ancestors or Gods are experienced as observing streams of tradition conferring values and communal trust, rewarding cooperative adherents and punishing transgressors. They advocate reproductive motivation as well as marriage. Believers may signal their trustworthiness to each other by costly obligations and rituals dedicated to the supernatural agents. Religion-related genetic dispositions as well as demographically successful traditions are thus favoured by direct and kin selection and by sexual selection , as shown by the Swiss Census 2000 and international demographic data.