The Reproductive Benefits of Religious Affiliation

  • Michael Blume
Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)


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.


Evolutionary Stable Strategy Dictator Game Religious Denomination Religious Behavior Healing Dancer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Adsera A (2004) Marital Fertility and Religion: Recent Changes in Spain. Institute for the Study of Labor Bonn (IZA). Accessed 25 July 2008
  2. Allensbach (2006) Die neue Anziehungskraft der Religion. In: Köcher R. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04-12-2006Google Scholar
  3. Bering J M, Hernández-Blasi C, Bjorklund D F (2005) The development of ‘afterlife’ beliefs in religiously and secularly schooled children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 23:587–607PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berman E, Iannaccone L, Ragusa G (2007) From Empty Pews to Empty Cradles: Fertility Decline among European Catholics. George Mason University Discussion Paper. Accessed 25 July 2008
  5. BFS (2004) Religionslandschaft in der Schweiz (“Religious landscape in Switzerland”). Swiss Federal Statistic office (BFS). http://publicationID=1614. Accessed 25 July 2008Google Scholar
  6. Birg H (2004) Die Weltbevölkerung. C. H. Beck, MunichGoogle Scholar
  7. Blume M (2008) Die Bio-Logik der 10 Gebote – Warum verbindlicher Glaube nützt. In: Gräb-Schmidt E, Achtner W (eds) Was ist Religion? Giessener Hochschulgespräche und Hochschulpredigten der ESG, Giessen orhttp://www.pdf. Accessed 25 July 2008
  8. Blume M, Ramsel C, Graupner S (2006) Religiosity as a demographic factor – An underestimated connection? Marburg Journal of Religion 11 (1):1–22Google Scholar
  9. Boyer P (2001) Religion Explained. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Darwin C (1871) The Descent of Man. John Murray, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Dawkins R (1976) The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Enste D H (2007) Kinder: Auch eine Frage der Überzeugung. In: Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln (iwd) 13. Accessed 25 July 2008
  13. Frejka T, Westoff C F (2008) Religion, Religiousness and Fertility in the US and Europe. European Journal of Population 24: 5–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. George A (2004) The Rabbi’s Dilemma. New Scientist 2434:44–47Google Scholar
  15. Harris E, McNamara P (2008) Is Religiousness a Biocultural Adaptation? In: Bulbulia J, Sosis R, Harris E, Genet R, Genet C, Wyman K (eds) The Evolution of Religion Studies Theories & Critiques. Collins, Santa Margarita, CAGoogle Scholar
  16. Inglehart R, Norris P (2004) Sacred and Secular Religion and Politics Worldwide. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  17. Keynes R (2001) Annie’s Box: Charles Darwin, his Daughter, and Human Evolution. Fourth Estate, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Koenig L B, Bouchard T J Jr (2006) Genetic and Environmental Influences on the Traditional Moral Values Triad – Authoritarianism Conservatism and Religiousness. In: McNamara P (ed) Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion, Vol I: Evolution, Genes, and the Religious Brain. Praeger, WestportGoogle Scholar
  19. Lee R, Devore I (1999) Kalahari Hunter-Gatherers: Studies of the !Kung San and Their Neighbors. iUniverse, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. McCain R (2003) Game Theory: A Non-Technical Introduction to the Analysis of Strategy. South-Western College Publishing, Boston MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  21. Nauck B (2006) Value of children and fertility strategies in cross-cultural comparison. Ideal family size and targeted fertility in eleven societies. In: Gomes C (ed) Social development and family changes. Cambridge Scholars Press, NewcastleGoogle Scholar
  22. Newman L A, Hugo G J (2006) Women’s Fertility, Religion and Education in a Low-Fertility Population: Evidence from South Australia. Journal of Population Research 23: 41–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Palmer C T, Steadman L B (2004) With or Without Belief A: New Approach to the Definition and Explanation of Religion. Journal of Evolution and Cognition 10 (1):138–147Google Scholar
  24. Pew (2008) US Religious Landscape Survey 2008. Forum on Religion & Public Life.http://org/
  25. Philipov D, Berghammer C (2007) Religion and fertility ideals, intentions and behavior: a comparative study of European countries. Vienna Yearbook of Population Research 1: 271–305 or Accessed 25 July 2008
  26. Qirko H (2004) Altruistic Celibacy, Kin-Cue Manipulation, and The Development of Religious Institutions. Zygon 39 (3):681–706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Shariff A, Norenzayan A (2007) God Is Watching You: Priming God Concepts Increases Prosocial Behavior in an Anonymous Economic Game. Psychological Science 18 (9):803–809PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sosis R, Bressler E (2003) Cooperation and Commune Longevity: A Test of the Costly Signaling Theory of Religion. Cross-Cultural Research 37 (2):211–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Stone L, Lurquin P, Cavalli-Sforza L (2006) Genes Culture and Human Evolution: A Synthesis. Blackwell, LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Stringer C, Andrews P (2005) The Complete World of Human Evolution. Thames & Hudson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Voland E (2007) Die Natur des Menschen. C. H. Beck, MünchenGoogle Scholar
  32. Von Hayek F A (1982) Die überschätzte Vernunft. In: Vanberg V (ed) Die Anmaßung von Wissen, vol 8. Mohr, Tübingen 2007Google Scholar
  33. Von Hayek F A (1991) The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  34. Wilson D S (2002) Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution Religion and the Nature of Society. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  35. Wilson E O (1978) On human nature. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  36. Zimmer C (2006) Die Neurobiologie des Selbst. Spektrum der Wissenschaft 5:34–41Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für ReligionswissenschaftUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

Personalised recommendations