Why minds create gods: Devotion, deception, death, and arational decision making

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6):754-770 (2004)
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Abstract

The evolutionary landscape that canalizes human thought and behavior into religious beliefs and practices includes naturally selected emotions, cognitive modules, and constraints on social interactions. Evolutionary by-products, including metacognitive awareness of death and possibilities for deception, further channel people into religious paths. Religion represents a community's costly commitment to a counterintuitive world of supernatural agents who manage people's existential anxieties. Religious devotion, though not an adaptation, informs all cultures and most people.

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