Are punitive gods a precondition for functioning societies?
Can social cohesion only arise when supernatural instances of God decide on justice? For your information, we have summed up the results of this Big Data Analysis in which we were allowed to participate.
Anyone who has been brought up in a more or less religious way can remember the feelings from childhood where parents had been successfully tricked.
In the first moment one was pleased to have reached one’s goal of outsmarting them. But just a second later this bad conscience occurred. Like a black shadow it suddenly darkened our joy. The awareness that there was another instance besides our parents, a supernatural instance that cannot be tricked at all, shot like lightning into our ethical consciousness. Soon, the feelings of doubt and guilt began to arise.
Hence, H. Whitehouse, an anthropologist from the University of Oxford thought it likely that this feeling wouldn’t only occur sporadically but was somewhat intrinsic. He fostered the question as to whether the rise of complex societies is only possible if there is a prevalent belief in an omniscient supernatural authority. Can therefore complex moral societies only emerge when supernatural powers prohibit antisocial behavior and impose penalties? Penalties that can even be carried out after one’s own death? Could complex societies have developed without the belief in supernatural instances? Would that be even possible if humankind, with its selfish behavior, were left to its own devices, without an omniscient moral authority presiding?
How can we examine such questions?
In 2011 the scientists Peter Turchin, Harvey Whitehouse, Pieter Franciois and Kevin Feeney founded the database „Seshat“ (http://seshatdatabank.info/data/). The name of the database „Seshat“ is based on the Egyptian god who was responsible for bookkeeping and ancestor worship. This database constantly collects historical facts from all over the world and makes them available to the public. The data used for this project included 414 different societies from the last 10,000 years. The overall analysis mission was as follows:
“Investigate social complexities in a religion-dependent way“.
The results of this data analysis surprised us all.
Our contributors Data Analysts and Statisticians were astonished. That is because it appears that religion is rather an obstacle to the foundation of complex societies. The most important findings of this study are summarized in the following quotes/statements.
Social complexities grew in societies without religion 5x faster than in societies with religion.
Almost every society that has reached a certain complexity has developed religions; after a certain reversal point religions started to diminish the development of societies in a massive way.
All in all, complex societies have thus created powerful gods themselves.
Deities and supernatural instances are therefore not seen as a prerequisite for cultural social developments.
By the way, the first gods responsible for ethics and morals originated about 2850 years before Christ.
The analysis is currently entering its second round and the following question has now to be answered:
„Why did complex societies create superordinate instances?”
What were the gods needed for?
At present it is assumed that at some point the deities became essential for the stabilizing of societies. Perhaps, at that time, it was understood that people for whom one’s own life was of little importance could have contributed to the destabilization of societies. Or that they were at least much harder to rule. For this reason, the authorities may have created divine instances that were able to punish asocial behavior even after one’s death. According to initial studies, this fear which was created in humans was helpful in stabilizing all areas of life. Even the economy.
Interested readers can download the complete scientific essay on the study at the following URL (costs approx. US$ 9):
Our Big Data Analytics services guarantee clarification and transparency. Sometimes, as in this project, the results are surprising. Sometimes it’s bad surprises, sometimes it’s good surprises. However, we will always find out the reality for you.