A study suggests religion might have arisen to protect certain reproductive strategies, like long-term partnership.
Salon.com / By Tracy Clark-Flory – Alternet.org
Casual sex, homosexuality, birth control, abortion — this isn’t just a list of topics to avoid bringing up over Thanksgiving dinner. A new study suggests that a person’s views on these subjects predict their religious beliefs. Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban from the University of Pennsylvania found that conservative views on sex and reproductive rights are associated with greater religiosity.
It’s not too surprising that a dude who thinks abortion is evil would express stronger religious convictions than a man who supports reproductive rights. Nor is it shocking that a woman who finds casual sex immoral would identify as more religious than a lady who is down with one-night stands. What’s most interesting here is that more conservative views about sex were far more predictive of religiosity than even attitudes against anti-social behaviors like lying, cheating and stealing.
As the paper puts it, “these ﬁndings run counter to the view that religiosity has a fundamental connection with cooperative morals” (i.e., beliefs about not screwing over thy neighbor). The dominant evolutionary theory regarding religion is that it thrived because “beliefs in invisible, rule-enforcing agents” — whether it’s a bearded white guy in the sky or a bevy of power-sharing gods — “increase believers’ compliance with cooperative norms, that this compliance provides an advantage to groups or individuals, and that these advantages have been crucial for the evolution and current ubiquity of religiosity and large-scale cooperation.”