It appears that modern societies were shaped by old religious beliefs at an extent we were not aware of before. This is the conclusion of a new study that was published this week. Even though geographical disjunctions are also very important, it was religion that bound people together.
Quite logically, the study pointed out that people tend to trust others and integrate in social circles because of their belief that certain gods will punish them if they do not behave as they should. The researchers had to observe 591 individuals from different places such as Siberia, Tanzania, Brazil, Fiji, Vanuatu and Mauritius. This permitted them to analyze a wide range of religions and social backgrounds.
By studying the beliefs of people in Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, the authors of the study managed to understand the impact and effect of such beliefs and faiths on communities of people. The research study involved interviews and games meant to examine the moral laws of the gods and how each person was affected by these. Furthermore, the individuals were asked what they would do if they stumbled across a large amount of money: if they would keep it, if they would use it for the community or if they would give it to a stranger that shares the same religion.
According to the study’s lead author and University of British Columbia researcher, Benjamin Purzycki, people who believe in gods are less likely to break the rules or do illegal activities. However, this type of behavior can also be linked to psychology: if people know they are being watched or judged or if they know that they might be punished for their actions, they will be influenced against breaking any rules. Furthermore, this proves that they are not making a decision based on their wishes, but on their fear of repercussions.
One good example is the god Zeus from ancient Greece. In the belief of the Greeks, if they broke the rules set by the gods they would be punished by the god of thunder who would zap them where they stood.
While it is true that institutions like police departments and judicial courts also have a great influence on society, we must not ignore the power of faith that has modeled the way we behave in society since the dawn of time. Modern societies were shaped by old religious beliefs and are still continuing to do so today. The conclusions of the study have been published in the Nature journal.
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