Explaining moral religions

Trends Cogn Sci. 2013 Jun;17(6):272-80. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.04.003. Epub 2013 May 7.


Moralizing religions, unlike religions with morally indifferent gods or spirits, appeared only recently in some (but not all) large-scale human societies. A crucial feature of these new religions is their emphasis on proportionality (between deeds and supernatural rewards, between sins and penance, and in the formulation of the Golden Rule, according to which one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself). Cognitive science models that account for many properties of religion can be extended to these religions. Recent models of evolved dispositions for fairness in cooperation suggest that proportionality-based morality is highly intuitive to human beings. The cultural success of moralizing movements, secular or religious, could be explained based on proportionality.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Culture
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Morals*
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Religion* / history