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Chapter Summary

In his psychological studies of the effect of religion on altruistic behavior, Ara Norenzayan addresses three questions. The first is whether religious attitudes shape and stimulate prosociality and moral behavior. The answer is yes, probably as a result of the awareness of an omniscient supernatural power. Secondly, do all religions concern themselves with moral behavior? This is indeed true for all organized religions in large-scale societies, but the results are different for small-scale human groups. Norenzayan then asks as third question whether religion is necessary for morality? Vittorio Girotto, Telmo Pievani and Giorgio Vallortigara, crossing their different backgrounds in psychology, evolution, and cognitive ethology, discuss the limits of a functional view of supernatural beliefs according to which these beliefs are adaptations shaped by natural selection for human social life, favoring cooperation and group cohesion. Humans may be predisposed to detect causes, agents, and designs where there are none.

Keywords: altruistic behaviour; Ara Norenzayan; Giorgio Vallortigara; psychological studies; religions; supernaturalpower; Telmo Pievani; Vittorio Girotto



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