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Did complex societies predate moral gods?

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Sometimes an argument from Naturalism Inc. becomes too complex to follow. Here’s just such an argument:

The appearance of moralizing gods in religion occurred after—and not before—the emergence of large, complex societies, according to new research. This finding upturns conventional thinking on the matter, in which moralizing gods are typically cited as a prerequisite for social complexity.

Gods who punish people for their anti-social indiscretions appeared in religions after the emergence and expansion of large, complex societies, according to new research published today in Nature. The finding suggests religions with moralizing gods, or prosocial religions, were not a necessary requirement for the evolution of social complexity. It was only until the emergence of diverse, multi-ethnic empires with populations exceeding a million people that moralizing gods began to appear—a change to religious beliefs that likely worked to ensure social cohesion. George Dvorsky, “Humans Built Complex Societies Before They Invented Moral Gods” at Gizmodo

Sure. It’s like the social life of Neanderthal man. The data are so sparse (compared, say, to World War II), he can work it any way he needs to.

The big shift in religion over the last few millennia , with masses of evidence, was well described over a century ago — the shift from Stone Age beliefs to modern Eastern and Western beliefs, a shift that happens at various times and in various places but seems to be associated with evidence-based thinking patterns. That leads to the rise of religions that made use of concepts in philosophy. There has been a considerable effort to undermine the significance of this shift. Expect more of them.

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See also: An evolutionary challenge: explaining away compassion, philanthropy, and self-sacrifice

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If naturalism can explain religion, why does it get so many basic facts wrong?

Evolutionary conundrum: is religion a useful, useless, or harmful adaptation?

and

Imagine a world of religions that naturalism might indeed be able to explain

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