Seit einigen Jahren gibt es verstärkt Projekte mit dem Ziel, die Existenz der Religion mit (natur)wissenschaftlichen Methoden besser zu verstehen. The Economist fasst nun in einem Artikel die ersten Ergebnisse des seit drei Jahren laufenden, multinationalen Projekts zusammen:
At the moment, most students of the field would agree that they are still in the “stamp collecting” phase that begins many a new science—in which facts are accumulated without it being clear where any of them fit in. But some intriguing patterns are already beginning to emerge. In particular, the project’s researchers have studied the ideas of just deserts, of divine disapproval and of the nature of religious ritual.
One theory of the origin of religion is that it underpins the extraordinary capacity for collaboration that led to the rise of Homo sapiens. A feature of many religions is the idea that evil is divinely punished and virtue is rewarded. Cheats or the greedy, in other words, get their just deserts. The selflessness which that belief encourages might help explain religion’s evolution.