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Feb 11, 2016 10:11 AM EST

Fearing an Omnipotent God Brings People Together to Advance Society

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When a group of people agrees to get behind one purpose, like advancing society, they usually accomplish their goals.

Published in the journal Nature, a new study detailed how fearing an omnipotent god that holds its people to a certain moral standard has done this for human societies.

"Throughout the years, there's been an increasing awareness of how human social complexity is remarkably unprecedented in the animal kingdom," study lead author Benjamin Purzycki, an anthropologist at the University of British Columbia, told The Los Angeles Times. "So we've got to come up with some satisfactory way of explaining how it's all possible that we can have remarkably complex societies interact with each other but have quite a fair amount of in-group cooperation and coordination as well."

The researchers sought to explain how humans branched out beyond their own families to collaborate with others toward bettering their collective situation.

"Certain kinds of beliefs - involving gods who are aware of human interactions and punish for moral transgressions - can indeed contribute to the evolution of human co-operation," Purzycki said in a press release. "If you think you're being watched, and expect to be divinely punished for being too greedy or thieving, you might be less inclined to engage in anti-social behavior towards a wider range of people who share those beliefs.

"Religious beliefs may have been one of the major contributing factors in the development and stability of highly complex social organizations, such as states."

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