X-Message-Number: 19414
Date: Sun, 7 Jul 2002 12:44:08 +0200
From: David Stodolsky <>
Subject: Significance of Beliefs about the Afterlife

1 April - Aaron Blaisdell UCLA Psychology
Adaptive Significance of Beliefs about the Afterlife

According to some evolutionary psychologists, human social and cultural
behavior has been shaped by natural selection just as have simple individual
behaviors.  If religious belief systems have been shaped to benefit
individuals and/or societies, then the microstructure of such belief systems
should fit the principles of design by adaptation.  Cross-cultural
comparisons may reveal that similar belief traits have evolved in similar
social and cultural contexts.  A preliminary survey of 122 world cultures
selected from the HRAF (Human Relations Area File) and an extensive survey
by Murdock (1967) revealed:  a) that premature or violent death was
correlated with beliefs involving vengeance in the afterlife (e.g., vengeful
ghosts or vampires); b) stratified but not egalitarian societies emphasized
the importance of kin relations in the afterlife; c) clan-based societies
incorporated vengeance themes in their beliefs about the afterlife; d)
vengeance played an important role in the afterlife in societies that practice
animal husbandry, but not in plant-agricultural or hunter-gatherer societies;
and e) that in societies of 100 or more individuals, kinship comes to play
an important role in the beliefs in the afterlife.



David S. Stodolsky, PhD    PGP: 0x35490763    

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