Social Psychology of Religion – Ten Gems from Big Gods by Ara Norenzayan

Once in a while, a whole field of research is pushed forward by a seminal work. Ara Norenzayan's "Big Gods. How Religion Transformed Cooperation And Conflict" is one of those rare books bound to becoming a classic for a generation of colleagues and students. Applauding this compelling piece of empirical and evolutionary studies, I wrote two reviews - one in English at "Evolution - This View of Life" and the other in German at "Natur des Glaubens".

Big Gods by Ara Norenzayan, 2013

Among the many things that I cherish concerning "Big Gods" is a list of "Eight Principles", which are trying to "summarize the entire argument in this book" - that is: the results of years of observation and experimentation in social and cognitive psychology. (p. xiii) Adding two more sentences from the Chapters concerning Secularism, readers might enjoy "ten gems" - as an invitation to read more on every one of them!

"The Eight Principles of Big Gods"

1. Watched people are nice people.

2. Religion is more in the situation than in the person.

3. Hell is stronger than heaven.

4. Trust people who trust in God.

5. Religious actions speak louder than words.

6. Unworshipped Gods are impotent Gods.

7. Big Gods for Big Groups.

8. Religious groups cooperate in order to compete.

And two more on Secularization

9. "Combined with strong secular institutions that keep the cooperative engines going, existential security is the nemesis of religion." (p. 186)

10. "Prosocial religions have one crucial advantage over secular ones - the demographic windfall of more children. And that religious advantage is the secularists' Achilles' heel." (p. 192)


If you already read the book, I hope you are enjoying the chance to re-check and share it's key results. And if you didn't have the chance to read "Big Gods" yet, I hope these "10 empirical gems" might inflame your scientific curiosity. :-)


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