From Paganism to World Transcendence: Religious Attachment Theory and the Evolution of the World Religions
Stephen K. Sanderson
This chapter draws on one of the new cognitive and evolutionary psychological theories of religion, religious attachment theory, to explain the emergence of the Axial Age religions of the late first millennium bce. These religions—Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism—introduced new kinds of gods into world history—gods that were transcendent and capable of providing release from suffering. Religious attachment theory views religion as providing “substitute attachment figures” under circumstances in which people’s social attachments have been severely disrupted. The basic argument of the chapter is that the new Axial Age gods were responses to heightened levels of anxiety and ontological insecurity that accompanied massive increases in warfare and urbanization in the period between approximately 600 bce and 1 ce. The anthropomorphic pagan gods of the ancient empires had become inadequate in the face of the new religious needs that people began to experience, and thus they came to be replaced.
Alexandra Maryanski and Jonathan H. Turner
The human propensity for religious behavior and, eventually, religious organization is the by-product of natural selection working on the neuroanatomy of low-sociality and non-group-forming hominins to become more social and group oriented as a necessary strategy for survival on the African savanna. Using cladistic analysis to determine the behavioral and organizational propensities of the last common ancestor to present-day great apes and humans’ hominin ancestors, while at the same time engaging in comparative neuroanatomy of extant great-ape and human brains, the neurological basis of religion is isolated. Religion emerged under early selection pressures to make hominins more social and able to form stable groups. From the combination of dramatically increased emotionality and cognitive functioning, the transition from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens approximately 300,000 year ago created the neurological platform for religious behaviors among early humans.
Religious globalisms are ways of understanding the global environment as expressed through specific religious world views. The literature tends to see a dichotomous relationship between religious and secular globalisms, with the former in opposition to the latter. The issue was put in focus by the impact of post-Cold War globalization and the contemporaneous return of religion to international relations, which had much to say about the “soulless” nature of market-based globalization and the advance of capitalism to the detriment of religious values and norms. This chapter contends that there are various religious globalisms and that it is not a straightforward relationship per se between religious and secular globalism.