Abstract and Keywords
This chapter describes an integrative hypothesis for the origin and evolution of human religious cognition and behavior. The hypothesis is based on kin selection, which leads to reduced competition and increased cooperation within family and small-scale groups and generates novel forms of psychological kinship that foster cooperation in larger scale groups. The “concept of God” is represented by one’s circle of kin and one’s ancestors, such that serving God and serving these individuals become synonymous. Kinship pervades, motivates and supports all of the major manifestations of religiosity. The primary selective pressures favoring religious phenotypes are social and ecological selective pressures within and between groups. Religiosity represents group-specific adaptations that mediate cultural-group survival and reproduction. The kinship theory of religion is consistent with diverse data from anthropology, evolutionary biology, psychology, psychiatry, endocrinology, and genetics.
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