Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 03 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that religion is, in part, an evolved disease-avoidance strategy. That is, many of the major world religions are a consequence of a system of psychological mechanisms that has evolved to promote disease avoidance. As person-to-person contact is a significant route of contamination, the behavioral immune system encourages avoidance of other people, especially individuals who may be sick or harboring pathogens. Consequently, the behavioral immune system promotes the adoption of socially conservative cultural value systems, which support avoidance of and prejudice toward out-group members. Indeed, the evidence indicates that religiosity is stronger in areas of the world that have a higher pathogen load. Additionally, individuals who are more sensitive to disgust and are more concerned with contamination exhibit more religious conservatism. Viewing religion from a disease-avoidance perspective helps explain why many religions are rife with purity rituals and often promote out-group avoidance.

Keywords: religion, behavioral immune system, disgust, prejudice, contamination, conservative

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.