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date: 03 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Religion motivates, exacerbates, and even justifies violence. This chapter argues that religious beliefs regarding violence—particularly those of monotheistic, Abrahamic faiths—are shaped by evolved psychological mechanisms. Further, it argues that religiously motivated violence is most likely to occur in evolutionarily relevant contexts. Guided by sexual selection theory and parental-investment theory, it first provides an overview of human sexual selection from an evolutionary perspective. It discusses how and why an evolutionary perspective—and principles of sexual selection and parental investment in particular—may provide a richer understanding of religiously motivated violence. Next follows an overview of research addressing several types of religiously motivated violence such as mate guarding and controlling behaviors, wife beating and uxoricide, honor killing, child abuse and filicide, male and female genital mutilation, war, and terrorism. Finally, it highlights the parallels between religiously motivated violence and evolved psychological mechanisms for violence, concluding with suggestions for future research.

Keywords: evolutionary psychology, religion, violence, sexual selection, parental investment

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