According to a new cross-cultural study, … people living in communities most like those of Stone Age hunter-gatherers — small in numbers and lacking a “moralizing god” — made the most unfair offers to strangers and were least likely to punish stingy partners.
More here. This confirms that moralizing Gods function to encourage cooperation in large societies, and adds moralizing gods, and fairness to strangers, to the many innovations that came with farming, such as war, slavery, marriage as property, class hierarchies and large wealth inequalities.
The strength of modern attachment to moralizing gods was emphasized to me twice recently. First, I was reminded the [US] public hates atheists:
Mosaic Project researchers asked survey questions to determine Americans’ reactions to situations involving members of various out-groups (e.g. a person’s feeling about one their children marrying a Jewish or Muslim or Catholic or atheist person). … ‘Atheist’ was by far the ‘lightning rod’ category on multiple queries and atheists were even described as “evil and immoral”.
Second, I attended a lecture by famed philosopher of science Philip Kitcher, on “Militant Modern Atheism”:
Religious scholars who criticize the militant atheists often view religion as centered in social practices that inform and enrich human lives. … Doctrines that atheists might subject to epistemic evaluation … are … pieces of scaffolding, that are, in principle, dispensable. … Militant modern atheism is incomplete (and likely counter-productive) so long as it fails to attend systematically to the roles religion fulfills in human lives. … The challenge is to develop a well-articulated and convincing version of secular humanism.
Kitcher was vague on how religion “enriches,” mentioning identity, community, and “giving meaning.” He likes folks to start from core values and pick a religion to match, and not take anything transcendent beings say too literally. I asked the last question of the evening: what if we can’t reform religion much; which would he choose between atheism and the today’s distribution of religious styles? He refused to answer that question, insisting we can reform religion. Apparently some choices are morally repugnant to consider, and even to a famed analytic philosopher, “what if we can’t take crazy beliefs out of religion?” is one of them.