Big Gods Followed Development of Big Societies, Rather Than Building Them, Suggests Cross Cultural Study
A cross-cultural study of societies in Austronesia published in the journal Nature debunks the idea that belief in moralizing high gods is necessary for the formation of complex societies.
Of the societies surveyed, 22 were politically complex, but only 6 had belief in moralizing high gods. The study traced the ancestral relationships between the societies to reconstruct the cultural history, and concluded that belief in moralizing high gods followed, rather than preceded, the development of complex societies throughout the region.
In other words, first the people came together to construct complex societies in which everyone worked together to create something lasting and larger than themselves, and only afterwards, in some societies, did people develop religious beliefs about big gods that were supposedly responsible for it all.
The moral for our story, here in the United States, is that when theocratic politicians preach at us that we all have to believe in God, to prevent our own society from falling apart, they’re telling a just-so story. We live in a democracy. We set up our society ourselves, and we keep it up ourselves.