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Abstract

If “Big Gods” evolved in part because of their ability to morally regulate groups of people who cannot count on kin or reciprocal altruism to get along (Norenzayan, 2013), then powerful gods would tend to be good gods. If the mechanism for this cooperation is some kind of fear of supernatural punishment (Johnson & Bering, 2006), then we may expect that mighty gods tend to be punishing gods. The present study is a statistical analysis of superhuman being concepts from 20 countries on five continents to explore whether the goodness of a god is related to its mightiness. Gods that looked more like the God of classical theism and gods that were low in anthropomorphism were more likely to be regarded as morally good and to be the target of religious practices. Mighty gods were not, however, especially likely to punish or to be a “high god.”

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture