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Doctrinal religions that involve recognised gods, more formal theologies, moral codes, dedicated religious spaces and professional priesthoods emerged in two phases during the Neolithic. Almost all of these appeared in a narrow latitudinal band (the northern Subtropical Zone). I suggest that these developments were the result of a need to facilitate community bonding in response to scalar stresses that developed as community sizes increased dramatically beyond those typical of hunter-gatherer societies. Conditions for population growth (as indexed by rainfall patterns and the difference between pathogen load and the length of the growing season) were uniquely optimised in this zone, creating an environment of ecological release in which populations could grow unusually rapidly. The relationship between latitude, religion and language in contemporary societies suggests that the peculiar characteristics of the northern (but not the southern) Subtropical Zone were especially favourable for the evolution of large scale religions as a way of enforcing community cohesion.

Original publication




Journal article


Evolutionary Human Sciences

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