Adaptive and Maladaptive Features of Religious Beliefs as Sources of Morality

  • Robert Cliquet
  • Dragana Avramov


The aim of this chapter is to look at religion and religiosity as sources of morality from an evolutionary perspective. The evolutionary origins of religious beliefs are investigated, genetic and neurological factors involved in religious behaviour are reviewed, and adaptive advantages and disadvantages of religions in pre-modern and modern living conditions are evaluated. The discourse on the organised religions is mainly focused on the Mediterranean region—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—whose essential characteristics and historical developments are briefly described and evaluated from an evolutionary point of view. The doctrines of the Abrahamic religions, as revealed in their basic scriptures, raise some anthropological questions and paradoxes about religions as sources of morality. The core of the chapter is devoted to the discussion about (1) individual and social effects; (2) proximate and ultimate effects; and (3) effects in ancestral and modern living conditions of religions as sources of morality and guidance for behaviour. The closing section of this chapter deals with the relation between science and religion. Two major issues are addressed: (1) the (in)compatibility of science and religion; and (2) the persistence of (neo)creationist beliefs.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropology and Social BiologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Population and Family Study Centre (CBGS), Flemish Scientific InstituteBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Population and Social Policy Consultants (PSPC)BrusselsBelgium

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