Lets hope Is religion about to die out? Growing wealth is causing belief in moralising gods to decline - and it could make it vanish entirely They have helped to guide the moral compass - for better and for worse - of millions of humans for around 2,000 years. But the world's major religions are set to disappear according to recent research that examines how they emerged in the first place. Scientists suggest moralising religions - Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism - emerged due to growing differences between wealthy elites and poorer general populations. http://i.***************/i/pix/2016/05/09/09/33F9C5CB00000578-3580579-image-a-5_1462783398638.jpg +2 Moralising religions such as Christianity (Stefan Lochner's Last Judgement pictured), Islam, Judaism and Hinduism may have emerged as a way to help the wealthy elite compete with a more sexually promiscuous and aggressive general populous, but this may also lead to the downfall of such religions, scientists claim By setting out a moral framework for people to live by, these religions helped to level the evolutionary playing field as people's lifestyles changed. According to evolutionary psychologist Dr Nicolas Baumard, at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, affluence causes humans to switch to a slower lifestyle where they have babies later and fewer children. Dismissed as pagan beliefs, the old religions that emerged in the first few thousand years of recorded history tended to centre around nature. They were largely based on rituals and short-term rewards – if you wanted rain or a good harvest you would make an offering to gods. But around 500BC, there was a major change as new religions emerged in Europe and Asia. These instead focused on morality, temperament and self-discipline. For example in the early days of Ancient Greece it was largely believed that no matter how people behaved during life they went to Hades. But from the fifth century BC, Greeks started to believe that after they died there were judged according to their deeds in life. This growing morality also later became entrenched in the belief systems of the Roman Empire. Other religions such as Stoicism, Jainism and Buddhism emerged in other parts of the world, evolving into the religions we recognise today. Around 2,500 years ago it was just the elite members of the Egyptian and Sumerian civilisations that emerged in the eastern Mediterranean who adopted this lifestyle. The rest of the population, however, continued to live fast and die young, which left the wealthier people at a competitive disadvantage from an evolutionary perspective, explained Dr Baumard. As a result the elite promoted moralising gods as a way to ensure the more sexually active and aggressive general populous did not usurp them. But now, as affluence becomes more ubiquitous around the world, this could ultimately lead to the downfall of moralising religions too, Dr Baumard wrote in New Scientist. He said: 'As more and more people become affluent and adopt a slow strategy, the need to morally condemn fast strategies decreases, and with it the benefit of holding religious beliefs that justify doing so. 'If this is true, and our environment continues to improve, then like the Greco-Roman religions before them, Christianity and other moralising religions could eventually vanish.' Most anthropologists have suggested moralising religions emerged as a way to help groups of humans co-operate together on large scales by providing a set of rules they could abide by. They argue this social glue helped to ensure everyone pulled their weight and did not cheat. But many scientists have been puzzled as to why these moralising religions emerged relatively late in human evolution – long after the rise of large civilisations in Egypt and Sumeria. http://i.***************/i/pix/2016/05/09/09/3283246400000578-3580579-image-a-2_1462782512353.jpg +2 By enforcing a moral framework (woman being punished under Sharia law pictured), modern religions have allowed people to adopt a slower lifestyle that would be a disadvantage from an evolutionary standpoint. But as more people adopt this lifestyle due to growing wealth, it is driving a decline in belief in moralising gods Instead Dr Baumard and his colleagues argue one of the key predictors of the emergence of moralising religions was the amount of energy people were consuming each day. They argue that when individuals had access to more than 20,000 kilocalories a day, it promoted a switch in people's behaviour and so their psychological outlook. When this happened society became more stable and predictable while those who did not have access to this calorie intake, continued to live a faster way of life. Dr Baumard said: 'You are clearly at a disadvantage if you follow a slow strategy when others follow a faster strategy - if you are faithful when others grab sexual opportunities, if you forgive when others avenge, if you work when others have fun. 'This disadvantage incentivised the elite to morally condemn fast behaviours, in part by adopting and promoting the new religions that legitimised and reinforced a slow morality and promised punishment for trangressors. 'The same idea could also explain the gradual decline of moralising religion in wealthier parts of the world such as Western Europe and the northern parts of North America.'