Which Comes First, Big Cities or Big Gods? – Facts So Romantic

Warriors among the Kwara’ae, a collection of tribal communities indigenous to the Solomon Islands, sacrificed pigs before battle. The tradition granted the combatants, so the belief went, aid from heroic ancestral spirits—like the mighty A’orama, a fierce fighter in Kwara’ae folklore. For every man who prepared to shed blood, a hog met its end.1

A warrior from the Soloman Islands.Wikicommons

Any non-superstitious observer might regard this ritual as a costly habit. Why give offerings when one can eat them instead? This puzzle is not unique to the Kwara’ae. Why pray? Or erect and attend churches, mosques, temples? Or observe holidays and fast? All that time and energy could be spent more practically.

But maybe these acts are actually extremely practical. Shared beliefs and rites may serve an important social function: promoting cohesion.

Unlike bees, ants and other insects, which form large, complex groups with their close cousins and siblings, humans do so with complete genetic strangers—at huge scale. Doing so requires a special kind of cohesion.

“For thousands of years all human beings lived in foraging societies—in small hunter-gatherer bands—egalitarian, face-to-face societies,” says Ara Norenzayan, a professor of social psychology and religious studies at the University of British Columbia…

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