Journal Article

The Evolutionary Psychology of Chinese Religion: Pre-Qin High Gods as Punishers and Rewarders

Kelly James Clark and Justin T. Winslett

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 79, issue 4, pages 928-960
Published in print December 2011 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online August 2011 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfr018
The Evolutionary Psychology of Chinese Religion: Pre-Qin High Gods as Punishers and Rewarders

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Scholarship on religion in Early China (pre-220 BCE) has been predominantly concerned with the issue of ritual and has tended to be more concerned with placing this within the framework of Chinese history than that of religious studies. As such, other topics, such as deities, have either been neglected or subject to untested claims—often that deities do not exist and that Early China represents an atheist society, an argument that makes little sense in light of contemporary scholarship on religion in the field of cognitive science. This paper addresses the issue of deities in Early China by looking at how the High Deities of Early Chinese societies are represented in pre-Qin (pre-221 BCE) texts through statistical analysis of the corpus of texts and close readings of selected passages featuring High Deities. This paper shows that in contrast to some earlier appraisals of an absence of such agents, these texts are rife with depictions of the High Deities, and that they are often represented as moralizing agents that punish vice and reward virtue in others, something that is argued to be expected in evolutionary psychology.

Journal Article.  10807 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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