Traditional religion: investing in families, genetically

Connor Wood

Dogon

To modern eyes, traditional religious practices can seem downright baffling, even barbarous. From circumcisions to menstrual huts, the rituals of many societies appear to be coercive, controlling, or senseless. But what if these strange practices actually fulfill functions in their societies? A group of researchers at the Universities of Michigan and Arizona examining the religious practices of the Dogon, an indigenous Malian tribe, have found that Dogon ritual practices help reduce adultery and out-of-wedlock births – a function that can head off bitter interpersonal conflicts and, in the long run, inspire parents to invest more in their children.

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