In the absence of scientific explanations, our ancestors were forced to conclude — quite reasonably — that hardships such as plagues, floods, and famines were instigated by supernatural forces beyond their comprehension and control, that human behavior may have been responsible for bringing it on, and that “corrections” in this behavior might help prevent future problems. What’s more, the socio-cultural adaptations required to survive these hardships inevitably led to dramatic changes in human organization, cooperation, and moral values.
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“When life is tough or when it’s uncertain, people believe in big gods,” noted Russell Gray in a statement. He’s a professor at the University of Auckland and a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for History and the Sciences in Jena, Germany. “Prosocial behavior maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments,” he says. –George Dvorsky

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story set in a harsh climate and create a religious system for your characters.

Journaling Prompt: How does the strength of your faith vary according to your life circumstances?

Art Prompt: Harsh weather – big god

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about a religious revival that occurred during extreme circumstances.

Photo Credit: Surian Soosay on Flickr

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