Archaeologists prove that religion and politics only lead to social tension and conflict

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Two Muslims covered with the Syrian opposition flag pray
Two Muslims covered with the Syrian opposition flag pray during a rally against the governments of Syria and Egypt in central Sydney September 1, 2013. Hundreds attended a rally in protest against governments in Syria and Egypt. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

A new study published in Current Anthropology claims that conflict and social tension due to religion have persisted all throughout history. The findings of researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of Central Florida contradict the long-held belief that religion was crucial in uniting early state societies.

University of Colorado anthropology professor Arthur Joyce and University of Central Florida associate professor Sarah Barber found evidence in several Mexican archaeological sites that prove humans did not learn anything in more than 2,000 years when it comes to politics and religions. Instead of promoting harmony and peace, religion only led to social problems.

The team compared archaeological evidence, dating back 700 B.C. to 250 A.D., from the lower Río Verde valley of Oaxaca in Mexico's Pacific coastal lowlands with highland Valley of Oaxaca. In lower Verde, religious rituals such as offering and burial in cemeteries at smaller communities hindered the creation of state institutions while in the Valley of Oaxaca, elites became the bridge between their communities and the gods, which eventually resulted in problems with traditional community leaders.

"It doesn't matter if we today don't share particular religious beliefs, but when people in the past acted on their beliefs, those actions could have real, material consequences," Barber said in a release. "It really behooves us to acknowledge religion when considering political processes."

The researchers do not doubt the role religion plays in social life and politics today. Nevertheless, religion crossing politics will only lead to problems.

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