The study, carried out by a team of researchers from the USA and Canada, demonstrated that individuals who believed in a 'High God' (i.e. a powerful intervening god) were less likely to support 'costly earthly punishment' of transgressors, presumably opting for the infinitely unhelpful "God 'il' do it" option.
State sponsored punishment is an evil necessary for societies to function, and so a lack of support for it can have some problematic consequences. "Did I hear someone say pedophile priests can get away with anything?".
Yet again this is another example of how religion can poison the well. Many of us are probably familiar with the loathing feeling when we see a Facebook chain post asking you to 'pray for the tsunami survivors' or 'like this to help save this baby with cancer', well this study demonstrates another example of religious people feeling self-gratitude and accomplishment for doing absolutely nothing.
On a more scientific note, this statement from the paper gave me pause:
'By demonstrating that people perceive a psychological trade-off between earthly and divine punishment options, the current findings support theories suggesting that beliefs in punishing supernatural agents emerged, in part, because they offered societies a way to avoid some of the costs associated with earthly punishment.........'
I wonder if when they say, '... emerged....' do they actually mean evolved? I would love to hear a hand waving evolutionary explanation (as is common in evolutionary psychology).
I once attended a science café where, P.Z. Myers' pal Jesse Bering gave, not one, but two different explanations for the evolution of religion. They went something like this;
1)"Belief in God evolved because knowing that someone is scrutinizing your every move makes you less likely to participate in 'risky' behaviour."
Ergo, higher survival ergo higher reproductive success ergo evolution of religious belief.
2)"Conforming to cultural traditions [religious beliefs] ensured your receipt of in-group benefits [cooperation in hunting, protection etc.]."
Ergo higher survival, ergo higher reproductive success ergo evolution of religious belief.