City Journal reviews Henrich's book The WEIRDest People in the World, which was also reviewed at Quillette last year, and I mentioned at length myself in September, and in passing in the post Cousin Marriage just a few weeks ago.
Those are all interesting in themselves as background, but one section jumped out at me.
Roman gods were not concerned about immoral behaviors like lying, cheating, and stealing. What upset them was the violation of oaths taken in their name. For instance, merchants had to swear sacred oaths to affirm the quality of their goods. Roman gods were said to be more concerned with their honor than the acts themselves.
It very much put me in mind of the Second Commandment (the numbering of the commandments differs among traditions), not to take the Lord's name in vain, which I have mentioned before in terms of "not signing God's name to your ideas," but does also have applicability to the swearing of oaths, especially in light of Jesus's specific teaching on swearing by the altar, the gift on the altar, the Temple, etc. Just interesting, because it likely indicates how strongly other ideas were current in the society at the time.
The topic ties in with much else I have taken interest in over the years, of moral development, European history, genetics, and drivers of current opinion. It seems to be coming up often for others as well.
There is also this from the review, and the parenthetical remark was especially arresting.
Across countries, belief in an afterlife that depends on one’s behavior in life is associated with greater economic productivity and less crime. The book presents data from 1965 to 1995 showing that, for every 20 percent increase in those who believe in hell and heaven, a country’s economy will grow an extra 10 percent in the ensuing decade and its murder rate will go down. (Intriguingly, murder rates rise alongside increases in the number of people who believe only in heaven.)