As the Black Death tore through Europe, wiping out half the population in the 14th century, many struggled with the idea their God could inflict such a curse on them, leading them to the conclusion that it was the Devil’s work. In fact, this was common practice until the middle of the 19th century, when germ theory began to be widely accepted. But prior to this, humans believed the Devil was at fault, and now researchers have claimed disease is literally the root of all evil.
The researchers said there was a link between disease outbreak and a rise in religious extremes, something which was particularly prevalent during the plague.
Scientists stated that there were examples of this in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America where the people used religion and supernatural forces to explain disease.
The study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B said there was a rise in conservative religious ideologies in times of disease outbreak.
However, there were some benefits to this practice.
For example, people who were showing signs of sickness were shunned, isolated and even killed in some cases as other thought it was evil beginning to emerge.
As a result, the spreading of diseases was limited, which in turn led to others believing their religious practices were working and the Devil was being shunned, which reinforced their beliefs.
The team wrote in the paper: “Throughout human history, pathogens have posed a persistent threat to the survival and growth of humans.
“Moral vitalism may have emerged as humans tried to explain the spread of disease and persisted because it conferred an adaptive advantage to groups who were threatened by pathogens.”
The authors add that even in a world where science can explain disease and its roots, “such thinking remains evident in many modern societies, wherein health complaints are sometimes attributed to the will of God or the work of the devil and spiritual remedies persist.”