Prime purpose of religious belief is to boost the basic cognitive process of self-control, which in turn encourages any number of valuable social behaviours, aver psychologist.
There are many theories about why religion exists, but most of them are unproven.
However, the new idea proposed by Kevin Rounding of Queen's University, Ontario, has evidence to back it up.
Rounding ran four experiments in which he primed volunteers to think about religious matters. Those volunteers showed more discipline than controls, and more ability to delay gratification.
His research has been described in an article published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.