The American Interest

Books, Film, and History

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The Evolution of Religion

While atheists and offended believers have been holding the equivalent of a dorm room bull session over the role of religion in society, evolutionary biology has emerged as a beacon of understanding. Two recent books attempt to turn that potential into reality.

Published on June 10, 2012
The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures by Nicholas Wade Penguin Press, 2010, 320 pp., $25.95Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age by Robert N. Bellah Harvard University Press, 2011, 784 pp., $39.95
It’s been an interesting decade for thinking about religion. After 9/11 it finally dawned on people that religion wasn’t going away and that ignorance about it might well be debilitating. Many did not cotton to this news; the “New Atheists” represented not so much an intellectual challenge to religious belief, but rather an adolescent cri de coeur from those...