What’s in a name? Namely, a book title?
The question occurs, why the title to my current book, Religion is God’s Way of Showing Us it’s earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought? Does it take a cheap shot a religion? Is it unnecessarily cryptic?
Even though it’s not literally true that any god gave us religion, most believers must certainly think that religion has a divine sanction as well as proceeding from their deity, or in the absence of one, their sacred supernatural source.
Who, then, is shown the marker of religion revealing that we haven’t evolved beyond religion? I would say those who get an accurate picture of our evolution and religion’s place in it. To the consternation of the fundamentalist, I would say religion was an evolutionary adaptation that was necessary for the survival of every existing human population of today. But, too, it can be to the chagrin of the nonbeliever.
Religion is a product of evolution
Why to the fundamentalist’s consternation? Rather than the study of human evolution being the sin of fallen angels, it appears that religion is a product of human evolution such that we ascendant “apes” were equipped with it by natural selection.
The truth will set us free!
The truth is, it will take a little longer. The mass exodus to humanism didn’t happen as predicted. And this because religion was underestimated by nonbelievers who had examined philosophically and logically its truth value and, yet, overlooked its strength and contribution as an adaptation. No modern society of any significance survived until today without it.
Yes, religion has waned in some areas such as Europe, but that’s the lifecycle of a religion, not all religion. Certainly, we nonbelievers would all like to see the final enlightenment. Each individual religion can wane and cultures and civilizations can evolve and advance, but religion’s grip on humanity is strong enough that it hasn’t let go so far. If humanity had been ready, we would have seen religion’s end in the Classical Period. Yet even after the gods of Greece and Rome became a farce, piety was extolled and blasphemy punished. Rather, we saw the rise of Christianity because even the more enlightened Greco-Roman culture was not done with religion. The balance of humanity lagged further behind than that.
Certainly, the New Atheists (Dawkins, Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens) are not interested in saying religion is or was good for humanity. I can sympathize with that. At the same time, there are a number of scientists, writers, and thinkers who do say matter of factly that they believe some predisposition to religion is in our genes.
I can’t give you a specific episode, but I’ve heard Chris Mooney on Center for Inquiry’s internet/radio podcast, Point of Inquiry, get an affirmative answer to the various iterations of the question (i.e., a heritable component to human religiosity).
I credit Pinky with a similar sentiment in her comment recently on this blog, and in a way, it’s an interpretation or restatement of the book title in question: “I am vastly disappointed in my species. Homo Sapiens Sapiens have had plenty of time to grow up, or at least to have made more of an effort to mature, but the religious keep busy squashing forward movement.”