02 November 2011

Where Did Religion Come From?

Where Did Religion Come From? By Robert N. Bellah (SSRC, The Immanent Frame)

When an interviewer for the Atlantic Monthly blog asked me “What prompted you to write this book?” I apparently replied, “Deep desire to know everything: what the universe is and where we are in it.” I don’t deny that I said it—it’s just that I would have thought I would have given a more pedestrian reply, because I am a sociologist, with a Ph.D. in my discipline and some 40 years experience as a professor at Harvard and Berkeley. And I am quite aware that early in the last century Max Weber, in a famous 1918 talk called “Science as a Vocation,” warned that “science has entered a phase of specialization previously unknown and this will forever remain the case.” It does seem that he didn’t apply this dictum to himself, but he was talking about the future when huge projects like his own would no longer be possible. So what is this “deep desire to know everything” in a world of super-specialization? When I look at books like Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God, Nicholas Wade’s The Faith Instinct, Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. and Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, recent books that might seem parallel to my own new book, I can only say Weber was right—these books should not have been written, or, to be charitable, they may be good journalism but they are not serious contributions to understanding.
Link: Where Did Religion Come From?