Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age

by Robert Neelly Bellah.
 
Citation
Title:
Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age
Author:
Robert Neelly Bellah.
Editor:
City:
Cambridge
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Year:
2011
Volume:
No. of Volumes:
Edition:
Pages:
746
Series Volume:
Series Editor:
Series Title:
Translator:
Language:
English
URL:
DOI:
LCCN:
2010054585
OCLC Number:
License
Select License
ISBN:
9780674061439
Last Updated:
May 16th, 2012
Abstract

Religion in Human Evolution is a work of extraordinary ambition—a wide-ranging, nuanced probing of our biological past to discover the kinds of lives that human beings have most often imagined were worth living. It offers what is frequently seen as a forbidden theory of the origin of religion that goes deep into evolution, especially but not exclusively cultural evolution.  How did our early ancestors transcend the quotidian demands of everyday existence to embrace an alternative reality that called into question the very meaning of their daily struggle? Robert Bellah, one of the leading sociologists of our time, identifies a range of cultural capacities, such as communal dancing, storytelling, and theorizing, whose emergence made this religious development possible. Deploying the latest findings in biology, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology, he traces the expansion of these cultural capacities from the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (roughly, the first millennium BCE), when individuals and groups in the Old World challenged the norms and beliefs of class societies ruled by kings and aristocracies. These religious prophets and renouncers never succeeded in founding their alternative utopias, but they left a heritage of criticism that would not be quenched.  Bellah's treatment of the four great civilizations of the Axial Age—in ancient Israel, Greece, China, and India—shows all existing religions, both prophetic and mystic, to be rooted in the evolutionary story he tells. Religion in Human Evolution answers the call for a critical history of religion grounded in the full range of human constraints and possibilities.


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AlibrisGood. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With printed dust jacket. 784 p. May show signs of wear, highlighting, writing, and previous use. This item may be a former library book with typical markings. No guarantee on products that contain supplements Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. Twenty-five year bookseller with shipments to over fifty million happy customers.US$ 18.46 US$ 3.50US$ 21.96
AlibrisGood. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With printed dust jacket. 784 p. May show signs of wear, highlighting, writing, and previous use. This item may be a former library book with typical markings. No guarantee on products that contain supplements Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. Twenty-five year bookseller with shipments to over fifty million happy customers.US$ 19.73 US$ 3.50US$ 23.23
AlibrisGood. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With printed dust jacket. 784 p. May show signs of wear, highlighting, writing, and previous use. This item may be a former library book with typical markings. No guarantee on products that contain supplements Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. Twenty-five year bookseller with shipments to over fifty million happy customers.US$ 20.06 US$ 3.50US$ 23.56
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AlibrisFair 784 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. Brand new book. RELIGION. Religion in Human Evolution is a work of extraordinary ambition&emdash; a wide-ranging, nuanced probing of our biological past to discover the kinds of lives that human beings have most often imagined were worth living. It offers what is frequently seen as a forbidden theory of the origin of religion that goes deep into evolution, especially but not exclusively cultural evolution. How did our early ancestors transcend the quotidian demands of everyday existence to embrace an alternative reality that called into question the very meaning of their daily struggle? Robert Bellah, one of the leading sociologists of our time, identifies a range of cultural capacities, such as communal dancing, storytelling, and theorizing, whose emergence made this religious development possible. Deploying the latest findings in biology, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology, he traces the expansion of these cultural capacities from the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (roughly, the first millennium B.C.E. ), when individuals and groups in the Old World challenged the norms and beliefs of class societies ruled by kings and aristocracies. These religious prophets and renouncers never succeeded in founding their alternative utopias, but they left a heritage of criticism that would not be quenched. Bellah's treatment of the four great civilizations of the Axial Age&emdash; in ancient Israel, Greece, China, and India&emdash; shows all existing religions, both prophetic and mystic, to be rooted in the evolutionary story he tells. Religion in Human Evolution answers the call for a critical history of religion grounded in the full range of human constraints and possibilities. Robert N. Bellah is Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. "Ever since Darwin, the theory of evolution has been considered the deadly enemy of religious belief; the creation of Adam and Eve and the process of natural selection simply do not go together. In Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age, the sociologist Robert Bellah offers a new, unexpected way of reconciling these opposites, using evolutionary psychology to argue that the invention of religious belief played a crucial role in the development of modern human beings."&emdash; Barnes and Noble Review "Religion in Human Evolution is not like so many other 'science and religion' books, which tend to explain away belief as a smudge on a brain scan or an accident of early hominid social organization. It is, instead, a bold attempt to understand religion as part of the biggest big picture&emdash; life, the universe, and everything… One need not believe in intelligent design to look for embryonic traces of human behavior on the lower rungs of the evolutionary ladder. [Bellah's] attempt to do just that, with the help of recent research in zoology and anthropology, results in a menagerie of case studies that provide the book's real innovation. Not only the chimps and monkeys evoked by the word 'evolution' in the title, but wolves and birds and iguanas all pass through these pages. Within such a sundry cast, Bellah searches for a commonality that may give some indication of where and when the uniquely human activity of religion was born. What he finds is as intriguing as it is unexpected… Bellah is less concerned with whether religion is right or wrong, good or bad, perfume or mustard gas, than with understanding what it is and where it comes from, and in following the path toward that understanding, wherever it may lead… In a perfect world, the endless curiosity on display throughout Religion in Human Evolution would set the tone for all discussions of religion in the public square."&emdash; Peter Manseau, Bookforum "Bellah's book is an interesting departure from the traditional separation of science and religion. He maintains that the evolving...US$ 40.30 US$ 3.50US$ 43.80
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