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

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  159 ratings  ·  21 reviews
"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 evolutio ...more
Hardcover, 1st edition, 776 pages
Published September 15th 2011 by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
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Michael Brady
This is strong piece of work. Bellah has assembled an imposing cathedral drawing brick by brick from cosmology, paleontology, archeology, biology, neurology, anthropology, mythology, philosophy, theology, politics, and literature to address the role of religion in human history. I found it very challenging to read and remain engaged with - it took me five months to complete its 606 pages - but I think it will sink in and become part of my thinking on the issues examined.
Jim Parker
This book takes much effort to read but the reader is rewarded, at least in my case, with a much improved understanding of how religion and society have changed together through the part of history covered in the text.

I was particularly impressed with how an ethical view of the world developed quite differently in different parts of the world but certainly bears a very common thread. Another thread I found very informative was how different cultures justify behaviors which are outside their mora
Daniel Gauss
Leave it to an academic to take a topic everyone finds engaging and to bore you to death with it.

Basically, let me help you. There have been 3 basic religious trends - when we were hunter gatherers we embraced shamanism. When we were agriculturalists, we embraced magic (read The Golden Bough - an amazing book that puts Bellah to shame) and when cities developed a new type of 'religion' - what we call religion - developed.

There is no one definition that can incorporate all these trends, but Bel
Aug 03, 2012 Tom marked it as to-read
Interesting interview with author in Hedgehog Review.
The grand sweep of the book is breathtaking. Unfortunately, Bellah fell into the trap of authors who have enjoyed their research too much -- it was largely descriptive and did not live up to its analytical promise.

If you're looking for a one book review of the literature on the religious impulse in biological evolution, the modern academic understanding of the development of Judaism through to the later prophets, a history of Greek social and political development and how it led to Plato and Ari
Dipa  Raditya
Judul Buku :

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

Pengarang : Robert N,Bellah

Tebal : 744 hal.

Cara pandang Robert N. Bellah dalam melihat agama dimulai dari hal
yang paling sederhana yaitu teori tentang agama sipil. Dua kata
agama dan sipil bersanding menyiratkan sebuah arti bahwa hubungan
antara agama dan masyarakat sama-sama memiliki nilai yang bertaut satu
dengan yang lain. Agama , bagi Robert N.Bellah tidak memerlukan suatu
keterlibatan dunia supernatural sama sekali. M
I admit upfront that I have not read this book cover to cover but spot-read along the way, and for that reason I am not assigning a rating.

Bellah is a name known and admired in the social sciences, but this massive work did not move me, and for this reason.

People interested in "religion" can be said to fall in two major groups: those for whom religion is a social phenomenon, and those for whom religion plays an important part in their life. Of course overlap can and does occur.

But this book is
Leif Guiteau
Great, informative book, yet it was extremely deep, and is not for the amateur reader. Very heady, written in a "professor voice," so if someone is not well-educated, it's not for you. Otherwise, very informative and well-written.
Lindsay Moore
Half way through this massive book. Charles Taylor mentions it near the end of his work entitled A Secular Age. I'm looking for something very deep about the nature of religion, religious experience, and its truth - if there is any truth in it....
So far, it seems that Robert Bellah thinks evolutionary theory will provide an insight. I find that less interesting and unlikely.
Mostly I am reading the book for his handling of the "axial age," that period that started around 500 BCE when all the gr
Karen Blanchette
This book was long and dense so it took me forever just to get through it, let alone to really appreciate what he was saying. I appreciated the attention to each of the 4 civilizations and their approach to religion. It was cool to see how much overlapped between them all and how each civilization tells the same general stories over and over again. I really loved the conclusion, particularly his discussion on agricultural mass extinction and religious plurality. I felt it tied the contents in ni ...more
A very challenging read, and while I do not think I agree with everything, even those parts I think I disagreed with (I did mention it was challenging, didn't I) still caused me to think about things in a slightly different way.
Roy Kenagy
Nov 22, 2011 Roy Kenagy marked it as to-read
Review - Richard Madsen at The Immanent Frame:

"Bellah’s new masterpiece, Religion in Human Evolution is comparable in scope, breadth of scholarship, and depth of erudition to [Max] Weber’s study of world religions, but it is grounded in all of the advances of historical, linguistic, and archeological scholarship that have taken place since Weber, as well as theoretical advances in evolutionary biology and cognitive science."
A book to be read when you're not in a hurry. Bellah draws and investigates from all kinds of angles, leaving the reader sometimes wondering what sort of book was he trying to write? Well, a large, generous and penetrating work that shys from simple analysis of pre- and axial ages where economics, religion and politics became dominant factors in human wellbeing and culture.
John Wylie
A towering scholar! Very good in giving a sweeping and authoritative account of the "Archaic Age" in which gods appeared with special relationships with kings, transforming into the "Axial Age" represented by the Greek philosophers, the Hebrew prophets, Buddhist India, and Confucian China. I thought his evolutionary take quite lame and almost an afterthought.
David Alkek
This scholarly tome takes the human saga from earliest times. It attempts to outline in a detailed way the development of religious thinking. It is especially good in the Axial age. However in order to be inclusive, Bellah has become pedantic, burdensome, and at times boring. A good reference if you don't want to read every word.
A. J.
I was so excited to start this book. My two favorite topics (evolution and religion) in one book. Alas, after a few chapters, I quit (I think this is only the second time I have ever not finished a a book). It was work, too much work, to read. I likened it to chewing a mouth full of marbles.
S Brent
Excellent work, as might be expected from Bellah. Wish it had less of the academic "review of all other books on the subject" and more his own argument. The work on "play" is key, and its clear that he came to that too late. Needs to be rewritten (sigh) with play front and center.
Sprawling and scholarly, in the Durkheimian/Weberian tradition. The first 3 chapters are all set-up, and probably could be interwoven with the substantive traditions. Most of the humor can be found in his endnotes... but you sure learn a lot about ancient religions :)
Very interesting read. Especially when the author gets to the Axial Age of religion. Lots of food for thought.
Still debating.
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Bellah is Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus at Cal, and coauthor of Habits of the Human Heart. In 2000, President Clinton awarded Bellah the National Humanities Medal and, in 2007, he received the American Academy of Religion Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. Religion in Human Evolution is the result of Bellahs lifetime interest in the evolution of religion and ...more
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