Rod Hilton's Reviews > The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures

The Faith Instinct by Nicholas Wade
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Oct 11, 10

bookshelves: audiobooks, religion

The Faith Instinct is not a bad book, but it may not be what you're expecting. It certainly wasn't what I was expecting.

Based on the title, "How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures" I was expecting some pretty hard scientific data. Brain imaging, scientific experiments, and psychological case studies, however, are not to be found in this book. Instead, author Nicholas Wade approaches the question of religion not from a scientific or psychological perspective, but an historical one.

In this way, it is very much like The Evolution of God, in that it is a book that starts at the earliest concepts of religion (tribal myths) and works its way up to modern religion. Wade offers some additional insights, but most of them center around the notion that religion formed because it enforced social rules, which increased social cohesion and increased chances of group survival. This isn't a particularly new observation, and it is one that fails to answer certain questions, such as why some religions practice things like "honor killings" which would seem to hurt group cohesion more than help it. On a few occasions, Wade responds to questions like these but the explanations feel hand-wavey and incomplete.

I was disappointed by the lack of hard science in the book, but once I accepted that it was largely a historical chronicling of religion on the planet, it became somewhat more tolerable. The chapters on Christianity and Islam were quite interesting and, though they retread well-worn ground, I found them quite enjoyable to read.

Not as thorough as The Evolution of God, not as insightful as a book like Breaking the Spell, The Faith Instinct is really only worth a read if you're desperate for more material on the subjects it addresses.
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