You seem to present a deflationary explanation of religion as being essential to evolutionary biology, which is a little odd. Evolutionary biology is about the origin of species. That explanation would indeed conflict with a religious appeal to intelligent design, and a nontheistic explanation of the origin of religion can be based on concepts from biology. But that total deflation of religion would be sociobiological. I’m just talking here of the scope of various special sciences. You also include in your summary of evolutionary biology an account of the universe’s formation, which obviously has to do with physics and cosmology. So you’re really talking about naturalistic philosophy in general, which you’re saying conflicts with a mind-first ontology.

I suspect the early experience of gods was based on a more naïve handling of entheogens and of other peak states of qualia, such as dreams. Skepticism would have been unusual since there was relatively little data (about the inhuman size and scale of the universe) to undermine anthropocentrism.

Egoism would have been reserved for the minority of top-dog theocrats who were corrupted and monstrified by their absolute power. The majorities settled into the more medieval view of feeling as though they belonged to a greater whole and had to be content with their limited station. With the revolutions of modern liberalism, egoism was democratized. Now we each think we’re sovereign and have inherent rights, including the right not to be bamboozled. Skepticism is justified by default, because this kind of rationality is fundamental to science (and to the dethronement of Church dogmas).

The rise of consciousness should be humbling to a naturalist and I think the aspects of subjectivity (including introspection, introversion, self-awareness, intellectual integrity) have subversive implications, but these can be framed in atheistic terms. We need new myths (compelling fictions) to capture the primordial astonishment that we’re alive, which latter “fact” we now take for granted. Theistic myths seem to me obsolete as an aesthetic matter, regardless of how compelling are sociobiological explanations of religion. Aesthetics is king here, because for myths to work, they have to grab you by the gonads and shake you until you see the sacred in the profane. When myths become trite and politically tainted, they no longer inspire an ennobling vision of what we should be doing.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store