The invention of religion is a big bang in human history. Gods and spirits helped explain the unexplainable, and religious belief gave meaning and purpose to people struggling to survive. But what if everything we thought we knew about religion was wrong? What if belief in the supernatural is window dressing on what really matters—elaborate rituals that foster group cohesion, creating personal bonds that people are willing to die for.
There’s a sacredness to religion that people don’t associate with supporting a football team. But frankly a lot of football fans hold their team pretty sacred.
If I’d grown up in different parts of the world—for example, in Papua New Guinea, where I did my fieldwork—I’m quite sure I would be religious.
While it appears that people are dying for religious causes, I actually think it would be truer to say they die for each other.