The Evolution of Religion: How It All Started - And Why

Azim Shariff / University of British Columbia

The Evolution of Religion 101

Religion has been a critical part of the lives of billions of people around the world and throughout recorded history. Yet, religion has remained poorly understood from an academic perspective, remaining a topic shrouded in reverence, mystery, and often controversy. However, the last 20 years have seen tremendous leaps in our scientific understanding of why and what people believe. In this talk, Professor Azim Shariff will discuss how looking at religion using an evolutionary lens can help us understand the form, functions, and origins of faith. Drawing on psychology, economics, and anthropology, we will review evidence testing the hypothesis that the world’s most prominent religions look the way they do today in part because they historically managed to increase cooperation between people within groups, allowing for larger and more successful societies to form. This evidence bears on the role that religion plays in modern society, and the changing role it may play in the near future.

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