Ever since I read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, and then Sam Harris’ The End of Faith, and further, Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great, I had considered myself a card-carrying atheist, more than a bit annoyed by what I saw as the cultural hegemony of the religious majority.
And then Stephen Asma came along. Asma is a distinguished scholar of philosophy as well as a Senior Fellow of the Research Group in Mind, Science, and Culture at Columbia College–Chicago. He’s also an accomplished painter and blues/jazz musician. I loved his book, The Evolution of Imagination, and was profoundly inspired by this renaissance man. But when I learned he had written a book with the title, Why We Need Religion, I was apprehensive to say the least.
Nevertheless, I read his new book with an open mind and was surprised to see how dramatically it changed my view of religion and its role for our species. In a nutshell, Asma is an atheist, as am I, yet he makes a Darwinian defense of religion, arguing that religious forms offer our species the best form of emotional regulation that we have. There’s many more details in the book, and for that, I highly recommend Why We Need Religion to the hard-nosed secularists as well as to the devout.
Here’s my interview with Asma for www.meaningoflife.tv where we discuss:
- Stephen’s new book, Why We Need Religion
- How religion shaped our emotional lives for millennia
- Can you benefit from religion without sincere belief?
- Examining the concept of “false consolation”
- How will religion evolve in America?