The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures (Google eBook)

Front Cover
Penguin, Nov 12, 2009 - Social Science - 320 pages
22 Reviews
A New York Times science reporter makes a startling new case that religion has an evolutionary basis.

For the last 50,000 years, and probably much longer, people have practiced religion. Yet little attention has been given to the question of whether this universal human behavior might have been implanted in human nature. In this original and thought-provoking work, Nicholas Wade traces how religion grew to be so essential to early societies in their struggle for survival, how an instinct for faith became hardwired into human nature, and how it provided an impetus for law and government. The Faith Instinct offers an objective and nonpolemical exploration of humanity's quest for spiritual transcendence.


What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures

User Review  - Dave Schey - Goodreads

Nicholas Wade is a great writer, keeps his subject interesting, and is easy to read. I very much enjoyed the first part of the book dealing with humans from about 50,000 years ago. I would have liked ... Read full review

Review: The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures

User Review  - Nik - Goodreads

"Does it matter that each of the three monotheisms asserts a historical basis not wholly in accordance with the textual and archeological facts? In many ways it does not matter. Religion is about ... Read full review


The Nature of Religion
The Social and Personal Nature of Religious Belief
Defining Religion
Cultural Development of Religion
Moral Intuition and Trolley Problems
The Origin of Moral Sentiments
Human Morality
Common or Universal Features of Religion
Origins of Judaism
The Rise of Christianity
The Shaping of Christianity
Origins of Islam
An Alternative Hypothesis About Islam
Religion and Borders
Religion and Trade in Early Societies
Religion and Trust

Religious Behavior and Genetics
From Male Dominance to Egalitarianism
Religion and the Supernatural
Costly Signaling
Is Religion Adaptive or Just a Byproduct of Evolution?
Religious Behavior and Group Selection
How Religious Behavior Emerged
Music Language and Belief
Visiting with the Gods
The Ritual Healing Dance of the Kung San
The Dance of the Andaman Islanders
Religious Practices of the Australian Aborigines
Anthropologists and the Origin of Religion
The Transformation of Religion in the Oaxaca Valley
The Fading of the Ancestral Religion in the Old World
The Churchs Struggle with Ecstatic Religion
Interpreting the Supernatural
Religion and Economics
Morality Without Religion
Controlling Fertility
Religious Adjustment of Population Size
When Religions Go Wrong
Managing Natural Resources
A Cycle of War
Shaping Religion for Warfare
An Insatiable War Machine
Training for War
Religion and the Causes of War
The Puritan Founding
The Religious Marketplace
American Civil Religion
Secularism and Sacred Texts
Religion and the Fault Lines Between Civilizations

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Nicholas Wade received a BA in natural sciences from King’s College, Cambridge. He was the deputy editor of Nature magazine in London and then became that journal’s Washington correspondent. He joined Science magazine in Washington as a reporter and later moved to The New York Times, where he has been an editorial writer, concentrating on issues of defense, space, science, medicine, technology, genetics, molecular biology, the environment, and public policy, a science reporter, and a science editor.

Bibliographic information