Will Religion Survive? A Critical Discussion of the Divergent Answers of two Atheists

Archaeologist David Lewis-Williams and Philosopher of Religion J.L. Schellenberg

  • Martin Prozesky
Keywords: Future religion, Evolution, Brain science, Unethical religion


Underlying this article are the questions of how to demarcate the phenomena to which the term ‘religion’ refers, and of how to differentiate between interpreting and explaining such phenomena – a matter to which David Chidester has offered guidance. These questions are approached by considering a different but closely related question: Does religion have a future, as answered in important recent books by two eminent scholars, both of them atheists, working in very different academic disciplines. These are the books of archaeologist, David Lewis-Williams, Conceiving God: The cognitive origins and evolution of religion (Lewis-Williams 2010) and philosopher of religion, J.E. Schellenberg’s more recent work, Evolutionary religion (Schellenberg 2013). These works provide divergent answers to whether religion has a future – a divergence arising from different views about what constitutes religion. This article refers to their respective views, then provides a critical discussion of both, and ends by engaging, where relevant, with ideas in the work of David Chidester.