Does God exist? This straightforward question has spawned endless debate, ranging from apologists’ supposed proofs of God’s existence to New Atheist manifestos declaring belief in God a harmful delusion. In Disbelief, Will M. Gervais, Phd., a global leader in the psychological study of atheism, shows that the ubiquity of religious belief and the peculiarities of atheism are connected pieces in the puzzle of human nature.
It’s undeniable that religion is a core tenet of human nature. It is also true that our overwhelmingly religious species is also as atheistic as it’s ever been. Yet, no scientific understanding of religion is complete without accounting for those who actively do not believe. In this refreshing and revelatory book, Gervais argues that religion is not an evolutionary puzzle so much as two evolutionary puzzles that can only be solved together. First is the Puzzle of Faith: the puzzle of how Homo sapiens – and Homo sapiens alone – came to be a religious species. Second is the Puzzle of Atheism: how disbelief in gods can exist within our uniquely religious species. The result is a radically cohesive theory of both faith and atheism, showing how we became a uniquely religious species, and why many are now abandoning their belief.
Through a firsthand account of breakthroughs in the scientific study of atheism, including key findings from cognitive science, cultural evolution, and evolutionary psychology, Disbelief forces a rethinking of the prevailing theories of religion and reminds both believers and atheists of the shared psychologies that set them on their distinct religious trajectories. In casual prose and with compelling examples, Gervais explains how we became religious, why we’re leaving faith behind, and how we can get along with others across the religious divides we’ve culturally evolved.
Will M. Gervais, Ph.D. is a global leader in the scientific study of atheism and a Reader of psychology at the Center for Culture and Evolution at Brunel University London. Dr. Gervais’s research has focused on the psychology of atheism for over a decade and his work has been featured in popular outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, Der Speigel, Psychology Today, Vox, and ScientificAmerican.
He was named a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science, he is the recipient of the Margaret Gorman Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association, and the SAGE Young Scholar Award from the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology, the top international prize for early career achievements in social and personality psychology.
Dr. Gervais has given invited talks about his research on atheism to national and international secular groups. His research has been featured in journals such as Science, Nature Human Behavior, Psychological Science, Cognition, The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and The Journal of Experimental Psychology, and he is an Associate Editor at Social Psychological and Personality Science and an Editorial Board Member at Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science and Secularism and Nonreligion.
“Gervais offers a sharp, engaging, and insightful journey though the hills and dales of the cognitive science of religiosity and irreligiosity. He illuminates the latest psychological and evolutionary research on both religious faith and atheism. Accessible and conversational while still being scholarly and erudite, Disbelief is raw intellectual pleasure.”
Gervais’s pioneering studies and writings generate a sense of wonder and excitement when it comes to understanding the evolutionary, cognitive mechanisms that give rise to both religious belief and unbelief. With sensitivity, wit, and wisdom, Disbelief constructs a compelling narrative of the best scientific work, much of it Gervais’s own, aimed at understanding the Puzzle of Atheism.