He is conscious of previous attempts to explain religion in a Darwinian framework or as a by-product of human cognition and draws on them liberally. Furthermore, he grew up amid the violence and religious strife of 1980s Lebanon, curious about why a “once vibrant, cosmopolitan society turned against itself, and imploded” over differences in ideas and outlook.
It is a convincing thesis, and whether or not you buy it, some of its implications are compelling. For example, Norenzayan asks why in religious societies atheists are so profoundly distrusted – as many surveys have shown – rather than simply disliked or ignored. The reason, he suggests, is they are considered freeriders. To the faithful, those who don’t believe in divine monitoring cannot be expected to act morally.
But he also finds that prejudice against atheists diminishes in nations with strong state institutions. Police, judiciary, and the rule of law can be as effective as a supernatural power at ensuring cooperation and accountability.
Actually, they can’t be as effective. All such no-God-needed societies are living off the capital of earlier, devout generations. Also, they tend not to have many children to pass their system on to, and are thus overtaken by people who do not share their views.
In other words, it is about how Government shows there is no need for God any more. Yeah right. More jackboots for peace. Not like we hadn’t seen that before or anything.