For the most part, monotheism did not “develop”; In most known instances (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, for example), it began as — and is certainly treated as — a “revelation from above.” This also seems to have been true of the short-lived monotheistic religion of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten (1352–1336 BC). “Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten and defied tradition by establishing a new religion that believed that there is but one god; the sun god Aten.” – Discovering Egypt.
Generally, monotheism is favorable to a high level of organization, including complex theologies that don’t just morph a lot but are only changed with much deliberation or controversy. But did that state of affairs evolve so as to foster “cohesive unity,” as Harari suggests? Hard to say. Religion — especially propositional religion, like the monotheisms — can foster either unity or disunity. Monotheism has not been a force for unity in Northern Ireland or the Middle East.
But what makes the problem even more complex is that not all disunity is bad. Many social reformers who were motivated by religion created considerable disunity in their lifetimes (William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King come to mind) but they are honored today for the changes they brought about.Denyse O’Leary, “Religion is far too complex to have a single evolution story” at Mind Matters News (August 2, 2021)
Takehome: We can certainly find support for Harari’s thesis about the evolution of religion — but we can find support for many other theses as well.
You may also wish to read: is free will a dangerous myth? The denial of free will is a much more dangerous myth (Michael Egnor takes issue with Harari on the issue of free will.)
Can plants be as smart as animals? Seeking to thrive and grow, plants communicate extensively, without a mind or a brain