Feeling inarticulate this morning but also feeling like it's important to speak --
I thought this book was important:
William James made a breakthrough (in my opinion) by turning his attention from the claims of religion (is this or that true?) to the experience of religion (what is it like to pray, to be in the Lord's presence, to make offerings?) Rossano turns his attention to: what does religion do? What can an endangered savannah ape that gets religion do that it couldn't do before?
Well, it can take over the world. For better or worse. Every community can redesign its modes and intensities of cooperation. Individuals can engage in practices that elevate their sensitivities and develop their intellectual and imaginative capacities. Suddenly sacred places appear, and sacred art appears in them. These apes become ever more bizarre and unpredictable.
Divinities serve -- this is my interpretation now, not Rossano's exactly -- as variables in the algebra of human relationships. When you achieve variable in mathematics you start be able to solve, not just particular problems, but general ones. And when you have divinities you start being able to think beyond the particulars of "what to I owe Joe?" or "what do I owe Nancy?" to "what do I owe people in general? What is the right way to behave? Precisely because a god -- a person with whom you have an intense but infinitely malleable relationship -- is usually absent, you can configure different solutions to human equations. You can tinker with social relations in a way that you could not before. Some of these solutions were spectacularly successful.