Atran: 'What we don't understand about religion just might kill us'

August 6, 2012

Scott Atran has penned an op-ed for Foreign Policy on the interplay between religion, science, and international conflict.

Atran argues that the international community is entering "an era of greater religiosity," and countries should turn to science for understanding and ways to defuse potential conflicts.

"In an age where religious and sacred causes are resurgent, there is urgent need for scientific effort to understand them," Atran writes.

"Time and again, countries go to war without understanding the transcendent drives and dreams of adversaries who see a very different world. Yet we needn't fly blindly into the storm. Science can help us understand religion and the sacred just as it can help us understand the genome or the structure of the universe. This, in turn, can make policy better informed."

A visiting professor at the Ford School, Atran is the author of In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion and Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists.