The Atlantic interviews Robert Bellah about his new tome Religion in Human Evolution. In the interview, he explains the impetus behind writing the book:

What prompted you to write this book?

Deep desire to know everything: what the universe is and where we are in it. The meta-narrative that is really the only one intelligible to all well-educated people everywhere in the world is the meta-narrative of evolution, which is in turn embedded in a narrative of cosmological development since 13.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang.

I wrote an article on religious evolution which was published in 1964, but I got hijacked by America. That was the problem with my “Civil Religion in America” essay—it got such an enormous response at a time when things were pretty critical, towards the end of the Vietnam War. I never intended to work on America but then I got hauled into America for decades. So it wasn’t until I retired in 1997 that I finally had time to do what I’d been wanting to do all my life, which is write a big book about the evolution of religion and religion in human evolution.

Read the full interview here.