A Small Quibble
This statement is at best misleading:
For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.
I have to disagree. It doesn't bother me in the least to think that an urge toward religious behavior may have evolved in humanity. Many things have evolved in human behavior that we don't need any longer. The strong desire for sweets comes to mind. Religion is just about as "useless" as my ongoing love affair with the demon Almond Joy.
In other words, I do need calories, but there are better ways to get them than Almond Joy. And I do need all the services the author credits to religion in early hunter-gatherer societies, but there are better ways to get them than religion.
I'm just sayin'....