The neuropsychological deciphering of religion suggests that the ability to believe in supernatural agents depends on cognitive mechanisms already present in our remote human ancestors. Current research has mainly focused on the cognitive accounts of religion, which do not satisfactorily explain religious motivation. Here, I defend the hypothesis that religious motivation recruits a motivational system that is not specifically human, and that underpins foraging activity under harsh environmental conditions. This motivational system, referred to as incentive hope, denotes motivational excitement for adversity avoidance (reward or relief) when difficulties (non-reward or punishment) are encountered. Incentive hope boosts foraging activity and therefore increases the probability of reward in a hostile environment, independent of any knowledge or awareness of what’s going on. It is shown how religious practices, which largely consist of adversity-avoidance strategies when adversity in life is high, could rely on incentive hope—revealed and enriched through self-awareness and introspection as hope in humans. Some original predictions to test this hypothesis are discussed.