This is the first of my posts regarding the book I am reading entitled The Evolution Of God by Robert Wright. I plan to attempt at least a weekly post, probably on Saturday or Sunday. There may be a friend or two who join me in this read, providing their own commentary.
If you have read my blog for any length of time or had real or honest conversations regarding faith, God and knowledge, then what follows will not surprise you. One of the biggest challenges to Christians (and probably other mono-theistic religions) is the nature of how we approach “Truth.” Western religious perspectives of the evangelical and more conservative type have a very definitive view of God and the truth they believe to have received over the centuries, especially from holy writ.
I perceive that there is a negation of the idea that other ancient traditions theologically contributed to what they now hold as truth regarding God (an exception would be the obvious contributions of the Jewish faith into Christian theology). This is sort of a purest view. For instance, creation stories and flood accounts, while there are many such views in different cultural groups in the near vicinity to where the Judeo-Christian faith originated, these are not believed to have informed or influenced the biblical narratives. Wright cites examples where early “pagan” rituals made it into the Hebrew Scriptures, and supporting the view that the monotheistic versions of religion were built upon earlier pagan and animistic religions. He cites Genesis 6 and the Nephalim, who were sons of God who had sex with the women of the world and the offspring were giants and heroes. Now there are many different ways that OT scholars have explained what exactly this passage is about, however it seems that Wright’s explanation is reasonable too. The point is that Judaism and Christianity are not unique religious expressions but are part of a continuum of religious development.
While I no longer have any definitive view or f theology of what God might be, I have held such a position in my past. Such a posture seemed to automatically put me at odds with other religious thought, because it differed from the belief of my particular brand of Christianity. In my experience this was not helpful. Our exploration into the sacred (both in our tradition and others), rather than watering down our faith, can actually deepen and enrich one’s religious experience.
In the Introduction of Wright’s book, the following perspective is introduced.
“I don’t think a “materialist” account of religion’s origin, history, and future − like the one I’m giving here − precludes the validity of a religious worldview. In fact, I contend that the history of religion presented in this book, materialist though it is, actually affirms the validity of a religious worldview; not a traditionally religious worldview, but a worldview that is in some meaningful sense religious.
It sounds paradoxical. On the one hand, I think gods arose as illusions, and that the subsequent history of the idea of god is, in some sense, the evolution of an illusion. On the other hand: (1) The story of this evolution itself points to the existence of something you can meaningfully call divinity; and (2) the “illusion,” in the course of evolving, has gotten streamlined in a way that moved it closer to plausibility. In both of these senses, the illusion has gotten less and less illusory.”
This is, for many monotheistic believers, a characterization way outside what they are comfortable considering as in any way true, nor would it be an idea they would consider helpful to their present understanding and belief. However, if such believers could learn to set aside, even temporarily, that perspective of which they are so certain, the result could be surprisingly helpful and deepen the faith they have. In addition such an openness to other perspectives might just provide the opportunity to work together towards a future that reflects more genuinely the world for which we all hope.
Try reading this to honestly entertain the ideas put forth, not simply to refute that with which you already know you disagree. The benefit could be significant!