OK, I have read the two page introduction to The Evolution of God. If Wright’s claims in the introduction are true, then I should learn a good lesson from this book. Here are Wright’s claims, as I see them, that give me grounds for this optimism.
1. Wright is a materialist
It is easier for me to accept an argument if it is laid out by someone who thinks the same way I do. I look forward to reading a book by a materialist because the author thinks like me, but hopefully a little more deeply on this topic. If the book were written by Deepak Chopra, I would have a hard time wading through the vague ideas and subtle imagery.
2. He will discuss how the Abrahamic religions draw upon earlier paganism.
I have to admit it, I love to hear these kinds of analyses that expose the ‘bull’ behind the sacred cows of my former religion. This appeals to my lower instincts, but I do look forward to seeing this promise play out.
3. Wright will show some value, or good in religion today.
Although my lower desires are addressed in #2, this promise is the one that appeals to my better self. This is my desire to somehow come to terms with christianity after 11 years of resenting my former religion. I think I would be a happier and more pleasant person if I could come to see christianity in a more positive light. Like a a formerly married couple after a bitter divorce who are able to be in the same room with each other after time, I’d love to think christianity is ‘OK.’ I doubt I’ll ever think it more than a benign old quirk, but better a grandfather who asks you to pull his finger than a cousin who pulls your hair out.
This leads into my main concern about this book. Wright stated, rather vaguely for a materialist,
“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.”
If he is saying what I think he is saying, he is laying out a plan for a journey I doubt I will be able to complete with him. At some point I think we are going to have to part ways. It seems like he is saying that religion today is somehow more real, more plausible than it was in the past. I will have a hard time swallowing that. A fairy tale is a fairy tale, no matter how much realism you put into it.
I imagine a pagan priest or a witch doctor or a shaman chanting and gesticulating and appealing to gods he has made up himself. We have seen that people who follow these types of primitive religions often are influenced by a strong placebo effect that doesn’t seem to affect modern religions. These people can pierce their bodies without showing signs of pain. I don’t see how Wright is going to prove that modern religion makes their gods more real than that. But I withhold my judgement for now. Although books that present new dimensions to a viewpoint I agree with are good, books that change my viewpoint are even better. Let’s see how this unfolds.