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The Evolution of God by Robert Wright
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The Evolution of God (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Robert Wright

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In this sweeping narrative that takes us from the Stone Age to the Information Age, Robert Wright unveils a hidden pattern that the great monotheistic faiths have followed as they have evolved. Through the prisms of archaeology, theology, and evolutionary psychology, Wright's findings overturn basic assumptions about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and are sure to cause controversy. He explains why spirituality has a role today, and why science, contrary to conventional wisdom, affirms the validity of the religious quest. And this previously unrecognized evolutionary logic points not toward continued religious extremism, but future harmony.--From publisher description.… (more)
Member:runesmith
Title:The Evolution of God
Authors:Robert Wright
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2009), Hardcover, 576 pages
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The Evolution of God by Robert Wright (2009)

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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
The beginning of the book was amazing. There was so much information about how the concept of God has changed. There was a lot of information about the Bible and how God is portrayed in the Bible. However, the second half of the book was hard to get through. It was more philosophical and opinionated and less informational. ( )
  KamGeb | Jul 7, 2020 |
Seems worth noting that the appendix was actually one of my favorite parts! ( )
  dfwftw | Dec 27, 2019 |
This is an excellent examination of the history of religion from a social perspective. The author is extremely thorough and detailed in his analysis of the evolution of the major religions (Jew, Christian and Islam). He also offers excellent insight as to the reasons for the evolutionary path of religion, and extends those insights to provide a glimmer of hope for the future. ( )
  grandpahobo | Sep 26, 2019 |
Takes seriously the view that religion evolves much like a living organism steered by forces in external "habitat". Uses historical nonzero sum-ness as the crux of otherwise malleable circumstances of scripture-justified action. ( )
  albertgoldfain | Aug 29, 2019 |
My take-away understanding of this book was that the author believes that as a religion encompasses greater population diversity, it perforce must, and hence does, become more tolerant and open or universalistic. Some kind of reward and punishment system (divine or spirit-based whether here and now or after death) also generally ramps up as again population encompassed by the religion increases.

This was a long but worthwhile read, starting with the earliest forms of religions and moving up through polytheism toward and via animism, how authority coalesces in chiefdoms and then states and kingdoms, and to monolatry, then finally to monotheism (by way of national calamities).

I most liked his comments on page 427 pointing out the the ancient religions of Mesopotamia and Egypt may have had a healthier point of view, in the long run. Both of these regions had empires early on, and had to deal with the problem of urban anonymity earlier than other places, so the religions adapted accordingly. On the other hand, early Judaism, church Christianity and earliest Islam all began from an insular us vs them mentality and eventually (more or less) opened up as they had contact with larger cultures or populations: modern Judaism, particularly the more progressive streams, like Renewal and the Chavurah Movement, tend to eliminate much of the older tribalism of Judaism with concepts like Arthur Green's "Eco-Kashrut" and universalist inclusion as the liturgy is changed to reflect the larger world. The Quakers, among other Christians, have done the same recently, and the Sufis have long long led Islam toward great openness.
Yet he criticises the Abrahamic religions for not opening up quickly enough, and for lacking a sort of moral empathy for 'the other' which religions like many Eastern religions seem to tend to emphasize far more.

I found his details on the evolutions of each of the sacred scriptures (the Abrahamic faiths) fascinating from an 'on the ground' perspective. It really does respond to logic, and much of what has been cherry-picked and read selectively for criticism, out of each of the three sets of sacred texts by each opposing side (Christians reading either the Torah/TNaCh or the Koran, especially) turns out to be extremely dependent on the historical context (or what was happening at the time that that particular verse was written) for a reasonable interpretation. He does an excellent job placing many such Koranic and Biblical verses into their historical contexts and showing that what is going on at the time really does matter, despite the transcendence of the overall texts (or the fact that we might like to view these texts as transcendant).

Whether you believe in the divinity or sacred status of the various texts, and whether you believe or don't belive in a personal diety, this book is well worth reading for the sake of advancing a shared belief and faith in the social salvation of Human society as a whole.

Planet Earth, Northern Hemisphere
6th of August, 12017 HE
(the Holocene Calendar) ( )
  FourFreedoms | May 17, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
According to Wright's theory, although religion may seem otherworldly—a realm of revelation and spirituality—its history has, like that of much else, been driven by mundane "facts on the ground." ... Like organisms, religions respond adaptively to the world.

In a climate in which discussions of religion, and especially of the intersection of religion and science, often seem superficial or rushed, Wright is to be commended for his close study. He is also to be commended for his refreshingly dispassionate tone.
 
The possibility of a reasonable engagement between faith and reason, between doctrine and biblical scholarship, between a mature theology and a golden age of scientific research — all this seems very distant right now.

And that’s why a new book gives me hope.
 
added by Shortride | editThe American Prospect, Peter Steinfels (pay site) (Sep 21, 2009)
 
In his brilliant new book, “The Evolution of God,” Robert Wright tells the story of how God grew up.
 

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Robert Wrightprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hayes, KeithCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The partner in the dialogue with God is not the individual man but the human species as a whole. - Gordon Kaufman
Dedication
For John, my odometer monitor
First words
Introduction
I was once denounced from the pulpit of my mother's church.
The Chukchee, a people indigenous to Siberia, had their own special way of dealing with unruly winds.
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Any religion whose prerequisites for individual salvation don't conduce to the salvation of the whole world is a religion whose time has passed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In this sweeping narrative that takes us from the Stone Age to the Information Age, Robert Wright unveils a hidden pattern that the great monotheistic faiths have followed as they have evolved. Through the prisms of archaeology, theology, and evolutionary psychology, Wright's findings overturn basic assumptions about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and are sure to cause controversy. He explains why spirituality has a role today, and why science, contrary to conventional wisdom, affirms the validity of the religious quest. And this previously unrecognized evolutionary logic points not toward continued religious extremism, but future harmony.--From publisher description.

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Book description
Table of Contents:

Pt. 1: The birth and growth of gods. The primordial faith ; The shaman ; Religion in the age of chiefdoms ; Gods of the ancient states -- Pt. 2: The emergence of Abrahamic monotheism. Polytheism, the religion of ancient Israel ; From polytheism to monolatry ; From monolatry to monotheism ; Philo story ; Logos: the divine algorithm -- Pt. 3: The invention of Christianity. What did Jesus do? ; The apostle of love ; Survival of the fittest Christianity ; How Jesus became savior -- Pt. 4: The triumph of Islam. The Koran ; Mecca ; Medina ; Jihad ; Muhammad -- Pt. 5: God goes global (or doesn't): The moral imagination ; Well, aren't we special? -- Afterword: By the way, what is God? -- Appendix: How human nature gave birth to religion.
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Hachette Book Group

2 editions of this book were published by Hachette Book Group.

Editions: 0316734918, 031606744X

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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