A well written book with some compelling ideas. The narrator, Arthur Morey, was so natural and convincing, it was though the book was being read by the author himself. Well done.
I really enjoyed the content of this book and the narration. Some points were a little hard to follow and I'd have to listen to it again to let the idea sink in or get myself back on track.
I was fascinated by the tiny tidbit about religion in Guns Germs and Steel, and this book was what I found to give me the big picture. It was utterly fascinating. (I did have to listen at 1.5 speed instead of my usual 1.25, but I was captivated.)
To certain friends. It is basically the argument from his earlier book Nonzero, extended to the topic of religion and theology.
The most interesting is Wright's provocative claim that the book's thesis provides evidence for the existence of "God" (very loosely defined). It's the kind of claim that will please no one; it's too watery for true believers and too spooky for most modern thinkers.
Wright's got a dry sense of humor that often comes in the form of understatement. The narrator is not as good at pulling it off as the author would be.
No- it's a good capstone to The Moral Animal and Nonzero- I suspect his next book will be about Buddhism.
Do you read the book before you dislike my reviews?
Robert Wright's theories in "The Evolution of God" is interesting, but also a tough subject to tackle. As I become older, I'm becoming more of an atheist. It's not so much I'm not a believer, but I have my doubt there is a God. The book is broken up into three main religions.Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Wright writes how God evolved overtime through different religions. He does not dismiss a God, but he explains the non zero sum. This was just a hard book to tackle because I'm not so religious that I think that God was my designer, but I also think that God was a myth from our ancestors and their stories got embellished overtime through religions.
This is not for the fundamentalist, but essential to those who have an open mind and want an intellectual inquiry into development of religion. I'd give it five stars all around except for repetition. The author clearly knows his stuff.
I rarely just take a book at face value and change long-held beliefs, so this book kicked off long hours of research for me into some of the claims of the author. While some of that research is still ongoing, Wright says a lot of things, but doesn't offer a lot of concrete evidence to back it up. For instance, that God had a wife at one point is supported only by a couple of temples that mention her. Two whole temples? Not a lot to make sweeping judgements on, but Wright, in his long windedness, seems to have got a quarter of the book out of these two temples.
To the charge that the Old Testament was originally written in mythological style, only later to be rewritten and purged not only of this style of writing but of other gods as well -- as the Jews "evolved" from polytheist to monotheist -- I could find hardly any real, hard proof. In fact, the oldest intact versions of the OT found in caves along with the Dead Sea Scrolls, do not support this claim. If someone can point me to real evidence to back up his claims, I would be happy to exam them. I've looked high and low and came up empty handed.
In doing my research for this claim, though, I did find plenty of evidence that the New Testament evolved over time and changed as theology changed. If anyone has any doubt on this statement, see "Misquoting Jesus," by Bart D. Ehrman. The evidence is there for people who have eyes to see. Believe me, I didn't really want to see it, but I have to go where the truth leads me. Much of the proof with the New Testament has been destroyed over time, but here is an example of a Christian sacred text evolving as theology "evolved" (and this was a sacred document at the time and existed right along beside canonical scripture for centuries):
Differences Between the Coptic and Greek Versions of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.
The third-century Greek fragments have theological differences with the Coptic version. the Greek fragments seem to find no issue with a woman's right to teach or lead, but the Coptic version, two centuries later, suggests patriarchal challenges to female leadership. Taken together, the versions elucidate a historical shift toward increasing exclusion of women as leaders in the early Christian churches and communities. The conflict between Mary and Peter illustrated in the Gospel of Mary has resonance in the Pistis Sophia, the Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of the Egyptians and may have been indicative of tension within the church during the second century. -- The Everything Gnostic Gospels Book -- p. 145
Another topic Wright spent a good deal of time on was the fact that the reason Jesus was here was extremely important, but instead of plainly telling everyone what was going on, he intentionally spoke in parables so that they couldn't understand him. That's a good point. However, this topic was addressed perfectly in Brian D. McLaren's "The Secret Message of Jesus." I stumbled upon "Secret Message" after reading "Evolution of God," and I can't recommend it enough.
The last part of "Evolution of God" that I really enjoyed was the look at Islam. With this review being written from within the Bible Belt, honestly most of what I know about Islam comes from occasionally being forced to listen to conservative talk radio by coworkers at work. Let's face it, Glenn Beck probably isn't the most unbiased source of information on Muslims a person can find. In that respect, "Evolution of God" was pretty fair and I learned a lot. I just finished "The Lost History of Christianity" by Philip Jenkins, and for the most part, it backed up a what Wright had to say in "Evolution of God," though I did catch a few contradictions between the two here or there.
When I first got through with "Evolution of God," my first thought was, "I had to keep poking it with a stick until there was nothing." But really, the book did not shake my faith in God, what it really did was make me question organized religion. Another book I would recommend on this topic is "Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices" by George Barna and Frank Viola.
All in all, taken with a grain of salt, I think "Evolution of God," is a fantastically thought provoking book and one worth reading. I do have reservations about some of Wright's conclusions. Based on my own research, he makes some grand statements that don't hold up under close scrutiny. On his part, some more real evidence should have been included, and would be a welcomed addition to an updated edition of "Evolution of God."
Where Wright falls flat, I think, is his sort of wishy-washy view of God as something only slightly better than purely mechanical/biological evolution. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but again, he was not clear on exactly what he believed. So some sacred texts turn out to be the work of men rather than of God, does that really leave us with nothing?
I would suggest reading "Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences," by Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry. People from all over the world have survived death and had similar experiences while clinically dead for short periods of time, and this book goes a long way in scientifically looking at the issue. Also, check out "The Field," by Lynne McTaggart.
I sometimes think that evidence be damned, people are going to believe what they want to believe, but I do caution on taking Wright's word as gospel. There is evidence out there that there is something more than just evolution at work, and some of this evidence is by real scientist. The problem is, science mainly deals with concretes, and this area is much more subjective, so science just wants to pretend it doesn't exist.
If Mr. Wright is correct, humans have evolved, "God's chosen people" have evolved, even humanity has evolved, but it seems that for all the growing we have done over the millennia, science is still stuck in the Middle Ages.
This book brings it all together- literally.
His quantum mechanics=Deist thesis is a little out there, but he explains it that way.
Otherwise it is an amazing book- should be required reading
Even if you disagree with Wright's presuppositions, his analysis of history, science, and religion is both compelling and challenging. I wish there were more writers who could write accessibly without sacrificing depth and complexity of thought. I will be thinking about this book for years to come.