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Introduction and First Thoughts 
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Post Re: Introduction and First Thoughts
DWill wrote:
stahrwe wrote:
I am almost finished with Part I and so far my impression is that it has been a waste of time. Most of what has been covered could have been covered in a 10 page chapter. I agree with the comments by Saffron and Oblivion. I would find a discussion of Stonehenge and the origins of the monolithic religions and goddess worhip origins preferable to the interminable recitation of polynesian animism.

It also seems like Wright is just spinning a yarn, well preparing to spin one at least since it still seems like reading an introduction.

And why all the mentions of Marx? Is Wright a closet Marxist?

Robert mentioned Marx in the Chapter 2 thread, and I responded with what I thought was clarification. Each reference I've seen in Part 1 is actually to "Marxist," the quotation marks meaning that the cynical view of religion is attributed to a statement of Marx, but is a misinterpretation. So there aren't in fact any real references to Marx.

The points of these early chapters seem clear enough to me: 1.) In h-g religion, the gods did not reward and punish people for their actions towards the fellow humans. Morality was not of divine concern, and people took care themselves
of the rewarding and punishing. The gods had to be worked only in order for people to avoid calamity. 2.) In the next level of organization, the chiefdom, rewarding and (especially) punishing moved up to the heavens as a more efficient and socially acceptable way of providing needed social controls.

There is more than this. At the end of Chapter 3, for example (p. 66), Wright introduces what is perhaps the key mechanism in the evolution of god: that as peoples' earthly circumstances change, so do their concepts of god.


The index entry on page 562 reads: Marx, Karl and Marxism.

I don't have in issue with the discussion of animism and the origin of relgions but it's one mention after another of the same kind of thing. When one writes a novel one removes material which does not advance the story. When one writes a theoretical book the same principles apply unless one is trying to pad the page count.


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Tue Sep 07, 2010 9:26 am
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Post Re: Introduction and First Thoughts
stahrwe wrote:

The index entry on page 562 reads: Marx, Karl and Marxism.

I don't have in issue with the discussion of animism and the origin of relgions but it's one mention after another of the same kind of thing. When one writes a novel one removes material which does not advance the story. When one writes a theoretical book the same principles apply unless one is trying to pad the page count.

But do you see why Wright chooses to label one pole "Marxist" and the other "functionalist"? His explanation of the choice tells you that Marxist philosophy had nothing to do with it.

You're free to have the opinion about overkill, of course. Other readers may think that documentation needs justify all the examples. I can't find any examples of a "pointless" citation.


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Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:19 pm
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Post Re: Introduction and First Thoughts
DWill wrote:
I'm frustrated, too. I can't find the place where Wright says that he doesn't claim any direct line from the Chukchee or Polynesians to the Jews or Christians, that their religions didn't grow out of those religions (even though they did grow out of the religions of people neighboring the Jews).


On page 11 of Chapter One (I'm just getting started!) Wright says:

Quote:
This doesn't mean there's a line of cultural descent between the "primitive" religions on the anthropological record and the "modern" religions. It's not as if three or four millenia ago, people who had been talking to the wind while pulling their pants down started talking to God while kneeling.


Is this what you're referring to?


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Post Re: Introduction and First Thoughts
Chris OConnor wrote:
DWill wrote:
I'm frustrated, too. I can't find the place where Wright says that he doesn't claim any direct line from the Chukchee or Polynesians to the Jews or Christians, that their religions didn't grow out of those religions (even though they did grow out of the religions of people neighboring the Jews).


On page 11 of Chapter One (I'm just getting started!) Wright says:

Quote:
This doesn't mean there's a line of cultural descent between the "primitive" religions on the anthropological record and the "modern" religions. It's not as if three or four millenia ago, people who had been talking to the wind while pulling their pants down started talking to God while kneeling.


Is this what you're referring to?

Right, that's it. Thanks.


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Sun Sep 19, 2010 6:42 pm
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Post Re: Introduction and First Thoughts
Wright ends Chapter 1 with a few words about the eventual emergence of a global religion.

But what would this global religion look like?

Unless I'm reading Wright wrong (that sounded funny) I bet he is saying (or will come to say in later chapters) that this future worldwide religion will arise after a slow gradual evolution of the existing world religions. The eventual world religion will no longer resemble Christianity, Islam or Judaism.

The global religion will one day ONLY address morality and will not attempt to give answers to how the universe and life came to be. After all religion has failed completely to answer these questions, as Wright explained when he went over the primitive animistic religions. And still today Christianity, Islam and Judaism clearly have it all wrong with regards to the origins of the cosmos and life. This is obvious to anyone with an elementary education in the sciences.

The realm of God is shrinking as man continues to understand more and more about how the universe behaves and operates. (The God of the gaps) I think Wright will eventually argue that there will one day be a gap left that science cannot and will not close. This gap is morality or how we should behave and treat one another. Maybe Wright feels this will be the last stand for religion.


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Post Re: Introduction and First Thoughts
Chris OConnor wrote:
Wright ends Chapter 1 with a few words about the eventual emergence of a global religion.

But what would this global religion look like?

Unless I'm reading Wright wrong (that sounded funny) I bet he is saying (or will come to say in later chapters) that this future worldwide religion will arise after a slow gradual evolution of the existing world religions. The eventual world religion will no longer resemble Christianity, Islam or Judaism.

The global religion will one day ONLY address morality and will not attempt to give answers to how the universe and life came to be. After all religion has failed completely to answer these questions, as Wright explained when he went over the primitive animistic religions. And still today Christianity, Islam and Judaism clearly have it all wrong with regards to the origins of the cosmos and life. This is obvious to anyone with an elementary education in the sciences.

The realm of God is shrinking as man continues to understand more and more about how the universe behaves and operates. (The God of the gaps) I think Wright will eventually argue that there will one day be a gap left that science cannot and will not close. This gap is morality or how we should behave and treat one another. Maybe Wright feels this will be the last stand for religion.

I hate to quote a whole post, but I am too tired to paraphrase. While reading the post I had an interesting thought, which I will get to in a second. First, I did not think Wright was working toward the idea that we would have a global religion. It is very hard for me to imagine such a thing. Put any 10 people in a room and try to get them all to agree on anything. I got the sense that Wright was saying that as science revealed more and more about how the world works there would be less need for religion to provide answers to big questions.

Now, my interesting thought. God and religion are two different things -- related but not the same. Religion has many components, some in reality having very little to do with God. Let me back up for a minute. Lets just for a minute assume there is a God with a capital G. There are many religions, which one goes to the real God. None and all, right? I think Wright in his book is not totally ruling out the possibiltiy that there is some sort of something that is what we call God, a god that is seperated from the human institution of religion. What I am thinking Wright is working up to saying is that all of these different version of religion and all of the different conceptions of God are maturing or responding to the developments in human society (science and technology) in ways that are pulling us closer to a truth (true nature of God or that there is no God).


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Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:42 pm
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Post Re: Introduction and First Thoughts
I sense you are right about the type of God-ness that Wright may see developing. It's a very unreligious God in my view, but note that it's still a capital G God--interesting. Stuart Kauffman postulates a naturalistic God bearing some similarity to Wright's concept. Chris' post makes me wonder about this God: It's all very well, I guess, but at the level of vagueness or abstraction we're talking about, is it in any way necessary? Since we can act morally toward each other without it, is there any other use for which it is needed? Hate religious gods or like them, they have had true power to move people. Is a philosophical God going to have any such power? Should we deep-six the word rather than trying to salvage it, which we might only tend to do, anyway, in order to preserve a kind of dialogue with the remaining religious?


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Post Re: Introduction and First Thoughts
I'm going to move to Chapter Two to get caught up with you guys.


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Post Re: Introduction and First Thoughts
These are not really introductory thoughts, but they fit here better than anywhere else. I have finally figured out why I have been dragging my feet through this book. Reading it agitates the hell out of me. I am confused by my reaction. I have really liked the Youtube video of Wright speaking. I like what he has to say and how he says it. However, I find the first few chapters of The Evolution of God somewhat tedious and am annoying. I am afraid I am reading stuff that is not on the page. I find his description of Shamans too simplistic and way over generalized and maybe not necessary to his case. Here is the burr for me: The picture Wright paints of the shaman is of a shyster. I detect derisiveness in Wrights descriptions of practices of tribal groups; but oddly not in his discussion at the end of the chapter. He seems exploratory in his discussion; throwing all doors wide open. For now I will keep reading.


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Sun Oct 03, 2010 9:35 am
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