Online reading group and book discussion forum
  HOME FORUMS BOOKS LINKS DONATE ADVERTISE CONTACT  
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Tue Sep 02, 2014 4:10 am




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 2 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 
The Evolutiin of God: A Summary to this Point 
Author Message
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
pets endangered by possible book avalanche

Gold Contributor 2

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 4944
Location: Berryville, Virginia
Thanks: 1081
Thanked: 1040 times in 813 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post The Evolutiin of God: A Summary to this Point
We're going to be moving pretty soon from the holy Bible to the holy Koran. A few days pause for anyone who might have been late in starting to read might be helpful. In the meantime, we could have questions about the ground Wright has covered so far, and it has been a lot of ground. We could also read some reactions to the book from other people and react to them. Let's try that first. Here are two.

Stephen Prothero in the Washington Post , August 2, 2009.

"Preaching the Gospel of Maybe"

Thank God for agnostics. Over the past decade, our public conversation about religion has all too often degenerated into a food fight between the religious right and the secular left. Now comes journalist Robert Wright with a gentler approach: a materialist account of religion that manages (sort of) to make room for God (of a sort).

"The Evolution of God" is a big book that addresses a simple question: Is religion poison? Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, much ink and many pixels have scrutinized the late Harvard professor Samuel Huntington's prophesy of a coming "clash of civilizations" between the Christian West and the Islamic world. Is Islam a religion of war? What about Judaism and Christianity? The assumption underlying many answers to these questions -- an assumption shared by fundamentalists and "new atheists" alike -- is that religions are what their founders and scriptures say they are, rather than what contemporary practitioners make them out to be....

....Wright rejects this assumption. No religion is in essence evil or good, he writes. Scriptures are malleable. Founders are betrayed. At least for historians, there is little provocation here. The provocation comes when Wright claims that religious history seems to be going somewhere, as if guided by an invisible hand. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all appear to have a "moral direction," and that direction is toward the good....

...Yet all Wright's talk of "business models" and "algorithms" and "positive network externalities" somehow opens up the conversation about God rather than closing it down. In this oddly old-fashioned book, which recalls Hegel more than anyone else, Wright speaks repeatedly of "design" and "goals" and "purposes" in human history....

In the end, Wright allows himself to wonder whether the evolution of "God," the concept, might provide evidence for the existence of God, the reality. "If history naturally pushes people toward moral improvement, toward moral truth, and their God, as they conceive their God, grows accordingly, becoming morally richer," he writes, "then maybe this growth is evidence of some higher purpose, and maybe -- conceivably -- the source of that purpose is worthy of the name divinity."

Whether this Gospel of Maybe will make many converts is doubtful. There are bones thrown here and there to atheists and believers alike, but no red meat. So the final judgment may be that the book is too hard on faith to please religious folk and too easy on dogma to please secularists. Still, it is hard not to envy Wright for his Obamaesque hope. There is reason to hope, he writes, that the Abrahamic religions can get along with one another, with science and with the modern world. But Wright also exhibits an even more radical hope: that human beings might learn to talk about religion in a manner that is both civil and intelligent.

For decades the faithful and the faithless operated in the United States under a gentlemen's agreement to leave one another alone. Yes, we had our Bryans and our Menckens during the Scopes trial in the 1920s, but after that, belief and disbelief retreated to their respective corners. Then came the religious right and church buses for Reagan, to which Harris and Hitchens and Dawkins and Dennett rightly cried foul. If God is going to be used to prop up Republican policies, it is perfectly legitimate for people with different politics to try to cut the Republican God down to size. And so we find ourselves in the sort of scuffle between believers and unbelievers that hasn't been seen since evolution and the Bible went toe to toe in Dayton, Tenn.

In American religion, as in U.S. politics, however, the middle is far bigger than the extremes combined. Most Americans don't believe God and evolution are at war. And only fools want another crusade against Islam. So thank God or "God" or whatever matters most to you for this book, not so much for its arguments as for its tone, which offers the sort of hope even unbelievers can believe in: that we can somehow learn to talk about religion without throwing our food.

NO SMITING
By Paul Bloom, NY Times, June 24, 2009

Wright’s tone is reasoned and careful, even hesitant, throughout, and it is nice to read about issues like the morality of Christ and the meaning of jihad without getting the feeling that you are being shouted at. His views, though, are provocative and controversial. There is something here to annoy almost everyone...

...In sharp contrast to many contemporary secularists, Wright is bullish about monotheism. In “Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny” (2000), he argued that there is a moral direction to human history, that technological growth and expanding global interconnectedness have moved us toward ever more positive and mutually beneficial relationships with others. In “The Evolution of God,” Wright tells a similar story from a religious standpoint, proposing that the increasing goodness of God reflects the increasing goodness of our species. “...

...This sounds pro-religion, but don’t expect Pope Benedict XVI to be quoting from Wright’s book anytime soon. Wright makes it clear that he is tracking people’s conception of the divine, not the divine itself. He describes this as “a good news/bad news joke for traditionalist Christians, Muslims and Jews.” The bad news is that your God was born imperfect. The good news is that he doesn’t really exist...

...Similarly, he argues that it is a waste of time to search for the essence of any of these monotheistic religions — it’s silly, for instance, to ask whether Islam is a “religion of peace.” Like a judge who believes in a living constitution, Wright believes that what matters is the choices that the people make, how the texts are interpreted. Cultural sensibilities shift according to changes in human dynamics, and these shape the God that people worship. For Wright, it is not God who evolves. It is us — God just comes along for the ride...

...Or consider the modern Sunday School song “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” (“Red and yellow, black and white, / They are precious in his sight.”) Actually, there is no evidence that he loved all of them; if you went back and sang this to the Jesus of the Gospels, he would think you were mad. But in the minds of many of his followers today, this kind of global love is what Christianity means. That certainly looks like moral progress....

...But God still has some growing up to do, as Wright makes clear in his careful discussion of contemporary religious hatred. As you would expect, he argues that much of the problem isn’t with the religious texts or teachings themselves, but with the social conditions — the “facts on the ground” — that shape the sort of God we choose to create. “When people see themselves in zero-sum relationship with other people — see their fortunes as inversely correlated with the fortunes of other people, see the dynamic as win-lose — they tend to find a scriptural basis for intolerance or belligerence.” The recipe for salvation, then, is to arrange the world so that its people find themselves (and think of themselves as) interconnected: “When they see the relationship as non-zero-sum — see their fortunes as positively correlated, see the potential for a win-win outcome — they’re more likely to find the tolerant and understanding side of their scriptures.” Change the world, and you change the God

For Wright, the next evolutionary step is for practitioners of Abrahamic faiths to give up their claim to distinctiveness, and then renounce the specialness of monotheism altogether. In fact, when it comes to expanding the circle of moral consideration, he argues, religions like Buddhism have sometimes “outperformed the Abrahamics.” But this sounds like the death of God, not his evolution. And it clashes with Wright’s own proposal, drawn from work in evolutionary psychology, that we invented religion to satisfy certain intellectual and emotional needs, like the tendency to search for moral causes of natural events and the desire to conform with the people who surround us. These needs haven’t gone away, and the sort of depersonalized and disinterested God that Wright anticipates would satisfy none of them. He is betting that historical forces will trump our basic psychological makeup. I’m not so sure.

Wright tentatively explores another claim, that the history of religion actually affirms “the existence of something you can meaningfully call divinity.” He emphasizes that he is not arguing that you need divine intervention to account for moral improvement, which can be explained by a “mercilessly scientific account” involving the biological evolution of the human mind and the game-theoretic nature of social interaction. But he wonders why the universe is so constituted that moral progress takes place. “If history naturally pushes people toward moral improvement, toward moral truth, and their God, as they conceive their God, grows accordingly, becoming morally richer, then maybe this growth is evidence of some higher purpose, and maybe — conceivably — the source of that purpose is worthy of the name divinity.”

It is not just moral progress that raises these sorts of issues. I don’t doubt that the explanation for consciousness will arise from the mercilessly scientific account of psychology and neuroscience, but, still, isn’t it neat that the universe is such that it gave rise to conscious beings like you and me? And that these minds — which evolved in a world of plants and birds and rocks and things — have the capacity to transcend this ­everyday world and generate philosophy, theology, art and science?

So I share Wright’s wonder at how nicely everything has turned out. But I don’t see how this constitutes an argument for a divine being. After all, even if we could somehow establish definitively that moral progress exists because the universe was jump-started by a God of Love, this just pushes the problem up one level. We are now stuck with the puzzle of why there exists such a caring God in the first place.

Also, it would be a terribly minimalist God. Wright himself describes it as “somewhere between illusion and imperfect conception.” It won’t answer your prayers, give you advice or smite your enemies. So even if it did exist, we would be left with another good news/bad news situation. The good news is that there would be a divine being. The bad news is that it’s not the one that anyone is looking for.


_________________
Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun.

Clifford Geertz


Tue Oct 12, 2010 7:55 am
Profile Email
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Word Wizard

Gold Contributor 2

Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 3091
Location: NC
Thanks: 1010
Thanked: 1091 times in 817 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: The Evolutiin of God: A Summary to this Point
Thanks, DWill. I liked both reviews.

Bloom sums up Wright's non-zero-sum idea nicely.

Quote:
But God still has some growing up to do, as Wright makes clear in his careful discussion of contemporary religious hatred. As you would expect, he argues that much of the problem isn’t with the religious texts or teachings themselves, but with the social conditions — the “facts on the ground” — that shape the sort of God we choose to create. “When people see themselves in zero-sum relationship with other people — see their fortunes as inversely correlated with the fortunes of other people, see the dynamic as win-lose — they tend to find a scriptural basis for intolerance or belligerence.” The recipe for salvation, then, is to arrange the world so that its people find themselves (and think of themselves as) interconnected: “When they see the relationship as non-zero-sum — see their fortunes as positively correlated, see the potential for a win-win outcome — they’re more likely to find the tolerant and understanding side of their scriptures.” Change the world, and you change the God.


_________________
-Geo
Question everything


Tue Oct 12, 2010 10:20 am
Profile
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 2 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:

Recent Posts 
I am not reading anyrhing at the moment

Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:55 am

joel029

Radical Empiricism

Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:31 pm

geo

III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"

Mon Sep 01, 2014 3:25 pm

Interbane

New short horror novel series

Mon Sep 01, 2014 2:51 pm

hopton2000

Kevin Peter's Book Reviews

Mon Sep 01, 2014 4:25 am

KevinPeterKP

Hey I got a new book

Mon Sep 01, 2014 2:42 am

mcrosbie

Got Rilke?

Sun Aug 31, 2014 5:24 pm

Rachbot

Got Rilke?

Sun Aug 31, 2014 5:18 pm

Rachbot

Express my thoughts

Sun Aug 31, 2014 2:10 pm

NikolaidisM

The Infinite Evolution - Conversion

Sat Aug 30, 2014 7:13 pm

spencercade


BookTalk.org Links 
Forum Rules & Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
BBCode Explained
Info for Authors & Publishers
Featured Book Suggestions
Author Interview Transcripts
Be a Book Discussion Leader!
    

Love to talk about books but don't have time for our book discussion forums? For casual book talk join us on Facebook.

Featured Books

Books by New Authors



Booktalk.org on Facebook 



BookTalk.org is a free book discussion group or online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a group. We host live author chats where booktalk members can interact with and interview authors. We give away free books to our members in book giveaway contests. Our booktalks are open to everybody who enjoys talking about books. Our book forums include book reviews, author interviews and book resources for readers and book lovers. Discussing books is our passion. We're a literature forum, or reading forum. Register a free book club account today! Suggest nonfiction and fiction books. Authors and publishers are welcome to advertise their books or ask for an author chat or author interview.


Navigation 
MAIN NAVIGATION

HOMEFORUMSBOOKSTRANSCRIPTSOLD FORUMSADVERTISELINKSFAQDONATETERMS OF USEPRIVACY POLICY

BOOK FORUMS FOR ALL BOOKS WE HAVE DISCUSSED
Oliver Twist - by Charles DickensSense and Goodness Without God - by Richard CarrierFrankenstein - by Mary ShelleyThe Big Questions - by Simon BlackburnScience Was Born of Christianity - by Stacy TrasancosThe Happiness Hypothesis - by Jonathan HaidtA Game of Thrones - by George R. R. MartinTempesta's Dream - by Vincent LoCocoWhy Nations Fail - by Daron Acemoglu and James RobinsonThe Drowning Girl - Caitlin R. KiernanThe Consolations of the Forest - by Sylvain TessonThe Complete Heretic's Guide to Western Religion: The Mormons - by David FitzgeraldA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - by James JoyceThe Divine Comedy - by Dante AlighieriThe Magic of Reality - by Richard DawkinsDubliners - by James JoyceMy Name Is Red - by Orhan PamukThe World Until Yesterday - by Jared DiamondThe Man Who Was Thursday - by by G. K. ChestertonThe Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven PinkerLord Jim by Joseph ConradThe Hobbit by J. R. R. TolkienThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsAtlas Shrugged by Ayn RandThinking, Fast and Slow - by Daniel KahnemanThe Righteous Mind - by Jonathan HaidtWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max BrooksMoby Dick: or, the Whale by Herman MelvilleA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganLost Memory of Skin: A Novel by Russell BanksThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. KuhnHobbes: Leviathan by Thomas HobbesThe House of the Spirits - by Isabel AllendeArguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensThe Falls: A Novel (P.S.) by Joyce Carol OatesChrist in Egypt by D.M. MurdockThe Glass Bead Game: A Novel by Hermann HesseA Devil's Chaplain by Richard DawkinsThe Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Moral Landscape by Sam HarrisThe Decameron by Giovanni BoccaccioThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Grand Design by Stephen HawkingThe Evolution of God by Robert WrightThe Tin Drum by Gunter GrassGood Omens by Neil GaimanPredictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki MurakamiALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean by Richard Logan & Tere Duperrault FassbenderDon Quixote by Miguel De CervantesMusicophilia by Oliver SacksDiary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai GogolThe Passion of the Western Mind by Richard TarnasThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Genius of the Beast by Howard BloomAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Empire of Illusion by Chris HedgesThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner The Extended Phenotype by Richard DawkinsSmoke and Mirrors by Neil GaimanThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsWhen Good Thinking Goes Bad by Todd C. RinioloHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiAmerican Gods: A Novel by Neil GaimanPrimates and Philosophers by Frans de WaalThe Enormous Room by E.E. CummingsThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher HitchensThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama Paradise Lost by John Milton Bad Money by Kevin PhillipsThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettGodless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan BarkerThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Limits of Power by Andrew BacevichLolita by Vladimir NabokovOrlando by Virginia Woolf On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton50 reasons people give for believing in a god by Guy P. HarrisonWalden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David ThoreauExile and the Kingdom by Albert CamusOur Inner Ape by Frans de WaalYour Inner Fish by Neil ShubinNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthyThe Age of American Unreason by Susan JacobyTen Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson & David HabermanHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradThe Stuff of Thought by Stephen PinkerA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniThe Lucifer Effect by Philip ZimbardoResponsibility and Judgment by Hannah ArendtInterventions by Noam ChomskyGodless in America by George A. RickerReligious Expression and the American Constitution by Franklyn S. HaimanDeep Economy by Phil McKibbenThe God Delusion by Richard DawkinsThe Third Chimpanzee by Jared DiamondThe Woman in the Dunes by Abe KoboEvolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie C. ScottThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanI, Claudius by Robert GravesBreaking The Spell by Daniel C. DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

OTHER PAGES WORTH EXPLORING
Banned Book ListOur Amazon.com SalesMassimo Pigliucci Rationally SpeakingOnline Reading GroupTop 10 Atheism BooksFACTS Book Selections

cron
Copyright © BookTalk.org 2002-2014. All rights reserved.
Website developed by MidnightCoder.ca
Display Pagerank