- Hardcover: 576 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (June 8, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316734918
- ISBN-13: 978-0316734912
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (218 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Evolution of God Hardcover – June 8, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In his illuminating book, The Moral Animal, Wright introduced evolutionary psychology and examined the ways that the morality of individuals might be hard-wired by nature rather than influenced by culture. With this book, he expands upon that work, turning now to explore how religion came to define larger and larger groups of people as part of the circle of moral consideration. Using a naïve and antiquated approach to the sociology and anthropology of religion, Wright expends far too great an effort covering well-trod territory concerning the development of religions from primitive hunter-gatherer stages to monotheism. He finds in this evolution of religion, however, that the great monotheistic (he calls them Abrahamic, a term not favored by many religion scholars) religions—Christianity, Islam, Judaism—all contain a code for the salvation of the world. Using game theory, he encourages individuals in these three faiths to embrace a non–zero-sum relationship to other religions, seeing their fortunes as positively correlated and interdependent and then acting with tolerance toward other religions. Regrettably, Wright's lively writing unveils little that is genuinely new or insightful about religion. (June)
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From The New Yorker
Straddling popular science, ancient history, and theology, this ambitious work sets out to resolve not only the clash of civilizations between the Judeo-Christian West and the Muslim world but also the clash between science and religion. Tracking the continual transformation of faith from the Stone Age to the Information Age, Wright, a self-described materialist, best known for his work on evolutionary psychology, free trade, and game theory, postulates that religious world views are becoming more open, compassionate, and synthesized. Occasionally, his prescriptions can seem obvious—for instance, that members of the different Abrahamic faiths should think of their religions as “having been involved, all along, in the same undertaking.” But his core argument, that religion is getting “better” with each passing aeon, is enthralling.
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Top customer reviews
The book starts by revealing many new facets of animistic religions that I was not familiar with. It made me look up Primitive Culture by the famous anthropologist E.B. Taylor. Wright's book also has a fascinating account of the emergence of Judaistic monotheism from monolatrist thought. The book has a surprisingly positive appraisal of Islam as a modern religion.
Overall the book argues that man's understanding of the divine develops from the particular (deity of one tribe) to the general (God of all mankind) and from the irrational (animism) to the rational (God is the Logos of the world) as man himself develops from primitive to modern society. Its a very Hegelian argument but couched in an ostensibly materialist epistemology (in the sense that the positive evolution of morality is, to my mind, somewhat of an open question).
What fascinated me the most about the argument was the instrumental role of the philosopher Philo. Philo emerges as a giant religious and secular philosopher because of his successful synthesis of the Greek notions of Logos with monotheism. This was an aspect that I was not very familiar with and till reading this book I had never ranked Philo very high in the history of philosophy. With this book, however, he towers above the others as the thinker that is instrumental in the synthesis of religious and philosophy.