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The Evolution of God Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 8, 2009
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From The New Yorker
Top Customer Reviews
Wright begins with the five types of primitive hunter-gatherer supernatural beings: elemental spirits, puppeteers, organic spirits, ancestral spirits, and the high gods. These primitive gods were not always worshipped but treated as we would treat other human beings. In these societies the Shaman was the "first step toward an archbishop or ayatollah" who had contact with these otherwise hidden forces and could help focus their powers to heal, protect, and provide.
As small tribes grew into larger societies the chiefdom was the next evolutionary stage where there was a need for a "structural reliance on the supernatural." Chiefs in these agricultural societies were conduits through which divine power entered the social scale down to the lesser folk. If things went well for a society then the chief was doing a good job. Superstition reigned in these days.Read more ›
In 2000 Robert Wright published Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny to some acclaim. In it he argued that there is a favorable direction to human history attributable to increasing opportunities for non-zero-sum interaction where both parties gain something, versus zero-sum situations where one party may gain, but only at the expense of the other. Social structures grow to take advantage of these situations, he contended, and build incrementally toward supranational governance. He concluded that "...it is hard, after pondering the full sweep of history, to resist the conclusion that -- in some important ways, at least -- the world now stands at its moral zenith to date."
Now comes The Evolution of God, where Wright further elaborates his contention that moral progress is ingrained in the course of history. In it Wright offers a materialist analysis of changing portrayals of gods and God, sure to aggravate conventional believers of many faiths. But he also asserts that history shows there might be something like a God force behind moral improvement, a position that many religious skeptics are likely to reject.
Wright's thesis entails three basic propositions. The first is that God evolves. By this Wright means not an actual God, whom he generally treats as illusory, but rather peoples' conceptions of gods and God. The "evolution" he writes about is mostly cultural evolution, although he includes an appendix on the possible biological roots of religion.Read more ›
The bulk of the book is an interesting run through research findings from anthropology, archaeology and textual analysis on the topic of historical religious ideas and practices. The tour begins with a look at hunter-gatherer style animism and the role of gods and religion in tribal cultures, continues with an examination of the development of the various pantheons of gods in ancient civilizations, and then tackles the Abrahamic traditions. In all cases there seems to be a plausible explanation of prevailing religious ideas and the character of God or gods changing in concert with the "facts on the ground". As nations make war, their gods intone contempt for non-believers. As empires digest conquests, they co-opt the gods of their new subjects. More positively, as societies enter into non-zero sum relationships with a wider circle of neighbors, their gods become more universal and more supportive of a broader moral vision.
Wright also presents his own thoughts on what it all means.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting, but very controversial for people of faith. Well documented, but very biasedPublished 13 days ago by JS Rogers
Although controversial to close minded people blinded by ignorance--such people are a dime a dozen--it was an eye opener. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Christopher M. Nilsson
A library check out in 2016. I actually like the fact that the writer concentrated on the Abrahamic religions the book was long enough without delving into every religion. Read morePublished 29 days ago by R. Clason
As my friends and family know, I'm not religious. But it's always surprised me how many people are, people I'm ready to say are/were smarter than me. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Steve Kohn
Excellent and concise book about the evolution of God or gods from various cultures starting from the very earliest hunter and gather clans. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
The definitive guide to the origin of religions. It compares the sociopolitical milieu of the time to the theology recorded. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Al93lante
I am not entirely sure what this verbose, but beautifully researched, book about? Is it a book of history, of evolution? Or is it a tedious sermon, a verbose monologue? Read morePublished 5 months ago by AS