By Chet Yarbrough
By Robert Wright
Narrated by Arthur Morey
OMG–The first thing one thinks of when listening to the preface of “The Evolution of God” is–“Who is this guy?”
Robert Wright is a Journalist; a graduate of Princeton University where he studied Sociobiology. His credits range from book authorship, to college level teaching, to editing for “Time”, “Slate”, and “The New Republic”. He has written for “The Atlantic Monthly”, “The New Yorker”, and “The New York Times Magazine” and runs two websites, “Bloggingheads.tv” and “MeaningofLife.tv”.
“The Evolution of God” was published in 2009. It explores the origin of God from the perspective of an investigative journalist. Wright extensively researches history, archeology, theology, and evolutionary psychology to report on the origin of, and belief in, one God.
Wright creates a compelling argument for God as a creation of man beginning with social history of “hunter gatherers” and their shamans; progressing to wider community associations of Tribal kings that co-opt shaman power; and to Egyptian Pharaohs that assume the mantle of gods. His argument culminates in the Judeo, Christian, and Moslem belief in one God. Wright suggests that conquering cultures often adopted local religious beliefs because it enhanced their power and control over conquered populations.
This is quite a journey for believers in God; actually overwhelming, because of Wright’s credible research and writing skill. “The Evolution of God” relegates religion to the acquisitive nature of mankind; i.e. religious belief becomes a tool of the prosaic rules of everyday life; i.e. the belief that money, power, and prestige are at the root of religion just as they are in all human life. Not only is God dead but he/she never lived except as a construct of man to aid self-interested desire.
“The Evolution of God” is a serious literary evisceration of religion; i.e. Wright’s book skewers religion as effectively as the extraordinarily funny musical “Book of Mormon”, the Broadway hit written by the creators of South Park.
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The gnawing anguish one feels after listening to “The Evolution of God” is the sad state of current affairs in the world; i.e. the fear, mayhem, and murder caused by religious differences between Jews, Muslims, Christians and other religions. What if Wright is correct–their conflicts have nothing to do with God but are only manifestations of human nature. If God is not real, is the future of mankind better or worse?
Wright’s answer is that mankind is smart enough not to play an “I Win-You Lose” game for survival of the human race. He believes the increasing interconnectedness of the world–free trade; the world-wide web; and mankind’s instinct for survival make the future of mankind better. One is compelled to ask–What makes faith in man any more comforting than faith in God?
This is a fascinating book; well researched by an excellent writer. (Drawing from information noted in Wikipedia, one wonders if he was a friend of famous atheist, Christopher Hitchens, because Hitchens wrote for “Slate”, one of the publications Wright edited.)