What do you think: Did God invent man or did man invent God?
In The Evolution of God, Robert Wright takes us on a sweeping journey through history, unveiling a discovery of crucial importance to the present moment: there is a pattern in the evolution of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and a “hidden code” in their scriptures. Reading these scriptures in light of the circumstances surrounding their creation, Wright reveals the forces that have repeatedly moved the Abrahamic faiths away from belligerence and intolerance to a higher moral plane. And he shows how these forces could today let these faiths reassert their deep proclivity toward harmony and reconciliation. What’s more, his analysis raises the prospect of a second kind of reconciliation: the reconciliation of science and religion.
Using the prisms of archaeology, theology, history, and evolutionary psychology, Wright repeatedly overturns conventional wisdom:
Contrary to the belief that Moses brought monotheism to the Middle East, ancient Israel was in fact polytheistic until after the Babylonian exile.
Jesus didn’t really say, “Love your enemies,” or extol the good Samaritan. These misquotes were inserted in scripture decades after the crucifixion.
Muhammad was neither a militant religious zealot nor a benign spiritual leader but a cool political pragmatist, at one point flirting with polytheism in an attempt to build his coalition.
Wright shows that, however mistaken our traditional ideas about God or gods, their evolution points to a transcendent prospect: that the religious quest is valid, and that a modern, scientific worldview leaves room for something that can meaningfully be called divine.
Vast in ambition and brilliant in execution, The Evolution of God will forever alter our understanding of God and where He came from—and where He and we are going next.
In this book I’ve used the word “god” in two senses. First, there are the gods that have populated human history—rain gods, war gods, creator gods, all-purpose gods (such as the Abrahamic god), and so on. These gods exist in people’s heads and, presumably, nowhere else.
But occasionally I’ve suggested that there might be a kind of god that is real. This prospect was raised by the manifest existence of a moral order—that is, by the stubborn, if erratic, expansion of humankind’s moral imagination over the millennia, and the fact that the ongoing maintenance of social order depends on the further expansion of the moral imagination, on movement toward moral truth. The existence of a moral order, I’ve said, makes it reasonable to suspect that humankind in some sense has a “higher purpose.” And maybe the source of this higher purpose, the source of the moral order, is something that qualifies for the label “god” in at least some sense of that word.